My sister sent me a link for a study done by Mercatus Center of George Mason University entitled Freedom in the 50 States. (I found the site hard to navigate. Here’s a hint: Click on the state you’re interested in and the explanation appears below the map.) I was initially flabbergasted at the results. The Socialist Republic of Iowa – a rather oppressive state in every area from child welfare laws, to highway laws, to firecracker laws, etc., etc. – gets a ranking of 13 while Nebraska, which is not weighed down with the burden of everyday legal and judicial silliness that one finds in Iowa, is ranked 23 on the Mercatus list. As a result (of the political reality, not the list) the Libertarian Party has never been able to get a foothold in the state of Nebraska. It’s not a certified political party in Nebreska, precisely because Nebraska life is already sufficiently libertarian in outlook that too few people see the point.
So why does the Mercatus Center love the Socialist Republic of Iowa and hate Nebraska? Three things jump out. First, the study is weighted very heavily toward economic issues. Nebraska has a fairly high tax rate. Mercatus seems to equate taxes with oppression. Yeah, whatever. Taxes can be used as tools of oppression, but they are also tools of services or shared responsibilities. While taxes can be abused, I refuse to be as simplistic as this study appears to be.
Second, the study complains about Nebraska’s lack of educational freedom. On this point I agree. But I would point out that government education has a long history actually rooted in the longing for freedom. An educated electorate leads to a free society. I agree that this principle has gone off the rails, but by the same token, the history (and thus the solution) is far from simple.
But the third item – and the one the study complains about the most – is simply bizarre. This study argues that Nebraskans need to give up their fundamental freedom of local legislation appropriate to the community in favor of a state bureaucracy which can undermine local freedoms for the sake of some political ideal formulated in the rarified air of the Unicameral down in Lincoln. True freedom, according to the Mercatus Institute, can only come to Nebraska when the State wrests power away from communities and passes laws (gun laws specifically) which meet some sort of standard that pleases the people doing the study.
Granted, I may not like Omaha’s restrictive gun legislation, but authentic societal freedom cannot be established when a higher government authority (in this case, the Unicameral) forces a local government to countermand the will of the local citizens in order to please people who live 400 miles away in the sand swept emptiness of western Nebraska. The genius of local government control is that if I don’t like Omaha’s highly restrictive gun laws, I can move somewhere else … South Sioux City, or Hastings, etc.
In a word, any solution (by a think tank that supposedly espouses liberty!) that involves the imposition of the larger government against the express will of the municipality has to be considered highly suspect. There is a reason that citizens of the Socialist Republic of Iowa flock across Missouri River to Nebraska to shoot off their Independence Day fireworks. Iowa citizens have lost their independence due to coercive government regulations, so they either illegally shoot off their fireworks or flee the state to celebrate legally in a place where such a celebration of liberty is still celebrated.
As Miss Liberty says: Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to escape traffic cameras and ridiculously low speed limits, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore …
Oh, on second thought, why don’t you send your “wretched refuse” up to South Dakota … they’re even more free than Nebraska.