How free is your state?

Check out this site from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, which gives rankings and assessments of the level of “freedom” in each state in the union.   According to these findings, New Hampshire (“Live free or die!”) is the state with the most freedoms, while New York is the most oppressive.  See

Now what is interesting is the way the study factors in both “economic freedom”  (low taxes, minimal government regulations on business, limited government, etc.) and also “personal freedom.”  This category includes both things conservatives like, such as openness to homeschooling and minimal gun control, but it also puts a premium on gay marriage and lax drug law enforcement.   Nevada scores big (at #6) because of its legalized gambling and because it allows localities to legalize prostitution.

Freedom in the 50 States | Mercatus.

Today conservatives tend to want economic freedom but decry this version of “personal freedom.”   While liberals demand this version of “personal freedom” while decrying “economic freedom.”

My prediction:  The new political and cultural consensus will demand both, with libertarianism reigning supreme.   Right now, this kind of libertarianism is opposed by both the left and the right, but for different reasons.  But I suspect a realignment may be in the future.  It’s already happening among some in the Republican elite.

So if you are a “freedom loving American” opposing government intrusions into the economy, how can you also oppose “personal freedoms” such as the liberty to use drugs and go to prostitutes?

Conversely, if you are a liberal who believes that gays should have the freedom to marry and that women should have the freedom to get an abortion, on what grounds would you deny a business owner the freedom to make money without government interference?

Or are you willing to accept libertarianism if it would give you whichever kind of freedom you find most important, even at the cost of the kind that you do not approve of?

HT:  Jackie

The Pro-Life Pledge

The Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life women’s organization, has put forward a pledge for presidential candidates to sign by which they promise that if elected they will only appoint pro-life judges and cabinet members and will promote legislation to restrict abortion.  All of the current Republican candidates have signed it except for Gary Johnson, Herman Cain, and Mitt Romney.  (That includes the Ron Paul, who may be libertarian but is still pro-life.)  Johnson is pro-abortion.  Cain and Romney still claim to be pro-life, but Cain says the president shouldn’t be promoting legislation and Romney says he doesn’t want his hands tied in appointing a cabinet.  See  Report: Romney Refuses to Sign Pro-Life Pledge – Pro-Life – Fox Nation.

Do you think the pledge is reasonable and a good tactic for pro-lifers?  Does this help you narrow your presidential choice?

Is this an e-mail to mock?

One of the 25,000 or so e-mails that Sarah Palin’s detractors are making fun of is this one that she wrote to her family about how her new baby Trig has Downs Syndrome: The One Sarah Palin E-mail We Cannot Stop Thinking About | VF Daily | Vanity Fair.

Are politicians allowed to change their minds?

More political madness that prevents good government:  We don’t allow our politicians to change their minds, even though they often need to.   A politician who is open to persuasion is condemned as a flip-flopper.   So observes Kathleen Parker:

A politician may be able to survive cavorting with prostitutes, sexting with coeds and commingling with interns, but heaven forbid he should change his mind — the transgression that trumps all compassion.

Or thinking.

After all, thinking can lead to that most dangerous territory for a politician — doubt — and, inevitably, the implication that dare not be expressed: “I could be wrong.”

via A defense of flip-floppery – The Washington Post.

Of course there are true flip-flops, the changing of a position simply because of shifts in the political wind, a sign of cynical relativism and lack of conviction.  And yet it’s the sign of a rational mind to be open to better reasoning and honest persuasion.   How can we voters tell the difference?

The Republican candidates’ debate

I watched the New Hampshire debate between the Republican presidential candidates.

Pawlenty is articulate; Bachman sounds like a good campaigner; Paul makes a lot of sense; Gingrich is a fountain of ideas; Santorum seems solid; Cain sounds like a good guy; Romney sounds more conservative than he has seemed.

Pawlenty opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest and the mother’s health (a huge loophole)?  Santorum takes a very strong pro-life stance, as does Bachman.

Notice that the alleged extreme Republicans, the Tea Party caucus’s Bachman and the libertarian Paul, are the peace candidates, opposing America’s involvement in the multiplying number of wars we are engaged in.  Peace-leaning Democrats should give the Tea Party credit for being more anti-war than their president.

On the whole, though, the candidates seem to be mostly agreeing with each other rather than distinguishing themselves from the others.  That’s what voters need at this point.

But do any of them seem as if they could be president?  I suspect that most American voters these days are influenced not so much about what candidates believe or what they would do as about whether they (1) like them  (2) have an image that seems presidential.  Yes, Americans are basically conservative, but they won’t vote for someone who comes across as angry.  They will vote for a Reagan, an optimistic, cheerful conservative.  Another important factor is “presence.”  Reagan had it; Obama has it.  I’m not sure that any of these candidates do.

Is ending a bad program a tax increase?

Senator Tom Coburn, who represents my natal state of Oklahoma, is probably the biggest deficit hawk in Congress.  He’s a deficit eagle, as fiscally responsible and economically conservative as they come.  But he’s taking flack from conservative activist Grover Norquist and others for violating the no new taxes pledge that most Republican lawmakers have taken.  Why?  Because Sen. Coburn is spearheading an effort to drop ethanol subsidies, which include a tax credit for that industry.

Most conservatives consider the ethanol subsidies to be a huge waste of money, an outdated concession to environmentalists, though farmers like that industry because it buys up so much of the corn crop, sending prices sky-high.  It sends the price for other commodities sky high too, since many farmers are cutting back the production of wheat and other crops in order to plant more corn, which cuts the supply of those other commodities.  But liberals also consider them a waste of money, a payoff to big corporations.  And there is a consensus that the subsidies cause actual harm to poor countries, since turning food into fuel and the consequent high food prices means more hunger for the poorest of the poor.  And even environmentalists now oppose the ethanol option, since it burns more fossil fuels to produce it–all of those tractors in cornfields–than it replaces.  And in this time of economic travail and crippling federal deficits, the subsidies are costing taxpayers $6 billion per year.

So why not kill the beast?  Because part of the subsidy is in the form of a tax credit, so repealing it would be a tax increase, and 95% of Republican lawmakers have promised not to vote for a tax increase.

See Coburn prompts Senate vote on ethanol subsidies – The Washington Post.

Once again, in politics as in religion,  we see the spirit of legalism, which violates the spirit of the law in order to keep the letter.

Can common sense be restored to our government?  Can this country even be governed in today’s political climate?


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