Weekly Opinion Editorial
LIBERTY & FREEDOM!
by Steve Fair
A recent study conducted by two George Mason University professors on freedom ranked Oklahoma as one of the top five states in the U.S. in overall freedom. The study evaluated the fifty (50) states in three broad categories: Fiscal policy, Regulatory Policy, and Personal Freedom. Using thirty eight (38) sub categories, they complied the results and ranked the states overall. The study has a definite liberal/libertarian slant, but the scholarship and research appears to be fair and in most instances accurate.
The two individuals who conducted the study provide their definition of freedom. They write, “In our view, individuals should be allowed to dispose of their lives, liberties, and property as they see fit, so long as they do not infringe on the rights of others. This understanding of freedom follows from the natural-rights liberal thought of John Locke, Immanuel Kant, and Robert Nozick.” The two Profs obviously lean libertarian and in some of the sub categories, they give high scores to liberal states on social issues and low scores to more conservative states, but the study is worth looking at.
In Fiscal Policy, Oklahoma ranks third nationally, down from second in last year’s rankings. Tennessee moved ahead of us this year. Fiscal Policy includes the sub categories of tax burden (we rank second), state government spending and debt. It appears Oklahoma is doing better than other states on government debt and spending, but we are still at least eleven (11) billion dollars in debt in unfunded pension plan liability. Before state leaders start congratulating each other, they should ask themselves the simple question: Should state government be in debt at all? Does our state constitution forbid lawmakers borrowing money without a vote of the people? Should state government be mortgaging our children and grandchildren’s future income? While Oklahoma is doing fine vs. other states, we should heed the admonition of scripture which says comparing ourselves with other states concerning debt- it’s just not wise.
In Regulatory Policy, Oklahoma ranks seventeenth (17), down from twelfth (12) last year. It would appear the study took into account the ruling by the Oklahoma Supreme Court concerning tort reform. This sub category includes tort policies as well as occupational licensing freedom. Indiana is the state ranked first in this category. Not surprisingly, California is last.
In Personal Freedom, Oklahoma ranks #28, same as last year. Alaska is first, Illinois last. This category includes victimless crime freedom (legalized prostitution/drug use) gun control (conceal/carry), access to gambling, and educational freedom. Good news for homeschoolers- Oklahoma ranks #2 in the country in freedom for homeschoolers. In gambling access, the study ranks the Sooner state at #28. What? I demand a recount. The state did jump four spots from last year.
The index did not include matters that fell squarely within the control of the federal government, such as immigration and homeland security. While those things do affect the experience of freedom in all 50 states, they do not fall within the control of state and local governments.
What the index does show is that Oklahoma is a state that has more liberty comparatively than most other states across the nation, but it does reveal we have opportunities to improve.
President Lincoln said, “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.” While Lincoln was talking about the issue slavery, it certainly applies to other areas of freedom. Senator Tom Coburn said essentially the same thing when he announced his intention to resign from the Senate at the conclusion of this year’s session. “I’m going home to live under the laws I supported and opposed while in Congress,” Coburn remarked. He recognized that what he did in Congress impacted every American’s life.
So much of our personal freedom depends on who represents us in the state legislature and Congress. Americans should understand that with every governmental giveaway program, tax, fee, or regulation, a portion of your freedom is sliced away. Vet the candidates who are running this year. There will be many seeking your vote. Make sure the one who earns your vote will stand up for your freedom.
As Patrick Henry famously said, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
To view the study, go to http://freedominthe50states.org/