Politics

Freedom Map and The Fallacies of Libertarianism

[Slate]

Freedom, as a concept, has a lot of positive affect in the United States so in an apparent effort to get people to hate freedom the libertarian Mercatus Center devised the following rankings which state that people who live in Sioux Falls are freer than people who live in Salt Lake City who are freer than people who live in Dallas who are freer than people who live in Portland Oregon who, in turn, are freer than people who live in New York City which is located in the least-free state of the entire union.

Personally, I do think freedom is important so fortunately we can salvage the concept from the wreckage of Mercatus. Some of the problem here arise from arbitrary weighting of different categories in order to simultaneously preserve libertarianism as a distinct brand and also preserve libertarianism’s strong alliance with social conservatism. Consequently, a gay man’s freedom to marry the love of his life is given some weight in the rankings but less than his right to purchase a gun with minimal hassle. A woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy or a doctor’s right to offer a pregnant woman treatment she considers appropriate are given zero weight. You might think at first that abortion rights are given zero weight for metaphysical reasons rather than reasons of cultural politics, but it turns out that permissive homeschooling laws are given weight as a factor in freedom. Children, in other words, are considered fully autonomous agents whose rights the state must safeguard vis-a-vis their own parents from birth until conception at which point they lose autonomy until graduation from high school.

But when you slip into the purely economic realm, the concepts actually get sloppier and more ridiculous. Texas is deemed very economically free in most respects but it’s dinged for the fact that its local governments have relatively high levels of debt. What on earth does that have to do with freedom? This is simply a policy choice. Arguably, a correct policy choice. Texas’ population is growing much more rapidly than the average American state so it’s entirely appropriate for its localities to engage in above-average levels of borrowing.

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