Voters often ask Libertarians what they would actually do to change policy if they were elected. What would a Libertarian society look like? It’s a fair question. Through research, campaigning, press releases, and other forms of outreach, Libertarians at all levels do work on explaining the nuts and bolts of how to promote freedom through changes to public policy in ways that can’t be summed up by simple slogans like “maximize your freedom” or “increase your liberty.”
The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, provides a wealth of practical, concrete answers to the question of how elected officials can advance liberty. Cato’s new study, Freedom in the 50 States, compares U.S. regulatory environments, ranks each of the states in terms of economic and personal freedom, and outlines policy recommendations for improvement.
New York, for instance, ranks as the least free state in the country — a position it has held for many years. Cato recommends an array of concrete policy improvements that would significantly improve New York’s ranking:
Fiscal: Cut spending on hospitals, housing, public buildings, public welfare, education, corrections, police and fire, sanitation and sewerage, employee retirement, and “miscellaneous,” which are all above national averages. Cut all taxes and pay down debt.
Regulatory: Abolish rent control. This move could have raised New York to 45th, ahead of Vermont and New Jersey, on regulatory policy.
Personal: Slash cigarette taxes, which are so high as to be almost tantamount to prohibition.
Florida, on the other hand, ranks as the most free of all 50 states. There’s still significant room for improvement, though. For Florida, Cato recommends:
Fiscal: Trim spending on sanitation and sewerage, public parks, parking lots, public utilities, and air transportation, which are all higher as a share of income than the national average. Use the proceeds to cut general and utility sales taxes.
Regulatory: Reform the occupational licensing system to free residents who are currently stymied by those barriers to entry and opportunity. Candidates for deregulation include farm labor contractors, interior designers, medical and clinical laboratory technologists, pharmacy technicians, dispensing opticians, funeral attendants, and bill and account collectors.
Personal: Enact the following criminal justice reforms: (a) close the loophole allowing for seizure of cash and monetary instruments without an arrest and close the equitable sharing end-run around state forfeiture law; and (b) end driver’s license suspensions for non-driving-related drug convictions, as most of the country has done, and provide “safety valves” from mandatory minimum sentences.
The website for Freedom in the 50 States includes an interactive map that allows visitors to see how each of their own states can improve. Elected Libertarians would help bring about those concrete changes through deregulation, cutting taxes and spending, and rescinding laws that impinge on both personal and economic freedom.
Nebraska’s Libertarian Sen. Laura Ebke, for instance, recently passed successful legislation deregulating occupational licensing in her state, leading to fewer government regulators and the fiscal costs they entail.
Laws and regulations that violate individual liberty include drug prohibition and other consensual crime laws, asset forfeiture laws, intrusive surveillance, and a many more. Eliminating them not only increases people’s personal freedom, the money spent on enforcing these laws and caging violators would no longer be spent. That would make it even easier to pass significant cuts to taxes and spending.
More than 800 Libertarian Party candidates nationwide are running this year for local, state, and federal offices. Visit LP.org to find and vote for a Libertarian candidate near you.