We Nevadans like to think we are a freedom loving and living lot. Live and let live — the definition of classical liberalism (not the socialism that passes for liberalism today).
We have liberal gambling laws, we can smoke in casinos, we can carry guns, our drug courts are tying to put treatment before punishment, our tax burden is about average, we have local option legal prostitution in some counties.
In fact, in the latest rankings from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, a libertarian leaning group, Nevada moved up from 16th freest state in 2007 to 6th freest in 2009. It was the second most improved state behind Oregon. But if you look at some of the states Nevada leapfrogged in those two years, many of their freedom indices actually declined or improved marginally.
The rankings — put together by William Ruger, a political science professor from Texas, and Jason Sorens, a poli sci prof from New York — placed Nevada 3rd in the area of personal freedom or lack of paternalism, as they called it. The state fared poorly in allowing competition against public schools.
As for economic freedom, Nevada was 16th.
But, keeping in mind our recently ended and highly lamentable legislative session, I was hardly surprised to find that when it comes to freedom from state regulations, Nevada was ranked a dreadful 31st.
Here is what the report says about Nevada and what we could do to improve freedom:
Nevada has a reputation as a libertarian state, mostly because of legal prostitution and gambling, but reality is only beginning to catch up to perception. Nevada starts out with the obvious advantages of the most liberal gaming regime in the country (but an Internet-gaming ban) and local-option prostitution. On fiscal policy the state is better than average, but in less visible ways, since spending and taxation are only slightly better than average. Debt is rising, but the state is more than two standard deviations better than average on fiscal decentralization and almost two standard deviations better than average on government employment. Gun and alcohol laws are fairly relaxed, and marijuana laws are better than average, except for the possibility of life imprisonment. The state imposes the strictest private-school regulations in the country: mandatory state approval of all schools, mandatory state licensure of all teachers, and detailed curriculum control. Homeschool laws are far less restrictive and have been further liberalized recently. The state recently enacted a minimum wage. Smoking bans are complete in restaurants and workplaces, but bars are partially exempted. Health-insurance coverage mandates are more than a standard deviation worse than average. Telecom and cable were recently deregulated and a significant eminent-domain reform enacted. Same-sex civil unions were passed in 2008.
(1) Repeal health-insurance coverage mandates such as coverage for TMJ treatment, prostate screening, mammograms, the HPV vaccine, hospice care, home health care, dental anesthesia, and seeing social workers, opticians, and osteopaths.
(2) Deregulate private schools.
(3) Allow the minimum wage to revert to the federal standard.
Works for me.
Professor Sorens was interviewed for this Cato Institute podcast.