The Mercatus Center at George Mason University publishes the Freedom in the 50 States, An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom which “comprehensively ranks the American states on their public policies that affect individual freedoms in the economic, social, and personal spheres” as stated on their website.
According to the study, New Hampshire and South Dakota are about even at the top, being the most free states. Kudos to New Hampshire which has apparently lived up to its motto “Live free or die”. At the bottom are states like New York and New Jersey—no surprise sense you are not even allowed to pump your own gas without authorization.
I am pleased to see my state of Virginia near the top at number nine. I am also not surprised to see Maryland at the bottom ranking forty-three. Having lived in both states a number of years, I can attest to the general impression—now confirmed by the Mercatus study—that Virginia understands freedom whereas Maryland just doesn’t get it—ironically, since Maryland has the nickname “The Free State”. Ah—marketing.
I lived in Maryland for twenty-seven years. Admittedly my impression of Maryland is highly skewed by living in Montgomery County whose regulations don’t always align with the rest of the state but certainly align with the spirit of it. The same goes for Fairfax County Virginia where I now live.
In many ways, the restrictions imposed by governments like the one in Maryland can be an insult to one’s intelligence. Let me illustrate. During an open-house on a dairy farm in Maryland I was helping a man work his cider press. We put fresh apples in the top which were chopped and squeezed into a fresh cider that poured fragrantly into a glass container. I wanted to sample the juice and then purchase a gallon or two—but no. He had to have it pasteurized first according to state law. But I could have an apple.
Or how about when I was in college and needed a job to pay for my education? I got a job at Shoppers Food Warehouse in Olney but only under the stipulation that I belong to the United Commercial Food Workers (UCFW). There was no choice in the matter—I had to join and pay union dues garnished from my meager wages. If that weren’t bad enough, the union literature mailed to my house was unabashed about what candidate I should vote for in the upcoming presidential election. So let’s summarize: my money used against my will to support a candidate I did not want in office—hmmm. Well, that’s Maryland.
Let’s examine a few areas of personal freedom and compare the policies of the so-called “Free State” with that of the “Old Dominion”:
- Each year, near the date of July 4 a bunch of tin kiosks will pop up all over Fairfax County to vend fireworks. Just across the Potomac River in Montgomery County you will be stopped by police for possessing what you may have purchased. How dare you commemorate Independence Day with your own pyrotechnics exhibit! Besides, you’ll shoot your eye out!
- When I go shopping at Trader Joe’s or Costco, I can avail myself of a large selection of beer and wine at remarkable prices—but only if those shops are located in the Old Dominion. What’s more, if I see a deal on wine at Wine.Woot or a nice bottle of red from California, I can have it shipped to my house. Only recently did they allow that in the Free State while at the same time prohibiting the practice when it comes to cigars—a net of zero on the freedom ledger.
- Raw milk in Maryland is illegal and treated like a contraband drug. Virginia at least allows you to own herd shares and do what you want with the milk.
- Virginia led the way in concealed carry permit issuance and many other states in the union followed suit. Maryland is one of the last of a handful of crime-ridden states that butt-drags to arm their citizenry; criminals, however, are permitted to carry.
- In Virginia, you are expected to drive responsibly and as you cross the American Legion Bridge into Maryland from Virginia, you are welcomed with a number of signs enumerating all the prohibitions in the so-called Free State. One now tells you that cell phone use is prohibited while driving. But of course you can drive a manual while drinking Starbucks reading your copy of the Völkischer Beobachter—that’s fine.
- If you live in Montgomery County, not only do you pay property tax but you pay an additional dealer markup of 60% of your state tax that becomes your local tax—the so called piggy back tax. And who gets all this ADM? It goes to Baltimore, to build their stadia or some other pork barrel project. Virginians do not have a piggy back tax and the property taxes are kept relatively low.
- The general legislative approach in Maryland is as follows: we know what’s good for you. In Virginia: you should decide. Case in point, the issue of same-sex marriage was voted on in the Old Dominion; contrast Maryland which has had plenty of time to weigh in on the issue wouldn’t dare put it up for referendum. As I said, Maryland’s approach to governance is generally an insult to one’s intelligence. We value your opinion, just as long as it matches our own. Otherwise, you’re an extremist.
When I use to live in the PRM (People’s Republic of Maryland) I would routinely become infuriated with the news of some policy just enacted during the day while I was at work earning money to pay for my state and local taxes.
Now that I live in Virginia, I just laugh.