In Idaho politics the word “freedom” continues to be batted around a lot by people who seldom bother to explain what they mean by it.
Your definition and someone else’s may vary.
One of the most impactful political organizations in Idaho is the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which purports to base its work around expanding “freedom”; but their conception of the idea is, to be generous, highly selective. Freedom for one person to do something can mean less freedom for someone else, if you aren’t careful … which ideologues often aren’t.
The meanings of some of the many flavors of freedom comes clear in a recent release of the libertarian Cato Institute, called “Freedom in the 50 States: An index of personal and economic freedom.” It is as flawed and cherry-picked as most such surveys, but a combination of two elements make it worth some pause and consideration.
First, it breaks down types of freedom in 25 varied categories which do cover a lot of ground, under the umbrella categories of “personal” and “economic” freedom. There’s plenty of weighing going on within and among the various subcategories (Cato being what it is, the group’s heart seems to be more on the economic side), but a look at the variations is worthwhile.
That’s because, second, the survey also breaks down the various types of “freedom” by state.
Overall, Idaho ranks 14th in the survey, out of 50. It follows New Hampshire, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and Texas, among others.
It does best on “economic freedom,” which you could translate to “freedom to transact business activities unencumbered by regulation or taxes,” coming in seventh.
On “personal freedom,” Idaho’s ranking was not so hot: 49th, ahead only of Texas.
The Cato survey gives Idaho some rankings you might not expect. On state taxation, Idaho ranks 38th, worse than Oregon (36th: it does not have a sales tax) and Washington (19th: it does not have an income tax). Idaho ranks 4th best in the country on local taxation, a suggestion that local governments really are being squeezed by the state as much as they say. It also ranks second highest in the nation in government debt, though the highly technical approach used in measuring it may be hard to translate to practical impacts.
Idaho ranked first in the nation on “health insurance freedom,” though the criteria are a little vague and certainly idiosyncratic. The key rational sentence seems to be, “Community rating and the individual mandate get the highest weights because they represent a large transfer of wealth from the healthy to the unhealthy of approximately $10 billion a year.” Try applying that to your personal “freedom” when it comes to obtaining and using health insurance.
On the “personal freedom” side, where Nevada ranks on top in the nation (Arizona is second), Idaho scores less well.
It ranks 46th on incarceration and arrests, 44th on gambling, 28th on marriage freedom (“driven mostly by cousin marriage, which is more important in our rankings than covenant marriage and vastly more important than blood tests and waiting periods”), 39th on cannabis and salvia, 49th on alcohol.
And it comes in 24th on travel freedom. Much of that measure last relates to “the use and retention of automated license plate reader data and the availability of driver’s licenses to those without Social Security numbers (such as undocumented workers).” You wonder how the ranking might have been affected if recent abortion laws had been considered.
Abortion, generally, didn’t appear to figure in the rankings, at least not substantially.
Idaho does rank third highest, however, on “gun freedom.” That should come as no shock.
So who’s free? To do what? What’s important to you?