Sunday, June 29, 2008

Chicago, where you do what you're told

The windy city gets raked over the coals for its poor treatment of personal freedom in a Chicago Tribune OpEd written by Reason magazine's Radley Balko. A taste:
Chicago reigns supreme when it comes to treating its citizens like children (Las Vegas topped our rankings as America's freest city). Chicagoans pay the second-highest cigarette tax in the country, and the sixth-highest tax on alcohol. Chicago has more traffic-light cameras than any city in America (despite studies questioning their effectiveness), restricts cell phone use while driving, and it's quickly moving toward a creepy public surveillance system similar to London's.
Don't miss the multitude of comments attached to Balko's article,  many belonging to two general threads: one applauding the restrictions because they make Chicago more in tune with the poster's values and preferences (my taste, now mandatory); the other pointing out that a heavily regulated city gives the folks in charge unparalleled opportunities for shaking downs folks who violate or want to violate the rules.

The column is based on an upcoming Reason article assessing 35 American cities on how they "balance individual freedom with government paternalism. We ranked the cities on how much freedom they afford their residents to indulge in alcohol, tobacco, drugs, sex, gambling and food. And, for good measure, we also looked at the cities' gun laws, use of traffic and surveillance cameras, and tossed in an 'other' category to catch weird laws such as New York's ban on unlicensed dancing, or Chicago's tax on bottled water."

Chicago, by the way, comes in dead last. Las Vegas is first.

There are plenty of assessments of various jurisdictions' economic freedom rankings, but this is the first I'm aware of  that actually tries to rank cities based on their overall respect for personal freedom. I look forward to seeing the full piece.

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