Good news? A think tank funded by the Koch brothers, billionaire industrialists and covert Tea Party backers with a long history of supporting right-wing causes, has declared Oregon the top state in the union for personal freedom.
Naked bike rides were not a factor. Medical weed was.
But to give you a better idea of the where the authors of the report, commissioned by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, are coming from, consider: Quasi-prohibitionist Utah ranked No. 17 in personal freedom, while libertine New York scored very near the bottom, at No. 48.
Indeed, a look at the methodology of the full report (PDF) shows that its rankings are an essentially meaningless jumble of arbitrary numbers.
For instance: In terms of "overall freedom," Oregon scored a .285, ranking it No. 8 among all 50 states. Insofar as "economic freedom," Oregon came in at No. 25 with a .03 score.
Do you feel freer than you did in 2007, before the Great Recession hit? You should, according to Mercatus.
The report's authors claim that Oregon demonstrated the greatest increase in freedom of any state since 2007, when the last state-by-state freedom rankings came out. Oregon gained .167 overall freedom points in the meantime, according to an irrefutable source: "Authors' calculations."
How does one quantify freedom?
It depends how you define the word. Fifty percent of the overall freedom rankings were attributable to a state's lack of legal "paternalism."
Gun control laws—or rather, the lack thereof—were heavily weighted in this category. Although the authors did consider same-sex partnership rights an important freedom-factor, they figured that the right to carry a high-powered combat rifle is more important.
Oregon's weak campaign finance regulations also worked in is favor, contributing to the freedom of deep-pocketed institutions and individuals to buy elections.
Oregon also won points for its refusal to authorize sobriety checkpoints, granting other road users a greater degree of freedom to get run over by drunk drivers.
On the other hand, Oregon lost points for its "quite extreme" tax on alcoholic spirits and its "excessive" occupational licensing requirements.
The authors' "policy recommendations" for Oregon will not surprise anyone familiar with libertarian politics:
(1) At the state level, spending on the inspection and regulation bureaucracy, natural resources, and government employeesâ retirement is well above national norms. We recommend cutting spending in these areas and reducing public debt.(2) Eliminate occupational licensing for massage therapists, funeral attendants, pest-control workers, elevator installers and repairmen, boilermakers, fishers and related fishing workers, agricultural product graders and sorters, farm-labor contractors, and other occupations. (3) Maintain, if not reduce, the minimum wage, even in the face of future inflation.
Are any Oregonians really clamoring for the "freedom" to have their wages grow even slower relative to the cost of living?
Maybe. According to a new CNN poll, libertarianism is more popular than ever across America.
Be that as it may, it's unlikely that a majority of Oregonians would endorse most the views espoused by the Mercatus Center.
Jason Sorens, one of the co-authors of the report, is an assistant professor of political science at SUNY-Buffalo. Sorens, pictured, is an advocate of "partial secession," a concept he explains in this video.
Sorens is also semi-famous in libertarian circles as the founder of the "Free State" movement, an effort to turn New Hampshire into a government-free paradise by flooding it with migratory Ayn Randians. For what it's worth.