Ideologies tend to get caught in a pattern where whatever set of data points you conjure up, there’s always a way to tie it back to the underlying ideology. That was my thought after reading these two posts from Cato and NRO on Bernie Sanders and Denmark. In the posts, the authors point out that Denmark isn’t what you’d expect if you think of it as a socialist paradise. Sure, they have high taxes and a robust welfare system, but they’re freer than the U.S. when it comes to doing business, and they have roughly the same levels of overall economic freedom.
In this telling, the data is supposed to convey the point that Denmark’s high levels of economic freedom aren’t ideal for someone with a more socialist outlook. But the data is telling us something very different – that bigger government and high taxes don’t automatically lead to a less free environment for people to start and run businesses. There’s an underlying assumption that less economic freedom is somehow an actual goal of the left, rather than a consequence of poorly conceived policies. It would be similar to arguing that if more restaurants open in Seattle, the left should view the minimum rate hike as a failure (“Haha! It didn’t kill people’s economic freedom like you hoped it would, silly liberals!!”).
The main distinction that separates smarter libertarian thinking (which I do believe exists) from this nonsense is understanding that it’s silly to be concerned solely with the size of government instead of focusing on the specific types of powers we allow government to have. Government using taxpayer dollars to provide affordable health care, education, housing, or a high quality transportation system shouldn’t be seen as a threat to liberty in the same way as turning police into a standing army, funneling billions into a system of mass incarceration, or building up a gigantic infrastructure for public surveillance. All are “big government” in a way. The threat posed to our freedom – both economic and otherwise – by each of these things varies widely.
The success of Bernie Sanders’ campaign so far is a growing recognition that the relationship between big government and economic freedom is far more complex than the tired notion that higher taxes and a bigger government automatically leads to less freedom. Looking at someplace like Denmark is a confirmation of that.
News from the last two weeks:
The staff at The Intercept have received another set of documents from a government whistle-blower, these describe the Obama Administration’s targeted killing policy.
Hillary Clinton criticized President Obama’s deportation policies.
The vast majority of American police agencies aren’t reporting police shooting deaths to the FBI.
Radley Balko discusses why meth problems are a result of drug prohibitions rather than a justification for them.
Conor Friedersdorf writes about the relationship between reforming the police and the violence in minority communities.
Manny Fernandez looks into what states are doing to do deal with shortages of death penalty drugs.
Eric Tucker writes about the release of thousands of federal drug war prisoners due to recent sentencing reforms.
Keith Humphreys writes about the increasing numbers of people behind bars simply because they can’t post bail.
The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing the case of a man who’s been locked up for nearly fifty years for a crime committed as a juvenile.
The United Nations reminded governments that executing people for drug crimes is against international law.
Jenna McLaughlin writes about the ACLU lawsuit against the psychologists who worked with the CIA to legitimize torture techniques in the war on terror.
Trevor Timm writes about the latest court rulings regarding where multinational tech companies can store their user private data.
California now has a death with dignity law. They also passed a bill that requires police to get a warrant to use a stingray device to intercept cell information. And another marijuana legalization initiatize proposal has been filed.
A woman in California is suing several Carlsbad police officers over a beating that was caught on video while her children watched.
Carlos Miller writes about an unarmed man in Los Angeles left brain damaged after a police shooting.
Alexa Ura writes about the latest threats to legal abortion access in Texas.
A Texas police officer choked a 14-year-old student and dragged him to the ground.
Ari Melber tells the story of Jarrett Adams, a man from Chicago who went from being wrongfully convicted of a crime to law school to working at the court that overturned his conviction.
John Keilman and Lolly Bowean write about the need to expand naloxone availability for first responders in Chicago.
Kaili Joy Gray writes about the discrimination case against Hobby Lobby in Illinois by a transgender person who wanted to use the correct bathroom.
Purdue University deleted a video lecture on national security journalism from Barton Gellman because it contained leaked NSA documents.
Dana Liebelson writes about the bills being introduced in the Michigan legislature to deal with alarming problems Liebelson uncovered regarding how juveniles are treated in the state’s criminal justice system.
A family in Michigan is suing after their teenage son was executed by a police officer when trying to assert his rights during a traffic stop.
A woman in Michigan is suing a Catholic hospital which failed to perform a vital procedure on a pregnant women due to religious objections.
Lopez also writes about the college student who had $11,000 stolen from him by law enforcement at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport.
Tennessee’s attempt to drug-test welfare recipients was exactly as big a boondoggle as expected.
Ed Pilkington writes about an Alabama woman behind bars because of her stillborn child.
A surveillance video showed two Florida police officers beating a woman who was filming her husband’s arrest.
Molly Crabapple writes about prison abuse and solitary confinement in a Pennyslvania prison.
A U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Muslim groups in New Jersey have a valid discrimination claim against the NYPD over their widespread surveillance of mosques and other gathering places.
An independent review board found that the officer who tackled tennis player James Blake used excessive force.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker wants to pass a bill that will allow hospitals to force drug addicts into treatment.
Kit O’Connell writes about Canada’s new anti-terrorism law.
The Mexican government is preventing international investigators from questioning members of the military over the disappearance of 43 students last year.
Dutch officials found that flight MH17 was shot down by a Russian missile over eastern Ukraine.
Croatia has legalized medical marijuana.
Also in Turkey, a newspaper editor was arrested for insulting President Erdogan on Twitter.
Dan Cohen writes about the bombing of a Palestinian family by Israel and how it’s portrayed in the media. Amira Hass writes about the constant state of war and occupation that Palestinians have been fighting for decades. Noam Sheizaf discusses how Israel is once again steering itself towards conflict. Israel has approved a plan to expand its settlements in the Golan Heights.
Russia is bombing anyone opposing the Assad regime in Syria.
Many of the Yazidi women forced into slavery by ISIS have been committing suicide.
The Obama Administration apologized for the bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. Tom McCarthy explores whether this action can or should be prosecuted as a war crime. Kirsten Johnson produced a short video about the mysterious surveillance blimp that’s been hovering over Kabul since 2009. On top of all this, the prospect of Taliban rule remains a huge threat to women.
Four detainees at an Indian prison complained of being beaten by jail staff.
The Chinese Government has arrested some hackers after the meetings between Obama and Chinese President Ji Xinping.