Missouri is #6 in ranking of most free states

Missouri Criminal Defense lawyerI often complain that the Misssouri legislature tinkers too much; always trying to fix everything and make everybody be nice to everybody and especially keeping people from drinking cold beverages when canoeing. But a new study informs us that Missouri is actually ranked number six in the U.S. for being the the MOST FREE.

The study is Freedom in the 50 states. An index of personal and economic freedom by William P. Ruger & Jason Sorens. The researchers collected data on economic and personal freedom, including:

  • taxes and spending policy, state labor regulations, health insurance mandates, occupational licensing, eminent domain, the tort system, land and environmental regulation, and utilities.
  • the right of parents to educate their own children, to own and carry firearms, and be free from unreasonable search and seizure
  • paternalistic additions to the criminal law designed to make people behave more responsibly, i.e., wear a helmet/seat belt, do not drink, smoke, drive with a cell phone, gamble or stick your arms out of a roller coaster, and so on.

Here are the best and the worst states:

Overall Freedom Ranking

1. New Hampshire (most free)
2. Colorado
3. South Dakota
4. Idaho
5. Texas
6. Missouri

. . . .

46. Maryland
47. California
48. Rhode Island
49. New Jersey
50. New York  (least free)

One interesting aspect of the study shows that politically liberal states are the least free, but the most free states tended more toward a moderate conservatism.

Here is the study summary on Missouri:

One might be forgiven for expressing surprise at Missouri’s ranking in this dataset, given the way the media have covered political misdeeds in St. Louis so extensively. Apparently, St. Louis politicians do not run Missouri; otherwise, the state would probably not rank so highly! Missouri is ninth best on economic freedom and sixth best on personal freedom. Adjusted government spending and tax revenues are both nearly a full standard deviation below the national average.

The alcohol regime is one of the least restrictive in the United States, with no blue laws and taxes well below average. Gun control is very limited. Unfortunately, marijuana sentencing is extremely harsh. Several types of gambling are allowed, but oddly there is no social gambling exception.

Other than recordkeeping requirements, private and home schools are almost unregulated. Land-use planning is decentralized. Labor laws are generally market-friendly, but right-to-work and allowing workers’ compensation self-insurance would improve Missouri’s score here. Occupational licensing is less extensive than average. Asset forfeiture has been reformed, but eminent domain really has not. Cigarette taxes are low.

All in all, I still think we can do better, but apparently we we could do a lot worse.


Missouri rivers still safe for jello shots, mardi gras beads and (maybe) coolers

For those who were concerned that the legislature would be putting a crimp on Missouri river partying, it seems that the bullet may have been (mostly) dodged. The original Senate Bill 2 would have outlawed all plastic or styofoam coolers, beer bongs, alcohol in containers larger than a gallon, jello shots, and the distribution of mardi gras beads on a river. See my earlier post for more.

The bill was amended & passed and awaits the governor’s signature as part of House bill 62. In passing the bill, the legislature removed the prohibition on mardi gras beads and jello shots, but still makes it a crime to have beer bongs and alcohol in containers larger than 4 gallons.

Interestingly, the part of the bill that would effect most river recreation is the wording of the prohibition on coolers.

The original bill pretty much banned coolers with this language: “No person shall possess foam or Styrofoam, polypropylene, expanded polypropylene or polystyrene coolers on or within fifty feet of any river . . .”

As passed, House bill 62 says “No person shall possess expanded polypropylene coolers on or within fifty feet of any river . . .” (note: would not include Mississippi, Missouri or Osage rivers)

I am not a chemist, but I do not think most picnic coolers are made from “expanded polypropylene” (plain polypropylene, yes, expanded, no).

Perhaps the bill was meant to outlaw coolers made from “expanded polystyrene,” which we generically call styrofoam, as in coffee cups, coolers and packing peanuts.

Of course it does not matter what the bill was meant to outlaw. It only matters what it says.

If it outlaws “expanded polypropylene” then one could not be arrested for possession of a styrofoam cooler made from polystyrene. (This assumes that the deputy arresting you knows more about plastics than the legislator who wrote the amended bill).

Since this bill is supposedly for the benefit of everyone, maybe it is best if our legislature goofed this time. After all, it’s not just drunks that take a cooler with them on the river. Everyone does.

Like I said, I am not a chemist, but I know the governor has a few of them working for him. Maybe he could ask one of them about this before he signs HB62.

Come back with a warrant

Video journalist jailed indefinitely for remaining silent

Jefferson City criminal defense lawyerAn interesting “criminal” case is brewing in a small New Hampshire town. The city of Keene, NH has a substantial number of libertarian activists who have cultivated the habit of carrying video cameras around whenever they have protests or other events involving the government (which they would like to see strictly limited or–depending on who you ask–eliminated altogether). One of those video activists will soon complete his first full month behind bars for not turning off his video camera after the local judge banned recording in the public lobby of the Municipal building.

Sam Dodson runs a YouTube channel for his videos called the Obscured Truth Network.  On April 13, 2009, he brought his camera to the public lobby of the city building in support of another activist who was being arraigned (also for the crime of videotaping in that same lobby).

The court’s marshall ordered him to stop–and when he refused–they arrested him for disorderly conduct. At this point he went passively limp and was then handcuffed and dragged to a waiting patrol car. [see video below]. Other friends of the man being arraigned that day were then ordered from the lobby–and when they refused–five more were arrested for disorderly conduct.

Police booked all the arrestees and released them later that day–all except Sam Dodson. Dodson refused to talk to the police and refused to identify himself. He has since been identified by police but the judge refuses to arraign him and has refused him a trial until he is willing to tell them his name. Dodson is on a hunger strike, only drinking liquids since he was jailed on April 13.

Writs of habeas corpus have been filed and rejected by the court.  The court explained that Dodson’s complaint was premature because he “may make the same challenges . . . as the criminal case proceeds.” But the case does not proceed.

It is quite possible that Dodson will eventually be found not guilty of the charges, but the state will not give him a trial until they have broken his will. He therefore remains in jail for the indefinite future.

More on the story here: Exercising Right to Remain Silent Lands Video Journalist in Jail Indefinitely and video here:

* * *

Now that Sam Dodson has spent far longer in jail than any convictions would actually have cost him, this looks more and more like the authorities are just flexing their muscles with this guy.

Absolutely nothing would stop them from bringing him into court, reading the charges, setting the case for trial and releasing him until the trial date. It would cost them nothing. Instead, they seem intent on making martyrs.

Come back with a warrant