A new year is upon us, which means a few things. First and foremost, it’s a Presidential election year which means the focus for most of the year will be on who will replace Barack Obama in the White House, and what issues will be a top priority. To a lesser degree, there will be discussions about which party will control which house of Congress. And to an even lesser degree, on the national level at least, there will be some focus on state legislative issues and state ballot measures.
From a freedom perspective it doesn’t really make a difference which party controls the White House, Senate, or House of Representatives. During my lifetime, I’ve seen Republican Presidents increase taxes, increase spending, and bomb countries around the world; and I’ve seen Democratic Presidents increase taxes, increase spending, and bomb countries around the world. The narratives and talking points have been slightly different, though the actions have been similar. Members of the minority party, whichever faction that may be, will for the sake of illusion of opposition object to some trivial change offered by the majority. Though on issues that really matter there is near unanimous consent to strip away freedom.
The real victories for freedom are often won at the state and local level, and more often than not are won, not through the legislature, but via ballot measures. Cannabis legalization in Colorado and Washington passed in 2012 as ballot measures, not acts of the legislature. Of course not everything passed, or defeated, via ballot measure ensures more freedom for the individual. Voters in Ohio recently defeated a “legalization” measure that would have created an oligopoly in the cannabis industry. Voters rejected cronyism, not cannabis. However, some are claiming this defeat in November 2015 means that other cannabis related measures in 2016 will also be defeated because of what is called the Bellwether effect. Various groups are working on cannabis measures in nearly 15 states.
Among the more interesting ballot measures that some voters will see this year are an amendment in Alabama to allow “the legislature to put a constitutional amendment on a local ballot if the amendment only affects said locality” and a measure in Arkansas to allow “the governor to retain his or her powers and duties when absent from the state.” Voters in California will decide on allowing for bilingual education in public schools and a law that would, among other things, require condom use in all pornography filmed in the state. Colorado voters will vote on creating ColoradoCare. Voters in Maine will vote on adopting statewide ranked-choice voting. Minnesotans will decide whether or not to create “an independent board that sets the pay of legislators.” And voters in Nevada, in addition to voting on taxing & regulating cannabis, will vote to require universal background checks on all sales and nearly all transfers of firearms. BallotPedia reports, “The measure exempts certain transfers of firearms from background checks, including transfers between immediate family members and temporary transfers while hunting or for immediate self-defense.”
One thing that needs to be pointed out time and time again is that every law, whether passed by a legislature or voter-driven ballot initiative, that requires someone do, or prohibits someone from doing, a certain thing is enforced by the threat of force and violence. If someone violates a law prohibiting plastic single-use carryout bags, they will either have money stolen from them, or they will go to jail. So, before you vote on any ballot measure, ask yourself if you would personally be willing to throw someone in jail for violating the law to be enacted!