Public Policy Forum Blog

Free to be you, Milwaukee

Free-market oriented Reason magazine has compiled a ranking of the top cities for personal freedom. Says the article, "From New York to Los Angeles, from the People’s Republic of Cambridge to the west Texas town of El Paso, city governments are using and abusing their authority to tell the rest of us how to live. Two decades of healthy economies and dropping crime rates have given many city councils the luxury of worrying about less urgent issues, from the last wisps of secondhand smoke to the discomfort of fatted geese."

Milwaukee ranks 6th in order of most personal freedom, behind Las Vegas, Miami, Denver, Louisville, and Kansas City. The bottom five cities include Chicago, Seattle, New York, San Diego, Boston.

Brew City would have ranked higher, but, ironically, our alcohol regulations kept us down. Luckily our laidback attitudes about regulating food consumption (no ban on trans fat here!) and tobacco kept our position in the top ten. Apparently the state's lack of a helmet law for motorcyclists helped, too.

Who would have thought that Milwaukee's mores are more "wild west" than Midwest? Or maybe, as the intro states, Milwaukee's city government has been too busy dealing with a troubled economy and persistent crime to become a nanny state. Are taxes on freedoms a luxury we just can't afford, unlike those booming cities at the bottom of the rankings?

Perhaps we should utilize our free status as a recruitment ploy to encourage new businesses and entrepreneurs to flock here: Milwaukee...the only city where you can enjoy some fried cheese while riding with the wind in your hair. But now that Chicago has repealed its ban on foie gras, we've probably lost any hope of absorbing that city's gastronomic refugees. Maybe we can still attract New York's smokers tired of lighting up outside in the cold.

Anneliese Dickman