When the Cato Institute arrived in Raleigh to brief legislators on Freedom in the 50 States, I was hopeful.
My hope faded quickly.
My optimism, I thought, was well founded. After all, over the last 4 years, the NC General Assembly had led the nation in tax reform. NC’s business tax climate ranking by the Tax Foundation had risen dramatically, from 44th to 11th among the 50 states. And, in fact, Cato did give North Carolina high marks on tax freedom.
But freedom is bigger than money.
And, it turns out, in categories like regulatory freedom and the ability to make a living, NC isn’t doing well at all. It still trails most other states. That needs to change. We should continue our work on tax reform but, to fuel more economic growth, it’s time to double down on regulatory reform.
There’s a lot of talk about working across the political aisle – about the left and right working together to make the lives of our citizens better. And hopefully, freedom, and lifting burdens off the backs of working families, is a place where both sides can actually do that. But, to be realistic, there are two roadblocks standing in the way:
One is simple. Overcoming inertia. Sitting in the Senate listening to state agencies, I sometimes wonder how the Latin would read on a second state motto, “We have always done it that way.” Because that’s what you hear over and over: Not it’s the best way. Or the most effective way. But that’s how we’ve always done it.
The other roadblock is even more challenging. Every time a freedom gets trampled by a government regulation or government agency, someone makes money. It may be an increase in state employees’ pensions or benefits, a business that feeds on – or gains an advantage over competitors due to – a new regulation, or simply a new area for the practice of law. Whatever the reason, it’s a hard fact that once the money starts flowing to a special interest it’s hard to cut it off.
Hard or not, for a nation founded on freedom, the result is worth the fight.