NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 28, 2008

From the People's Republic of Cambridge to the west Texas town of El Paso, a paternalistic wave has been sweeping the country, says Reason. 

To find the best and worst cities for exercising personal freedom, Reason ranked the 35 most populous municipalities in the United States in eight areas: alcohol, tobacco, sex, guns, gambling, drugs, freedom of movement, food and "other."  The higher a city's score, the more restrictive it is.  Here are the results:

  • Chicago, ranked 35, is the most restrictive city in the United States; their litany of meddlesome laws include taxes on bottled water, a public smoking ban and a ban on serving foie gras in restaurants.
  • Seattle, ranked 34, has long had an unhealthy strain of nannyism; smoking is banned in all public places.
  • New York, ranked 33, is also heavily restrictive; the city has banned using trans fats in restaurant cooking oil, required fast food chains to show calorie content on their menus and fines citizens for trivial offenses such as sitting improperly on milk crates.
  • Las Vegas, ranked 1, is the least-restrictive city in the United States' most tolerant state; alcohol restrictions are virtually nonexistent and prostitution is legalized.

Other interesting findings:

  • Houston, ranked 28, has just two legal gambling establishments within 50 miles of the city.
  • San Francisco, ranked 20, has banned plastic bags in supermarkets, mandated the size of pets' water bowls and required psychics to obtain licenses.
  • Cleveland, ranked 16, was the first city in the country to ban alcohol and tobacco ads on city billboards.
  • Atlanta, ranked 9, has more advertised prostitutes per capita than any city outside of Las Vegas, is third in strip clubs per capita and is the most gay-friendly city south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Source: Radley Balko, "What's The Matter With Chicago?" Reason, August/September 2008.

For text:


Browse more articles on Tax and Spending Issues