Come to California and Travel Freely!

Paul Krugman is blogging about Cato’s latest Freedom Report, so I went over to take a look. California, once again, is ranked a dismal 48th:

Our low ranking, of course, is due to the fact that our taxes are high and we look poorly on businesses polluting our air and water. But as I browsed the various categories, I came across this:

What’s this all about? We were an absolute travel hellhole through 2012 but then suddenly jumped to paradise status in a single year. We currently score 0.007062 on travel freedom, whatever that means, but I guess it must be pretty good since it makes us #5 in the nation.

Drilling down, it turns out that our overall travel score jumped from -0.00707 in 2012 to 0.003676 in 2013. But why? Drilling down even further, their downloadable spreadsheet records only one change: our score on “Finger or thumbprint required for driver’s license”—although I can’t quite tell precisely what caused this since there seem to be two columns with two different numbers and only one of them changed. What’s more, as far as I know we still require a fingerprint to get a driver’s license. Can anyone help me out here?

In any case, what’s really weird about this whole thing is that apparently our travel freedom rank can skyrocket from #49 to #10 due to one change that’s somehow related to fingerprints on driver’s licenses. What the hell kind of travel freedom ranking is this, anyway? Texas is currently #50 and I’m afraid to even look at their raw data. Speed traps? Lots of civil asset forfeiture? Passports required if you enter the state driving a Prius? Lingering memories of Chuck Norris constantly kicking ass on Texas highways? It is a mystery.

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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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