Most literate, healthiest, lowest occurrence of road rage—this city’s a constant list topper. But one national ranking doesn’t exactly make us swell with pride: Seattle scores high among “worst cities for exercising personal freedom.” So says Reason magazine, which released its nationwide study of officiousness in July. When it comes to government oversight of sex, drugs, health, and privacy, only Chicago ranked as more meddlesome—the Windy City’s seat-belt laws and ubiquitous surveillance cameras tipped the scales. Las Vegas, with its casinos and hookers aplenty, grabbed honors for the most libertine.
We hardly need the LA-based libertarian publication to wag its finger at us. Seattle’s smoking ban is the most draconian in the land (the 2005 ballot initiative exiled smokers 25 feet away from doors and windows) and the 2003 embargo of high-octane beer sales downtown makes us look as freewheeling as nuns on a nude beach—not to mention (Reason didn’t) our state’s prohibition on cellphones behind the wheel or the mayor’s ongoing fistfight with plastic grocery bags. And yet, to hear Reason tell it, you’d think the Emerald City was a full-bore police state. As if SWAT teams assembled on corners to play target practice with jaywalkers. Oceania with coffee and a music scene.
Truth is, Seattle’s not that Big Brotherly. In 2003, Seattle voters approved an initiative that deprioritized marijuana enforcement (mentioned but quickly dismissed by Reason) and Washington is one of only 12 states that permits possession of pot for medical purposes. Still, cities far fussier about drugs (Dallas, Phoenix, Cleveland, Denver— Denver! ) garnered more laissez-faire cred, mostly because the magazine gave points to cities with lax gun laws. You know what? Eat lead, Dallas. Oh, and Las Vegas, you darling of tolerance, you libertarian’s wet dream, Hempfest much?