Freedom in Colorado

There is actually a Democratic governor who cares about economic freedom!
He’s Colorado Gov. Jared Polis. He’s the subject of my new video.
Before Polis got into the ugly field of government, he did useful work. He was an entrepreneur. He started an online flower company, modernized his parents’ greeting card company, and founded charter schools, an internet access company, Spanish-speaking movie theaters and an aquaculture venture fund. He sold the flower and greeting card companies for more than $1 billion.
Polis says being an entrepreneur “really helped prepare me for public service in ways that people don’t expect.”
Wait. I don’t like the way he used the term “public service.”
“I think you did public service when you ran a business. Why is only government called public service?” I ask.
“I do like to think … any company that adds value, does something in a more efficient way, a better way, is certainly a form of service as well,” Polis responds.
Good. He’s right. Certainly Amazon, Starlink, Apple, Google, etc., provide more service to the public than most governments do.
Heck, government often gets in the way.
In Denver, officials shut down a kids’ lemonade stand because the kids “didn’t have a permit.” That’s typical.
I once tried to get such a permit and open a lemonade stand in New York City. The government website promised to make the process easy. It didn’t. There were mysterious acronyms like “EIN” (employee identification number). Some instructions were unintelligible. Others were just ridiculous, like making me buy a “government-approved” fire extinguisher for my lemonade stand.
“Government in general does a lot of things that aren’t necessary,” Polis admits. He signed a bill to make it legal in Colorado for anyone under 18 to run a small or occasional business without a permit.
Polis pushes other ideas meant to make it easier for people to succeed. He wants to get rid of Colorado’s income tax.
“It penalizes success,” he says. “Income is something that’s good. We’ve reduced the income tax twice in Colorado since I’ve been there.”
Not by much. It only dropped from 4.63% to 4.4%, but still, those are unusual words, especially from a Democrat.
Polis also has a different take on fighting inflation: fight it “with immigration” and “getting rid of tariffs.”
That’s something I rarely hear from politicians from either party.
“Tariffs in particular penalize trade,” says Polis. “Trade’s a good thing. If two people, willing partners, both have something and both want what the other has, they make an exchange.
They’re both better off. We should not penalize trade.”
Regarding immigration, he says, “We have … an artificial labor shortage because we have people who are here today who are perfectly willing to work. They just don’t have the right federal permit to work.”
During COVID, Polis ordered statewide closures, but he lifted faster than other Democrat-run states.
“Our businesses reopened really early,” says Polis.
Not as early as Florida, Texas or South Dakota, but sooner than blue states.
Polis also supports legalization of drugs, including, most recently, magic mushrooms.
“Your state led the country in drug legalization, marijuana and now psychedelics. This is a good thing?” I ask.
“Very good,” Polis responds. “We put a lot of the corner drug dealers out of business. It’s created jobs, tax revenue, and it’s led to a safer product.”
Polis isn’t threatened by the negative effects of drug use. “I think it’s ultimately a matter of personal responsibility. If you want to use marijuana, to drink, to smoke, that’s your prerogative. The government shouldn’t be deciding that for you.”
It’s rare and refreshing to hear a Democrat talk about individual freedom.
Unfortunately he becomes squishy on freedom when it comes to Colorado’s forcing bakers and website designers to work for events they oppose. He also expanded government-run schools; now taxpayers must pay for state preschools. I bet that doesn’t end well.
I’ll cover that and other issues where we disagree in a future column.
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John Stossel is author of "No They Can't! Why Government Fails -- But Individuals Succeed."