Who will give us freedom?

(Fort Wayne) News-Sentinel

One good way to judge the desirability of a law is whether it adds to our individual freedom or takes away from it. Of course, determining that can be a little tricky at times.

Consider the matter of home rental. A lot of Hoosiers see renting out their homes on a short-term basis through companies such as Airbnb as a good way to make extra money. But some cities, like Carmel, want to forbid the practice because, you know, those awful transients. Now the state is considering legislation that would forbid cities from forbidding the practice.

So many layers, so many ways to interpret this issue. How do we decide which course is best for Hoosiers?

We have always been a vocal supporter of home rule, letting local governments have the last word on most subjects. And legislative Republicans, who have supermajorities in both chambers, generally have a small-government philosophy that favors strong local control.

But once in a while, the state jumps in. Sometimes, it seems odd. Last year, for example, the legislature passed a bill telling cities and counties they weren’t allowed to ban plastic bags. And sometimes, as with the current case, it goes against long tradition. Things like building codes and zoning issues always have been almost exclusively under local jurisdiction.

But individuals’ rights to control and benefit from their own property have an even stronger pedigree. They’re in the Constitution and, despite the best efforts of too many Supreme Court justices, still help define the American experience.

So this time around, it is action by the higher level of government that is the best for individuals. The state is telling towns and cities to stop pushing us around.

Legislators will probably be the last to catch on, but this kind of issue is going to come up again and again. Accelerating technology and the so-called “sharing economy” are rapidly changing the rules of the game. People are finding endless new ways to empower themselves. They will be increasingly less dependent on big, all-controlling forces, be they public or private. They will make their own choices.

The existing rules and regulations will not be able to cope with the change. Lawmakers tempted to forge new rules and regulations might discover that the better course is just to stand back and not get in the way.

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