‘California is the true freedom state': Is Gavin Newsom right?


Fact Box

  • On January 6, 2023, Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted, “California is the true freedom state. Protecting liberty from a rising tide of oppression taking root in statehouses. Weakness, masquerading as strength. Small men in big offices.” The statement mirrored his inaugural second term speech referencing “freedom and democracy.”
  • According to a US News & World Report, the Golden State ranked #24 in overall state rankings, with Health, Economy, and Education at the top of the scoreboard. 
  • The population estimate for California in 2021 consisted of a majority of Whites, 40.2% Hispanic, 15.9% Asian, 6.5% Black, and 1.7% Native American. 
  • California party affiliation is almost half Democrat-leaning (49%), with 30% Republican, and 21% no affiliation, as stated by Pew Research Center.

Andrew (Yes)

California has always been a leader when it comes to personal freedom, and Governor Newsom was right to claim his state's status as such. In his inauguration speech, Newsom highlighted many of the injustices that California has been at the forefront of correcting over the years, many of which have become national trends such as enforcing marriage equality and lgbtq+ rights. Following Ohio, California was the second state to strike down its miscegenation laws (allowing bi-racial marriage) and has always been a staunch advocate for reproductive rights. In an era when many states are moving to sharply restrict women's reproductive options, California has made it clear that women in California will not have their freedoms taken away.

California has been at the forefront of criminal justice reforms nationwide with its groundbreaking move to legalize medical Cannabis in 1996, a first in the United States. More recently, the state has legislated the automatic sealing of many felony records, ensuring that offenders who have served their time are free to truly reenter society. In a time of authoritarian state politics, California is moving to keep its residents free.

Many of those opposing California's often very progressive policy ideas confuse personal liberty with the ability for businesses to run roughshod freely over citizens. Many conservatives complain that California has too strict of regulations when it comes to things like building codes, emission standards, and trade licensing. While these types of restrictions may make it more complicated for businesses to operate, they ensure that residents are free from shoddy building practices, not threatened by independent contractors being used to force out contract workers, and ultimately free to breathe in clean air.

Curtice (No)

Not only is Governor Newsom incorrect about freedom in California, but in reality, he couldn't be more wrong. Only a few of many examples demonstrate exactly how wrong. In 2021, the CATO Institute ranked California 48th in the nation for freedom, in large part due to its long-standing poor performance of economic liberty. It is one of the worst states for land-use freedom. Rent control to achieve 'affordable housing' actually achieves the opposite, interrupting free market competition driven by supply and demand. Similarly, California has been notoriously difficult for businesses and entrepreneurs to overcome heavy regulations and tax rates

During the pandemic, California instituted some of the country's strictest masking, vaccination, and lockdown requirements. Despite the lack of evidence of the efficacy of masks or vaccines, particularly for children, California required student vaccinations for those who desired to attend school in person. Gun rights in California are among the weakest in the nation. Only the courts have been able to put the breaks on some of the state's restrictive gun policies. School-choice programs are nonexistent as the state offers neither school vouchers nor individual or corporate tax credits. California courts have explicitly rejected the distinction between aiding students versus aiding schools. 

California will mandate only electric cars be sold by 2035. Regardless of one’s position on the value of electric vehicles vs. gas-powered cars, demanding only certain types of vehicles can be sold is the antithesis of freedom. California also just implemented a new law that allows the state to strip doctors of their medical licenses if they engage in what the state defines as ‘misinformation’ regarding COVID-19. This gives the state unprecedented control over what doctors can tell their patients. Apparently, Newsom has a very different definition of freedom than most.

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