All eyes are on Carson City this week, as legislators gather to consider the budget crisis facing the state of Nevada. The ACLU will be there to observe and make sure that any proposed solutions do not threaten the constitutional rights of our state's residents.

The other day, our staff attorney, Maggie, mused online that she is "flummoxed that Nevada's leaders call the budget crisis an emergency, but refuse to listen to great ideas from citizens of Nevada...instead, they want to cut education and make Nevada a surveillance state."

We wanted to share with you a very insightful response to this observation, from our good friend Richard Fitzpatrick. While the views don't all necessarily reflect our policy positions, it's great food for thought:

Maggie McLetchie is certainly accurate in her observation of how ridiculous it is for Nevada's leaders to call the current budget crisis an “emergency” -- yet refuse to even discuss slightly controversial options to move the state forward.

There are numerous practical, common-sense suggestions that thoughtful Nevadans have offered that are consistent with our state’s traditional “live-and-let-live” philosophy which not only honor the sanctity of individual freedom – but also hold the potential of stimulating the state’s sagging economy – just as quick divorces and casino gambling did in the past.

Nevertheless, tepid, risk-averse political leaders of both parties ignore suggestions that might possibly offend anyone powerful. For example, while every penny of funds that provide “enrichment” to the educational system is squeezed out, there is one-half billion dollars in untaxed church property in Clark County, alone. For every dollar which the government does not collect on this property, it must make up for by collecting it from the rest of its citizens. But you know that topic will not be on the table for examination or discussion in Carson City.

A total lack of common sense is also obvious when you notice that brothels are a legal business in Nevada – but they are not taxed. Consumers are willing to pay for these services – the businesses themselves are willing to collect and pay taxes to the state and/or local communities -- why aren’t our “leaders” in Carson City at least discussing this option? A further step forward would be to allow the legalization, regulation and taxation of prostitution to be an option for every county and city in Nevada.

At the same time, if marijuana were treated the way alcohol is (with strong restrictions on driving under the influence and the possession and use by minors) the state could reap a tax windfall, while bringing some sense to our state’s drug policy. Law enforcement; state and local jails; and the courts would be freed-up to focus on authentic matters of public safety.

Are these concepts pure theory or actually practical in today’s world? For an answer, look at Amsterdam -the financial and business capital of the Netherlands. It has recently been rated as one of the best cities in which to locate an international business. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe with the number of visitors having grown steadily over the past decade as a result of three strong attractions: (1) De Wallen, a designated area for legalized prostitution and other sex-industry establishments; (2) hundreds of licensed, regulated shops offering various cannabis products; and (3) the continuing 400th anniversary celebration of the artwork of Rembrandt.

Thus, we can see that quality of life; a strong business climate; and tourism can all thrive with a heavy dose of individual liberty.

There is conscious choice Nevada must make: will our state limp into this new decade as a timid, 2nd rate, non-offensive, miserly, bland, Disney-wanna-be that is dependent on the “generosity” of few corporate powers; or will we stand-up and honor the true character of Nevada: a land of opportunity for all those willing to work – and we aren’t judgmental about the kind of work that might be – believing that adults must be free to make their own decisions without intimidation by big government, big business, big labor or big churches.

We are familiar with what people around the world like to do in the pursuit of happiness – and can make a lot of money by helping them do just that. And, with some of that some of that money, we can build our own first-class environment; a high-quality, relevant, accessible educational system; and help our fellow-Nevadans who can’t take care of themselves.

It pains me to hear observers conclude: “we’re not going to be the state that sticks out its neck anymore.” Without some risk-taking, I can’t see how Nevada moves out of the quagmire we are now in.

Our state’s greatest political columnist, Mark Twain, once observed “Necessity is the mother of taking chances.” Looking at the mess of Nevada’s finances, I think we can deem that it is now a necessity for our leaders make some bold moves.

Are we going to have our heads in the sand – or stick our necks out? – that is the question.

 

Richard Fitzpatrick is a Las Vegas-based entrepreneur and philanthropist. Find him online at www.richardfitzpatrick.com

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