Monday, June 13, 2011

Freedom in the United States

That's the title of an updated report from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. It follows their first report on the subject in 2009. The full report may be read here (link is to an Adobe Acrobat document in .PDF format).

Here's their executive summary:

This study comprehensively ranks the American states on their public policies that affect individual freedoms in the economic, social, and personal spheres. It updates, expands, and improves upon our inaugural 2009 Freedom in the 50 States study. For this new edition, we have added more policy variables (such as bans on trans fats and the audio recording of police, Massachusetts’ individual health-insurance mandate, and mandated family leave), improved existing measures (such as those for fiscal policies, workers’ compensation regulations, and asset-forfeiture rules), and developed specific policy prescriptions for each of the 50 states based on our data and a survey of state policy experts. With a consistent time series, we are also able to discover for the first time which states have improved and worsened in regard to freedom recently.

Our approach to measuring freedom in the states is unique in three respects: (1) it includes measures of social and personal freedoms such as peaceable citizens’ rights to educate their own children, to own and carry firearms, and to be free from unreasonable search and seizure; (2) it incorporates more than 150 distinct public policies; and (3) it is particularly careful to measure fiscal policies in a way that reflects the true cost of government to the citizen.

We find that the overall freest states in the country are New Hampshire and South Dakota, which together achieve a virtual tie for first place, while New York is the least free by a considerable margin. On personal freedom alone, Oregon now comes first, with Vermont and Nevada not too far behind, and Maryland brings up the rear. On economic freedom alone, South Dakota easily takes first, and New York is a distant last. The most improved states since the last edition of our study are Oregon, Nevada, Maine, and Washington, while Wyoming, California, Arizona, and Massachusetts have fallen the furthest. Two of the most intriguing findings of our statistical analysis are that Americans are voting with their feet and moving to states with more economic and personal freedom and that economic freedom correlates with income growth.

I highly recommend the report for all those to whom personal freedom and individual rights are cornerstones of their philosophy of life. Here's a video report from the Mercatus Center about how they compiled it.

And their ranking of the 50 states? Here it is, from most to least free.

  1. New Hampshire
  2. South Dakota
  3. Indiana
  4. Idaho
  5. Missouri
  6. Nevada
  7. Colorado
  8. Oregon
  9. Virginia
  10. North Dakota
  11. Florida
  12. Oklahoma
  13. Iowa
  14. Texas
  15. Georgia
  16. Tennessee
  17. Kansas
  18. North Carolina
  19. Alabama
  20. Utah
  21. Wyoming
  22. Arizona
  23. Nebraska
  24. Mississippi
  25. Wisconsin
  26. South Carolina
  27. Michigan
  28. Arkansas
  29. Montana
  30. Vermont
  31. Pennsylvania
  32. Kentucky
  33. Maine
  34. Minnesota
  35. Louisiana
  36. West Virginia
  37. New Mexico
  38. Connecticut
  39. Delaware
  40. Washington
  41. Illinois
  42. Ohio
  43. Maryland
  44. Alaska
  45. Rhode Island
  46. Massachusetts
  47. Hawaii
  48. California
  49. New Jersey
  50. New York

Makes you think, doesn't it? There were some surprises for me, such as finding Alaska in position 44 - but the Mercatus Center has reasons for its rankings. They may surprise you.



gebiv said...

Woohoo! Yay for The Democratic People's Republic of New York. If you look at this list upside down like our glorious leaders in Albany do, we're Number One! I'm so glad I'm stuck here!

/sarc off

john ray said...

Peter: I may be wrong, but I thought there were 57 states. We are missing some? I was told there was the 57 states by the POTUS.

Again, States' regulations exceed their statutes, just as the CFR exceeds the U.S. statutes.

perlhaqr said...

Well, I'll have to read the report, but my first instinct on seeing New Mexico in 37 and Nevada in 6, is "my ass!"

But maybe the rest of the state is vastly superior to Clark County and Las Vegas. But Vegas I found to be way too much like California, in the "everything not forbidden is mandatory" sense of things. I moved to NV from NM, and moved right the hell back.

But, like I say, I haven't actually read the report yet, so, maybe I'll change my mind. I'm sad to see that the other place I've considered (WA) ranks lower than where I'm at now... :(

Matthew said...

These guys fail at economics, engineering and supply chain management. Poli Sci majors shouldn't be doing this stuff unsupervised by people with practical knowledge.

They've apprently got no understanding of economies of scale, climate or other logistical realities and don't control for a host of factors, such as Federal mandates to provide equivilent services to a gazillion villages which have only air access as we do to people on the limited road and rail network.