Free vs. Unfree states
- From Newsmax online news magazine:
| E-mail Us <http://www.newsmax.com/contact/editorial/>Study: Most Liberal
States Are Least Free
Wednesday, May 6, 2009 1:03 PM
*By:* Dave EberhartArticle Font Size
According to a new study released by the Mercatus Center of George Mason
University, some of the most liberal U.S. states rank lowest when it comes
to personal freedom.
The study, which calls itself the �first-ever comprehensive ranking of the
American states on their public policies affecting individual freedoms in
the economic, social, and personal spheres,� made a host of findings:
The freest states in the country are New Hampshire, Colorado, and South
Dakota, which together achieve a virtual tie for first place. All three
states feature low taxes and government spending -- and middling levels of
regulation and paternalism.
New York is the least overall free by a considerable margin, followed by
New Jersey, Rhode Island, California, and Maryland.
Unfortunately, say the report authors, these freedom-disadvantaged states
�make up a substantial portion of the total American population. Moreover,
these bottom five states have considerable ground to make up even to move
off this ignoble list, let alone into a creditable position in the
When weighing personal freedom alone, Alaska is the clear winner, while
Maryland brings up the rear.
Sarah Palin�s Alaska does extremely well on personal freedom, conclude study
authors. Reasons for its high personal freedom alone score include: fully
legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana (accomplished through a
court ruling), the best (least restrictive) gun laws in the country,
recognition of same-sex domestic partnerships, and possibly the best
homeschooling laws in the country.
As for freedom in the different regions of the country, the Mountain and
West North Central regions are the freest overall -- while the Middle
Atlantic lags far behind on both economic and personal freedom.
There are real benefits to scoring high on economic and personal freedoms,
conclude the study�s authors. Their analysis demonstrated that states
enjoying more economic and personal freedom tend to attract substantially
higher rates of internal net migration.
*The Problem with Being Liberal*
According to the study, previous research has shown that, as of 2006,
Alabama and Mississippi were the most conservative states in the country,
while New York and New Jersey were the most liberal. In the index put forth
by the new study, Alabama and Mississippi fall in the middle, while New York
and New Jersey are at the bottom.
�The problem is that the cultural values of liberal governments seem on
balance to require more regulation of individual behavior than do the
cultural values of conservative governments,� say the study�s authors.
�While liberal states are freer than conservative states on marijuana and
same-sex partnership policies, when it comes to gun owners, home schoolers,
motorists, or smokers, liberal states are nanny states, while conservative
states are more tolerant.�
*Some Individual State Profiles*
*Illinois* is one of the worst states to live in from a personal freedom
perspective (#49). On economic freedom it is in the middle of the pack
(#29). Illinois has the fourth harshest gun control laws in the country,
after California, Maryland, and New York, and the state�s victimless crimes
arrest rates are almost unfathomable: In 2006, more than 2 percent of the
state�s population was arrested for a victimless crime (and that figure does
not count under-18s). Nearly one-third of all arrests were for victimless
*Texas* (#7 economic, #5 personal, #5 overall) has one of the smallest state
governments in the country. As a percentage of corrected GSP, Texas has the
second lowest tax burden in the country and the third lowest grants-adjusted
government spending. However, government employment is a standard deviation
higher than the national average. Gun control is better than average, but
the state falls short on open-carry laws, stricter-than-federal minimum age
for purchase rules, and dealer licensing.
Alcohol is less regulated than in most other states, and taxes are low.
Low-level marijuana cultivation is a misdemeanor, but otherwise marijuana
laws are very harsh.
*Colorado*, the #2 state, achieved its ranking through excellent fiscal
numbers and above-average numbers on regulation and paternalism. The state
is the most fiscally decentralized in the country, with localities raising
fully 44.5 percent of all state and local expenditures. By percentage of
adjusted GSP, Colorado has the third lowest tax burden in the country,
surpassed only by Tennessee and Texas. It has resisted the temptation of
�sin taxes,� with low rates on beer, wine, spirits, and cigarettes. On the
other hand, Colorado�s smoking bans are among the most extreme in the
country, with no exceptions or local option for any locations other than
workplaces. Colorado is 1 of 12 states to have decriminalized low-level
*Oregon* (#36 economic, #7 personal, #27 overall) is the freest Pacific
state. Oddly, government spending is high but taxes are low, resulting in
rather high state debt. Public safety and administration look particularly
ripe for cutting. Gun control laws are about average. Marijuana possession
is decriminalized below a certain level, and there is medical marijuana
(cultivation and sale are felonies, though). Oregon is one of the few states
to refuse to authorize sobriety checkpoints. Oregon is the only state to
permit physician-assisted suicide. Private and home school regulations are
quite reasonable. State land use planning is far advanced. The minimum wage
is the highest in the country when adjusted for average wages.
The study touts that it improves on prior attempts to score economic freedom
for American states in three primary ways: (1) it includes measures of
social and personal freedoms such as peaceable citizens� rights to educate
their own children, own and carry firearms, and be free from unreasonable
search and seizure; (2) it includes far more variables, even on economic
policies alone, than prior studies, and there are no missing data on any
variable; and (3) it uses new, more accurate measurements of key variables,
particularly state fiscal policies.
�We develop and justify our ratings and aggregation procedure on explicitly
normative criteria, defining individual freedom as the ability to dispose of
one�s own life, liberty, and justly acquired property however one sees fit,
so long as one does not coercively infringe on another individual�s ability
to do the same,� note the authors.
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