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Free vs. Unfree states

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  • Tim Condon
    From Newsmax online news magazine: Inside CoverRSS ARCHIVE Print Page
    Message 1 of 1 , May 7, 2009
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      From Newsmax online news magazine:

      Inside CoverRSS
      Page <javascript:printPage();> | Forward
      | 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
      marijuana possession.

      *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.

      � 2009 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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