New Study: America's Most Liberal States Rank Least Free

According to a new study released by the Mercatus Center of George Mason University, some of our most liberal states rank at the bottom in a measure of personal freedom. “Freedom in the 50 States, an index of personal and economic freedom,” finds the most free states to be first New Hampshire, then Colorado, followed by S. Dakota, Idaho, Texas, Missouri, Tennessee, Arizona, Virginia and N. Dakota.The bottom ten least free states in the U.S. are (in descending order) Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Washington, Hawaii, Maryland, California, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and bringing up the bottom is New York.

It is striking that some of the most Republican states are the most free and all the least free are Democrat states, isn’t it? (2008 Election Map)

In keeping with the institute’s namesake, American founder George Mason, the rankings are based on some supremely American concepts. Rankings were determined by measuring the personal and economic freedoms of the citizens of the various states coupled with the size and cost of government, education regulations, Second Amendment restrictions, as well as the amount of interference via regulations and police agencies on the populace.

“We develop and justify our ratings,” the paper’s summary reads, “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.”

Along with the various graphs and ranking lists, the report reviews each state in turn. To get a flavor of the criteria used to rank the sates, here, for instance, is what the report says about the least free state in the union, New York:

New York is by far the least free state in the Union (#50 economic, #48 personal). One of us lives in New York and can attest to the fact that few New Yorkers would be surprised by such a finding. Sadly, equally few New Yorkers seem to believe that anything can be done about the situation. New York has the highest taxes in the country. Property, selective sales, individual income, and corporate income taxes are particularly high. Spending on social services and “other” is well above national norms. Only Massachusetts has more government debt as a percentage of the economy. Government employment is higher than average. On personal freedoms, gun laws are extremely restrictive, but marijuana laws are better than average (while tobacco laws are extremely strict). Motorists are highly regulated, but several kinds of gambling are allowed statewide (not casinos, except on reservations). Home school regulations are burdensome, but asset forfeiture has been reformed. Along with Vermont, New York has the strictest health insurance community rating regulations. Mandated coverages are also very high. Eminent domain is totally unreformed. Perversely,the state strictly limits what grassroots PACs may give to candidates and parties, but not what corporations and unions may give.

A PDF document of the study can be downloaded at the Mercatus Center site.