Which State Is Most Free?
Freedom in the 50 States, a study from the Mercatus Institute, comprehensively ranks the American states on their public policies that affect individual freedoms in the economic, social and personal spheres.
Mercatus' 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.
The Mercatus rankings are intriguing. New Hampshire ranks highest in freedom. I’m glad to hear that, since their motto is “Live Free or Die.” I guess this means they don’t have to die just yet!
New York is the least free – surprise, surprise. California is third from the bottom. Again, no surprise there.
But here in the greater Cincinnati area, we are in the so-called ‘tri-state’ of Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. I was surprised to find that good old Indiana, the country of my birth and childhood, ranks number three in this freedom index. But her neighbors don’t fare so well.
Kentucky is 32nd. I have lived in Kentucky for the last thirty-some years. It is filled with mostly very friendly people, far too many of whom who would not know freedom if it bit them in the posterior. There is a ‘good old boy’ network in Kentucky politics that is essentially statist in nature, including far too many of the Republicans. Kentucky is a low-population state that is waiting to explode in economic activity and prosperity as soon that good old boy (and it includes plenty of females) is cast aside in favor of low taxes and low regulation. Almost everything in Kentucky is taxed. If I were starting a business, I would not do it in Kentucky. So it almost surprises me that Kentucky made it as high as 32nd!
But even worse here in the tri-state is Ohio. The formerly great state of Ohio ranks 42nd in the freedom standings, which is below Illinois! People in Ohio complain that business is leaving their state. They could easily solve that problem by reinstalling freedom in Ohio. This takes courage because, once addicted to government, it can be difficult to break that bad habit.
Freedom is a means to many ends. Freer people tend to be more prosperous. But even without accompanying prosperity freedom is a good. Freedom of the kind we are talking about here has an intrinsic value for human beings because it simply comports with our very nature.
One idea mentioned more than once in The Federalist Papers is that of the several states under the Constitution being in a kind of social competition. While the central government has assumed many of the powers once held by the states, there still seems to be room for some competition in regard to freedom.
But it is more and more the case that much of the room for improvement in regard to human freedom lies with the national government. As a whole, the United States has been slipping in the various rankings of freedom in countries around the world. Even in New Hampshire, people are not nearly as free as the should be because of our bloated central government.