Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at thinking, intelligent individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

07 June 2009

Freedom Ranked in the 50 States

William P. Ruger and Jason Sorens have published Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom through the Mercatus Center of George Mason University, dated February 2009. This is an interesting document. William Ruger is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Texas State University, who is currently on military leave and serving with the Navy in Afghanistan. Jason Sorens is an assistant professor of Political Science at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York.

From the Executive Summary:
This paper presents the first-ever comprehensive ranking of the American states on their public policies affecting individual freedoms in the economic, social, and personal spheres. 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.

This study 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.
They compare their study to the Fraser Institute's Economic Freedom of North America 2006 Annual Report which omits "such interventions as gun control, homeschooling regulations, and marijuana laws." They also compare it to the Pacific Research Institute's U.S. Economic Freedom Index: 2004, which puts gun control and seatbelt laws under Regulatory Sector with occupational licensing, recycling programs, and labor regulations, while ignoring other personal freedom issues. They make a good case that their methodology for weighing the variables makes more sense and that they consider more significant issues pertaining to our individual freedom. The report is based upon the laws of the states and local governments as of the end of 2006 and on arrest data through 2006. They say that the other freedom measurement studies have similar lags from policy to evaluation.
The database covers fiscal policy, gun control, alcohol regulation, marijuana policies, tobacco and smoking laws, automobile regulations, law enforcement data, education policies, land-use and environmental laws, labor market regulations, health insurance policies, utilities deregulation, occupational licensing, asset forfeiture rules, eminent domain reform, court systems, marriage and domestic partnership regulations, campaign finance laws, and sundry mala prohibita.
Table I gives the state ranking for Fiscal Policy, Table II that for Regulatory Policy, and Table III gives the ranking for Economic Freedom based upon the sum of the quantifiers for Fiscal Policy and Regulatory Policy. One of the important improvements in the study is that the fiscal policy measurements are made with respect to the size of the state economy. This corrects for too much credit being given to low cost of living states. The results of the Economic Freedom Ranking are:

Table III: Economic Freedom Ranking
State Economic Freedom index

1. South Dakota 0.385
2. New Hampshire 0.345
3. Colorado 0.337
4. North Dakota 0.315
5. Idaho 0.257
6. Georgia 0.253
7. Texas 0.225
8. Tennessee 0.225
9. Missouri 0.210
10. Alabama 0.200
11. Arizona 0.190
12. Iowa 0.177
13. Virginia 0.175
14. Utah 0.164
15. Michigan 0.161
16. Indiana 0.159
17. Oklahoma 0.144
18. Kansas 0.126
19. Pennsylvania 0.120
20. Wyoming 0.098
21. Montana 0.096
22. South Carolina 0.062
23. Nevada 0.058
24. Delaware 0.052
25. Florida 0.047
26. North Carolina 0.041
27. Nebraska 0.036
28. Louisiana -0.012
29. Illinois -0.025
30. Mississippi -0.032
31. Minnesota -0.075
32. Ohio -0.081
33. Kentucky -0.086
34. Maryland -0.110
35. Wisconsin -0.111
36. Oregon -0.113
37. Massachusetts -0.133
38. Connecticut -0.142
39. Arkansas -0.148
40. West Virginia -0.177
41. Washington -0.219
42. Rhode Island -0.267
43. New Mexico -0.288
44. Hawaii -0.295
45. Vermont -0.310
46. New Jersey -0.337
47. Alaska -0.343
48. California -0.351
49. Maine -0.406
50. New York -0.596

South Dakota holds the honor of being the economically freest state, though New Hampshire, Colorado, and North Dakota are not far behind. Then there is a gap in index and Idaho and Georgia follow. The next group is led by Texas and Tennessee with Missouri, Alabama, and Arizona on their heels. Iowa and Virginia lead the next group which includes Utah, Michigan, Indiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is the second highest ranked Northeastern State at position 19. Delaware follows in position 24, then Maryland at 34, Massachusetts at 37 and Connecticut at 38. Maine and New York are 49 and 50, respectively, and they are far outliers. These are two states no economic freedom-lover could choose to live in. They scream out for domestic out-migration. The average ranking of the Northeastern States is 35 including number 2 New Hampshire. Without New Hampshire, the others average a ranking of 38.4. Outside of the awful Northeast, California (48), Alaska (47), Hawaii (44), New Mexico (43), Washington (41), West Virginia (40), Arkansas (39), Oregon (36), and Wisconsin (35) all deserve very dishonorable mention. Thus, the Pacific States including Hawaii and Alaska, average a particularly dishonorable ranking of 43.2, which is even worse than that of the Northeastern States.

The Personal Freedom ranking and index is given in Table IV:

Table IV: Personal Freedom Ranking
State Personal Freedom index

1. Alaska 0.272
2. Maine 0.193
3. New Mexico 0.138
4. Arkansas 0.125
5. Texas 0.121
6. Missouri 0.110
7. Oregon 0.104
8. Idaho 0.100
9. Virginia 0.100
10. Wyoming 0.095
11. Vermont 0.093
12. Arizona 0.089
13. New Hampshire 0.087
14. Utah 0.086
15. Kansas 0.085
16. Colorado 0.084
17. West Virginia 0.080
18. Tennessee 0.059
19. Indiana 0.049
20. Michigan 0.045
21. Montana 0.029
22. Mississippi 0.027
23. Florida 0.022
24. South Dakota 0.007
25. Iowa 0.006
26. Kentucky 0.003
27. Oklahoma -0.002
28. Hawaii -0.009
29. Pennsylvania -0.018
30. North Carolina -0.022
31. Minnesota -0.036
32. Nevada -0.045
33. North Dakota -0.047
34. Nebraska -0.055
35. Washington -0.055
36. Delaware -0.060
37. California -0.063
38. Connecticut -0.082
39. Wisconsin -0.089
40. Louisiana -0.098
41. South Carolina -0.102
42. Georgia -0.106
43. Alabama -0.107
44. Massachusetts -0.109
45. New Jersey -0.120
46. Ohio -0.124
47. Rhode Island -0.163
48. New York -0.188
49. Illinois -0.213
50. Maryland -0.294

Alaska is far ahead of the pack in personal freedom or freedom from state paternalism. Maine, while far behind, is also separated well ahead of the pack. New Mexico, Arkansas, and Texas are the next grouping. All of these leaders except Texas were bad performers in the Economic Freedom index. Texas was ranked 7th in that index, while it is 5th in the Personal Freedom index. Missouri, Oregon, Idaho, and Virginia are next in Personal Freedom. Of these, all but Oregon did well in Economic Freedom. The so-called Free State of Maryland distinguishes itself as the very worst Personal Freedom state. It is really separated from the pack too. The next worst is Illinois, which also is separated from the pack, though no where near to the extent of Maryland. New York and Rhode Island are also uniquely bad.

The report also provides an overal freedom ranking and index produced by adding the Economic Freedom index and the Personal Freedom index for each state. The result is:

Table V: Overall Freedom Ranking
State Overall Freedom index

1. New Hampshire 0.432
2. Colorado 0.421
3. South Dakota 0.392
4. Idaho 0.356
5. Texas 0.346
6. Missouri 0.320
7. Tennessee 0.284
8. Arizona 0.279
9. Virginia 0.275
10. North Dakota 0.268
11. Utah 0.250
12. Kansas 0.210
13. Indiana 0.208
14. Michigan 0.206
15. Wyoming 0.193
16. Iowa 0.183
17. Georgia 0.146
18. Oklahoma 0.143
19. Montana 0.125
20. Pennsylvania 0.102
21. Alabama 0.092
22. Florida 0.068
23. North Carolina 0.019
24. Nevada 0.013
25. Mississippi -0.004
26. Delaware -0.008
27. Oregon -0.009
28. Nebraska -0.018
29. Arkansas -0.023
30. South Carolina -0.040
31. Alaska -0.071
32. Kentucky -0.082
33. West Virginia -0.097
34. Louisiana -0.110
35. Minnesota -0.111
36. New Mexico -0.150
37. Wisconsin -0.199
38. Ohio -0.205
39. Maine -0.214
40. Vermont -0.217
41. Connecticut -0.225
42. Illinois -0.238
43. Massachusetts -0.242
44. Washington -0.275
45. Hawaii -0.304
46. Maryland -0.405
47. California -0.413
48. Rhode Island -0.430
49. New Jersey -0.457
50. New York -0.784

New Hampshire and Colorado are the winners. The next grouping of good states includes South Dakota, Idaho, Texas, and Missouri. The third grouping is Tennessee, Arizona, Virginia, North Dakota, and Utah. The next is Kansas, Indiana, Michigan, Wyoming, and Iowa. And which states are the bad actors? New York is the very most awful state with an overall freedom index which is abysmally negative and lies far below that of the runner up awful states of New Jersey, Rhode Island, California, and Maryland. The next bad group is Hawaii, Washington, Massachusetts, Illinois, Connecticut, Vermont, Maine, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The states ranked 35 through 50 have tended to be controlled by the Democrat Party in recent years. Ohio at a 38 ranking is the closest to a swing state.

As noted, my state of Maryland is an awful state for a freedom-lover at a ranking of 46. One of my sisters lives in the relatively good state of Kansas with a ranking of 12, though she is often upset by the pressure for the teaching of Intelligent Design in Kansas schools and attitudes towards a woman's right to abortion. A larger portion of my family lives in Oklahoma with a fairly respectable ranking of 18. Then there is an Anderson Clan contingent also in North Carolina with a ranking of 23. So, only the Maryland branch of the Anderson Clan lives in a state fully committed to the infringement of our freedom. Shame, shame on Maryland and on its voters.

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