Wednesday, June 15, 2011

George Mason Ranks Personal and Economic Freedom By State

George Mason University's Mercatus Center has created Freedom in the 50 States, an examination of regulations that in personal and economic affairs.  The study ranks states in order of freedoms, that is less regulations.

No surprise the libertarian state New Hampshire, with the motto of "Live Free or Die," leads the list of states ranked on freedom.  In second place is South Dakota, a state which constitutionally limits its legislature's meetings to forty days on even years and thirty days on odd years.

Below is the list of states ranked in order of freedom. In Red are states that voted for Bush and McCain for president, Blue are states that voted for Kerry, Gore, and Obama, and Purple are states that voted for Bush but later for Obama.  Overall, Bush voting states, red and purple, clearly have less regulations compared to solid Democrat-voting states.

States in rank of personal and economic freedoms, according to the Mercatus Center:


pfly said...

Interesting. My first thought on seeing this use of "freedom" was to think of "freedom to" vs. "freedom from", with this study being about "freedom to" and not "freedom from". Curious about how they measured "freedom" I read through some of the full PDF on their website. While I agree with lots of libertarian ideals, I have problems with many others. My likes and dislikes were obvious when looking at the study in detail.

Some of the things this study measured which I have trouble seeing as "good", although obviously more "free", include minimum wage (higher="less free" here), and education requirements--the fewer years of mandatory school the "more free" it is. Also troubling is the notion that the fewer gun control regulations the better. New York is cited as having the "worse" gun control regulation, yet I felt safer living in NYC than I did in Denver. I was robbed a few times in each city, but in NYC only via verbal threat, while in Denver a twitchy crack addict pointed a very large pistol at my head.

I especially have trouble with issues relating to "the commons", especially the environment. Less environmental regulation, including some aspects of land-use planning, may be equate to "more personal freedom", but...I suppose this is my largest problem with libertarian philosophy--it often seems like asking for more "tragedies of the commons". The study criticized both Oregon and Washington for their land-use/environmental regulations, calling them "ripe for cutting". A good example of how libertarianism sometimes seem too idealistic, too enamored of its philosophical axioms. I suppose I find libertarianism puts too much importance on private property at the expense of "the commons"--both in terms of "the common good" and the environment, which although people privately own land and natural resources, what one does with their land often has effects beyond the parcel boundaries, and not always in obvious ways.

I also found it interesting to note some things the study did not take into account, but which have long struck me as important personal freedom issues, like lifelong (highly public) registration and tracking of sex offenders, the denial of voting rights to felons (lifelong in some states), jury service exclusion for felons as well. Also the many issues surrounding immigration and the treatment of "illegal immigrants" (and people who merely look like they might be "illegal").

Seems one could call the list a ranking of states by "adherence to libertarian philosophy". I suppose this can be called "freedom", although that word has powerful positive connotations, so the study seems to be making a strong statement along the lines of "libertarianism is good". The PDF looks at each state, pointing out "good" and "bad" things, and making suggestions for "improvements"--all following obvious libertarian values. This is all fine, but I still find the use of the word "freedom" somewhat...sensationalizes the issues? Other words that would mean the same thing (some "positive" some not so much), in terms of what this study looks at, might include, which states are most liberal, permissive, lenient, complaisant, unrestrained, or, simply, libertarian.

Anyway! Wrote more than I meant to! I think the thing that got me was the use of the word "freedom" and the implicit claim that more freedom (less regulation) is always "good".

Catholicgauze said...

Thanks for your comments! Very good points on immigration laws and environmental regulations dealing with "the commons." Clearly one for me to mull over.