Monday, March 02, 2009

State Freedom Ranking

The people at Mercatus have put together a ranking of the American states in terms of the "freedom" existing therein:

We find that 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 free by a considerable margin, followed by New Jersey, Rhode Island, California, and Maryland. On personal freedom alone, Alaska is the clear winner, while Maryland brings up the rear. 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. Regressionanalysis demonstrates that states enjoying more economic and personal freedom tend to attract substantially higher rates of internal net migration.

And the authors' conclusion:
In our index conservative states have generally done better than liberal states, but moderately conservative states have done best of all. 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 our index 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. While liberal states are freer than conservative states on marijuana and same-sex partnership policies, when it comes to gun owners, homeschoolers, motorists, or smokers, liberal states are nanny states, while conservative states are more tolerant. We should not attribute this relative freedom in conservative states to any philosophical respect for freedom inherent in contemporary political conservatism, but simply to the fact that the conservative position in the culture wars tends to require lessregulation. However, extremely conservative governments do not appear to afford any more freedom overall than do moderate, centrist governments.