The Mercatus Center has published another study on the state of the states in the U.S. Looking at it, one might be inclined to say things could be worse… I mean “could be worse” unless you already live in a state near the bottom, i.e., Massachusetts, Hawaii, California, New Jersey, or New York.
Of those last five on the list, Hawaii and California surely have the best climates, but is that paradise enough? And some folks need New York City’s chewing-gummed sidewalks in order to ‘feel’ free, so their dissatisfaction could be muted, perhaps. Joisy has its fans: a friend just returned to his roots there from the Republic of Charlottesville; moving from one blue zone to another means he probably didn’t feel the repressive pinch. But I’ll bet he misses his chickens; a parakeet just ain’t the same.
We Americans are the movingest bunch of people in the world. We’ll tear up our roots and move two thousand miles for a job, for a change, for the heck of it. Please note this proclivity doesn’t apply to all of us. The Baron is still coming to terms with the move his family made when he was, oh six years old or so…
There are some surprises on the list. Most of us in the continentals think of Alaska as being full of that pioneer, enterprising spirit. Not so, says The Mercatus Center, which puts our very own “Land of the Midnight Sun” as the 7th least-free state. Who’da thunk? (see chart below the fold or go to the URL above to find the live links for each state).
The main page on the study explains that the rankings serve to index individual states by “public policies that affect individual freedoms in the economic, social, and personal spheres… ”
… Specifically, it examines state and local government intervention across a wide range of public policies, from income taxation to gun control, from homeschooling regulation to drug policy.
I have some sympathy for whomever was given the task of data entry for this project. Whoo boy.
Since they have a previous study from 2009, they’re able to track changes for better or worse in any given state. For a ‘random’ example, take Virginia:
… by our count, the freest state in the South. However, like the other states below the Mason-Dixon line, it fares better in terms of economic freedom (#5) than personal freedom (#22). The tax burden, government spending, and debt are all well below national averages. However, state and local government employment is essentially at the national average. Gun laws are decent, with much room for improvement. However, open carry is allowed. Marijuana laws are largely unreformed…
According to their numbers we’re losing freedoms but gaining population… and we have an onerously high tax on “spirits”. It doesn’t mention our governor’s so-far-unfulfilled promise to privatize the booze stores. If there is one area government needs to be shed of it’s selling alcohol. Keeping other variables the same but selling off those ABC stores (that’s the Alcoholic Beverage Commission), we’d have some serious money with which to meet our fiscal problems. However, there are lots of vested interests digging in their heels on this one.
As usual, I’ll speak up for the Baron and say that Virginia is really two states: the one we live in, due south of the one he calls that “wretched hive of scum and villainy”, Northern Virginia. I will have to say that life inside that bubble is not at all like the rest of the state. In their defense, however, we have some readers there who donate to the cause. And even some across the border, in Maryland’s part of the “hive”.
Another random Southern state, Texas, is surprisingly hamstrung. It’s startling to see it below Virginia and losing ground:
Texas prides itself on being a freedom-loving state, and our rankings bear out that it is freer than most other states. However, its policies are sometimes not as consistent with individual liberty as the rhetoric of its officials and citizens would suggest. Indeed, Texas has slipped in the rankings and has much room for improvement… Low-level marijuana cultivation is a misdemeanor, but otherwise marijuana laws are very harsh. Its lifetime maximum possible sentence for a single marijuana offense is draconian.
So Texas is harsh about marijuana? That may be the reason dopers are happier in California, but the doctors are leaving and heading for the Lone Star State in droves. Population is up by 4%.
New Hampshire is Number One, a ranking you wouldn’t have to tell the rest of New England since the contiguous states go there to shop (we used to do that on occasion when we lived in Taxachusetts). “Live Free or Die” is still operational in New Hampshire, though it could be “Live Free AND Die” given their lack of seat belt laws. Oh well, Darwin still rules in the Granite State:
Taxes, spending, and fiscal decentralization remain more than a standard deviation better than average, and government debt actually went down slightly. Gun laws are among the most liberal in the country, but carrying a firearm in a car requires a concealed carry permit… New Hampshire is the only state in the country with no seatbelt law for adults. It lacks a motorcycle helmet law but does have a bicycle-helmet law and authorizes sobriety checkpoints. State approval is required to open a private school. Homeschool laws are slightly worse than average…
So you can walk around with your gun but don’t drive anywhere. Sounds good to me.
However, throughout the study I don’t understand the emphasis in each state on the status of their marijuana laws. But then I never did understand the appeal of a drug that puts you to sleep but not before it compels you to eat everything in the house. [Come to think of it, that would make it a good adjunct drug for cancer. Never mind… ]
I hate to single out New York; it’s bad enough for our fellow citizens who live there and are looking for the door out of the cellar of a once-proud but now brutally socialized state. However, they’re voting with their feet, with almost 9% leaving. The Mercatus rankings for personal and economic freedoms (48th and 50th, respectively) are as dismal as its overall score of 50th, smack dab on the bottom. Maybe that’s what happens when the state representatives stand at forty-eight Republicans vs. one hundred Democrats (their state senate is more evenly divided). Anyone want to bet a New York Republican makes any RINO seem positively reactionary in comparison?
By the way, there are no breakdowns on the socioeconomic demographics of these state-to-state migrations. With 8.9% headed out of New York state, how many were taxpayers and how many were welfare recipients? In other words, what is the net economic loss to New York or California? What is the net gain economically to Virginia when probably a great many of those incoming are either government workers in Washington or retirees?
Thus the real question becomes: which state is gathering in the largest families, the wealthiest and most productive (read “creative”) folks? It is precisely these tax-paying, law-abiding, child-producing middle class citizens that are a state’s real wealth. But how to measure those factors?
And where are the statistics on job creation in the private sector?
Feel free to chime in about your experiences in any of the
57 50 states* – where you’ve lived and why you moved would be interesting tales. One of our readers told me of moving from Michigan to Texas and “never looking back”. Now there’s a jump into a whole ’nother universe.
* [for our European readers, in his presidential campaign in 2008 Obama referred more than once to the 57 states in our union. Many noticed that he must’ve gotten confused between us and the OIC , which claims to have that many member states. The wayback machine is still operating so you can find our President repeating that line on Youtube.]
Below the fold are the rankings for all fifty states. You can also go to the linked map, above, to get the particulars on your state’s rankings. The map is pretty cool.
State Freedom Rankings
|1.||New Hampshire||26.||South Carolina|