Which States are Worst for Personal Freedom?

Posted: March 13, 200911:45 pm Eastern

By Bob Unruh © 2009 WorldNetDaily

A new study indicates the states with the most freedom are South Dakota, New Hampshire and Colorado, while Americans see the most complete government control of their personal lives in New York, 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," said the study, Freedom in the 50 States: Index of Personal and Economic Freedom.

The study was conducted by Jason Sorens of the University of Buffalo and William P. Ruger of Texas State and release through the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

The researchers say their work "presents the first-ever comprehensive ranking of the American states on their public policies affecting individual freedoms in the economic, social, and personal spheres"

The study made its assessments by 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 other individuals' ability to do the same."

Specifically, 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. It includes more variables than prior studies.

The results can be used by lawmakers concerned about liberty and by business owners who are considering new investment priorities, the authors said. Individuals can use the results to determine moves and retirement options.

The authors said their understanding of freedom "follows from the natural-rights liberal thought of John Locke, Immanuel Kant and Robert Nozick, but it is also consistent with the rights-generating rule-utilitarianism of Herbert Spencer and others."

It includes the belief in the efficiency and morality of unhampered markets, the system of private property and individual rights and a "deep distrust of taxation, egalitarianism, compulsory welfare and the power of the state."

"Our definition of freedom presents specific challenges on some high-profile issues. Abortion is a critical example. On one account, the fetus is a rights-bearing person, and abortion is therefore an aggressive violation of individual rights that ought to be punished by government. On another account, the fetus does not have rights, and abortion is a permissible exercise of an individual liberty, in which case government regulation of abortion would be an unjust violation of a woman’s rights. Rather than take a stand on one side or the other (or anywhere in between), we have coded the data on state abortion restrictions but have not included the policy in our overall index," the study authors cautioned.

Issues considered for various parts of the study include the use of marijuana, state and local government budgets, gun registration and dealer registration demands, restrictions on alcohol sales, camera surveillance, bicycle helmet laws, gambling rules, fireworks restrictions, compulsory school requirements, insurance rules.

The overall order of states, from most free to least free, with the study's numerical values, were: 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.

The online report also includes detailed descriptions for each state.

For example, Alaska, although it has great personal freedom, has a problem regarding freedom is its fiscal policy.

"Over a quarter of the state’s workforce is employed by state or local government, and that figure does not include federal employees. Alaska has the third highest debt ratio in the country and the second highest state and local government spending ratio. However, Alaska does extremely well on personal freedom, scoring first on our ranking," the profile states.

California, the study implies, should be avoided:

"Contrary to popular perception, California not only taxes and regulates its economy more than most other states, it also aggressively interferes in the personal lives of its citizens. California ranks No. 48 on economic freedom and No. 37 on personal freedom. California simply needs to cut government spending. The budgetary categories most out of line with the rest of the country are public safety, natural resources and environment, and administration."

Highly rated Colorado gets its endorsement through "excellent fiscal numbers and above-average numbers on regulation and paternalism. [The Taxpayers Bill of Rights], though suspended as of this writing, is surely responsible for some of Colorado’s fiscal sanity. The state is the most fiscally decentralized in the country, with localities raising fully 44.5 percent of all state and local expenditures. … "