Friday, February 12, 2010

Individual Freedom

I just came across a study by Mercatus Center of George Mason University, which calls itself the “first-ever comprehensive ranking of the American states on their public policies affecting individual freedoms in the economic, social, and personal spheres." This study came out in May 2009.

One of the findings they came to was that the more liberal the state, the less individual freedom in the state. In fact, New York is the least overall free by a considerable margin, followed by New Jersey, Rhode Island, California, and Maryland.

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.

Colorado was ranked the #2 state. We achieved this ranking through excellent fiscal numbers and above-average numbers on regulation and paternalism. Colorado is the most fiscally decentralized in the country, with local governments raising fully 44.5 percent of all state and local expenditures. By percentage of adjusted GSP, Colorado has the third lowest tax burden in the country, surpassed only by Tennessee and Texas. It has resisted the temptation of “sin taxes,” with low rates on beer, wine, spirits, and cigarettes. If you read these numbers and think that this shows Colorado isn't spending enough on its citizens, you are probably more liberal. If you read this and think TABOR is working exactly like it should you are probably a conservative.

On the other hand, Colorado’s smoking bans are among the most extreme in the country, with no exceptions or local option for any locations other than workplaces.

As for those liberal states the study found, “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,” say the study’s authors. “While liberal states are freer than conservative states on marijuana and same-sex partnership policies, when it comes to gun owners, home schoolers, motorists, or smokers, liberal states are nanny states, while conservative states are more tolerant.”

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