March 6, 2009

THUS THE STATE BORDER RULE:

Freedom in the 50 States: Index of Personal and Economic Freedom (William P. Ruger and Jason Sorens, State Policy Index)

This paper presents the first-ever comprehensive ranking of the American states on their public policies affecting individual freedoms in the economic, social, and personal spheres. We develop and justify our ratings and aggregation procedure on explicitly normative criteria, 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.

This study improves on prior attempts to score economic freedom for American states in three primary ways: 1) 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; 2) it includes far more variables, even on economic policies alone, than prior studies, and there are no missing data on any variable; 3) we adopt new, more accurate measurements of key variables, particularly state fiscal policies.

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.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at March 6, 2009 10:20 AM
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