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Study: Most Liberal States Are Least Free

Wednesday, May 6, 2009 1:03 PM

By: Dave Eberhart Article

According to a new study released by the Mercatus Center of George Mason University, some of the most liberal U.S. states rank lowest when it comes to personal freedom.

The study, 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,” made a host of findings:

# 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 overall free by a considerable margin, followed by New Jersey, Rhode Island, California, and Maryland.

Unfortunately, say the report authors, these freedom-disadvantaged states “make up a substantial portion of the total American population. Moreover, these bottom five states have considerable ground to make up even to move off this ignoble list, let alone into a creditable position in the rankings.”

When weighing personal freedom alone, Alaska is the clear winner, while Maryland brings up the rear.

Sarah Palin’s Alaska does extremely well on personal freedom, conclude study authors. Reasons for its high personal freedom alone score include: fully legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana (accomplished through a court ruling), the best (least restrictive) gun laws in the country, recognition of same-sex domestic partnerships, and possibly the best homeschooling laws in the country.

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.

There are real benefits to scoring high on economic and personal freedoms, conclude the study’s authors. Their analysis demonstrated that states enjoying more economic and personal freedom tend to attract substantially higher rates of internal net migration.

The Problem with Being Liberal

According to the study, 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 the index put forth by the new study, 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,” 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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Tags: alaska, education, marijuana, marriage equality, second amendment
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