March 23, 2009, - 11:46 am

How Free Are You? Depends on Your Home State

By Debbie Schlussel
Some states are freer than others. That obvious statement applies not just to some countries versus others, but some American States versus others. The Mercatus Center of George Mason University ranked each of the United States by lack or presence of restrictive laws. But the study is purely libertarian. For example, while I think that most gun ownership restrictions are objectionable, I don’t support lax marijuana laws or gay marriage and partner benefits statutes (which, in many cases, are statist and less free, in that they require companies to provide gays with benefits). This study takes a blind eye to all of these laws and weighs them equally.
In addition, even though we have a law permitting gun owners to obtain a license to conceal and carry a gun, the restrictions on where you can and can’t carry it would make your head spin, and I view them as VERY restrictive. This study doesn’t take that into account–and instead only makes a positive judgment because you can conceal and carry in Michigan.


Still, it’s interesting, and the obvious states, New Hampshire and New York, are the respective most and least free States.

The index of personal and economic freedom, developed by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Arlington, Va., is wide-ranging and comes from an individual-rights perspective.
The study, released late February, ranks New Hampshire, Colorado, South Dakota and Idaho as most free. New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island and California are ranked as the least free.
By the researchers’ measure, ordinances such as seat-belt laws and sobriety checkpoints “count as notable infringements on individual liberty.”
The index also issued freedom demerits for alcohol regulations, including taxes on beer, wine and spirits and “blue laws” that prohibit Sunday alcohol sales.
Laws that allow residents to carry concealed handguns are considered good. As are relatively lax marijuana laws.
The study also lists “paternalistic” government activities: bicycle and motorcycle helmet laws, regulations requiring motorists to carry personal injury insurance, home- and private-school regulations and campaign-finance rules and asset forfeiture laws that allow government to take property without a conviction of the owner. . . .
The researchers – political scientists William Ruger of Texas State University and Jason Sorens of the State University of New York-Buffalo – note that no one area of the country nor political party appears consistently to offer citizens more freedom. Much has to do with state politics and a state’s social attitudes.
For example:
* California, ranked 47th in overall freedom, is more lenient on marijuana and same-sex partner laws, but its laws are tougher on gun owners, motorists and smokers. Labor laws are also strict. The study cites California as one of five states that require short-term disability insurance.
* Mississippi, ranked 25th, has high taxes and “eminent domain abuse has not been curtailed,” the study says, but it is one of a few states without an open-container prohibition for car passengers, and regulation of home-schooling is minimal.
* Florida, ranked 22nd, does not have a personal income tax, but its property and general sales taxes are higher than average, the study finds.
* New Hampshire, ranked first, has among the most liberal gun laws in the USA, although a permit is required to carry a firearm in a car, the study says. The state lacks a motorcycle helmet law (though it has a bicycle helmet law) and is the only state without a seat-belt law for adults.

I was surprised to see that my own State of Michigan is the 14th most free state, since I thought my state would be on the less free side. That makes the states on the less free end of the list really sound like relative gulags.

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10 Responses

We need to wait a few years – Obama and the Feds want to remake the country in the image of Illinois and New York. You ain’t seen nothin’ with American gulags yet. Coming to a state soon nearest you!

NormanF on March 23, 2009 at 1:49 pm

I’m in 49 🙁

mindy1 on March 23, 2009 at 2:47 pm

I’ve always found the seat belt laws irritating, and reflective of the Nanny State. Imagine, telling me what I can and can’t do in my own car. And the people who make these onerous laws are tax cheats, have the morality of lower animals, or are other kinds of crooks.

c f on March 23, 2009 at 4:40 pm

Hi Debbie.
I’m NOT surprised at all to see that Michigan is one of the more free states in the Union. Think of other states you’ve lived in and you might re-think that statement.
Moreover and the most important point I want to make is about a correlation I’ve noticed. In my opinion, the less free the states are, the greater the corruption. I know you think Michigan is corrupt and Detroit is just awful, but next to New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Illinois and California, our Michigan public officials are ANGELS.
I never stood a chance of that being understood. Then came the recent news about Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. The news media pointed out that he’d be the 4th Illinois governor in my lifetime to do hard time.
Michigan isn’t so bad! Sometimes, we’re our own worst critics.

There is NO Santa Claus on March 23, 2009 at 5:31 pm

I moved from New York to Texas.
Did you see that New York (David Paterson, governor) is thinking of adding a “temporary” two-year tax on the “rich”? The one thing that you notice about New York is that the unions have bought all the politicians and the unions NEVER suffer. Anybody cutting back on their gold-plated pensions? Of course not. So how would this new tax be “temporary” if the pension bomb is exploding?
The “Empire State” is now a joke.

barrypopik on March 23, 2009 at 5:46 pm

I think California should be the state with the most freedom. Seems like illegals are everywhere, they seem to think there is a lot of freedom. Dealing with police in California regarding public protests, they are pretty fair. In other states police behave like Bureaucrats with Guns.

californiascreaming on March 23, 2009 at 10:12 pm

I live in the “People’s Republik of Kaliforni-cation” and trust me- toa conserrvative, it is like living ina Gulag- at least in the last 10 or so years anyway. Yes, they welcome illegals and even havea bunch of sanctuary cities.. yes they could care less about marijuana getting smuggled in.. want an abortion? here’s a dicount coupon. Want a gun? you need to apply only after you’re dead practically (which by the way doesnt’ seem to apply to illegals).. Tax and spend has put our state in the hole to such a degree that they are issuing IOU’s for state tax refunds.. I’m sure Joe Biden thinks that’s really patriotic.. the tree huggers rule- you can’t hardly mow your lawn wihout someone protesting your use of gasoline and harming the plants… I’m only surprised that the list Debbie posted put us three above the absolute bottom.

Mistress_Dee on March 24, 2009 at 10:40 am

For once a study that sparked my curiousity. I found it quite interesting too. I live in the State of Tennessee, and before seeing the list I expected my state to be in the top 10…we came in at number 7. Tennessee is a very conservative state and always its citizens to live accordingly. Granted I just relocated here a few months ago from South Florida, due to a job transfer. Though I work in Nashville. My wife and I knew we wanted to live outside the city and surburban limits and be more in a rurul area. And our decision was definitely a good one. Yeah, I have an hour and 10 minute commute, but well worth it.
If a person isn’t living in the city limits of my tiny town. You’re permitted to shot your guns on your own land…even if you’re in a new sub-division which has plenty of them now. As long as a person uses common sense and takes responsibility. You can do pretty much as you want, as long as your in accordance with the laws. I have roughly 4 acres of land. And my neighbor behind me has well over a few hundred, because he’s a cattle farmer. And his fence line against the backend of my backyard is put up well enough to keep his cows in. Now, when I want to shot in my back yard. I have enough common sense to ensure I have proper backing behind the target range I created. And I never shot when his cows are near our property lines. Because I don’t want to injure a cow accidentially, as well as I don’t want to scare the animals too. Again, just using common sense.
I am sick and tired of government telling us what they think is best for us. I was against the seat belt laws from the beginning. I do believe people should wear them, since they save more lives than causing them when an accident occurs. But, I believe government(s) should inform us of the pros and cons of something like wearing a seat belt. And then leave it up to the individual in the direction they want to take when it comes to safety. Government has more important things to discuss and problems to solve. Then to be so involved in our daily lives.
Where I live it’s hard to find bullets for guns, since stores are running out faster than the manufactures can make them. The rumor is that Obama wants to tax bullets and guns to the point where they’re not affordable to get. Since Obama knows he cannot make a bill which states no more gun sales and collect guns citizens already own. So just tax it death is the next best thing to do. Is Obama scared of some sort of revolt from the American citizens. And where I live the average household has roughly 5-6 guns in them. Just ridiculous in the direction Obama is leading this nation or should I say the direction Pelosi is directing us. And yet people elected this idiot and others into congress. When will these elective officals learn that you cannot tell people what to do. And force them into submission. If the politicians continue down this path. They just might get a revolt from the citizens. It’s happening already in a non-violent way in many parts of America. But, the politicians are too arrogant to even both to listen to the people who they work for. In general, people and especially the younger generation have for gotten…”We the People.” That the government is for the people and by the people. And not for politicians to do what they think is best for us. Personally, with everything that has happen in the two months Obama has been in office. He already sealed his fate and will not be re-elected to a second term. But, the problem is he still has a lot of time left to do a lot damage. And that truly scares me and should scare the good American citizens too. When people said we needed change. Maybe they were right. But, when someone proclaims change as Obama did. Doesn’t necessarily mean his change would be for the better. Which so far it isn’t.
I’m optimistic that America will come out of all this okay. But, it’s going to be something like we never faced before. We all need to stand by our convictions and not request to government but demand what we want our politicians to do.

Tenn Scholar on March 24, 2009 at 11:32 am

I didn’t look up the study, so I’m not sure if “Right To Work” was factored in. If you’re going to do a study on how ‘free’ each state is, you need to include whether or not the state is right to work or not.
With the Employee Free Choice Act in the news and Osama Obama in full favor of it, EVERY state will become less free if the act passes!
Interestingly enough, if you go to and look at the map of the right to work states, you will see the majority of forced unionism states are near the bottom of the list of least free states. Shocker!

NJBeachbum on March 24, 2009 at 5:54 pm

The Great State of Texas made the top 5. Colorado was surprisingly ahead of my home state. BTW, Texas is one of the few states that does not have a huge deficit. No state is perfect. I was not born in Texas but I got here as quick as I could (1980). I am glad that I have managed to stay here for almost 29 years. There is a lot more to Texas than George Bush. IMHO, Dallas Fort Worth is the best large metropolitan area in North America. If you want to live in a big city, it does not get better than this.

bonzerwolf on March 25, 2009 at 8:59 pm

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