Conservatives judge states for liberty
Most Liberal States Are Least Free
If you don’t measure the quality of government, just the quantity of government, here’s what you get. We trim and append this 2009 from Newsmax, May 6.
by Dave EberhartAccording to a new study released by the Mercatus Center of George Mason University, some of the most “liberal” US 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:
“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” of a free-for-all.
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.
JJS: New Hampshire is the most geonomic state in that it relies totally on a property tax, half of which is a land tax, and all of which could be converted to a land tax.
New York is the least overall free by a considerable margin, followed by New Jersey, Rhode Island, California, and Maryland.
However, these states “make up a substantial portion of the total American population.” Nevertheless, the authors claim that states enjoying more economic and personal freedom tend to attract substantially higher rates of internal net migration.
Alabama and Mississippi fall in the middle.
JJS: Those two also recover the least ground rent, relying instead on sales tax, and so are two of the poorest.
When weighing personal freedom alone, Alaska is the clear winner, while Maryland brings up the rear.
Alaska has: fully legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana (accomplished through a court ruling), the least restrictive gun laws, recognition of same-sex domestic partnerships, and possibly the best home-schooling laws in the country.
JJS: Alaska is both libertarian and liberal in the classic sense in that it shares oil rent among its residents, financially helping enable people to live free.
By region, the Mountain and West North Central are the freest while the Middle Atlantic lags far behind on both economic and personal freedom.
Some Individual State Profiles
Illinois’ crimes arrest rates are almost unfathomable: In 2006, more than 2 percent of the state’s population was arrested for a victimless crime (and that figure does not count under-18s). Nearly one-third of all arrests were for victimless crimes.
In Texas (#7 economic, #5 personal, #5 overall), low-level marijuana cultivation is a misdemeanor, but otherwise marijuana laws are very harsh. It has one of the smallest state governments in the country. However, government employment is a standard deviation higher than the national average. As a percentage of corrected GSP, Texas has the second lowest tax burden in the country and the third lowest grants-adjusted government spending.
JJS: Texas also has a relatively high property tax and thus its major cities have the only affordable housing of any major American city, especially for in the Sun Belt.
Colorado, the #2 state, is the most fiscally decentralized in the country, with localities raising fully 44.5 percent of all state and local expenditures. It has resisted the temptation of “sin taxes,” with low rates on beer, wine, spirits, and cigarettes. 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. Colorado is 1 of 12 states to have decriminalized low-level marijuana possession.
Oregon (#36 economic, #7 personal, #27 overall) is the freest Pacific state. Oddly, government spending is high but taxes are low, resulting in rather high state debt. Public safety and administration look particularly ripe for cutting. Marijuana possession is decriminalized below a certain level, and there is medical marijuana (cultivation and sale are felonies, though). Oregon is the only state to permit physician-assisted suicide. Private and home school regulations are quite reasonable. State land use planning is far advanced. The minimum wage is the highest in the country when adjusted for average wages.
The authors define “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 another individual’s ability to do the same,” note the authors.
JJS: The authors need some clarity on what makes property proper. In the case of land -- not made by anyone, needed by everyone, and its value is generated by society at large -- it’s an owner compensating those excluded that makes landed property proper. Implementing this geonomic policy -- paying in land dues and getting back “rent” dividends -- would win us both freedom and security.
Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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