The Mercatus Center at George Mason University has released its biennial report on freedom in these United States. According to the 2013 Index of Freedom, Maine is the 39th freest – or 11th least free – state in the Union.
The freest states? North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee and New Hampshire. The least free? New York, California and New Jersey.
Here is a list of all the states’ rankings.
Mercatus determines freedom rankings based on three categories: fiscal policy (35.3 percent), regulatory policy (32 percent) and personal freedom (32.7 percent).
The fiscal dimension covers tax burdens, government employment, government spending, debt, and fiscal decentralization. The regulatory dimension considers freedom from tort abuse, property right protection, health insurance freedom, labor market freedom, occupational licensing freedom, regulatory freedom, and cable and telecom freedom. The personal freedom dimension consists of freedom from victimless crime, gun control, tobacco and alcohol regulations, education policy, and campaign finance.
According to the American Enterprise Institute’s analysis of the report, the relative differences in freedom between the states correlates to the political tendencies of the states. Red states – states traditionally voting Republican – are on average ranked more free than states that traditionally vote Democratic – blue states.
Mark J. Perry with AEI writes:
“Eight of the top 10 most economically free states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Idaho, Virginia, Georgia and Utah) are solid red states with a Republican governor and Republican-controlled state legislatures. No. 4 ranked New Hampshire is a mixed state with a Democratic governor and Democratic-controlled state House but a Republican-controlled state Senate; and No. 7 Missouri is also mixed with a Democratic governor and a Republican-controlled state House and Senate.
Of the ten least economically-free states, eight (New York, California, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Illinois, Maryland, Vermont, and West Virginia) are solid blue states with a Democratic governor and Democratic-controlled state legislatures. No. 48, New Jersey, is a mixed state with Republican Governor Chris Christie but Democratic majorities in both the state House and Senate; and No. 41 Mississippi is a solid red/Republican state.
Although Maine’s low ranking in the overall Freedom Index is a stark reminder of recent trends in public policy making, the study does have some bright spots for the Pine Tree State. While Maine’s ranking suffered due to heavy-handed fiscal and regulatory policies, the state ranked 3rd highest for individual freedom in 2011 and is trending freer.
(For interested wonks, the full excel file of data from 2001 to 2011 can be downloaded here.)