The Mercatus Center at George Mason University has just published a fascinating paper that ranks the states in several areas regarding freedom. According to the authors, “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.”
What is the philosophical basis for measuring or determining freedom? Here’s an explanation from the introduction:
We explicitly ground our conception of freedom on an individual rights framework. In our view, individuals should be allowed to dispose of their lives, liberties, and property as they see fit, so long as they do not infringe on the rights of others. This understanding of freedom follows from the natural-rights liberal thought of John Locke, Immanuel Kant, and Robert Nozick, but it is also consistent with the rights-generating rule-utilitarianism of Herbert Spencer and others.
It’s something that Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius wouldn’t understand. At least she doesn’t want to trust us with these freedoms.
According to the authors, “No current studies exist that measure both economic and personal freedom in the fifty states.” So this is a ground-breaking work.
How does Kansas do? Surprisingly, not too badly. Not outstanding, but not as bad as I might have thought.
For the four areas measured, here’s how we did: In fiscal policy, Kansas is 28. In regulatory policy, 4. In economic freedom, 18. In personal freedom, 15. (In all cases, a ranking of 1 means the most freedom.)
Our overall ranking is 12.
Some of our neighbors do pretty well in the overall ranking. Colorado is 2, Texas is 5, Missouri is 6, and Oklahoma is 18.
Nebraska is not as good at 28.
In case you’re wondering, for overall ranking, New Hampshire is best. The worst? It’s no surprise that it’s New York by a wide margin, with New Jersey, Rhode Island, California, and Maryland rounding out the bottom five.
The full study contains discussion of the politics surrounding these rankings, and a narrative discussion of the factors present in each state.
You may read the entire study by clicking on Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom.