The 10 Most Freedom-Loving States In America

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Happy Flag Day! Today, America celebrates freedom and the Stars and Stripes.

But the level of freedom isn’t quite equal across the country.

The Mercatus centre, a research centre at George Mason University, has released this year’s Freedom in the 50 States report. The study evaluates economic and personal freedoms based on public policies.

While conservative states largely fared better on the index than liberal states, the freest were only moderately conservative. Extreme conservative states, like Alabama and Mississippi, did no better than centrist states. Liberal states are freer on some specific personal freedom policies, such as marijuana and same-sex partnerships, but conservative states have more lenient gun control, smoking and motorist laws.

And the least free state is… New York.

#10 North Dakota

Economic freedom: #3

Personal freedom: #36

North Dakota has very low government spending, debt, and taxation levels. It has a rare type of workers'-compensation policy, with all private insurance banned and a state fund that employers must contribute to. The state has limited gun control and motorist laws, but heavily regulates private schools.

#9 Virginia

Economic freedom: #5

Personal freedom: #23

Virginia is the freest state below the Mason-Dixon line. Government spending, debt, and tax rates are all significantly lower than national averages. It has lax smoking laws and both the natural gas and cable industries have been deregulated. However, the state's health insurance coverage mandates are high.

#8 Oregon

Economic freedom: #24

Personal freedom: #1

Oregon boasts the highest personal freedom ranking in the country. It allows physician-assisted suicide and same-sex civil unions, prohibits sobriety checkpoints, and has lenient marijuana possession laws. Its economic ranking is hurt by the state's high level of government spending and debt.

#7 Colorado

Economic freedom: #10

Personal freedom: #8

Although Colorado is the most fiscally decentralized state in the country, the government is wallowing in debt. It lightly regulates schools and has low tax rates for alcohol and cigarettes, but has extremely harsh smoking bans in place.

#6 Nevada

Economic freedom: #16

Personal freedom: #3

Nevada has local-option prostitution and the most lenient gambling laws in the country. Spending and taxation are slightly better than average, but government debt is rising. The state also has the tightest private school restrictions in the nation, with curriculum control and mandatory state licensing for all teachers.

#5 Missouri

Economic freedom: #12

Personal freedom: #6

Missouri has low government spending and taxes. Although it has some of the least restrictive gun control and alcohol laws, Missouri has the harshest marijuana sentencing laws in the country. Private and home schools are almost entirely unregulated.

#4 Idaho

Economic freedom: #4

Personal freedom: #9

Idaho has the second-lowest government-debt ratio in the country, along with lower-than-average taxes and spending. It has very few laws constricting motorists, and is one of the few states in the country that prohibits random sobriety checkpoints. The state also has some of the mildest gun laws and education regulations in the nation.

#3 Indiana

Economic freedom: #13

Personal freedom: #3

Indiana licenses the fewest occupations in the country (as a percentage of the total state workforce), and has deregulated the telecommunications, cable, and natural gas industries. The state has light regulation for schools and little campaign finance regulation, but has smoking bans across the board.

#2 South Dakota

Economic freedom: #1

Personal freedom: #34

The most free state in the country in terms of economic freedom, South Dakota has a high level of fiscal decentralization, very low tax rates, and low spending. Its relatively low personal freedom ranking is due to high cigarette taxation and smoking bans, and harsher-than-average laws relating to marijuana, gambling, and asset forfeiture.

#1 New Hampshire

Economic freedom: #2

Personal freedom: #11

It's the only state in the country that lacks a seatbelt law for adults, and it has lax gun laws. Taxes and government spending are both below average rates, and government debt has actually decreased since the Democrats took unified control in 2007.

BONUS: the 3rd LEAST free state is California

Economic freedom: #48

Personal freedom: #41

California has high government spending, tax rates, and economic regulation. Much of the heightened spending is in administration, social services, and housing. The state has strict labour, smoking, and gun control laws, but scores high on same-sex unions and marijuana laws.

The #2 LEAST free state is New Jersey

Economic freedom: #47

Personal freedom: #45

New Jersey has some of the highest tax rates in the country, especially its income and property taxes. As for personal freedoms, its gun control and smoking laws are all some of the most restrictive in the country, though medical marijuana was recently allowed. Its extensive motorist laws include seatbelt enforcement, motorcycle and bicycle helmet laws, cell phone driving bans, and sobriety checkpoints.

The LEAST free state in the country is New York

Economic freedom: #50

Personal freedom: #48

New York has by far the highest taxes in the nation, especially in property, selective sales, individual income, and corporate income taxes. Government spending is extremely high, and it has the second highest government debt as a percentage of the economy in the country.

New York also has some of the most restrictive gun control, smoking, and motorist laws. It also has the strictest health insurance regulations in the country.

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