I often complain that the Misssouri legislature tinkers too much; always trying to fix everything and make everybody be nice to everybody and especially keeping people from drinking cold beverages when canoeing. But a new study informs us that Missouri is actually ranked number six in the U.S. for being the the MOST FREE.
The study is Freedom in the 50 states. An index of personal and economic freedom by William P. Ruger & Jason Sorens. The researchers collected data on economic and personal freedom, including:
- taxes and spending policy, state labor regulations, health insurance mandates, occupational licensing, eminent domain, the tort system, land and environmental regulation, and utilities.
- the right of parents to educate their own children, to own and carry firearms, and be free from unreasonable search and seizure
- paternalistic additions to the criminal law designed to make people behave more responsibly, i.e., wear a helmet/seat belt, do not drink, smoke, drive with a cell phone, gamble or stick your arms out of a roller coaster, and so on.
Here are the best and the worst states:
Overall Freedom Ranking
1. New Hampshire (most free)
3. South Dakota
. . . .
48. Rhode Island
49. New Jersey
50. New York (least free)
One interesting aspect of the study shows that politically liberal states are the least free, but the most free states tended more toward a moderate conservatism.
Here is the study summary on Missouri:
One might be forgiven for expressing surprise at Missouri’s ranking in this dataset, given the way the media have covered political misdeeds in St. Louis so extensively. Apparently, St. Louis politicians do not run Missouri; otherwise, the state would probably not rank so highly! Missouri is ninth best on economic freedom and sixth best on personal freedom. Adjusted government spending and tax revenues are both nearly a full standard deviation below the national average.
The alcohol regime is one of the least restrictive in the United States, with no blue laws and taxes well below average. Gun control is very limited. Unfortunately, marijuana sentencing is extremely harsh. Several types of gambling are allowed, but oddly there is no social gambling exception.
Other than recordkeeping requirements, private and home schools are almost unregulated. Land-use planning is decentralized. Labor laws are generally market-friendly, but right-to-work and allowing workers’ compensation self-insurance would improve Missouri’s score here. Occupational licensing is less extensive than average. Asset forfeiture has been reformed, but eminent domain really has not. Cigarette taxes are low.
All in all, I still think we can do better, but apparently we we could do a lot worse.