Today the libertarian Mercatus Center released its annual “Freedom in the 50 States” list, a ranking of liberty in America as measured by Ron Swanson-ish ideals of personal and economic freedom.
According to the Center, the least free states in America are New York (population 19.5 million), California (pop. 38 million) and New Jersey (population 8.9 million).
The most free states are allegedly North Dakota (pop. 700 thousand), South Dakota (pop. 833 thousand) and Tennessee (6.4 million).
Conclusion: Americans must really, really hate freedom.
This annual Mercatus “Don’t Ask Us How a Libertarian Think-tank Ended Up at a Public University” Center study is by far my favorite annual ranking of states. Mainly because I’m convinced the entire exercise is a false-flag operation to discredit libertarian conceptions of freedom.
There are many good reasons why one might move from San Francisco, CA to Murfreesboro, Tennessee but “because of freedom!” is not one of those reasons.
The libertarian response may be “well, we measure freedom based on tax rates and the level of business regulation,” in which case Murfreesboro does look better than the Bay Area, but all this proves is that tax rates and regulations are a dumb way of capturing what we mean by the idea of being free.
It’s also true that New York and California could be even more free if they relaxed some economic regulations. The world would be a better place if zoning laws were less restrictive, if people didn’t have to spend thousands of dollars trying to get licenses to cut hair or practice interior design and if drug laws were liberalized. Things can always be better.
But that things could be improved doesn’t mean that CA and NY are less free than ND/TN now.
Same-sex marriage or civil unions are legal in all the top “least free” states and banned in 4 of the 5 “most free states.” In Oklahoma, a second offense for possession of any amount of marijuana is a felony that carries a 2-10 year prison term. Sale and distribution of any amount carries a sentence of two years to LIFE. In “least free” New York, small-dose possession and distribution result in misdemeanor charges.
And obviously, New York gets a whole lot freedom-ier when you consider positive freedom in addition to the absence of government policies that could send you to prison FOR LIFE for minor drug crimes.
There are just a hell of a lot more opportunities for self-expression and self-actualization in NY/CA (thanks in large part to all those giant corporations who choose to do business in the “least free” parts of the country”) than there are in ND/SD/TN/NH/OK. Even more so if you’re poor and your ability to fully live life is highly dependent on access to government-sponsored health/social-services.
Basically, as an accurate ranking of the most and least free places in America, the Mercatus study gets an F. As a quick and dirty explainer of why libertarianism appeals to so few people, A+.
I have nothing to add, except to note that this post is set to troll a whole lot of people in 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 …