How ‘Free’ Is Your State? CATO Ranks States for Peronal And Economic Freedom

So how does your state fare? You can look up your own state’s ranking (<—at that link) or on the map above, but you won’t be number one. For the first time since 2006, New Hampshire is back in that spot.

(CATONew Hampshire is overall the freest state in the Union, combining relatively high scores on both personal and economic freedom. In the more distant past, it was one of the leading states on economic freedom. It fell well back of the lead in 2007–8, but since then has clawed its way halfway back from where it had sunk.

CATO then defends something I’ve long advocated (emphasis mine).

New Hampshire’s government taxes less than any other state but Alaska. We show a decline in state taxes as a share of personal income from 3.7 percent in FY 2000 to a projected 2.8 percent today. Meanwhile, local taxes have risen from 3.9 percent of income in FY 2000 to 4.8 percent in FY 2012. New Hampshire is therefore a highly fiscally decentralized state. Granite Staters have quite a wide choice in local government, with two and a half competing jurisdictions every 100 square miles. Government subsidies, debt, and employment are all lower than average, and in all those categories we see improvements between 2010 and 2014.

New Hampshire is, therefore, a highly fiscally decentralized state (with) a wide choice of local government, with two and a half competing jurisdictions every 100 square miles. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it described that way. It sounds good. Competition always looks good to a conservative.

Now for some bad news

New Hampshire’s regulatory outlook is not so sunny. Its primary sin is exclusionary zoning. It is generally agreed that the Granite State is one of the four worst states in the country for residential building restrictions.

CATO has some other insights for us. While our overall rank in the GraniteState is #1 we only rank 9th in personal freedom, and 29th on regulations. Being a political hobbyist, I can tell you that this seems generous. The political class has been working overtime to give the store away to DC. If we elect another Democrat governor or the wrong Republican, the future looks grim for that ranking.

Although, given the competition, it is just as likely that the majority of other states are simply that much worse and are working just as hard to stay that way.