California: #47 in Freedom Index

A study entitled “Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom” placed California as one of the least free states in the union with only three states Rhode Island, New Jersey and New York less free.  William P. Ruger and Jason Sorens published the non-partisan study published by Mercatus Center at George Mason University February 26, 2009. They summarized:

“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.  We develop and justify our ratings and aggregation procedure on explicitly normative criteria, defining individual freedoms as the ability to dispose of one’s own life, liberty, and justly acquired property however one sees fit, so long as one does not coercively infringe on another individual’s ability to do the same.

This study includes measures of social and personal freedoms such as peaceable citizens’ rights to educate their own children, own and carry firearms, and be free from unreasonable search and seizure.  We find that the freest states in the country are New Hampshire, Colorado, and South Dakota, which together achieve a virtual tie for first place.  All three states feature low taxes and government spending and middling levels of regulation and paternalism.”

Idaho, Texas, Missouri, Tennessee, Arizona, Virginia, and North Dakota followed them in positions 4 through 10.

“New York is the least free by a considerable margin, followed by New Jersey, Rhode Island, California, and Maryland.

Hawaii, Washington, Massachusetts Illinois and Connecticut rounded out the ten least free states. On personal freedom alone, Alaska is the clear winner, while Maryland brings up the rear.  As for freedom in the different regions of the country, the Mountain and West North Central regions are the freest overall while the Middle Atlantic lags far behind on both economic and personal freedom.”

(The data used to create the rankings are publicly available online at

All this begs the question- what is freedom?  The Founding Fathers answered that question via the American Revolution.  Any reading of the period identifies the irritants of the time period as being: the Stamp Act, Molasses Act, Hat Act, Currency Act, Iron Act Sugar Act, Stamp Act and etc.  Britain’s primary provocation was excessive government.

The Colonials’ response to the big government they experienced under Parliament was first, revolution and second- to restrict the role of their new central government to a scant few aspects, which they listed in the US Constitution’s Article I, Section 8.  Governance of all other aspects of life was to be left to the States and to the people as noted in Amendments 9 and 10.  Their over-riding philosophy was to never elevate to a higher level that which can be resolved at a lesser level.

Some states like New Hampshire, Colorado, South Dakota, and Idaho have taken this seriously.  Other states like New York and California have adopted the Parliament or federal model behaving as though every movement of its people needs to be managed.  Such implies that the people are too stupid to know what is best for them.  In the end all states are not equal and some Americans are a whole lot more free than others.  Ironically the less free states are also the most taxed, but that is a column for another day.

cross-posted from the California Tenth Amendment Center

Harold Pease

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