North Dakota Named The Most Free State, New York The Least Free [Study]

Robert Jonathan

North Dakota offers its residents the most freedom of any state in the union, and New York the least, according a study primarily focused on economic factors.

The "Freedom in the 50 States" report was issued by the Mercatus Institute of George Mason University, a libertarian-oriented think tank, which observes that Americans are increasingly going south and west to seek prosperity.

According to the Mercatus Institute, "We ground our conception of freedom on an individual rights framework. In our view, individuals should be allowed to dispose of their lives, liberties, and property as they see fit, so long as they do not infringe on the rights of others."

In terms of freedom, North Dakota was number one, followed by followed by South Dakota, Tennessee, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma. Coming in dead last of the 50 states according to this study was New York. California, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Rhode Island were ranked 46 through 49, respectively.

The researchers come up with their ranking through three primary metrics: fiscal policy, regulatory policy, and personal freedom. Subcategories include tax rates, government spending, regulations and red tape, property rights, health insurance freedom, civil liberties, and various other measures. The study authors note that high tax, high regulation states have been losing population as workers vote with their feet in contrast to the freer states which are benefiting from in-migration.

As the report summarizes, "states that protect more of their residents' freedom and make it easier to run businesses enjoy a steady inflow of people from more burdensome ones. They also enjoy higher personal income growth... The more a state denies people their freedoms, increases their taxes or passes laws that make it hard for businesses to hire and fire, the more likely they are to leave."

North Dakota in particular has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, with strong job and population growth, in part based on the oil boom in the western part of the state. The states that are considered the most free in this report also typically have Republicans in the governor's mansion.

[Top image credit: Bobjgalindo]