How Free Is Your State?


A new study out from George Mason University’s Mercatus Center illustrates a clear trend of American migration from less-free liberal States to those with a more conservative Constitutional mindset.

The institution’s “Freedom of the 50 States” report measured variables of economic and personal freedom throughout the Nation, taking a look at tax rates, government spending and debt, regulatory burdens, and State laws covering land use, union organizing, gun control and education choice. The measures were then compared to population changes, revealing growth in more liberty-friendly States spurred as Americans flocked to locales with friendlier tax and regulatory policies.

According to the study results, the top five most liberty-enabling States (No.1 being the best):

  • 5.       Oklahoma
  • 4.       New Hampshire
  • 3.       Tennessee
  • 2.       South Dakota
  • 1.       North Dakota

And the top five least liberty-friendly States (No. 1 being the worst):

  • 5.       Rhode Island
  • 4.       Hawaii
  • 3.       New Jersey
  • 2.       California
  • 1.       New York

The report indicate that Americans move from one State to another primarily for financial reasons but that liberties can also contribute heavily to the decision.

Professors William Ruger and Jason Sorens, of the Mercatus Center, write in a commentary on the report:

Some freedoms mean more to people than others, of course, and if you can’t find a good job in a state, you might not care how free it is by anyone’s standards. But we’ve considered a range of social and personal freedoms, including the right to consume alcohol and tobacco, to bear arms, to home school your children and to be free from arbitrary search and seizure. We’ve also studied the effects of over 200 distinct public policies.

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.

And while there’s clearly more to life than drinking oversized beverages and eating foie gras, the states that won’t allow you to often cause trouble for their residents in other ways.

Where legislators think they’re responsible for protecting you from yourself and choosing the menus of your meals, it’s no great surprise that they also see fewer limitations on their power in other areas. After all, if they’re taking your food, why not also take your money?

Check out the interactive map below to see how your State stacks up in terms of liberty.

Let us know if you think the study results are accurate based on your own experiences in the comment section below and on Facebook and Twitter.

Personal Liberty

Sam Rolley

Sam Rolley began a career in journalism working for a small town newspaper while seeking a B.A. in English. After covering community news and politics, Rolley took a position at Personal Liberty Media Group where could better hone his focus on his true passions: national politics and liberty issues. In his daily columns and reports, Rolley works to help readers understand which lies are perpetuated by the mainstream media and to stay on top of issues ignored by more conventional media outlets.

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  • Dennis

    Don’t believe the map. Wyoming is rated lower than Colorado. Can’t be! We have no personal income tax, very low sales taxes, and our gun and other laws are much less severe than Colorado. Think somebody was Rocky Mountain High when they did the study!

  • NDguy

    Dave, you are so full of yourself. ND education is among the best despite the liberal’s biased press. A friend’s family moved south from ND whose kids were mediocre at best in class studies. They were instantly top of their class and remained there upon graduation.

  • Laidbackrebel

    Jeremy, God lives in your heart, without you believing, in him, he believes in you.

  • Joe Public

    You are anti American. You think we are all following NYC
    You know most of us want PEACE NO WAR. IF YOU DON’T LOVE IT, LEAVE IT.

  • Joe Public

    It’s funny which cities were chosen for the movies.
    “Escape from Ney York and Escape from L.A.”

    • Joe Public

      Sorry New York I’m in a hurry.

  • Joe Public

    You mean higher taxes and bigger government?
    I think you better open your eyes and see that this train of thought
    has run it’s course.
    Small business and small government equals more freedom.

  • Guest

    I am in Connecticut and the lack of freedom and justice for those of us who are not wealthy, mind our own business, and abide by the law – is truly astounding! This is a state with a government that rewards criminals, caters to the hypocritical legislative desires of the rich liberals, and truly leaves the few who are somewhere in between at the mercy of both. Ironically – it’s called “The Constitution State”!

  • Meteorlady

    Please stay there – we don’t need people like you spreading around the country. “Gun nuts”? I guess that’s me. I have guns, shoot skeet and trap, hunt and target practice. I also have a concealed carry permit which give me the FREEDOM to go into the large urban areas without fear. Oh, I can walk my streets at night without fear. Wouldn’t want to do that in New York.

  • Meteorlady

    See that’s the problem with liberals – they like to brag about their beliefs and views. I live in a Conservative city and people don’t brag or talk, they get out and work without government assistance or money.

    We have 5 charities in my community and every single one of them is all volunteer. I have yet to see a liberal sign up and work with us. They just want to keep their hands clean and have the government take care of everyone.

  • Meteorlady

    How about the poor and elderly? The government overspends, runs up huge debt and deficits and the Federal Reserve deflates the dollar to make it cheaper to pay interest on the DEBT. Our dollar is down about 25% since obama took office and that’s a 25% hidden tax increase on every person in this country that has dollars. The poor and elderly suffer the most.

    • Right Brain Thinker

      Since all your posts here would lead us to think that you’re a “conservative”, Sandra, you should be able to answer “How about the poor and elderly?” yourself.

      Their situation is the worst among the 99% because conservatives like Reagan and Bush are the ones who UNDER funded government by cutting taxes, redistributing wealth upwards to the rich, and building the debt. And “conservatives” like Paul Ryan STILL want to stick it to the “poor and elderly” rather than look at increasing revenues. Conservative = Hypocrisy

      O’Bama has made mistakes and he is far too beholden to the greedy rich, but he has at least made some moves in the right direction. I shudder to think what would have happened to the poor and elderly if that R guy had won.

    • Laurence Tribe

      Absolutely correct, Sandra. I’m not particularly bright and getting dumber with age, but I believe our leaders are very bright and many are in league with those who control the value of our cur- rency in order to create a socialistic dependency on government and a One World ideology. Socialism becomes tyrannical wher- ever the people permit it to flourish; primarily, I suppose, because common folk get tired of doing what they’re told, when they’re told to it by their betters, the government agents. WTP really need to say “no” loudly before we are disarmed and uniformed, armed patrols abound to “protect” us.

  • NDguy

    I’m guessing ND was more concerned about the freedom of the child who has no say in the matter rather than the woman who made her choice during conception…