The Cato Institute released its sixth-annual "Freedom in the 50 States" report this week. The index provides an "updated ranking of the American states on the basis of how their policies promote freedom in the fiscal, regulatory, and personal realms." The index of freedoms in all 50 states shows that red states dominate the list in the states with the most freedoms, while the blue states with Democratic governors were often at the bottom of the list.
The authors of the study define "freedom" as:
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. This understanding of freedom follows from the natural-rights liberal thought of John Locke, Immanuel Kant, and Robert Nozick, but it is also consistent with the rights-generating rule-utilitarianism of Herbert Spencer and others.
To formulate the "Freedom in the 50 States" index, the Cato Institute looked at three main categories: personal freedoms, fiscal policies, and regulatory policies. There are 230 policy variables, and 25 subcategories such as incarceration, guns, education, marijuana, state taxation, land use freedom, and labor-market freedom.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the draconian measures implemented by governors forced the Cato Institute to "add a new section analyzing how state COVID-19 responses have affected freedom since the pandemic began." The libertarian think tank noted that the new pandemic section "discusses significant policy changes and trends since the data cutoff, ensuring that readers have a strong sense of the state of freedom in the states today."
In the "Freedom in the 50 States" index, states with Republican governors notched eight of the 10 most free states. Meanwhile, eight of the states with the worst freedom ratings were led by Democratic governors.
In overall freedom, the top 10 states are:
- New Hampshire - Republican Governor
- Florida - Republican Governor
- Nevada - Democratic Governor
- Tennessee - Republican - Governor
- South Dakota - Republican Governor
- Indiana - Republican Governor
- Michigan - Democratic Governor
- Georgia - Republican Governor
- Arizona - Republican Governor
- Idaho - Republican Governor
The worst 10 states for freedom:
- New York - Democratic Governor
- Hawaii - Democratic Governor
- California - Democratic Governor
- New Jersey - Democratic Governor
- Oregon - Democratic Governor
- Maryland - Republican Governor
- Delaware - Democratic Governor
- Vermont - Republican Governor
- New Mexico - Democratic Governor
- Rhode Island - Democratic Governor