Carpe Diem

Economic freedom in the states, but mostly in the red states

states1This week the Mercatus Center released the third edition of its Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom report with rankings of America’s states based on how their policies promote freedom in three categories: fiscal policy, regulatory policy, and personal freedom. See this CD post for more information.

The chart above shows the ranking of the 50 states according to the Mercatus Center’s measure of economic freedom by state, and the political breakdown of each state for governor, the state House and state Senate (Red = Republican and Blue = Democrat).  Note that the Virginia Senate is split, the Nebraska state legislature is non-partisan, and Rhode Island’s governor is independent.

As I pointed out in a previous post, there’s a lot more red in the most economically free states and a lot more blue in the least economically free states.

26 thoughts on “Economic freedom in the states, but mostly in the red states

      • Speaking of visual presentations, you gotta love the cartoon that comes with the interactive map. You can’t beat a cartoon for doing the job when you are making a cartoonish argument.

          • The idea that freedom can be measured and ranked in this way is preposterous. The entire project is subjective and arbitrary and can easily be tweaked to produce any result that is desired. It reveals nothing more than the preferences of the authors. It is especially ironic when people who view themselves as Hayekians endorse this kind of thing. The whole thing is a parody of scholarly work.

          • Let me make it even more understandable for you Ron. If some left wing think tank produced a study ranking the 50 states by the degree of social justice of their policies you would understand immediately that the entire project was nonsense. In both cases the problem is that the whole enterprise is easily manipulated and the outcome is entirely predicted by the political views of those doing the study.

          • If some left wing think tank produced a study ranking the 50 states by the degree of social justice of their policies you would understand immediately that the entire project was nonsense.

            Boy, you’re a tough nut to crack. You’ve been repeatedly asked what is wrong with the data presented and you keep attacking the credibility of the messenger.

            If you can’t respond correctly in one last try, I’ll give up.

            Are personal. political, and economic freedom not things you understand?

            While all value is subjective, surely you can understand, for example, that a person who feels strongly about their second amendment right to keep and bear arms could rank states based on their level of government interference with that right.

          • Ron

            The thing that is wrong with the so called “data” is that it is subjective and arbitrary. We care about many different kinds of freedom and they often conflict with each other. Your freedom to drive while talking on a cell phone threatens my freedom to not be run over by you. Your freedom to make noise threatens my freedom to enjoy some peace and quiet.

            Of course people who feel more strongly about the Second Amendment “could” rank states based on that or anything else they liked. That is precisely my point. the study measures nothing but the preferences of the authors.

            It would be extremely difficult to measure even individual freedoms since they rely, not just on laws but on social norms, levels of enforcement etc. The idea that we can aggregate and measure overall freedom into some kind of useful “data” to be compared like some financial statistic is absurd. You might as well rank the states by which have the best music or food.

            This problem is there regardless of the credibility of the messenger. Are you with me so far?

            But that doesn’t mean there can’t also be problems with the credibility of the messenger. In this case there are.

            Study co-author Jason Sorens used to live in the purportedly very free state of Texas. He claims he left because he hated the climate. Where did he choose to go I wonder? He chose the famously lovely climate of Buffalo in the most purportedly oppressive of all states, New York. And he chose for his employer the New York State University system. You couldn’t even make up stuff this hilarious if you wanted to write a parody of this for The Onion.

          • I am with Greg on this one my friend. Most of these studies contain a number of flaws that reflect the bias of the people putting them together than some objective reality. While I would agree that the conclusion may make sense I imagine that the study ignores many factors.

            Just off the top of my head I would point to agricultural subsidies in states that are supposedly free. How can you talk about economic freedom when a state receives much more from the federal government than it pays in taxes? And how can you talk about economic freedom when a state restricts the social freedom that is the foundation of economic activity?

            I have not dug into the report deeply enough to write anything authoritative. But I have read enough to notice the smell. Let me ask you this; would you rather live in economically free cities like Fargo or Boise or would you choose New York or LA even they are supposedly far less free? The Mercatus people have trouble understanding what libertarians really stand for. That is why the study is just as flawed as those ‘equality’ studies that the left produces and uses being Scandinavian as the standard.

          • Greg

            Thanks for your thoughtful response. You are absolutely correct that any study of this type MUST be subjective and reflects the preferences of the authors. There can be no objective measure of freedom, and that wasn’t my objection.

            My complaint about your previous comments was that you seemed to reject the idea that a study of this type could have any value at all, which I don’t believe is true.

            We all must rely on the judgment of others to some extent, as we can’t possibly experience everything for ourselves. Obviously, we weigh the information we receive against our perception of the authors’ biases and values.

            Like any other study, this one can’t be taken as a user’s guide for one’s life, but as just one more bit of interesting information, only as useful as a person thinks it is.

            Study co-author Jason Sorens used to live in the purportedly very free state of Texas. He claims he left because he hated the climate. Where did he choose to go I wonder?

            I find that hilarious, but you could also say that Sorens helped produce a study that DIDN’t reflect his personal values. Apparently he prefers cold weather and oppressive government. While I don’t personally understand why, there ARE people living in Buffalo, so they must prefer it for their own reasons. They are “free” to do so.

            You might as well rank the states by which have the best music or food.

            And such rankings are, in fact produced on a regular basis, and we don’t take them as anything more serious than personal preferences, with which we may agree or disagree. Much like the values in the Economic Freedom by State study. If I were an obsessive BBQ fanatic, I would be interested in knowing that Texas is ranked higher than North Dakota in the subjective opinions of others.

            We care about many different kinds of freedom and they often conflict with each other. Your freedom to drive while talking on a cell phone threatens my freedom to not be run over by you. Your freedom to make noise threatens my freedom to enjoy some peace and quiet.

            This is interesting. I would say that you have an inalienable *right* to not be killed by me or anyone else except in self defense. That would include me not running over you for any reason. It doesn’t matter why I ran over you, the result and the liability are the same. I’m not “free” to do so.

            To ensure that I won’t run over you would require that I be forbidden to drive a car. The increased risk of inattention due to texting isn’t, in my view, sufficient reason to forbid everyone to text at all times and in all places while driving. Is it foolish? Yes. Should it be illegal? No. While I don’t text while driving, I would, on principle, prefer a state that didn’t outlaw it.

            Your noise vs peace and quiet example has too many variables to address without more specifics.

          • My complaint about your previous comments was that you seemed to reject the idea that a study of this type could have any value at all, which I don’t believe is true.

            I did not expect this from you my friend. You are usually the guy who points out that it is far more effective to use logic to come to conclusions than to pretend that there is some empirical methodology that can reach statistically valid conclusions. These studies are useful to allow us to push a narrative of some kind but only if there is a huge amount of logic that supports that narrative. In this case if you look at the entire study in total instead of just looking at the economic part you find too many flaws that make it smell bad and reduce its credibility. As such I will pass on this one just as I pass on all those lefty studies about equality.

          • Vangel

            I am with Greg on this one my friend. Most of these studies contain a number of flaws that reflect the bias of the people putting them together than some objective reality. While I would agree that the conclusion may make sense I imagine that the study ignores many factors.

            I understand that any study of this nature is bound to be subjective and incomplete. That doesn’t mean it has no value at all. If it raises question I hadn’t considered, it has value to me.

            Just off the top of my head I would point to agricultural subsidies in states that are supposedly free. How can you talk about economic freedom when a state receives much more from the federal government than it pays in taxes?

            I believe we are talking about *relative* freedom. There is no absolute freedom, or even anything close.

            And how can you talk about economic freedom when a state restricts the social freedom that is the foundation of economic activity

            Again, we can discuss the *relative* social and economic freedoms of states, and may value some restrictions on that freedom more highly than others.

            Let me ask you this; would you rather live in economically free cities like Fargo or Boise or would you choose New York or LA even they are supposedly far less free?

            If there were only that one difference I would choose Fargo or Boise, but obviously there are other differences. We each can decide what combinations of what we consider positives and negatives we prefer, and act accordingly.

            I see a study like this one as being similar to the annual Consumer Reports auto issue. Cars are rated according to all manner subjective values, and we can decide for ourselves which we find important. You, for instance, might prefer a car with heated seats and an efficient defroster while someone in Texas might not care as much about those things.

          • Vangel

            I did not expect this from you my friend. You are usually the guy who points out that it is far more effective to use logic to come to conclusions than to pretend that there is some empirical methodology that can reach statistically valid conclusions.

            I must be unclear. I don’t see any statistically valid conclusions from the study, only interesting material for discussion, which in my opinion, has value in itself. While there’s little value to an overall ranking, many of the categories are of interest, assuming that freedom means less government interference and control.

          • I must be unclear. I don’t see any statistically valid conclusions from the study, only interesting material for discussion, which in my opinion, has value in itself. While there’s little value to an overall ranking, many of the categories are of interest, assuming that freedom means less government interference and control.

            I agree with you that there aren’t any statistically valid conclusions. But you were not clear on that before.

            Sadly, the right can play some of the same games that the left plays when it does its equity or fairness studies so what we are left with is logic.

  1. So called economic freedom does not guarantee a states prosperity.I can find other studies done that show the blue states have a better quality of life in contrast to the red states.Anyway I thought this was the United States of America.Studies such as this are done with a set prerequisite in place to get a set result.It doesent prove crap.Vermont is a deep blue state and has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation,and has a higher labor participation rate than the US average.Well great for those red states and great for Vermont.

    • So called economic freedom does not guarantee a states prosperity.

      Kevin – people, not states enjoy prosperity. But in any case, you are correct: there are no guarantees of prosperity, but economic freedom provides greater opportunities that can lead to prosperity.

      I can find other studies done that show the blue states have a better quality of life in contrast to the red states.

      Well, let’s see them, by all means.

  2. Kevin says: “…blue states have a better quality of life in contrast to the red states.”

    Your comment seems to be an oversimplification.

    It seems, red cities, counties, and communities tend to have a much higher quality of life than blue cities, counties, and neighborhoods.

  3. Doesn’t matter what state you are in, if you grow and try to sell raisins interstate, you have to do it under the auspices of the USDA.

    From free enterprise.com website:

    “The program, operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has a rather Orwellian-sounding name – the “Raisin Marketing Order.” In a nutshell, under this program, every year, as a condition for “letting” farmers sell their raisin crops in interstate commerce, the federal government has taken up to 47% of the farmers’ raisins – often for no payment at all, or below the cost of producing the raisins. The program has its origins in Great Depression efforts to fix the prices of agricultural crops. Don’t care much for raisins? Similar programs cover a variety of other agricultural products, such as walnuts, almonds, prunes, tart cherries – and cranberries! That’s something to chew on as you sit down to your Thanksgiving meal tomorrow.”

    So these farm controls last for generations, and the GOP never says they are unConstitutional. But when Obamacare cares along, suddenly it is unConstitutional.

    I happen to think all such programs are unConstitutional, but it would be nice to see some consistency from the right wing.

    • Wait, you’re pulling out something from 2005? When the evil Boosh was President? Sorry – not applicable. Median income means nothing anyway; it neglects the effect of taxes, cost of living, and cost of housing. And “quality of life” is a nebulous concept anyway: I might value the close proximity of a cute little art gallery, while you might prefer the wide open spaces.

      How about we compare how states have fared since 2008 in terms of median income to the national average? National average is down 7%.

      ND +8%, SD +0.5%, TN -8%, NH -6%, OK -3%.
      NY -5%, CA -10%, NJ – 8%, HI – 12%, RI -8%.

      Not conclusive, but there sure is a trend.

      • orthodoc: How about we compare how states have fared since 2008 in terms of median income to the national average?

        Okay. Which states have the highest median income since 2008?

        • Z: “Okay. Which states have the highest median income since 2008?

          You must have skipped over this part of the comment: ” Median income means nothing anyway; it neglects the effect of taxes, cost of living, and cost of housing.”
          If you disagree why not explain why?

          • Then orthodoc went right ahead and compared growth in median income. In other words, he wasn’t being consistent. The original post used even more subjective criteria.

  4. Crop subsidies or political pandering?

    Consider the following interactive data base:

    From some outfit called the Environmental Working Group: 2012 Farm Subsidy Data Base
    The database tracks $240 billion in farm subsidies from commodity, crop insurance, and disaster programs and $37 billion in conservation payments paid between 1995 and 2011.

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