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How Free Is Your State?

New Hampshire's state motto is "Live Free or Die." But is New Hampshire the most free place to live in the United States? Apparently it is, according to a new study, Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom, just released by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

For this study, the authors analyzed state policy measures ranging from tax rates and business regulations to drug laws and social policy to determine the relative degree of freedom allowed under state law. The winners? New Hampshire topped the list as the most free state in the nation, followed by Colorado and South Dakota. The least free? New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. My own state, Ohio, was ranked 38th.

Do you disagree with the rankings? Do you think the authors care too much about taxes and tobacco, yet not enough about sexual liberty or personal expression. The authors disclose their methodology and have made their data available at this website. Further, they explicitly "invite others to adopt their own weights to see how the overall state freedom rankings change." This strikes me as a very useful project.

Oren:

Do you think the authors care too much about taxes and tobacco, yet not enough about sexual liberty or personal expression.

Are priorities like these really amenable to comparison like that? Even if libertarians agree that guns and drugs should both be legal, it's hard to imagine any rational way to argue about which is more important.

As an aside, NH is great for gun-nuts and terrible for potheads. MA is great for potheads and terrible for gun-nuts. Quite a bit of friction exists between the two states, given that each thinks that the other state's more lax laws are undermining their own. Those accusations have a ring of truth, of course: no one will buy a gun in Mass if they can drive to a gun show in NH and, similarly, the decriminalization of pot in MA allows NH residents access to a fairly open market.
3.2.2009 12:52pm
Casual Peruser:
That's very interesting. I note that most the states that top the overall freedom list are fairly low-population, while large-population states such as California and New York are at or near the bottom. Does this suggest that the market for state residents doesn't value freedom, at least as the Mercatus Center has defined it?
3.2.2009 12:53pm
eyesay:
If you want a low-tax place to live, try Somalia.

Taxes are the price of civilization.
3.2.2009 12:53pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):
I'd like to see the plots vs democratic vote updated for 2008. Even though the bottom 16 states went democratic, so did the top 2.
3.2.2009 12:55pm
Matt Eric:

Casual Peruser:
That's very interesting. I note that most the states that top the overall freedom list are fairly low-population, while large-population states such as California and New York are at or near the bottom. Does this suggest that the market for state residents doesn't value freedom, at least as the Mercatus Center has defined it?

I'd suggest the causation goes the other way; that states with higher concentrations of people tend to put libertarian-style freedoms on the back burner, relative to getting along with your several million neighbors. One can see this when comparing cities to rural areas; cities tend to have more restrictions on, say, gun ownership, while rural residents would have less of a tendency to care what the guy 15 miles away is doing with his 173 AK-47s.
3.2.2009 1:04pm
Houston Lawyer:
Casual

The statistic you note may be changing. You should try and plot which of the high freedom states are growing rapidly from migration. I think you would see over the last 30 years a large number of people moving from the less free to the more free.
3.2.2009 1:06pm
bobfromfresno (mail):
Has George Mason's Mercatus Center performed a survey of "freedom" in the United Arabe Emirates where George Mason has a campus?
3.2.2009 1:06pm
Thoughtful (mail):
The growing migration into relatively free states can make them less free. Arizona was a much freer state when I moved her 20 years ago; since then there's been huge migration from failing eastern rust-belt states, yet the people that arrive vote as they did back in Ohio, etc. A common problem.
3.2.2009 1:12pm
Casual Peruser:
Matt and Houston--both good points. (I should note that my comment wasn't intended as snark, although re-reading it, it certainly comes across that way.) I tend to agree with Matt that population density is inversely correlated with freedom--for better or worse, the more we are forced to interact with one another the more we feel the need to regulate one another's activities. I note that several high-density states are also near the bottom of the list, such as New Jersey and Rhode Island.
3.2.2009 1:12pm
Realist Liberal:
I agree that it is an interesting study. I also appreciate them producing their methodology. Too many studies from all sides of the spectrum try to twist statistics to say whatever they want then refuse to disclose how they got to the ultimate numbers.

bobfromfresno~

What does that have to do with the price of tea in China (or I guess I should say the price of salt in the UAE)?
3.2.2009 1:16pm
PC:
You should try and plot which of the high freedom states are growing rapidly from migration. I think you would see over the last 30 years a large number of people moving from the less free to the more free.

I would like to see that plotted against cost of living and home prices too. When an 850 sq/ft apartment is selling for $400k, people tend to move because other places are cheaper.
3.2.2009 1:23pm
Some Random Bonehead (mail):
It's more or less meaningless.

It's weighted carefully to produce a ranking based on the authors' own prejudices and belief system (social conservative, economic liberalism). It is not reflective of what another set of moral considerations would produce.

It might be a useful exercise to do this as a two phase-evaluation, to random sample some population for weightings then compute the "freeness" indicies. That would probably still be pretty useless though.
3.2.2009 1:23pm
D.A.:
"population density is inversely correlated with freedom--for better or worse, the more we are forced to interact with one another the more we feel the need to regulate one another's activities."

Or perhaps you could say that more regulation of an individual's activities is necessary to allow for greater population density. We can't all do what we want, to as great an extent as we want, if we're going to allow for a dense society.

The noise ordinance of my current suburban locale (limiting my freedom to blast 80s hair band music) has no place in the life of someone living out in the forest or on the high desert.
3.2.2009 1:25pm
blabla:
It'd be interesting to plot the economic freedom part of the index against state per capita GDP numbers. An unscientific glance makes economic freedom look pretty uncorrelated to per capita GDP; the top three GDP states are Maryland, NJ, and Hawaii, which are all towards the bottom of the freedom chart.

GDP per capita

This looks bad for us libertarians. But I think something complex is going on; when a state's GDP grows, its income inequality also grows, which raises demand for restrictive economic policies.
3.2.2009 1:27pm
Kate S (mail):
The problem that I have with this entire study is some things are easy to quantify and others are very difficult. For example: I am puzzled in any measure of economic freedom how Colorado could rank ahead of Wyoming as Colorado has high property taxes in most districts, a state income tax, and high sales and gas taxes. When I measure my comparable cost of living every time I consider taking a job in Colorado I find I need to make at least 20% more per annum just to almost break even. As far as personal freedom, Denver has some pretty draconian gun laws and other parts of Colorado are very free. Also you can sometimes guess at freedom based on laws on the books but you really need to look at actual enforcement of those laws to figure out if they really limit your personal freedom or not. I guess hypothetically, if I am a gay, pot smoking renter my personal freedoms may be greater in Massachusetts, but , if I am a home schooling, moonshine making, gun toting homeowner I may be more free in Wyoming, or Alaska.
3.2.2009 1:33pm
Arkady:
Before somebody goes goo-goo over the tax rates in New Hampshire, check out its property tax rate (2d highest in the nation). You gotta have money to run a government, and if you don't have a broad-based tax, you get the money where you can. And one more thing, most of New Hampshire's population is concentrated near the Massachusetts border--a state where the good-paying jobs are (and, some would, far more fun is to be had).
3.2.2009 1:35pm
cirby (mail):

eyesay:
If you want a low-tax place to live, try Somalia.


Not really. They may not have governments as organized as those in the civilized world, but their effective tax rate (due to confiscation and outright theft by the folks in charge) is very, very high. A kleptocracy is a form of government, too.
3.2.2009 1:38pm
Virginia:
Taxes are the price of civilization.

Paraphrasing Oliver Wendell Holmes' famous quote, of course. What I want to know if, if taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society, why are we getting such a lousy return on our money. 100 years ago, taxes were lower, but so was the amount of uncivilized behavior like crime, illegitimacy, etc.
3.2.2009 1:38pm
Steve2:
Got to say, while I disagree with their weightings... I love that they've put their data on the web and said "go ahead, use your own weightings"!
3.2.2009 1:43pm
Oren:

100 years ago, taxes were lower, but so was the amount of uncivilized behavior like crime, illegitimacy, etc.

This is simply factually incorrect. Murder rates are on a downward trend that has lasted at least 1000 years. Seems to still be true.
3.2.2009 1:46pm
Randy R. (mail):
Virginia:" 100 years ago, taxes were lower, but so was the amount of uncivilized behavior like crime, illegitimacy, etc."

Sure, if you think that watching BBC period dramas are an accurate rendering of history. But of course, they are not. Our cities are far cleaner and livible -- more civilized -- than anything that existed in the 19th century.
3.2.2009 1:56pm
qwerty (mail):
eyesay - why somalia and not hong kong, singapore or switzerland?
3.2.2009 1:57pm
Allan Walstad (mail):

Taxes are the price of civilization.

At some level, maybe so. The question is, where do diminishing returns come in?

It's weighted carefully to produce a ranking based on the authors' own prejudices and belief system (social conservative, economic liberalism).

SRB, it looks pretty consistently libertarian to me. I'm not sure how you are using the terms conservative and liberal, but pot legalization and sexual freedom are what I'd put in the socially liberal, not conservative, category.
3.2.2009 2:05pm
Oren:
Incidentally, they have (quite forgivably) not included MA's recent marijuana decriminalization initiative into our "personal freedom" score. Granted it passed in Nov '08, but I think it bears mentioning because it's such a huge (10%) component of that category.
3.2.2009 2:08pm
ray_g:
I think they over analyze the situation. Here is how I would compare how free states are:

(1) What % of personal income goes to ALL state taxes (lower is more free)

(2) How many state laws and regulations are there? (less is more free)

Equal weight to both factors.

One might argue that (2) should be done per capita, I'd have to think about that.

The reason I think that simpler is superior is that it would average out individual subjectivity over relative weightings favoring, for example, lack of gun control over sexual liberty. Also, looking at all laws and regulations includes small, overlooked, yet pointless restrictions on a person's activity that, while individually small, collectively add up to a big restriction on freedom. (Or, perhaps the same thing, a tendency towards micro-managing people's lives).

I anticipate one criticism of this is that in the limit no laws->maximum freedom, which many may disagree with. (And no taxes->maximum freedom, which I suspect fewer would disagree with). As both these limits (and their opposites) are pretty unlikely, the measure may be useful in the middle range of combinations of laws and taxes.

And there is certainly correlation between (1) and (2), which may complicate things.

Having said all that, I still think, that as a broad brush review, which is likely the best that can be expected from such a complicated thing as measuring "freedom", it would work.
3.2.2009 2:13pm
Richard A. (mail):
I agree that it is an unfortunate reality that regulation increases with density. Here in New Jersey, for example, it is against the law to drink beer on the beach for the simple reason that in the past so many drunken idiots disrupted the rest of us that a blanket ban was passed,
In North Carolina, people seem to be able drink on the beach without acting like animals. But the laws here are derived from experience, unfortunately.
3.2.2009 2:14pm
Virginia:
Sure, if you think that watching BBC period dramas are an accurate rendering of history. But of course, they are not. Our cities are far cleaner and livible -- more civilized -- than anything that existed in the 19th century.

I'd have to disagree. Outside of the frontier, which was, of course, the very definition of uncivilized, crime rates--especially serious violent crime rates--were much lower in the past. To give one specific example, violent crime is now roughly five times as common as it was 45-50 years ago.

And let's not even get started on illegitimacy, which has increased notwithstanding the wider availability and greater reliability of birth control and abortion.
3.2.2009 2:15pm
Snaphappy:
I note that D.C. is not ranked.
3.2.2009 2:33pm
Rock On:
@Virginia
Would you care to come up with some actual numbers? You know, since Oren appears to have some that contradict what you are saying.
3.2.2009 2:35pm
Spitzer:
Actually, taxes are just the means by which the politically powerful employ armed robbery to steal money and property from the rest of us at the point of a gun and give the profits of their violence to themselves, their friends, and their allies. Just because it is King Numbers rather than, say, a fascist dictator, tribal warlord, or divine-right monarch doing so does not assuage the violence and inherent immorality of their action.
3.2.2009 2:37pm
jviss (mail):
Oren says:

"As an aside, NH is great for gun-nuts and terrible for potheads. MA is great for potheads and terrible for gun-nuts. Quite a bit of friction exists between the two states, given that each thinks that the other state's more lax laws are undermining their own. Those accusations have a ring of truth, of course: no one will buy a gun in Mass if they can drive to a gun show in NH and, similarly, the decriminalization of pot in MA allows NH residents access to a fairly open market."

These statements are factually incorrect, or based on incorrect assumptions.

First, you cannot purchase a firearm in another state from an individual without an FFL holder involved; you can purchase a rifle or shotgun in another state, but only from an FFL holder; and you can buy a handgun from an out-of-state dealer, but it must be transferred via a dealer in your own state. The so-called gun show loop hole is small or non-existent, as far as I can tell. On top of all that, you are legally required to follow all of the laws in your own state, and any restrictions/requirements of your own license (FID or LTC).

Second, pot was not really decriminalized, it has simply become a non-criminal civil violation to possess small amounts, presumably for your own consumption - less than one ounce. Dealing, etc., remain the same.
3.2.2009 2:40pm
krs:
New Hampshire topped the list as the most free state in the nation New Hampshire responds well to death threats.
3.2.2009 2:40pm
Hoosier:
An "outpost of freedom" in the NE quadrant.

Now this I can handle.
3.2.2009 2:42pm
OSU2L (mail):
"Taxes are the price of civilization."

There are no diminishing returns, all taxpayers should be taxed at 100%. This will bring about the utopia well all seek.
3.2.2009 2:54pm
Oren:

First, you cannot purchase a firearm in another state from an individual without an FFL holder involved; you can purchase a rifle or shotgun in another state, but only from an FFL holder; and you can buy a handgun from an out-of-state dealer, but it must be transferred via a dealer in your own state. The so-called gun show loop hole is small or non-existent, as far as I can tell.

(1) Individuals that are not "engaged in the business of selling firearms" may still transfer guns to another person without the involvement of an FFL. TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 44 > § 923.

(2) Such individual-to-individual sales are not required to go through NCIS. They are not even required to check ID.

(3) NH, unlike some other states, does not impose extra restrictions on top of Federal law.

(4) Come on down to the shows in Manchester if you want to confirm this. There are indeed many FFLs but also many private individuals there too.

DISCLOSURE: I support a pretty strong RKBA/CCW but background checks for the purpose of preventing those duly convicted of a violent felony from possession of firearms seems like a very good policy choice.


Second, pot was not really decriminalized, it has simply become a non-criminal civil violation to possess small amounts, presumably for your own consumption - less than one ounce. Dealing, etc., remain the same.

(1) One ounce is not a small amount of MJ (~$350).

(2) Step in the right direction.
3.2.2009 3:01pm
PubliusFL:
Rock On: Would you care to come up with some actual numbers? You know, since Oren appears to have some that contradict what you are saying.

I'm not Virginia, but here's one. This is the article whence comes the graph Oren linked to ("1000 years"). It says that NYC's pre-1850 homicide rate was 5 per 100,000. That compares favorably with the 2006 rate of 7.3 per 100,000, which itself is dramatically lower than the previous 35-40 years.
3.2.2009 3:02pm
Spartacus (www):
I note that most the states that top the overall freedom list are fairly low-population, while large-population states such as California and New York are at or near the bottom.

Texas, ranked 4th for freedom, is the nation's second most populous. Relatively nice place to live, if you ask me, having moved from NYC for some of the very reasons mentioned in the report.
3.2.2009 3:08pm
Spartacus (www):
Make that 5th for freedom
3.2.2009 3:13pm
Matt_T:
If you want a low-tax place to live, try Somalia.

Taxes are the price of civilization.


This is a common refrain among people who oppose libertarian ideas. However, it is a self-defeating slogan: Think about how all those messed up African countries slid from their relatively crappy place at the end of the colonial period into hell on earth today. In most cases, kleptocratic governments were responsible. The idea that giving the government money leads to civilization falls flat.
3.2.2009 3:13pm
ShelbyC:

Or perhaps you could say that more regulation of an individual's activities is necessary to allow for greater population density. We can't all do what we want, to as great an extent as we want, if we're going to allow for a dense society.



Yeah. Who wants to listen to their neighbors having gay sex.
3.2.2009 3:18pm
Angus:
I know the authors are full of crap when they rank Texas high on the list of personal freedom. I actually live in the damned place and I confront government intrusion into my business on a regular basis, a good portion of which is pushed by religious evangelicals.

Can't go to a strip club, illegal in my part of Texas.
Can't buy alcohol on Sundays in my part of Texas.
The police in my part of Texas are noted for their use of excessive force, and for running speed traps.
The state a couple years ago mandated that all young girls had to get the HPV vaccination. (I support the vaccination, but stop short of making it government mandated.)
The Board of Education is one vote away from implementing Creationism in the schools, and the governor supports it.
Along with that, Government officials down here interject religion into every setting they can.
There is no state that officially kills its own residents at a faster rate.

Yep, the study is built on unusual definitions of freedom.
3.2.2009 3:18pm
whit:

Or perhaps you could say that more regulation of an individual's activities is necessary to allow for greater population density. We can't all do what we want, to as great an extent as we want, if we're going to allow for a dense society.

The noise ordinance of my current suburban locale (limiting my freedom to blast 80s hair band music) has no place in the life of someone living out in the forest or on the high desert.



i see this a lot in my job. former urban or suburban residents who move to more rural areas expect the same govt. restrictions on behavior that they used to have.

for example, many more rural and open areas are "open shoot" under the law, which means people can go into their backyard and plink a gun as long as there is a proper backstop, and it is more than a certain distance from the nearest other home.

that drives former city folks NUTS.

one guy called to complain that his neighbors were running their ATV's all day long sunday. his neighbors have a huge plot of land and have had an ATV track for a decade.

HE chose to build his mcmansion next to the preexisting ATV track. iow, do your research beforehand. duh.

rural people imo are less reliant on govt. help in general. they want more freedom, and the concomitantly take more personal responsibility.

it's like that hank williams jr. song. a country boy can survive.

urban living imo, promotes more reliance on govt. - for services, for protection, etc.
3.2.2009 3:18pm
David McCourt (mail):
Oren is incorrect. Violent crime, including homicide, has not uniformly decreased over time. A chart that starts in the early '70s doesn't tell the whole tale, as violent crime rates were by then more than double what they'd been in 1960.

Rates of murder and non-negligent manslaughter more than doubled between 1960 and 1980 (from 5.1 per 100,000 to 10.2), before heading back down. Violent crime rates more than tripled over the same period (from 161 to 597), and continued to rise, reaching 758 in 1991, before heading down, to a level about 3 times 1960's violent crime rate, in 2007. While down from their peaks in the early '90s, rates for aggravated assault, robbery, and forcible rape are all much higher (around 3 times higher) today than they were in 1960.


See the DOJ website: http://bjsdata.ojp.usdoj.gov/ dataonline/Search/Crime/State/RunCrimeStatebyState.cfm


According to the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, U.S. homicide rates at the begining of the 20th century were between 1 and 2 per 100,000, rising to about 5 by 1910, and to close to 10 by the mid '30s. They thereafter dropped to below 5 by 1946, and remained low through the '60s, until the rise noted above.

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ series/sr_20/sr20_006acc.pdf
3.2.2009 3:30pm
Virginia:
What David said.
3.2.2009 3:44pm
Desiderius:
"eyesay - why somalia and not hong kong, singapore or switzerland?"

Because the supposedly limited government of Somalia is the meme that's been floating around the brain-dead leftsites for months now. It's popped up here several times. Way to speak power to truth, boneheads.

How centralizing as much power as possible is progressive continues to elude me, given history, et. al.
3.2.2009 3:45pm
pintler:

(1) Individuals that are not "engaged in the business of selling firearms" may still transfer guns to another person without the involvement of an FFL


Not across state lines.

The BATF sez: "A person may sell a firearm to an unlicensed resident of his State" and "A person may only acquire a firearm within the person’s own State, except that he or she may purchase or otherwise acquire a rifle or shotgun, in person, at a licensee's premises in any State,".

There is an exception - you can legally inherit across state lines sans FFL. Otherwise you need an FFL on at least one end.

If there are knowledgeable lawyers out there, and I am reading this wrong, please correct me. I have read the statue carefully, and it sure doesn't look to me like Dear Old Dad can just give his favorite deer rifle to his out of state kid legally (such things may not be a high enforcement priority, if you feel lucky).

(aside: I have always wondered how the CMP gets away with just shipping Garands)
3.2.2009 3:48pm
Frater Plotter:
Some freedoms which a conservative might miss, and which vary from state to state:

Equality under the law. Compare crime victimization stats (from the DoJ's Bureau of Justice Statistics) with arrest, prosecution, and sentencing figures. Are people of different races or sexes treated equally by the justice system? In some parts of the country, blacks and Hispanics are punished more severely than whites for the same crimes, for instance.

Right to vote. State laws ensuring access to the polls vary widely. Some states require employers to give employees time off to vote; others do not. Some areas have polls open long hours, early voting on weekends, or provide permanent absentee voter status, increasing access to the polls for employees with strict hours. And then there are the states that have underprovisioned voting booths in poor areas and extra voting booths in wealthy ones.

Rights of ex-cons. Some states deprive former felons of the right to vote, or other constitutional rights. Some do not. Among those states which require a felon to "get their rights back" through a legal process, some have cumbersome processes and some have straightforward ones.
3.2.2009 3:49pm
Spartacus (www):
I know the authors are full of crap when they rank Texas high on the list of personal freedom. I actually live in the damned place and I confront government intrusion into my business on a regular basis, a good portion of which is pushed by religious evangelicals.

Many of your complaints are not a product of state law, and vary significantly statewide

Can't go to a strip club, illegal in my part of Texas.

Not so in Austin.

Can't buy alcohol on Sundays in my part of Texas.

Ditto.

. . .

The state a couple years ago mandated that all young girls had to get the HPV vaccination. (I support the vaccination, but stop short of making it government mandated.)

The Governor did this by executive fiat, and his order was repealed by the legislature.

. . .

There is no state that officially kills its own residents at a faster rate.

Not clear how this affects the average citizen's freedom.
3.2.2009 3:57pm
whit:

There is no state that officially kills its own residents at a faster rate.

Not clear how this affects the average citizen's freedom.



have to quote the clash here (even though they were kind of marxist ninnies)

sad that some of my favorite bands are so lefty. RATM was especially so

"you have the riiiiiiiight not to be killed"
3.2.2009 3:59pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):

There is no state that officially kills its own residents at a faster rate.


Texas kills its residents for no reason?

Just randomly?
3.2.2009 4:03pm
Porcupine (mail) (www):
No surprise that New Hampshire is the freest state. That's why it's the target of the Free State Project.
3.2.2009 4:06pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
I don't need a study to tell me that New Jersey belongs right at the top of that list. I lived it first hand for years, which is I why I evacuated out West 8 years ago.
3.2.2009 4:13pm
RPT (mail):
"Spitzer:

Actually, taxes are just the means by which the politically powerful employ armed robbery to steal money and property from the rest of us at the point of a gun and give the profits of their violence to themselves, their friends, and their allies."

That explains why KBR/Halliburton/Blackwater, et al did so well on government contracts.
3.2.2009 4:18pm
Allan (mail):
Freedom state manifesto:

I want a state with low taxes.
I want a state with few regulations.
I want a state where all businesses are honest.
I want a state where dishonest businessmen are tarred, feathered, and run out on a rail.
I want a state that bars cruel and unusual punishment.
I want a state with due process.
I want a state with quick, final justice.
I want a state where businesses are free to do what they please.
I want a state where I can get a job at a living wage (even if I have no skills).
I want a state where I can get health care when I change jobs.
I want a state that does not regulate the healthcare I can get.
I want a state that protects my moral and ethical values.
I want a state that does not protect the moral and ethical values of others, if there is a conflict with mine.
I want a state where everyone can have a firearm.
I want a state that prevents firearms in dangerous situations.
I want a state that protects free speech.
I want a state that adopts my definition of free speech to protect.
I want a state that can easily obtain property, without political discordance, for public projects.
I want a state that provides due process for property owners and defines public projects narrowly.
I want a state where I can smoke marijuana and use other, harder drugs.
I want a state that limits all drugs (including tobacco, caffiene, and alcohol) for the good of society.

Wow. I am not sure such a state can exist. I want the "Allan" state. And you probably want the "you" state.
3.2.2009 4:21pm
Kirk:
pintler,
I have always wondered how the CMP gets away with just shipping Garands
Start by noticing that the thing you quoted from the BATF is about individuals, not licensees.
3.2.2009 4:25pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
Angus claims (3:18pm) that "there is no state that kills its citizens at a faster rate" than Texas. According to Wikipedia, Oklahoma does. In the past I have read that several other states (Delaware and Virginia, for two) were ahead of Texas in per capita executions, but perhaps Texas has pulled ahead of them.
3.2.2009 4:39pm
Josh644 (mail):
Allan, it sounds like you despair of ever finding someone who's actually tolerant of other people. Your post looks like a caricature of a deeply conservative, yet conflicted person.

I'm sorry for whatever happened to make you so cynical.
3.2.2009 4:46pm
Snaphappy:
Allan also clearly does not have kids.
3.2.2009 4:48pm
Jason Sorens (www):
One of the study coauthors here. Thanks to the commenters for some nice insights &challenges, &to Jonathan for the plug. I just wanted to mention that in the study we do offer some preliminary data on state-level freedom scores and migration from other states.

We find that increases in both economic &personal freedom attract more net internal migration, on the order of several points of state population over the 2000-2007 period (the latest post-Census period for which data are available). For instance, a change in overall freedom from the level of California to that of Colorado would be expected to increase migration over the next 7 years by 7.0% of 2000 population. (Of course, we measure freedom in 2007, not 2000, but we assume that state laws didn't change very much over that period.) The result on overall freedom is statistically significant at the 99.9% confidence level.

This result obtains when we control for average January temperatures in largest cities (warmer states do attract more people) and for state-level cost of living indicators (which surprisingly don't have a statistically significant effect on migration). However, we haven't yet investigated whether exogenous economic changes could be driving both migration and freedom, generating a spurious correlation. Nevertheless, the evidence so far is pretty suggestive.
3.2.2009 4:52pm
DiverDan (mail):
While I'm generally proud of Texas place in the top 5, I do have at least one problem with the ranking system. I consider myself generally libertarian, but I happen to think that requiring people to have liability insurance (or at least demonstrate financial responsibility) before allowing them to drive is a good thing. Without that requirement, there is simply too much of a "free rider" problem with uninsured motorists. I was fairly surprised to see that the states that don't require liability insurance (there were only 3 of them, thank god) were given plus points for that. Frankly, it's bad enough with the uninsured motorists driving on the Texas roads - at least the cops here will ticket them, &they can have their license revoked until they demonstrate financial responsibility (even if the $20,000 limit might be too little in a bad wreck with a luxury car, or with even moderate personal injury). I hate to think about driving in a state that let uninsured drivers drive freely.
3.2.2009 4:52pm
Jason Sorens (www):
DD - I actually agree with you that liability insurance requirements for drivers are potentially justified. However, the sources we consulted claimed that drivers who do not have liability insurance policies can be required to "self-insure" in those states, which seemed like a reasonable alternative to us. I'm not sure exactly what would be required to prove self-insurance, but perhaps it's worth looking into whether such measures are effective.
3.2.2009 4:56pm
Spartacus (www):
I believe Texas still preserves the right to forgo auto libaility insurance if the driver posts a bond. Neither of these requirements stops some drivers from driving uninsured (or unbonded).
3.2.2009 5:37pm
pintler:

Start by noticing that the thing you quoted from the BATF is about individuals, not licensees.


Thanks, I was aware of that. Nonetheless, CMP acts a little differently that other FFL's I know:

1)The CMP paperwork doesn't involve a 4473 (although it does cover a lot of the same information).

2)The FFL's I know don't seem to think they can, e.g., sell a gun on gunbroker.com and ship it to an out of state non licensee, with any amount of paperwork.

I doubt the CMP is flying under the radar :-), perhaps the enabling legislation that created the CMP has an exception.
3.2.2009 6:07pm
JRL:
Taxes are the price of government, not necessarily civilization. I don't think we can equate the two.
3.2.2009 6:22pm
Sarcastro (www):
Equating civilization with government is like equating a car with wheels!
3.2.2009 6:29pm
Kent G. Budge (www):
I have a hard time taking seriously a ranking that considers a lack of open container laws a laudable sign of libertarian thinking.
3.2.2009 7:02pm
aces:

I note that D.C. is not ranked.


No reason it should be, given that Congress has veto power over any and all laws DC chooses to enact. How free is that?
3.2.2009 8:06pm
Porcupine (mail) (www):

No reason it should be, given that Congress has veto power over any and all laws DC chooses to enact. How free is that?


You're confusing democracy with liberty.
3.2.2009 8:20pm
Randy R. (mail):
"I note that D.C. is not ranked."

Well, it's true we don't have representation in congress, at least not the voting kind, but I'm not sure that falls in the category of 'freedom.' As for other freedoms, it's pretty good. I don't have to carry a gun if I don't want to, I can drink in any number of bars. The police leave us alone (too alone, actually. Try to get any of the them to follow up on a crime). The drag club Ziegfeld's finally reopened, and they have totally naked dancers, so that keeps me happy. (It was closed to make way for that stupid baseball stadium that no one goes to,and they had a tough time finding a place to reopen).

We have preservation laws that keep our neighborhoods quaint and prevent ghastliness from encroaching. Developers and politicians on the take hate them, but everyone else likes them. I only wish they would cover the color people paint their houses. We have a 'pepto-bismol' pink house around the corner. but I suppose you can't legislate good taste....
3.2.2009 8:28pm
Ricardo (mail):
I believe Texas still preserves the right to forgo auto libaility insurance if the driver posts a bond. Neither of these requirements stops some drivers from driving uninsured (or unbonded).

Same with California. You have a choice between purchasing an insurance policy with a maximum liability limit of $35,000 or posting a $35,000 bond with the DMV. That seems reasonable enough since both accomplish the same goal: ensuring that a driver in an accident can pay at least $35,000 in damages.
3.2.2009 8:44pm
David Warner:
"I don't have to carry a gun if I don't want to"

Yeah, this mandatory AK-47 they make me tote around in Ohio is a real drag, and not a totally naked one either.
3.2.2009 8:48pm
Jason Sorens (www):

I have a hard time taking seriously a ranking that considers a lack of open container laws a laudable sign of libertarian thinking.


I guess I don't see the libertarian argument for prohibiting auto passengers, as opposed to drivers, from partaking. And it's a very, very small part of the overall scores.
3.2.2009 9:04pm
MCM (mail):
Oren is incorrect. Violent crime, including homicide, has not uniformly decreased over time. A chart that starts in the early '70s doesn't tell the whole tale, as violent crime rates were by then more than double what they'd been in 1960.

Rates of murder and non-negligent manslaughter more than doubled between 1960 and 1980 (from 5.1 per 100,000 to 10.2), before heading back down. Violent crime rates more than tripled over the same period (from 161 to 597), and continued to rise, reaching 758 in 1991, before heading down, to a level about 3 times 1960's violent crime rate, in 2007. While down from their peaks in the early '90s, rates for aggravated assault, robbery, and forcible rape are all much higher (around 3 times higher) today than they were in 1960.


See the DOJ website: http://bjsdata.ojp.usdoj.gov/ dataonline/Search/Crime/State/RunCrimeStatebyState.cfm


According to the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, U.S. homicide rates at the begining of the 20th century were between 1 and 2 per 100,000, rising to about 5 by 1910, and to close to 10 by the mid '30s. They thereafter dropped to below 5 by 1946, and remained low through the '60s, until the rise noted above.

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ series/sr_20/sr20_006acc.pdf


You totally missed Oren's point. The argument was about whether or not crime has decreased over the past several centuries. All historical data I've seen indicate that Oren is correct. In particular, pre-industrial murder rates were an order of magnitude higher than "high crime" periods now.
3.2.2009 10:59pm
whit:

I have a hard time taking seriously a ranking that considers a lack of open container laws a laudable sign of libertarian thinking.



why? open container laws are a classic example of nannystatism. essentially, they punish the many who want to responsibly engage in a beer or two in a public setting, or in a car (as long as they are not driving), because a select few may abuse those laws.

anytime you punish the many, because of the acts of the irresponsible few, that is about as paradigmatic an example of anti-libertarianism as i can imagine.

i would also argue that public intoxication laws are strongly anti-libertarian. WA state doesn't have them, but that's because of the courts, not the legislature iirc.

public intoxication laws that punish people MERELY for the amount of alcohol in their blood (vs. those laws that punish people for their BEHAVIOR) again are govt. nannystatism telling people "we don't trust you to be drunk in public because some people who are drunk in public do bad things, so we will punish ALL who want to get drunk in public"

and such laws are also very prone to selective prosecution ie contempt of cop actions, which is generally bad.

punish people for harmful (to others) ACTIONs, not their state of mind or what trhey have in their bloodstream.

that's the libertarian way (tm)
3.2.2009 11:40pm
http://volokh.com/?exclude=davidb:

(aside: I have always wondered how the CMP gets away with just shipping Garands)

You've got to love a country with a government that sells Garands to its citizens through the regular mail. Not to mention '03 Springfields, "Pattern 17s," and M1 Carbines. And veritable pallets of ammo!

God Bless America and the CMP, say I. And I'm an atheist.

I believe the qualification procedures for purchasing through the CMP are separate from, and independent of, the standard BATF regime.

Note also that many purchasers from the CMP are holders of a C&R FFL.
3.3.2009 12:54am
David McCourt (mail):
MCM,

You claim that, by showing that Oren's assertions about crime in 20th century America are factually wrong, I somehow "missed Oren's point," which was, according to you, that crime has been coming down for centuries.

But Oren made his "point" in challenging an assertion that crime was lower in the U.S. 100 years ago than it is today. Oren was wrong; crime rates were lower 100 years ago in the U.S. than they are today, and Oren's stately progression of ever lower crime rates is simply incorrect.

See the article Oren got his first chart from: http:// www.historycooperative.org/journals/ahr/111.1/monkkonen.html
Crime hasn't steadily been coming down in the U.S., as he said, and as the sources I cited demonstrate.
3.3.2009 1:59am
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
An easier way to answer Oren is to point out that the chart he links to does not cover "at least 1000 years", as he specifically states: it starts in 1300. And it displays a huge increase in murder rates from 1300 to 1400, so murder rates have been dropping for barely 600, if the chart is accurate. It also has no labels to show what parts of the world are covered: it's quite possible that murder rates in the world as a whole have dropped since 1900 while going up in the U.S. and parts of Europe. In sum, a useless chart, with a highly tendentious description, since 600 years -- or 609, if you want to be picky -- is a long long way from 1000.
3.3.2009 7:18am
David McCourt (mail):
The chart purports to depict rates in Scandanavia and parts of England.

Anyone who has studied Medieval history will know iffy statistics from the period are.
3.3.2009 7:59am
PubliusFL:
David McCourt: The chart purports to depict rates in Scandinavia and parts of England.

Anyone who has studied Medieval history will know iffy statistics from the period are.


Well, I'm pretty sure those Norsemen DID stop going a-viking within the last several centuries. Not sure how significant that is to this discussion, though. :)
3.3.2009 10:12am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
I was a little surprised to see Idaho at #10 from the top. The way that liberals here yammer on and on about how the Republican Party here wants the government to go away--while also insisting that they are a bunch of fascists, intent on keeping all women barefoot and pregnant--you would expect Idaho at the top of the list.

Also, since Lawrence, I'm not sure what difference in "sexual liberty" can still exist from state to state. The only significant difference is that in some states, naked men have sex in the middle of the street (or ejaculate on crowds from windows) while police look on. (Note: pictures not worksafe--maybe not even worksafe if your boss has horns and a tail.) In benighted places like Idaho, you have to go indoors to do things like that.
3.3.2009 11:04am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Randy R. writes, concerning D.C.:

"I don't have to carry a gun if I don't want to"
You don't have to carry a gun anywhere in the U.S. But in D.C., you don't even have that option--and in a place with a murder rate that consistently puts D.C. in the top five cities for murder. In free states like Idaho, where you have the option of carrying a gun, there's also little need for it. My biggest reason for carrying a gun where I live now is wolves and mountain lions. (Yes, really.)
3.3.2009 11:09am
Kirk:
Mr exclude=,

I'd love the country even more if it had handed all those M-14's off to the CMP for sale to the general public, instead of destroying them!
3.3.2009 11:27am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

I'd love the country even more if it had handed all those M-14's off to the CMP for sale to the general public, instead of destroying them!
I would gladly pay $1000 for one, plus the $200 NFA transfer tax. I suspect that I am not the only one. How much of a dent would that make in the deficit? I know at one time the government was actually spending money to have them destroyed.
3.3.2009 12:16pm
Joshua (mail):
Just out of curiosity I went back over how the 10 "most free" and 10 "least free" states voted last November.

The 10 "least free" states account for a total of 170 electoral votes, and all 10 of them went to Barack Obama - no surprise there.

Meanwhile the 10 "most free" states account for a total of 102 EVs. Unlike Obama who swept the "least free" states, John McCain managed to carry just seven of the ten "most free" states, for an EV tally of 76-26 in the "most free" states. In fact the two "most free" states, New Hampshire and Colorado both went to Obama. Here's the state-by-state breakdown:

NH 4 Obama
CO 9 Obama
SD 3 McCain
ID 4 McCain
TX 34 McCain
MO 11 McCain
TN 11 McCain
AZ 10 McCain
VA 13 Obama
ND 3 McCain

I will leave you to draw your own conclusions about what all this portends for the "most free" states, and for the country in general.
3.3.2009 6:37pm
markm (mail):
It looks to me like the progress of civilization steadily reduced the violent crime rate - until governments got the idea that they could act to reduce social ills...
3.3.2009 8:15pm
Kirk:
Clayton,
I would gladly pay $1000 for one, plus the $200 NFA transfer tax.
Well, that $1200 would go a long way to a brand-new M1A manufactured by Springfield Armory right here in the USA, in gun-friendly Illinois. (No tax stamp needed, it's the semiauto-only version. I don't know if any of the original tooling is involved; I heard somewhere that that was all sold to Taiwan.) Before the election, the base version of the M1A could be found for somewhere around $1500; finding used ones was a bit difficult.
I know at one time the government was actually spending money to have them destroyed.
Of course they had to spend money to have them destroyed--what kind of a twisted soul would do such a deed for the love of it?
3.4.2009 3:01am
Oren:


Crime hasn't steadily been coming down in the U.S., as he said, and as the sources I cited demonstrate.

Looking at minor fluctuations is not the same as the aggregate trend. I'm only interested in the long-time averaged crime rate, which is consistently down.
3.4.2009 7:36am
David McCourt (mail):
A doubling (as in murder between 1960 and 1980) or quadrupling (as in all violent crime between 1960 and 1990) hardly constitute "minor fluctuations." And the source you cited -- not the one about Scandinavia in 1400, but the one that is actually relevant to the discussion -- states that violent crime rates in the U.S. were lower before 1850 than than after, so there goes the "consistently down" idea. And the statement you made (that crime rates were higher 100 years ago than today) is simply wrong as a matter of fact. Whatever you may be "interested in," some of the rest of us are interested in basic levels of accuracy.
3.4.2009 8:19am
Oren:
David, anything in a 20-year window is a short-timescale fluctuation.

You know, we got 12 inches of snow yesterday and only one today. Therefore snow levels when down by a factor of 12! Amazing!
3.4.2009 4:10pm
David McCourt (mail):
Oren,

(1) You told Virginia she was wrong when she said that violent crime rates in the U.S. were lower 100 years ago than they are today. Turns out you were wrong. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ series/sr_20/sr20_006acc.pdf


(2) You now claim that "the long-time averaged crime rate" is "consistently down," and anything contrary is due to 20-year long "fluctuations" that don't count.

Now this is odd; we're not talking geology here, but a country with a relatively short history. And these fluctuations are not rounding errors, but increases and decreases of 100, 200, 300 percent, lasting for a generation or more. For the last 50 years violent crime rates have been higher in the U.S. than they were 50 years ago. If you were born in 1960, you have spent your whole life in a more violent country than your parents grew up in, or that your ancestors arrived at, when they got off the boat in 1850.

Turns out you are wrong even on your new, changed, terms.

Looking at the 19th and 20th centuries (American records are unreliable before that), there have been waves and troughs in crime rates: "low" before 1850; "high" between 1850 and 1880; declining between 1880 and 1900; rising between 1990 and the '30s; "low" between the '30s and early '60s; and "high" since. (Murder has recently moved down toward, but not to, 1960 rates -- but that may be more a product of advances in trauma surgery, or increases in prison sentences, rather than peacefulness -- other violent crimes have declined only slightly, and remain 3 or 4 times as high). However you want to average it, there has been no long-term decline in violent crime rates in the U.S. over the last 200 years, as there has been in some European countries.

Your "correction" of Virginia was incorrect. Why not just admit it, rather than try to change the subject or deflect with specious arguments?
3.4.2009 6:01pm

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