Some states are more free than others

Valley Morning Star (Harlington, TX), March 9, 2009

If you expect state and local government to provide a life for you and your family, you live in the wrong place. If you think government should create a job for you, you’re in the wrong place. You should leave Colorado and go almost anywhere else. Are you someone who values freedom above all else, including health, safety and welfare? If so, congratulations. Colorado is where you should be.

A new study released by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, the first comprehensive ranking of “economic and personal freedom in the American states,” ranks Colorado as the second-best place to live. We’re second by a hair to New Hampshire, which goes by the state motto “Live Free or Die” and is home to the Free State Project, in which some 20,000 people have committed to moving to New Hampshire in order to fight for low taxes and minimal regulation.

It’s hard to imagine a ranking that could be more attractive and meaningful than Colorado’s close second-place finish as the freest state. This country was founded for the sole purpose of protecting individual freedom by limiting taxation and government authority. That means, by measure of this study, residents of Colorado and New Hampshire have more of the American dream than residents of other states.

The study rewards lax gun-control laws, and minimal regulation of gambling and alcohol, smoking, seat belt use, marijuana use, prostitution, intimate same-sex relationships, and other regulations that impede the options of individuals. It also rewards low taxes and government fees, which impede economic freedom. Colorado ranked third-highest in economic freedom.

It’s not the first time Colorado has been ranked highly on a freedom index. While the George Mason study included a variety of personal freedom considerations, other studies have focused on economics. In those studies, Colorado typically does well. The Pacific Research Institute, based in San Francisco, issued a 2008 report in which Colorado came in as one of the 10 best states for economic freedom. That study found the net migration into states that ranked in the top 20 for economic freedom was 27.36 people per 1,000, while it was a dismal 1.17 people per 1,000 for the 20 most economically oppressed states.

“People are moving to the freest states and fleeing the least free states as our market-based migration metric of economic freedom predicts,” said Lawrence J. McQuillan, director of Business and Economic Studies at Pacific Research, after the 2008 study was released.

Of course people flee oppression and seek freedom. They have done so throughout time. Slick politicians can fool the masses, offering government gifts in a cloak of freedom, but ultimately the human soul yearns to be free from undue taxation and control. High net in-migration figures mean a state is doing things right. They mean the state is attractive, and it’s succeeding in maintaining a high quality of life.

Genuine freedom is priceless. It’s something money cannot buy. That means Austin, Texas, can budget $7.2 million for “economic development,” and it can pay businesses to set up shop in town. But it won’t have we have: a freedom rating that’s through the roof.

Freedom is what Colorado and Colorado Springs must market to the rest of the world. We should exploit the findings of these and other freedom studies by shouting them from the rooftops, and we must seek to top New Hampshire on the list. We should be known as the state where one can move with a business or idea and be left alone to thrive. If our level of freedom were known, all the incentives capital in the world couldn’t possibly compete. We would attract the can-do, confident companies and entrepreneurs that value opportunity more than handouts and strings from cities and states.

Freedom isn’t something government gives us. It’s something we may take when government gets out of the way. Relative to most other states, Colorado does well. It’s just too bad New Hampshire already took “Live Free or Die” as its motto.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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