Minnesota Ranks 34th in Overall Freedom Among the States

Minnesotans enjoy less freedom overall than residents of two-thirds of the other states, according to a recent study by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.  Minnesota is current ranked 34th in this new, national report, "Freedom in the 50 States." The report ranks and compares economic and personal freedom across the U.S. 

The freest states are New Hampshire, South Dakota, Indiana, Idaho and Missouri, while the least free states are New York, New Jersey, California, Hawaii and Massachusetts, according to the Mercatus Center study.  Minnesota placed 35th in the last rankings released in 2009.

The personal freedom index takes into account factors such as “peaceable citizens' rights to educate their own children, to own and carry firearms, and to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures."  The economic freedom index combines fiscal and regulatory factors such as taxes, debt level, labor regulation, health-insurance coverage mandates, occupational licensing, eminent domain, and the percentage of state and local government employment in total state employment.

Among other details, the report singles out Minnesota’s higher than average taxes and social services spending, blue laws for alcohol, lack of helmet laws, unusually high insurance coverage mandates and occupational licensing requirements, while noting the state minimum wage was allowed to drop to the federal standard.

The policy recommendations for Minnesota suggest rolling back the requirement for unnecessary licenses such as sanitarians, title searches, audiologists, occupational therapist assistants, private detectives, and embalmers.  It also recommends eliminating health insurance  mandates, such as the current requirements for speech and hearing specialists, osteopathy, dieticians, occupational therapy, reconstructive surgery, infertility services, and port wine stain removal.

While a useful yardstick to compare and contrast the economic and social environment between states, the authors advise against reading too much into the findings.

“Although we hope we have demonstrated that some states provide freer environments than others, it would be inappropriate to infer that the freest states necessarily enjoy a libertarian streak, while others suffer from a statist mentality,” the authors state.

The freedom index also identifies two noteworthy statistical trends in finding that Americans are gravitating to states with more economic and personal freedom and that growth in personal income corresponds to economic freedom.

After controlling for things such as climate and cost of living, there appears to be a positive correlation between lower freedom rankings and net migration rates. Minnesota, which is less free overall, had a -0.9% migration rate in 2009 compared to 2000.

The migration findings suggest people do consider freedom in their decision-making, and policymakers should too if they want win over taxpayers.

Minnesota Rankings (in relation to other states)

2011 Study

2009 Study

Fiscal Policy Ranking

36

35

Regulatory Policy Ranking

38

30

Economic Freedom Ranking

38

31

Personal Freedom Ranking

27

31

Overall Freedom Ranking

34

35



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