… and other mysteries from a Koch-funded study that ranks the 50 states according to how "free" they are
-By Andrew Leonard
June 15, 2011- Why do liberals hate freedom?
On June 7, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, a libertarian think tank founded and funded by the Koch brothers, released its latest snapshot of liberty in the U.S.A: "Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom."
As is usually the case in studies of this sort, high-population blue states inevitably end up ranking last. The metrics used by the authors of the study penalize high taxes, regulations and, in general, just about anything that restricts the freedom of individuals and corporations to do as they please, from gun control laws and healthcare mandates to rules requiring seat belts and motorcycle helmets. Befitting libertarian sensibilities, the ideological biases in the Mercatus report do not purely jibe with conservative Republican priorities — states get points for decriminalizing marijuana and allowing same sex marriage or civil unions, for example — but nevertheless, the political gist is hard to ignore. Blue states cluster at the bottom, while red states are at the top.
But here's the brutal truth, apart from the politics: Most Americans are not free. A telling example: In the Mercatus rankings the two states blessed by the highest freedom quotient boast a combined population of a little over 2 million — South Dakota and New Hampshire (the latter of which, admittedly, went for Obama in 2008). The bottom three states were New York, New Jersey and California, which have a combined population of over 65 million.
Sixty-five million Americans in just three states cower under a totalitarian shadow! That's a little distressing!
New York is the least free by a considerable margin. This will surprise few residents of the Empire state. In order from the bottom, New York is followed by New Jersey, California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Unfortunately, these states make up a substantial portion of the total American population.
I feel the authors' pain. Once you have defined "freedom" according to a specific set of criteria it must be just a tad confounding to realize how many Americans live in a state of relative slavery. Note the snark: "Few residents of the Empire state" will be surprised at their lack of freedom. And yet: 19 million Americans still call themselves New Yorkers. Surely, this is a great bafflement.