Angry New Yorker

Tuesday, May 05, 2009
New York in Decline.

Steve Malanga's op-editorial, Shackling New York: Why State is in Decline, in today's New York Post highlights why New York, unless it changes course, is doomed to steady and ultimately perhaps irreversible decline.

Malanga notes "New York state is dead last in the freedom index 'by a wide margin,'" according to a recent study by George Mason University's Mercatus Center. The Mercatus Center study, Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom, is available here [PDF]. Malanga queries, and rightfully so in our opinion, as to the consequences of this lack of freedom and states,
"[t]he best way to judge is to look at the collective condition of the states with the worst rankings. (New Jersey is in 49th place, following California and Rhode Island.)

Together, New York, New Jersey and California face some $65 billion in budget deficits in 2009, amounting to more than two-thirds of the budget gaps faced by all 50 states. These states' stratospheric spending and taxes have stifled economic growth and left them scarily unprepared for the economic downturn."

Further, Malanga reports on the contrast with the study's freest states: New Hampshire, Colorado, South Dakota, Idaho and Texas, which have unemployment rates at or below the national average. (New Hampshire's is 6.2 percent, or two full points below the nation's, according to recent Labor Department statistics.) You decided whether it is also a coincidence that each of these states is a net winner in terms of domestic migration, with far more citizens entering than leaving.

The Mercatus' Summary of the Study states:

This paper presents the first-ever comprehensive ranking of the American states on their public policies affecting individual freedoms in the economic, social, and personal spheres. We develop and justify our ratings and aggregation procedure on explicitly normative criteria, defining individual freedom as the ability to dispose of one’s own life, liberty, and justly acquired property however one sees fit, so long as one does not coercively infringe on another individual’s ability to do the same.

This study improves on prior attempts to score economic freedom for American states in three primary ways: (1) it includes measures of social and personal freedoms such as peaceable citizens’ rights to educate their own children, own and carry firearms, and be free from unreasonable search and seizure; (2) it includes far more variables, even on economic policies alone, than prior studies, and there are no missing data on any variable; and (3) it uses new, more accurate measurements of key variables, particularly state fiscal policies.

We find that the freest states in the country are New Hampshire, Colorado, and South Dakota, which together achieve a virtual tie for first place. All three states feature low taxes and government spending and middling levels of regulation and paternalism. New York is the least free by a considerable margin, followed by New Jersey, Rhode Island, California, and Maryland. On personal freedom alone, Alaska is the clear winner, while Maryland brings up the rear. As for freedom in the different regions of the country, the Mountain and West North Central regions are the freest overall while the Middle Atlantic lags far behind on both economic and personal freedom. Regression analysis demonstrates that states enjoying more economic and personal freedom tend to attract substantially higher rates of internal net migration.

The data used to create the rankings are publicly available online at, and we invite others to adopt their own weights to see how the overall state freedom rankings change.

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