NC ranks 18th “most free” state in new study
Posted on 15 Jul 2011 by Justin Ruckman
A study by George Mason University’s Mercatus Center attempts to rank the freedom of our country’s 50 states.
“Our approach to measuring freedom in the states is unique in three respects: (1) it includes measures of social and personal freedoms such as peaceable citizens’ rights to educate their own children, to own and carry firearms, and to be free from unrea– sonable search and seizure; (2) it incorporates more than 150 distinct public policies; and (3) it is particularly careful to measure fiscal policies in a way that reflects the true cost of government to the citizen.”
New Hampshire and South Dakota tie for first place, while New York comes in last.
North Carolina is right in the middle of the pack in three of our categories. Overall spending, taxes, and debt are slightly below average, though income taxes and social service spending are too high. The state performs slightly better relative to its peers in terms of personal freedom. Unsurprisingly given its history, cigarette taxes and smoking regulations are minimal. North Carolina has the best asset-forfeiture laws in the land. It could improve them by putting the burden of proof on the government. Gun laws are better than average, including legal open carry. However, the state licenses handgun owners and gun dealers. Although wine taxes are low, beer and spirits taxes are quite onerous (with the latter a full standard deviation higher than average). Marijuana laws are fairly strict despite the decriminalization of low-level marijuana possession (indeed, in 2009, the state also banned Salvia). Motorist freedoms and gambling are highly constrained. Homeschoolers face teacher qualification and annual standardized– testing requirements. Victimless-crime arrests and drug-law enforcement are relatively unexceptional. On regulation, labor laws are excellent, but occupa– tional licensing needs to be rolled back (especially the elimination of licensing for acupuncturists, landscape contractors, cat and dog dealers, and ath– letic trainers). The state liability system is solid and health-insurance coverage mandates are fewer than average. However, eminent-domain reform has not gone far enough to be effective.
Here’s what they recommend North Carolina do to improve:
- Spending on hospitals is very high and could be cut, possibly through privatization; individual income taxes are also high and should be cut.
- Increase school choice by at least allowing intra– district mandatory public-school choice.
- Eliminate handgun licensing.