NC ranks 18th "most free" state in new study | CLT Blog

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 ranks 19:

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:

  1. Spending on hospitals is very high and could be cut, possibly through privatization; individual income taxes are also high and should be cut.
  2. Increase school choice by at least allowing intra– district mandatory public-school choice.
  3. Eliminate handgun licensing.


  1. Pieroocampo 15 Jul 2011 at 11:19 AM

    Totally missed when GMU became a conservative think tank!

  2. Tom Hall 17 Jul 2011 at 1:31 PM

    I was somewhat startled to see this link from the Observer’s website. Not so much for the content, but from an affiliate. I would have liked to have seen a link to the actual study, because its statement looks like undergraduate work. A look at the grade given would have been interesting as well. The three issues listed are particular to an agenda, and I would hope that the advisor would have pointed that out.

    I was also reminded of a study from the sixties where a group took the Declaration of Independence (paraphrased in modern language)out to the street. They asked for signers to their petition. Almost no one would sign their “Commie” document.

  3. christian.ryan 25 Jul 2011 at 11:21 AM

    Based on much of the language in this “study,” it’s clear that it’s designed to further and support a particular conservative agenda. Ok, fine — but CLT Blog, if it cares any journalistic + blog credibility, would do well to indicate the rather subjective nature of its sources. For example, the phrase “labor laws are excellent” runs pretty counter to the experiences of a lot of North Carolinian workers.

    • Avatar of Justin Ruckman
      Justin Ruckman 25 Jul 2011 at 11:26 AM

      Every source is subjective, I think that’s a given.

      • christian.ryan 25 Jul 2011 at 12:23 PM

        The subjectivity of sources isn’t a “given” — it’s contextual dependent on the agendas of the source, which can often be masked, misrepresented, or unintentionally misread by presenting under the auspices of a larger, possibly neutral institution. In this case, the Mercatus Center is operating under the institutional framework of George Mason University. Readers have no way of knowing that the Mercatus Center is focused on, according to their website, “market-oriented ideas” and “how markets solve problems.” This is a think-tank with a particular market-driven agenda — an agenda that doesn’t necessarily reflect GMU as a whole. I think the first comment indicates that some readers didn’t know that GMU wasn’t directly involved in this study, rather a subsidiary organization that operates within the university’s framework.
        In the interests of disclosure and clarity for readers, perhaps this article’s first line could read “…George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, a market-oriented think tank, attempts to rank…”