The Cato Institute, the libertarian think tank, has issued its 2018 Freedom in the 50 States list. Its rankings are based on three main measures of freedom: fiscal, regulatory and personal. If we mentioned that Number 50, the least free, is New York, would you care to hazard a guess who’s Number 1?
Yep, it’s us; whacky old Florida; the place everyone likes to make fun of — and then flee to from places near the bottom of the Cato list, like New York and No. 47, New Jersey.
To those about to dismiss the Cato list as tilted in favor of red-neck states here in the South, we would note that No. 2 is New Hampshire, No. 3 is Indiana, No. 4 is Colorado and No 5 is Nevada. Republican Red Texas is only No. 21 because its high negatives in the personal freedom measures, including its “generally aggressive” criminal justice system, outweigh its positive in the fiscal and regulatory areas.
As expected, Cato gives Florida high marks for not having a state income tax and having state-level tax collections that are a standard deviation and a half lower than the national average. The Florida regulatory climate, according to the Cato analysis is only “middling compared to other states but has gotten better in absolute terms.”
When it comes to personal freedom, Cato said Florida had been falling over the last decade relative to other states for a decade but that is starting to improve. One factor it cites is the Florida Supreme Court decision recognizing same-sex partnerships. Cato also cited Florida’s reform of civil forfeiture, including the requirement of proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” before law enforcement can seize a criminal suspect’s assets.