The Ten States That Restrict Personal Freedom (And Those That Protect It)

5. Missouri
> Fiscal freedom: 0.168 (8th highest)
> Regulatory freedom: 0.043 (24th highest)
> Personal freedom: 0.104 (6th highest)
> Net Migration (2000-2009): +0.7%

Missouri’s personal freedom laws run the gamut between very paternalistic to almost entirely hands-off. The state has extremely harsh marijuana laws. However, “sin taxes” on alcohol and tobacco are some of the lowest in the country. The state still has laws which require union membership for certain jobs, and a “right-to-work” bill stalled in the senate in March. This would have have made it illegal to make union membership a prerequisite for employment, which would improve its score.

4. Idaho
> Fiscal freedom: 0.168 (7th highest)
> Regulatory freedom: 0.087 (13th highest)
> Personal freedom: 0.088 (9th highest)
> Net Migration (2000-2009): +8.6%

Idaho has the second lowest state debt compared to its population size in the country behind only Wyoming. This is due to a the balance its leaders have struck between spending and taxes, both of which are lower than average. It also has a highly limited requirements for mandatory public education. The state only requires nine years of schooling for students and has zero regulations for both private schools and homeschooling, aside from curriculum requirements. The state also has among the most relaxed gun laws in the country. Individual income taxes are relatively high in Idaho, as are taxes on alcohol. Marijuana laws are relatively strict.

3. Indiana
> Fiscal freedom: 0.011 (24th highest)
> Regulatory freedom: 0.165 (highest)
> Personal freedom: 0.169 (4th highest)
> Net Migration (2000-2009): +0.4%

Indiana has, according to the Mercatus report, the highest level of regulatory freedom in the U.S. The state has completely deregulated cable, natural gas, and the telecom industry. Indiana has relatively light campaign finance laws. It also has a mostly hands-off policy on the regulation of private and public schools.

2. South Dakota
> Fiscal freedom: 0.355 (highest)
> Regulatory freedom: 0.114 (7th highest)
> Personal freedom: -0.055 (17th lowest)
> Net Migration (2000-2009): 0.9%

South Dakota has the second-highest level of overall freedom in the country. This is due largely to its economic policies. Taxes are low, with citizens currently paying approximately 7.6 percent of their income in state and local taxes each year. This is the third lowest rate in the nation, according to The Tax Foundation. The national average is 9.8 percent. Spending is also extremely low, as the state must balance its budget each year. The study describes South Dakota’s labor and health insurance laws as “generally very good,” and the state’s liability system as “among the best.” However, marijuana laws are strict, cigarette taxes are high, and the state’s rate of arrests for victimless crimes is significantly above the average. Additionally, while some forms of gambling are legal, social gambling and online gambling are not.

1. New Hampshire
> Fiscal freedom: 0.299 (2nd highest)
> Regulatory freedom: 0.058 (18th highest)
> Personal freedom: 0.084 (11th highest)
> Net Migration (2000-2009): +2.8%

It is more than appropriate that the state whose motto is “Live Free or Die” has more pro-freedom policies than any other. The state is strong in avoiding much of the paternalism that others do not. In 2009, it became the sixth state to approve same-sex marriages. It also has very relaxed gun policies. It is the fiscal policies of New Hampshire that earn it the most points from a libertarian perspective. The state has no taxes on wine and spirits. It is also the only remaining state in the country which has no seat belt law. In 2006, voters passed laws which limited eminent domain, limiting when the government can seize personal property.