Once again, the CATO Institute has come out with its assessment of relative personal and economic freedom among our states. I'm always suspicious of all those surveys that purport to measure "best state to live in," "happiest city," "most family-friendly country," and such, because so often their criteria are not only different from my own, but even polar opposites. But the CATO Institute appears to have done a good job, and they're open about their criteria and how they calculate their rankings. It goes without saying that there are "freedoms" considered here that each of us would be happy to do without. I'm actually rather pleased that Florida ranks #37 in "gambling freedom," although I understand why that's included in the calculations. They even have an appendix for high-profile issues, such as abortion, that make a generalized assessment of freedom difficult.
Here is the definition of freedom that undergirds this ranking:
We ground our conception of freedom on an individual rights framework. In our view, individuals should be allowed to dispose of their lives, liberties, and property as they see fit, so long as they do not infringe on the rights of others. This understanding of freedom follows from the natural-rights liberal thought of John Locke, Immanuel Kant, and Robert Nozick, but it is also consistent with the rights-generating rule-utilitarianism of Herbert Spencer and others.
Here is an image of the overall freedom rankings. I encourage you to go to the website, however, where you can find much more information.
Way to go, New Hampshire and Florida, the gold and silver winners!
The dubious distinction of coming in dead last goes to my birth state of New York, where I lived until I was 15 and came back again for college and several years thereafter, home of my beloved Adirondack Mountains, and birthplace of our children. I still love New York and pray for it daily, but can no longer imagine—as I once dreamed—of returning to live there. However, your mileage may vary. One man's liberty is another man's license, and New York may be just where you'll feel freest in the areas that matter most to you. (If so, please stay there and enjoy it. Don't move to Florida for the weather or the low taxes and then do your best to make us like New York.)