Freedom in the 50 States

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"Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom" is a 2009 study by William P. Ruger and Jason Sorens that ranks the level of freedom in each US State based on a weighted formula of fiscal policy, regulatory policy, economic freedom, and personal freedom.

Regarding their definition of "freedom," the authors state:

We explicitly 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.
—Page 5

However, they are not anarchists, claiming that "freedom, properly understood, can be threatened as much by the weakness of the state as by overbearing state intervention," for example, "a useful government punishes private aggression vigorously." Nonetheless, such measures are not counted in the study: states are ranked only on "threats to individual liberty originating in the state." (Page 6.)

Issues disputed among libertarians, namely the death penalty and abortion, are not included in the rankings either.

According to the published study, the three freest states are New Hampshire, Colorado, and South Dakota, while the least free are New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, California, and Maryland.

In addition to their published study, the authors published their source data on their website, and link to an interactive analysis tool that allows individuals to easily assign different weights to various categories, in order to generate new rankings.