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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

New Study Shows Personal And Economic Freedoms In West Virginia

June 2011 George Mason University-Mercatus Center Study Ranks WV Low But Improving by Jack Swint

“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 unreasonable 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.” … William P. Ruger and Jason Sorens
Overall US Quick Summary On Findings

The in-depth study scores all 50 states on overall respect for individual freedom and on specific components of freedom: fiscal policy, regulatory policy, and paternalism. The data used is valid as of January 1, 2009 (fis¬cal data through fiscal year 2008), the latest year available consistently across our variables.

“We find that the overall freest states in the country are New Hampshire and South Dakota, which together achieve a virtual tie for first place, while New York is the least free by a considerable margin. On personal freedom alone, Oregon now comes first, with Vermont and Nevada not too far behind, and Maryland brings up the rear. On economic freedom alone, South Dakota easily takes first, and New York is a distant last.

The most improved states since the last edition of our study are Oregon, Nevada, Maine, and Washington, while Wyoming, California, Arizona, and Massachusetts have fallen the furthest. Two of the most intriguing findings of our statistical analysis are that Americans are voting with their feet and moving to states with more economic and personal freedom and that economic freedom correlates with income growth.”

Note: Entire detailed report is linked below

WV Quick Summary On Overall Freedom Rankings

Overall – 36th
Economic – 40th
Personal – 26th

In a nutshell, according to the newest release study, (June 2011) “West Virginia is one of the most improved states in the index. But it has a long way to go, especially on the economic side. Spending is high (especially education spending) as are some particular taxes (though the overall tax burden relative to personal income is about average). In particular, corporate-income and motor-fuel taxes are very high and among the highest in the country. Government employment is more than a standard deviation higher than the national average.

The state is fiscally centralized. Statewide land-use planning is virtually nil. West Virginia could improve its labor laws by repealing the prevailing-wage law, adopting right-to-work laws. However, health-insurance coverage mandates are below average. The state’s liability system is one of the worst in the country (more than two standard deviations below average). Asset-forfeiture laws are badly in need of reform, and eminent-domain reform needs to go fur¬ther. Gun laws are quite liberal, and marijuana laws are fairly moderate.

Beer and spirits taxes are fairly low, but the wine tax is more than twice the average level. Cigarette taxes are low and local smoking bans exist. West Virginia has a helmet law and authorizes sobriety checkpoints. West Virginia imposes teacher qualifications on home schoolers, as well as annual standardized testing and extensive notification requirements."

And, "West Virginia enjoys a low level of victimless-crime arrests and its drug law-enforcement rate is also low.” (Entire study is linked below)

Policy Recommendations For WV

(1) Cut state employment, which is well above the national average.
(2) Reduce the corporate income tax consistent with national norms.
(3) Reform the state’s liability and asset-forfeiture laws.

How State Profiles Were Prepared

“We started by collecting data on state and local public policies affecting individual freedoms. All of the statutory policies are coded as of January 1, 2009, the fiscal data are coded for the fiscal year 2007–2008, the law-enforcement data cover the entire year of 2008, and all data are also back-coded consistently to January 1, 2007. (FY 2006–2007)”

These state profiles highlight some of the most interesting aspects of each state’s public policies as they affect individual freedom. “In preparation for this year’s edition of Freedom in the 50 States, we conducted a survey of free-market policy analysts at think tanks associated with the State Policy Network (SPN).33 We contacted 58 policy analysts in 49 states and received responses from 37 policy analysts in 32 states (63.8 percent)."

The authors go on to say that..."The primary purpose of the survey was to obtain expert information on specific, realistic reform recommendations in each state. Our policy recommendations are therefore based partly on these survey responses and partly on note-worthy scores on policy variables we measure. It is worth noting that our respondents skewed heavily conservative. We asked respondents to grade the issue subcategories in our index on a 0–10 scale of their importance to individual freedom, 10 meaning most important."

The top three subcategories for respondents (mean scores in parentheses) were education (9.15), health-insurance regulation (9.07), and labor regulation (8.57). The bottom three subcategories were same-sex partnerships and other marriage freedoms (4.04), marijuana laws (4.48), and miscellaneous mala prohibita (5.37). Three respondents scored marriage-license restrictions as irrelevant to freedom (0). This study also outlines the effects of the federal stimulus on state and local Governments as well as comparison to previous indices of state-level economic freedom.

In closing…

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University is a 501(c)(3) education, research, and outreach organization that works with scholars, policy experts, and government officials to bridge academic learning and real-world practice.

According to there report, “Our mission is to generate knowledge and understanding of how institutions affect the freedom to prosper and hold organizations accountable for their impact on that freedom. The aim of our work is to enable individuals to live free, prosperous, and peaceful lives.”

The Mercatus Center is located on George Mason University’s Arlington Campus, along with the George Mason University School of Law, the Law and Economics Center, and our sister organization, the Institute for Humane Studies.

Jack Swint-Publisher
WV News 2011
(304) 982-7024

Links To Report

PDF of 2011 Mercatus Center Report

Freedom In The 50 States

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