Libertarians Name North Dakota ‘Most Free’ State
The Mercatus Institute, a libertarian-oriented — and Koch brothers-affiliated — think tank based out of George Mason University (a public university, for whatever that’s worth), regularly releases its ranking of American states in terms of “Freedom.” Their definition of “freedom” largely adheres to the standard American libertarian conception of “liberty,” which is to say it is oriented almost entirely around private property ownership and low taxation. As a result, America’s freest state this year turns out to be North Dakota.
North Dakota has also been in the news for another reason recently. What was it, again? Oh, right, it passed the most restrictive antiabortion laws in the country. Including a law specifically aimed at shutting down the state’s lone abortion provider. It passed this law knowing it was unconstitutional.
The data Mercatus used, as far as I can tell, are largely from 2011. But these laws wouldn’t do a thing to change’s North Dakota’s ranking, because Mercatus doesn’t take reproductive rights into account at all. In fact, no issues specifically related to women’s rights are taken into account. Same-sex marriage is included, but not housing employment anti-discrimination rules. They do weigh “‘smoker protection’ in employment,” though. (I think they are in favor of laws barring companies from firing smokers. Isn’t that the government interfering with the employer’s Freedoms?) There is also a list ranking the states in terms of friendliness to Bachelor Parties.
[UPDATE: Mercatus opposes “smoker protection laws” and a state’s rank fell if it had them. I apologize for getting that wrong, and assuming the Institute had an inconsistent position. Thank you to Radley Balko, whose work I’ve always sincerely admired, for correcting me and then calling me a hack.
I’d still note that in the report’s scoring system, “Tobacco Freedom,” which is mainly about smoking bans and cigarette taxes, makes up 4.1 percent of a state’s “freedom ranking.” “Marriage Freedom” is 2.1 percent. Freedom from “Asset Forfeiture” — a frequently abused police outgrowth of the drug war — is 0.1 percent, which would seem to indicate that it’s included mainly to say that it was included.]