Economic Freedom of North America 2017

The Fraser Institute–who publishes the oft-cited Economic Freedom of the World report–published their latest Economic Freedom of North America report toward the end of December. This report looks at states within Canada, the United States, and Mexico. Once again, there is a link between economic freedom and economic well-being.

I’m happy to report that Texas is tied with Florida for the 2nd most economically free state in the United States and tied for 3rd (along with 10 other U.S. states, including Florida, South Dakota, Nevada, and Georgia) at the national level. Yet, the Cato Institute’s Freedom in the 50 States report finds that we could do better when it comes to personal freedom:

Personal freedom is relatively low in Texas, but it should rise with the Obergefell decision, setting aside Texas’s super-DOMA…Criminal justice policies are generally aggressive—though Texas has emerged as a leading voice in the national reform movement. Even controlling for crime rates, the incarceration rate is far above the national average and has not improved since 2000. Drug arrest rates have fallen over time but are still above average for the user base. Nondrug victimless crime arrest rates have also fallen over time and are now below the national average. Asset forfeiture is mostly unreformed, and law enforcement frequently participates in equitable sharing. Cannabis laws are harsh. A single offense not involving minors can carry a life sentence. Even cultivating a tiny amount carries a mandatory minimum of six months. In 2013–14, the state banned the mostly harmless psychedelic Salvia divinorum. Travel freedom is low. The state takes a fingerprint for driver’s licenses and does not regulate automated license plate readers at all. It has little legal gambling. Private school choice programs are nonexistent, but at least private schools and homeschools are basically unregulated. Tobacco freedom is moderate, as smoking bans have not gone as far as in other states. Gun rights are moderately above average and should improve a bit in the next edition with the new open-carry law. Alcohol freedom is above average, with taxes low. Texas has virtually no campaign finance regulations.

Both are useful indices.