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Freedom from regulation in the 50 U.S. states

Kesten C. Green
26 September 2016

Cato’s 2016 (4th edition) of their Freedom in the 50 States is now available. The downloadable report and the freedominthe50states.org website ranks the states by overall freedom. The authors’ freedom index is composed of nearly 40% regulatory policy variables, with the remaining 60% split roughly evenly between fiscal policy variables and personal freedom variables. The top five states for freedom are, from one-to-five, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Indiana, South Dakota, and Alaska.

The site also provides rankings based on various aspects of freedom including, for example, regulatory, personal, and occupational. Interestingly, ranking by the authors’ “regulatory” freedom gives quite a different result from ranking by the aggregate measure described in the previous paragraph. The top states for “regulatory” freedom are: 1.Idaho, 2.Indiana, 3.Wyoming, 4. Kansas, and 5. Iowa.

In case, like me, you would like to see rankings based on a broad definition of regulation (including, e.g., subsidies, and gun regulations), the site allows you to select which variables you would like to include in your own customised freedom index. My “Regulation Widely Defined” index turns up as the top-5 states for freedom from regulation: 1. Oklahoma, 2.Idaho, 3.Wyoming, 4.South Dakota, and 5.Alaska. The least free are: 46.Maryland, 47.New Jersey, 48.Hawaii, 49.California, and 50.New York.

If the software on the site isn’t flexible enough for you, the authors’ helpfully provide a downloadable spreadsheet with all the data and calculations. They, William Ruger and Jason Sorens, deserve congratulations for their user-friendly site, useful analysis, and full disclosure of their methods and data.

You can find a link to the Freedom in the 50 States site under the Cato entry on the “Institutions that provide evidence” page of this site, from the left-menu bar, or here.

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