New York: the least free state?

action figure boot heel

Feeling crushed by the boot heel of the state?

New York is ranked as "by far the least free state" in the country, in a recent report from a "market-oriented" (libertarian) think tank at George Mason University.

From the Mercatus Center's Freedom in the 50 States:

New York is by far the least free state in the Union. It has also experienced the most interstate emigration of any state over the last decade. New York has by far the highest taxes in the country. Property, selective sales, individual income, and corporate-income taxes are particularly high. Spending on public welfare, hospitals, electric power, transit, employee retirement, and "other and unallocable" expenses are well above national norms. Only Alaska has more government debt as a percentage of the economy. On personal freedoms, gun laws are extremely restrictive, but marijuana laws are better than average, while tobacco laws are extremely strict, and cigarette taxes are the highest in the country. Motorists are highly regulated, and homeschool regulations are excessive, but nondrug victimless-crimes arrests are low. New York has the strictest health-insurance community-rating regulations in the country, which have wiped out the individual market. Mandated coverages are worse than average but were actually cut back substantially in 2007-2008. Eminent domain abuse is rampant and unchecked. Perversely (in our view), the state has stricter contribution limits for grassroots PACs than for corporate and union PACs. On the positive side, occupational licensing is somewhat better than average.

The report includes some recommendations on how the Empire State can loosen the bonds of imperial tyranny. Among them: legalize same-sex marriage.

Of course, freedom is a subjective thing to some degree. For example: you can't smoke in restaurants here, which you could say is restricting freedom -- but if you're a non-smoker, that also means you don't have to suffer the consequences of someone else's decision (which smells a bit like freedom). The report's authors describe how they define freedom (Locke is mentioned prominently -- no, not the Lost character).

A different approach might have been to look at another thing economists love to talk about: tradeoffs. What do we get for trading some of these freedoms? Is it enough?

The report's authors talk about how people could use the rankings to make choices about where to move. So, what are the most free states? The top 5: New Hampshire (no surprise), South Dakota, Indiana, Idaho, Missouri. Uh, we're not packing the moving truck just yet.

But, yeah, the taxes in New York -- yow, TOO DAMN high.


does the methodology include "smoking in bars"

because if not, wow, way to be an apologist for the monstrosity that is NYS government

@Ike: Just one small, short example -- not necessarily an entire critique of the state. (And they did mention that "tobacco laws are extremely strict" in New York.)

Like everyone else, I'm all for personal freedom. But I just cannot "buy" the argument that an entire social structure should be based primarily on economic concepts of entrepreneurship and market forces. Libertarianism has always sounded like hooey to me....

So South Dakota, with the strictest anti-abortion laws and the most anti-feminist laws in the country is rated above NY? Sorry, you can take your libertarian ideas back to Idaho or the deep south.

Conversely, it is New York State's strong real estate laws that allow squatters to live in their house 900+ days mortgage-free before the banks finally foreclose on them and kick them out for real. That is if they can prove chain of title in court. Freedom!

Rather than calling New York the "least free state," I would characterize us as the state with the most governmental micro-management.

Selective sales tax? I just returned from the Phoenix area where the sales tax is 9% and there is a 2% tax on FOOD!!!

Libertarians are ridiculous.

Non-smokers have the freedom go to another restaurant and spend there money elsewhere. Privately owned restaurants also have the right to allow or disallow smoking in their establishment. The restaurant that accommodates consumers and/or consumers seem to enjoy more will survive/grow in the end. That's market forces working with freedom if you ask me.

Say Something!

We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.

What's All Over Albany?

All Over Albany is for interested and interesting people in New York's Capital Region. In other words, it's for you. It's kind of like having a smart, savvy friend who can help you find out what's up. Oh, and our friends call us AOA.


Recently on All Over Albany

Thank you!

When we started AOA a decade ago we had no idea what was going to happen. And it turned out better than we could have... (more)

Let's stay in touch

This all feels like the last day of camp or something. And we're going to miss you all so much. But we'd like to stay... (more)

A few things I think about this place

Working on AOA over the past decade has been a life-changing experience for me and it's shaped the way I think about so many things.... (more)

Albany tightened its rules for shoveling snowy sidewalks last winter -- so how'd that work out?

If winter ever gets its act together and drops more snow on us, there will be sidewalks to shovel. And shortly after that, Albany will... (more)

Tea with Jack McEneny

Last week we were fortunate enough to spend a few minutes with Jack McEneny -- former state Assemblyman, unofficial Albany historian, and genuinely nice guy.... (more)

Recent Comments

My three year old son absolutely loving riding the train around Huck Finn's (Hoffman's) Playland this summer.

Thank you!

...has 27 comments, most recently from Ashley

Let's stay in touch

...has 4 comments, most recently from mg

A look inside 2 Judson Street

...has 3 comments, most recently from Diane (Agans) Boyle

Everything changes: Alicia Lea

...has 2 comments, most recently from Chaz Boyark

A few things I think about this place

...has 13 comments, most recently from Katherine