Freedom in the 50 States

To paraphrase Thucydides, happiness hinges on freedom, and freedom hinges on courage.

So how do the 50 states rank in a combination of personal and economic freedoms?

The Cato Institute recently released its sixth edition (2021) of Freedom in the 50 States:

This 2021 edition of Freedom in the 50 States presents a completely revised and updated ranking of the American states on the basis of how their policies promote freedom in the fiscal, regulatory, and personal realms.

This edition again improves on the methodology for weighting and combining state and local policies to create a comprehensive index. Authors William Ruger and Jason Sorens introduce many new policy variables suggested by readers and changes in the broader policy environment (for example, vaping regulations). More than 230 policy variables and their sources remain available to the public for the study.

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In addition to providing the latest rankings as of the beginning of 2020, the 2021 edition provides annual data on economic and personal freedoms and their components back to 2000 (and for some variables, back to 1937 and up through the start of 2021).

Published by the Cato Institute and accompanied by demographic and economic data on each state, Freedom in the 50 States is an essential reference for anyone interested in state policy and in advancing a better understanding of a free society.

As detailed in the sixth edition, the top five freest states are:

1. New Hampshire
2. Florida
3. Nevada
4. Tennessee
5. South Dakota