Mercatus Institute Study Refutes Libertarian Conception of Freedom

The Mercatus Center, a libertarian think tank, produced a study today purporting to show that New York and California are the least-free places in the United States while New Hampshire and South Dakota are the freest:

Reasonable people can disagree as to whether there’s more freedom in Los Angeles or Brooklyn, and there may be good reasons to move from either place to Sioux Falls, but obviously “for the freedom” is not one of those reasons. For the lower taxes? Sure. Because there’s less government regulation? Maybe so. But because there’s more freedom? Clearly not. They say that they “explicitly ground our conception of freedom on an individual rights framework” but all that goes to show is that their understanding of the individual rights framework offers an unsound conception of freedom. These answers are clearly and uncontroversially mistaken. Nick Gillespie, card-carrying libertarian, wrote a good column about this six years ago back when Kansas was the allegedly freest state and New York was still the least-free.


To state the obvious, New York and California contain gigantic, prosperous, freedom-enhancing metropolitan areas to which people flock from all the world ‘round. New Hampshire has a funny parody song. It’s possible (I’d even say likely) that there would be even more freedom in California were the state to have less economic regulation, but that’s a different issue.