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Blue and Gray – Then and Now

The Blue and Gray comes from the colors of the uniforms worn by the union army (blue) and the confederate army (gray) during the war between the states. The confederate states were all in the southeast quadrant of the US, and the union states were the northern states and Oregon and California. The confederate states had less freedom for its inhabitants which included slaves. That was then.

Now, William P. Ruger and Jason Sorens have published a paper, Freedom in the 50 States. This document just about flips the map on the states with less freedom(gray) and states with more freedom(blue). The following is a summary of their findings.

We develop and justify our ratings and aggregation procedure on explicitly normative criteria, defining individual freedom as the ability to dispose of one’s own life, liberty, and justly acquired property however one sees fit, so long as one does not coercively infringe on another individual’s ability to do the same. This study improves on prior attempts to score economic freedom for American states in three primary ways: (1) it includes measures of social and personal freedoms such as peaceable citizens’ rights to educate their own children, own and carry firearms, and be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

We find that the freest states in the country are New Hampshire, Colorado, and South Dakota, which together achieve a virtual tie for first place. All three states feature low taxes and government spending and middling levels of regulation and paternalism. New York is the least free by a considerable margin, followed by New Jersey, Rhode Island, California, and Maryland. On personal freedom alone, Alaska is the clear winner, while Maryland brings up the rear. As for freedom in the different regions of the country, the Mountain and West North Central regions are the freest overall while the Middle Atlantic lags far behind on both economic and personal freedom. Regression analysis demonstrates that states enjoying more economic and personal freedom tend to attract substantially higher rates of internal net migration.

The authors of this study have put the data online, and one is able to adopt their own weights to see how the overall freedom rankings change. LINK

Pia Varma is a candidate for the US House seat in Pennsylvania’s 1st district, and she has some excellent thoughts on the subject of freedom.

Freedom! That word once started revolutions. There was a time when people pretty much understood that freedom was so precious that nothing and no one should have the power to take it away. America was founded on that basis. No matter your race, gender, religion or social class, as a human being no one could take your freedom without your consent. But individual freedom cannot exist without individual responsibility. That means you own the consequences of your choices: profit and loss, success and failure, happiness and sadness. But that was then, this is now.

Today, millions of Americans have been led to believe that they can have the good without the bad. They never bothered to think about the costs though. Like eating in a fine restaurant, we never see the bill until the meal is over. Even better if someone else is paying. So we vote for nice sounding policies and the people who promote them all because the costs cannot be seen or they are supposedly paid by someone else. But any immediate benefit we get will fade and at the next election cycle we are back at that table begging like Oliver Twist, Please Sir, May I have some more.

Every day, more and more Americans are lulled into relying on the government to solve their problems. They never realize that the cost of doing so is their freedom. No matter how bad the government makes their lives, they still trust that someday it will get better. The sad part is, they genuinely believe that they are safer under that false blanket of protection.

In a free market businesses are forced to provide product and services demanded by the consumer. The consumer controls the quality, quantity and costs. If he does not like the services at one company, he simply fires them and goes to a competitor. But when the industry is in the hands of a monopoly, as is the case with education, the consumer, in this case parents and children, is forced to accept what is offered. Sure you can opt for private school but this option is only available to a select few.

A private business competing in an open market has to listen to its customers or risk closing its doors. Public schools don’t have this problem. Incentives matter.

Government has a duty to prevent those things which can be prevented, but we as individuals have a duty to ensure that we do not become the victims of our own security. More government, more agencies, more money has not, cannot and will not make life perfect.

The two maps below are what the US looked like in 1861, and what, according to the report, the US State Overall Freedom Ranking reveals today. I colored the 17 most free states blue, the 16 least free states gray, and the 17 states in the middle light green.

Cross-posted at The Minority Report

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