Freedom in Pennsylvania and the 50 states

The Mercatus Center has a new report ranking freedom – both personal and economic – in the 50 states.  Overall, they rank Pennsylvania 20th. See a related story in the Post-Gazette.  In their three categories – Fiscal Policy, Regulatory Policy, and Paternalism/Personal Freedom – Pennsylvania ranks 32nd, 3rd, and 29th.  Here is what they say about Pennsylvania:

At #20, Pennsylvania is freer than all six of its neighboring states. The state is not particularly good on fiscal policy, however, with a high debt ratio and government spending. For a northeastern state, its gun control laws are not awful. By our admittedly crude measures, Pennsylvania actually has the most liberal gambling laws in our dataset, being the only state to legalize statewide all forms of gambling we track: Internet, track, casino, pari-mutuel, charitable, and slots. However, the law does not have a  social gambling exception, and the government presumably tightly regulates each of these forms of gambling. Pennsylvania’s home school laws are draconian, and its private school regulations are not much better. Teacher qualifications and licensing need to be repealed, and standardized testing, notification, and record-keeping requirements reduced. Pennsylvania is one of only three states to have no form of community rating in small group and individual health insurance (Hawaii and Virginia are the other two). However, mandates are rather high, raising the price of health insurance policies at least 46%.  Occupational licensing is quite rare. Smoking bans have not gone far at all.

Of course, Pennsylvania seems to be losing some of its freedom – these rankings don’t include Pennsylvania’s statewide smoking ban, which would certainly drop the rankings, and Governor Rendell has been pushing community rating.  Likewise, many might disagree with Pennsylvania gambling laws as a positive for freedom – given the role of state government in licensing gambling monopolies to the politically connected.

You can get the data they used here and even play around with the rankings here, giving more weight to categories you think are more important.

Another recent study on economic freedom in the states (which does not consider some of the personal freedoms of the Mercatus study) by the Pacific Research Institute ranks Pennsylvania 46th.  The Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of North America ranks Pennsylvania 26th among US states and Canadian provinces.