BY MALIA HILL – George Mason University has released its 50-state Freedom Index, which grades the individual states on individual and economic liberty (albeit with a decided political view of individual liberty that some might take issue with, especially as it regards legalization of drugs and same-sex partnerships).
Aside from those controversial matters, however, the Freedom Index includes a strong overview of market freedoms and threats to liberty in each state that takes into account everything from taxation and red tape for businesses to homeschool regulations. So . . . how did Hawaii measure up?
As anyone who has noticed our state government’s near-passion for red tape and regulation might have guessed . . . not well.
Hawaii came it at number 47 overall (and number 46 in economic freedom). If it’s any consolation, that’s a +2 change from the 2007 ranking. So now, we’re only the fourth least free state in the country. (For the curious, this means we beat out California, New Jersey, and New York, but were edged out by Massachusetts.) Some highlights from the Mercatus analysis of Hawaii:
On the spending side, the state is highly fiscally centralized due to its unique statewide school system, but despite being freed from the burden of paying for schools, local governments have to raise over 80 percent of their funds through own-source taxes, the highest figure in the country. Sales, individual income, and motorvehicle-license taxes are high. Gun laws are among the worst in the country . . . . Hawaii has the second strictest gambling laws in the country, after Utah. . . . Educational regulation is excessive, with private schools having to obtain state approval to operate, significant homeschool regulations, and school attendance mandated through age 18. . . . On labor law the state government is interventionist, with a prevailing-wage law, strict workers’ compensation requirements, mandatory short-term disability insurance, and a state occupational safety and health agency. Hawaii has not reformed eminent domain, and the state liability system is far below average. . . .
Among the reforms that the report recommends Hawaii adopt to advance freedom in the state are eliminating the state’s restrictions on private schools (which raises interesting questions about how this might affect our seemingly unending battles over Hawaii’s public schools–and what parents might prefer) and reforming eminent domain to protect against private-to-private property transfers as part of blight reform. (This is a widespread response to the controversial Supreme Court decision that gave local governments shockingly broad eminent domain powers–including the power to seize private property and award it to another private entity as part of a plan to “economically revitalize” the community.)