Mercatus Report: Hawaii is 47th Least Free State

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Freedom Rankings
  • #47 Overall
  • #46 Economic
  • #43 Personal

Stats Breakdown

Change in overall freedom, 2007–2009:
Change in overall freedom ranking since 2007:
Net domestic migration, 2000–2009 (% of 2000 population):
Governor, 2011:
Neil Abercrombie (D)
Legislature, 2011:
House 8R/43D, Senate 1R/24D


Hawaii has much room to improve. 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, and the marijuana regime is fairly restrictive. Hawaii has the second strictest gambling laws in the country, after Utah: The only type of gaming permitted is social. Educational regulation is excessive, with private schools having to obtain state approval to operate, significant homeschool regulations, and school attendance mandated through age 18. Smoking bans are universal in restaurants, bars, workplaces, and public places without any exceptions. On the other side of the ledger, the asset forfeiture regime is reasonable, limited same-sex domestic partnerships are recognized, and victimless crimes (excluding drug) make up just 3.5 percent of all arrests, while the drug-arrest rate is also much better than average. 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. On health insurance the state is surprisingly laissez-faire, with no community rating and fewer mandates than average.

Policy Recommendations

  1. Eliminate the state approval requirement for private schools.
  2. Enact same-sex partnerships.
  3. Enact strong prohibitions on private-to-private eminent-domain transfers with blight reform.



See the full report at

About the Authors

William Ruger

William P. Ruger is an affiliated scholar with the Mercatus Center and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the Texas State University – San Marcos. His research

Jason Sorens

Jason Sorens is an affiliated scholar with the Mercatus Center and an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Buffalo (SUNY). His research interests include





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