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Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Libertarian Think-tank Ranks Hawaii #47 in Freedom
By News Release @ 1:47 PM :: 7332 Views :: Energy, Environment, National News, Ethics

From Mercatus Center of George Washington University, Freedom in the 50 States Report

Freedom Rankings for Hawaii

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

Stats Breakdown

Change in overall freedom, 2007–2009: 0.086
Change in overall freedom ranking since 2007: +2
Net domestic migration, 2000–2009 (% of 2000 population): –2.7
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 motor vehicle-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.
  • Hawaii Rankings: LINK


    Freedom in the 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom

    Jason Sorens, William Ruger | June 7, 2011

      Download publication pdf DOWNLOAD PUBLICATION PDF

      Executive Summary

      This study comprehensively ranks the American states on their public policies that affect individual freedoms in the economic, social, and personal spheres. It updates, expands, and improves upon our inaugural 2009 Freedom in the 50 States study. For this new edition, we have added more policy variables (such as bans on trans fats and the audio recording of police, Massachusetts’s individual health-insurance mandate, and mandated family leave), improved existing measures (such as those for fiscal policies, workers’ compensation regulations, and asset-forfeiture rules), and developed specific policy prescriptions for each of the 50 states based on our data and a survey of state policy experts. With a consistent time series, we are also able to discover for the first time which states have improved and worsened in regard to freedom recently.

      Purpose of the Index

      This project develops an index of economic and personal freedom in the American states. Specifically, it examines state and local government intervention across a wide range of public policies, from income taxation to gun control, from homeschooling regulation to drug policy.

      Measuring Freedom & Government Intervention

      We explicitly ground our conception of freedom on an individual-rights framework. In our view, individuals should be allowed to dispose of their lives, liberties, and properties as they see fit, as long as they do not infringe on the rights of others.

      Fiscal Policy

      We divide fiscal policy equally into spending and taxation subcategories. These subcategories are highly interdependent; we include them both as redundant measures of the size of government.

      Regulatory Policy

      In this study, regulatory policy includes labor regulation, health-insurance coverage mandates, occupational licensing, eminent domain, the tort system, land-use regulation, and utilities. Regulations that seem to have a mainly paternalistic justification, such as home- and private-school regulations, are placed in the paternalism category.


      In deciding how to weight personal freedoms, we started from the bottom up, beginning with the freedom we saw as least important in terms of saliency, constitutional implications, and the number of people affected, and working up to the most important.

      Ranking & Discussion

      By summing the economic freedom and personal freedom scores, we obtain the overall freedom index, presented in table 5. New Hampshire and South Dakota again find themselves in a virtual tie for first.


      Although we hope we have demonstrated that some states provide freer environments than others, it would be inappropriate to infer that the freest states necessarily enjoy a libertarian streak, while others suffer from a statist mentality.

      State Profiles

      The state profiles (found through the above map) highlight some of the most interesting aspects of each state’s public policies as they affect individual freedom. In preparation for this year’s edition of Freedom in the 50 States, we conducted a survey of free-market policy analysts at think tanks associated with the State Policy Network (SPN).

      Effects of the Federal Stimulus on State & Local Governments

      This section assesses the consequences of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (stimulus) for individual freedom, as affected by state and local policies. While the stimulus was passed immediately after the period covered by this study, we can use findings on the effects of federal grants on state policies to infer what the long-run consequences of the stimulus will be.

      Comparison to Previous Indices of State-Level Economic Freedom

      This project remains the only effort to code both economic and personal freedom in the 50 states. Other studies compare economic freedom or “competitiveness” in the states but do not treat other critical aspects of individual liberty or selectively subsume a few noneconomic issues within economic freedom concepts.

      Construction of Index

      We started by collecting data on state and local public policies affecting individual freedom as defined above. All of the statutory policies are coded as of January 1, 2009, the fiscal data are coded for the fiscal year 2007–2008, the law-enforcement data cover the entire year of 2008, and all data are also back-coded consistently to January 1, 2007 (FY 2006–2007). We omit federal territories.

      Data Appendix

      This data appendix contains a description of each variable used in the study and its location in our spreadsheets on the website, as well as a hierarchical summary of category, issue subcategory, and variable weights.



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