Given the almost pathological need for South Carolinians to do things their own way, one might expect the Palmetto State to be counted among the most “free” in the nation.
Not so, according to a George Mason University study that ranks personal and economic freedom in the 50 states.
South Carolina, home of the Nullification Crisis, the 1860 Ordinance of Secession and Fort Sumter, along with a passel of lesser examples of a state eager to stand alone, sometimes to a fault, ranked 30th overall in overall freedom, behind nearly every other Southeastern state.
Political scientists William Ruger and Jason Sorens looked at state and local government intervention across a wide range of public policies, from income taxation to gun control, from homeschooling regulation to drug policy, accordingto libertarian writer Karen Kwiatkowski.
Rankings were determined in four categories: fiscal policy, regulatory policy, personal freedom and a unique area Ruger and Sorens called “state paternalism.”
In terms of overall freedom, South Carolina is trailed by only Louisisana among Southeastern states.
Here’s how the others in the region fared:
- Tennessee came in at No. 7 overall in terms of overall freedom;
- Virginia, No. 9;
- Georgia, No. 17;
- Alabama, No. 21;
- Florida, No. 22;
- North Carolina, 23;
- Mississippi, 25; and
- Arkansas, 29.
In individual categories, the best South Carolina could muster was 12th in regulatory policy. For fiscal policy, the Palmetto State came in at No. 34. In terms of economic freedom, the state was 22nd, while in the personal freedom index, South Carolina was an astounding 41st.
Overall, the freest states in the country are New Hampshire, Colorado and South Dakota, which together achieve a virtual tie for first place, according to the study. 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.
That South Carolina would be ranked closer to the New York in terms of overall freedom than Tennessee in stunning. It goes to show just how much work there is to be done if this state ever hopes to be truly competitive, instead of just a place for our elected leaders to ennoble themselves at the expense of the citizenry.