RALEIGH – There are all sorts of different facets to freedom that make up an overall sense of liberty. From gun rights, to social freedoms, to economic regulations, and so on. While some states may have less restrictive laws in one area, they could make up for it in others, making it hard to judge which are the most free overall and for specific liberties.
The Cato Institute has attempted give more insight into that very conundrum with its effort to tank the 50 states by personal and economic freedoms.
It is interesting to look at the Old North State from the multiple different angles of freedom. Some of the results are surprising.
Here is the historical ranking on gun freedoms in North Carolina:
You would think our state may enjoy a strong ranking here: a rural state with a strong hunting heritage, not to mention a long held disdain for central authority, and Republican legislative majorities for the better part of the last decade.
But North Carolina is not even in the top half on the freedom index. In fact, our ranking has been trending down since Republican majorities have been in place.
What gives? While constitutional concealed carry was floated in the legislature a few years ago, it got buried in committee – by Republicans. This year a total of six constitutional amendment referenda will be put before voters on election day, and not one of them addresses gun rights specifically.
Such a low ranking makes one realize how much heavy lifting is left to be done until North Carolina truly honors its heritage as First in Freedom.
Now overall, the state clocks in at a decent #18 on the ranking of the 50 states. The Republican takeover on Jones Street derailed a decade long downtrend in freedom under Democratic leadership, going from #13 to #21. While Republican reforms initially bumped us back up to #15, the overall ranking has actually been falling again since 2014.
Some of the categories North Carolina ranked highest in are marriage freedom (contracts), educational freedom, labor laws, and asset forfeiture policies. We are number one in cable/telecommunications freedom (someone has a good lobbyist).
The educational freedom ranking has climbed drastically since Republicans took power, and the freedom to enter into the marriage or civil union contracts is literally ranked number one.
On the other hand, our state has historically ranked as one of the best in the asset forfeiture policy category – a practice that makes for a major sore point for the liberty-minded – but has been on a steepening slope down the freedom scale since Republicans took over.
Another sore point for the First in Freedom state is how surprisingly regulated we are as citizens and businesses. And it’s getting worse. Despite Republican majorities passing nearly half a dozen ‘Regulatory Reform’ packages since winning majorities in 2010, the ranking here has actually been steadily sinking all the while.
In the ‘Miscellaneous Regulatory Freedom category, North Carolina ranked DEAD LAST at #50. This category is described as including, “variables for regulations governing hospitals, auto insurance, and homeowners’ insurance.”
The antiquated and anti-liberty Certificate of Need laws that reduce healthcare access and raise prices as part of a state enforced monopoly for regime to benefit hospitals probably factors into this category in a big way. There is a currently a lawsuit challenging this set of laws.
We are in the bottom third as far as freedom from occupational licensing regulations and bottom tenth for victimless crime laws.
As we said at the outset, there are many different facets to judging freedom. We do well in some, and not so well in others. The trends over the last 5-8 years lead us to the conclusion that Republican majorities, while definitely deserving of praise on some policy fronts, also have some explaining to do on several others.
After all, Republicans were elected to majorities in the legislature with expectations of climbing all sorts of freedom rankings. This makes it look like a sprint toward that end in the first few years, that has now turned into a lazy walk, and in many areas losing ground.
As such, when lawmakers campaign over the next few months they need to be asked what they are going to do to raise our freedom ranking, and why they are comfortable residing over a last place ranking in ANY freedom category on this list.