Virginia think-tank: Idaho 6th in freedom with a bullet, up from No. 17

Thanks to tight fiscal policy, Idaho rose 11 spots since the last report for 2009, making it the “most improved state” in the “Freedom in the 50 States”  study by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

The Gem State ranks high in the study’s 2011 economic freedom scale but poorly on personal freedom, in part because of the state monopoly on liquor sales, says the report.

The freest states, says Mercatus: No. 1 North Dakota, No. 2 South Dakota, No. 3 Tennessee, No. 4 New Hampshire and No. 5. Oklahoma.

The least free? No. 50 New York, No. 49 California, No. 48 New Jersey, No 47 Hawaii and No. 46. Rhode Island.

To climb into the Freest Five, the report makes the following policy recommendations:

  • Cut government spending and employment, especially on general administration, public buildings, and sanitation and sewerage, where the state is above the national average. Use savings to cut the general sales tax.
  • Give eminent domain reform some real teeth by prohibiting all private-to-private transfers, making blight standards building-specific, and placing limits in the constitution.
  • Privatize the state alcohol monopolies and adopt a license system. This reform alone would have raised Idaho eight places on personal freedom.

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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