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Report: Maryland one of the least free states

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(The Center Square) – Libertarian Washington, D.C.-based think tank the Cato Institute hosted a forum Thursday on the comprehensive biennial Freedom in the States report ranking Maryland 45th on its freedom index.

The study analyzes states’ overall freedom according to each state’s policies on more than 230 state and local issues. States’ overall freedom score is a composite of their score in two subcategories: Personal freedom and economic freedom.

The study’s authors, President of the American Institute for Economic Research William Rutger and Senior Research Faculty Jason Sorens, tout the breadth and depth of the report as a unique assessment of freedom.

“The freedom index… is, we think — and I think it bears out given the extent of it — the most comprehensive index of freedom out there. We look at the whole range of different types of freedom,” Rutger told the forum moderator.

From the authors’ perspective, the less paternalistic a state is, the freer its people are. States were evaluated by their policies in 12 areas: Incarceration and arrests for victimless crimes, tobacco freedom, gambling freedom, gun rights, educational freedom, marriage freedom, marijuana freedom, alcohol freedom, asset forfeiture, other mala prohibita(acts defined as criminal in statute, but which are not considered harms in common law) and miscellaneous civil liberties, travel freedom and campaign finance freedom.

“Freedom is the ability to use your life, liberty and property as you see fit, consistent with the equal rights of others. That’s kind of a general American sense of what it means to be free,” Rutger said.

Maryland performed better in personal freedoms than economic freedoms, ranking 27th among the states. The study cited reform efforts in Maryland’s criminal justice system and improvements in its incarceration and drug enforcement rates, asset forfeiture policies, marijuana freedom and gambling freedom as factors positively affecting the state’s score.

However, its tobacco freedom was low, its firearms freedom “sharply limited” — though that has changed some recently — and its educational freedom falls “among the lowest in the country.”

Economic freedom the authors also broke down into two categories: Fiscal and regulatory freedom. What really caused the state’s score to plummet was its regulatory freedom. For that, Maryland ranked 47th. The state’s land-use and energy, cable and telecom and miscellaneous regulatory policies were the least free. With zoning restrictions “extensive and growing,” eminent domain abuse “mostly unchecked,” rent control alive and well, continued raising of the minimum wage and telecommunications “unreformed” — among many other factors — Maryland would have to make some substantial policy changes to climb out of the bottom ten states.

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