It's truly the Live Free or Die state.
A study by the Mercatus Institute, a libertarian think tank, found New Hampshire is the freest state in the nation. The study, which was released yesterday, determined the Granite State had the least number of government restrictions on economic and personal freedoms, including gun ownership.
William Ruger, co-author of the study and professor of political science at Texas State University, said they defined freedom according to a universally accepted idea.
"Freedom for us is the ability to do what you want to do with your life and property, as long as you don't directly infringe on the rights of others," he said. "This is a pretty standard definition that Americans for hundreds of years probably would have accepted."
He said New Hampshire fared well, tying with South Dakota for first place out of 50 states. Massachusetts ranked 46th, Maine ranked 33th and Vermont ranked 30th.
"We looked at 150 different policies, everything from taxes and government spending to gun control laws, home-schooling regulations and drug laws," he said. "New Hampshire does really well in the economic realm, but doesn't do as well in the personal."
Local residents weighed in on the study results yesterday. The majority of those asked said they believe New Hampshire does allow for a lot of freedom.
Jamie McCarthy of Derry said he moved from Massachusetts to New Hampshire specifically for a freer way of living.
"Second Amendment rights are supported here and land-use rights, too," he said. "I always find it ironic when conservatives are interested in freedom, but make a big deal out of gay marriage. I don't care what people do in the bedroom; they're free to do what they want here."
Carolyn Garvey of Londonderry said some other states had less restrictive laws than New Hampshire, but she still felt free to live her life as she chose.
"I've only lived in New Hampshire and the communist state of Massachusetts, which is a whole different world," she said. "But we're free to do what we want here. We have gay marriage and you can have your shotgun in the back of your pickup truck."
Lisa Logue of Londonderry disagreed. She said she preferred the environment of her native Massachusetts, which ranked very close to the bottom on the freedom index.
"Up here, things are so different," she said. "I find it frustrating the school district doesn't answer to anyone. And I feel there's a lot of chemicals they're spraying and nothing is disclosed. In Massachusetts, everything is disclosed, whether you like it or not."
Logue said she doesn't feel any more free north of the border, just more at risk.
"The regulations are there to keep you safe," she said. "Here, your privacy is more important than safety. Some people consider that freedom, I guess."
Ruger said critics of the study have pointed out that the states that scored high in freedom, also have lower populations, lower GDP and lower education levels. But in New Hampshire, Ruger said, that is not true.
He said the study isn't biased because it comes from a libertarian group.
"The data speaks for itself," he said. "Here is what freedom is, so what are the policies that impact freedom? We didn't go into the study wanting to see any state at the top or the bottom."
But the data did come back skewed against more traditionally liberal states.
"There's this myth out there that blue states are economically restrictive, but personally free," Ruger said. "Our study shows that's not true. In area after area, these blue states have paternalistic bans. A lot of these states have smoking bans, New York has a trans-fat ban that tells you what you can't eat, some states have gambling laws, cell phone bans, helmet laws and seat belt laws."
He said these areas of policy are restricting people from living as they see fit, even if they're not harming others.
Ruger said New Hampshire could improve on the freedom index by removing some home-schooling regulations and eliminating sobriety checkpoints, which interfere with the lives of citizens.
"Even though New Hampshire is first, it shouldn't forget it can raise the bar," he said. "It could still improve and become even more free."
For more information about the study, visit mercatus.org/freedom-50-states-2011.
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