New Mexico is #1 on something GOOD according to Cato Institute Index

According to the libertarian Cato Institute’s new “Freedom In the 50 States” report which ranks the states by “policies that shape personal and economic freedom,” New Mexico is at the “top of the heap” when it comes to personal freedom. This is a small bit of welcome news for beleaguered New Mexicans who are used to seeing their state at the bottom of most lists.

The report defines personal freedom to include, “gun policy, alcohol policy, marijuana-related policy, travel policy, gaming policy, mala prohibita and miscellaneous civil liberties, education policy, civil asset forfeiture, law enforcement statistics, marriage policy, campaign finance policy, and tobacco policy. That is good news and the Rio Grande Foundation has worked actively and successfully in the area of civil asset forfeiture policy.”

Unfortunately, while New Mexico does a good job on personal freedom, its fiscal and regulatory policies rank 42nd and 38th respectively. That poor showing on “bread and butter” economic issues goes a long way towards explaining the State’s economic and budget woes. Interestingly, it would appear that Americans value economic freedom (fiscal and regulatory) more than personal freedom as neighboring Texas scores a poor 49th in “personal freedom,” but scores well in economic freedom. Notably, Texas is seeing massive population and economic gains while New Mexico is losing population and hemorrhaging red ink.

Click here to go to the index itself and check out the map below:

The various economic policy categories are outlined and defined below:

The fiscal policy dimension consists of categories for state and local tax revenues, government employment, government spending, government debt, and fiscal decentralization. Each of these categories consists of a single variable. The variables are measured for each fiscal year: FY 2010, the latest year for which data are available, encompasses the period between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010. Taxation and debt are measured for each fiscal year.

The regulatory policy dimension includes categories for the liability system, real property rights (eminent domain and land-use regulation), health insurance freedom, labor market freedom, occupational freedom, cable and telecom, and miscellaneous regulations that do not fit under another category. Regulations that seem to have a mainly paternalistic justification, such as homeschool and private school regulations, are placed under the personal freedom dimension.