There are lots of studies which focus on economic freedom and relative business friendliness, but a new report from the Mercatus Center at George Washington University called “Freedom in the 50 States” is relatively unique in that it explores both economic and social freedoms.
It will be of no surprise to regular readers of this space that New Mexico is among the most economically-unfree states in the nation (45th in this report). The good news, at least for social liberals and libertarians is that New Mexico scores 10th best on measures of personal freedom.
By way of summarization, the report’s authors had the following analyses and recommendations for New Mexico policymakers:
New Mexico is the laggard of the Mountain West, but like several other small, rural states, it does well on personal freedom. Spending and taxes are high, fiscal decentralization is low, and a fifth of the state’s workforce is on state or local government payrolls (this ratio did drop consistently from 2004 to 2008). The state does well on personal freedoms because gun control is light, several kinds of gambling are allowed, private-school regulation is light (but homeschool regulation is tougher by national standards), there is RFRA, asset forfeiture has been partly reformed, a medical marijuana law has recently been enacted, and victimless-crimes arrest rates are low. However, the state recently expanded the ages of mandatory school attendance and enacted sweeping smoking bans. In economic regulation, New Mexico could improve most by rolling back health-insurance coverage mandates and occupational licenses. Eminent domain was reformed in 2007.
Roll back occupational licenses, such as those for teacher assistants, ambulance drivers, mobile-home installers, pipelayers, boilermakers, bartenders, and dental assistants.
Repeal health-insurance mandated coverages for services such as lay midwives, acupuncturists, TMJ treatment, bone-mass measurement, home health care, and IVF.
Spending on higher education, police, and corrections is high; these areas should be targeted for reduction with the savings applied toward cutting the gross-receipts tax.