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In the land of the free, you might expect freedoms to be pretty similar state-to-state.
But a new study from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University is raising some eyebrows. It ranked the states based on freedom.
One thing we noticed right away: the study says people in South Carolina have significantly more freedom than people in North Carolina.
According to the study, that's because there is less government oversight and regulation in South Carolina.
The study measured freedom in three categories: fiscal policy (or, how government spends your money), regulations on citizens, and personal freedom.
How did it define personal freedom?
Dr. Michael Bitzer, political scientist at Catawba College, said the study looked at things like motorcycle helmet laws, marijuana criminalization, marriage laws and the like.
The study put North Carolina at #24, giving points for low taxes on cigarettes and fewer gun control regulations. But it took away points for alcohol and marijuana, specifically criticizing the state-run ABC system.
South Carolina ranked #15, scoring points for low taxes and few regulations on private schools. The Palmetto State lost points for tort abuse and social services spending.
So who has the "most freedom"? According to the study, that's North Dakota.
New York came in last place. The study cited highest taxes, most state debt, most restrictions on gun control, and the highest cigarette taxes.
The survey does provide a snapshot in time about government influence in everyday life, in all 50 states – according to one point of view, at least.
Dr. Bitzer noted the "Libertarian" nature of the study, saying:
"This is certainly a study that is attempting to understand and define what personal freedom is. We all have our own sense and understanding of what freedom is but when you start to define it you have to basically start quantifying it and the belief that this libertarian group is taking is the least amount of government intrusion in all areas maximizes personal freedoms and liberties."
The Mercatus Center at George Mason University has received political donations from Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries, who frequently support Libertarian Party causes. David Koch was the Libertarian Party's Vice-Presidential candidate in 1980.