The Mercatus Center at George Mason University undertook a study of personal liberty in each of the 50 states, based explicitly on “an individual-rights framework.”...And then, here's the study by the Chronicle of Higher Education:
New Hampshire is, by our count, the freest state in the country.... New Hampshire does much better on economic than personal freedom and on fiscal than regulatory policy. Under unified Democratic control in 2007–2008, the state saw a respectable increase in freedom. A smoking ban was enacted, but so were same-sex civil unions. Taxes, spending, and fiscal decentralization remain more than a standard deviation better than average, and government debt actually went down slightly. Gun laws are among the most liberal in the country, but carrying a firearm in a car requires a concealedcarry permit. Effective retail-tax rates on wine and spirits are zero. Marijuana laws are middling; lowlevel possession could be decriminalized like it is in Maine, while low-level cultivation could be made a misdemeanor like it is in both Maine and Vermont. New Hampshire is the only state in the country with no seatbelt law for adults. It lacks a motorcyclehelmet law but does have a bicycle-helmet law and authorizes sobriety checkpoints. State approval is required to open a private school. Homeschool laws are slightly worse than average; standardized testing and recordkeeping requirements are stricter than those in most states. Eminent-domain reforms have gone far. The state’s liability system is one of the best, but campaign-finance regulations are quite strict. The drug law-enforcement rate is low and dropping, while arrests for other victimless crimes are high and dropping. Asset-forfeiture law is definitely subpar, with potential for abuse.
The Chronicle has looked at where each of the 7,000-plus state legislators in America went to college—or whether they went at all. In doing so, we got a glimpse of how the citizens who hold these seats reflect the average American experience.New Hampshire is dead last, with only 53.4% of legislators having earned a bachelor's degree or higher. It's also 48th in the ranking of legislators who have law degrees. At 5.5%, only Delaware and North Dakota have state houses less packed with lawyers.
Do you think it's funny that the level of freedom in the state is inversely correlated to the number of lawyers making the laws? I don't. And I went to law school. Went to law school, went back, and can't seem to leave. I've been in law school for 30 of the last 33 years. And it's easy for me to see why lawyers would produce laws that make us less free.
The layperson's idea of freedom is more free. Or... to be fair... more closely correlated to the definition of freedom used in the George Mason study.