Analysis: Oklahoma ranked twelfth in freedom among the 50 states

A new analysis of freedom in the 50 American states gives Oklahoma a positive ranking, assessing the state as the twelfth freest state. The Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Virginia released the analysis this week. 

William P. Ruger and Jason Sorens, authors of the study, summarized this analysis this way:

“Oklahoma is a solid performer and among the most economically free states. Indeed, it is the third-best state in terms of fiscal freedom, with low spending, taxation, and debt. However, like many Southern states, it has much room for improvement in terms of personal freedom. 

“One fiscal oddity is that the government has a bloated payroll that represents 15.2 percent of the private workforce, nearly a standard deviation higher than the national average. 

“In terms of personal freedom, gun control is fairly limited and alcohol taxes and restrictions are decent. However, the state’s marijuana sentencing is unreformed. Indeed, Oklahoma’s lifetime maximum possible sentence for a single marijuana offense is draconian. Asset-forfeiture rules are in need of reform. Several types of gambling are illegal (not casinos), though social gambling is technically prohibited. 

“Private- and homeschools are virtually unregulated, though kindergarten attendance is required by law. The state has limited smoking bans with a number of exceptions. Arrests for victimless crimes and the state’s drug law-enforcement rate are at or below national averages.

“Land-use planning is minimal. Labor and health-insurance laws are generally market friendly. Eminent-domain reform needs much more work. Campaign-finance regulations are quite strict. Improvements have been seen in the state’s liability-system rating.”

The authors made three policy recommendations: 

First, “Cut back the size of the government workforce until it is in line with the national average.”

Second, “Protect individual property rights better by reforming eminent-domain and asset-forfeiture laws.” 

Third, “Provide tax credits for donations to K–12 scholarship funds.

The latter recommendation was actually enacted this year, but will not take effect until late this summer. 

The pair of scholars said Oklahoma had improved three places in the ranking since 2007. 

In the Mercatus analysis, the Sooner State is eighth place in economic freedom, and twenty-ninth in personal freedom. The blending of all factors in the study gave the state its overall rank of twelfth.