Cato report: Florida ranks 2nd in the U.S. for overall freedom

by | Nov 28, 2023

  • Florida ranks second in the U.S. for overall freedom, according to the Cato Institute’s “Freedom in the 50 States” report, excelling in fiscal policy but ranking lower in personal freedoms.
  • The report highlights Florida’s strong economic freedom and suggests regulatory reforms, including the deregulation of certain occupations and criminal justice reforms to enhance personal freedoms.
  • Cato Institute commends Florida for its educational freedom and attractive fiscal policies, contributing to its popularity beyond just a retirement destination.

Florida’s popularity as a place to live, work and play has gained another ringing endorsement.

Though it slipped one spot from the fifth edition, Florida is No. 2 in the country in the Freedom in the 50 States analysis from the Cato Institute. New Hampshire returned to No. 1, where it had been since inception until briefly being unseated.

Cato’s fiscal policy recommendations in the report say, “Decentralize taxing and spending powers from counties to municipalities and make it easy for municipalities to control their own school districts. More choice of local government should make Floridians freer.”

Regulatory recommendations are, “Reform the occupational licensing system. Candidates for deregulation include farm labor contractors, interior designers, clinical laboratory technologists, and opticians.” And recommendations for personal freedoms are, “Enact the following criminal justice reforms: (a) close the equitable-sharing end run around state forfeiture law, and (b) end driver’s license suspensions for drug convictions unrelated to driving, as most of the country has done.”

In the New Hampshire report, Cato said Florida eclipsed the Granite State fiscally. It went back ahead overall “because it does well in both economic freedom (first) and personal freedom (fourth), something that is also true of number-four state Nevada but is not so much the case with Florida, which does great on economic freedom but is only 22nd on personal freedom.”

Cato said Florida attracts more than seniors with its lack of individual income tax and hot climate. It said, “Others vote with their feet for good weather and the increased opportunity afforded by Florida’s freer society. Florida does especially well on fiscal policy, on which it is No. 1 in the country.”

Cato credited a significant increase in personal freedom since 2014. Regulatory policy middles relative to other states.

The report adds, “Florida’s biggest personal freedom strength is educational freedom. In 2023, it adopted universal education savings accounts, but even before then, it had a plethora of school choice programs.”


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