Cato ranks Texas 17th for overall freedom, last in personal freedom

A recent study by the Cato Institute measuring how all 50 states compared on a variety of personal and economic freedoms found that Texas, while ranking near the top of the list for overall freedom, was dead last for personal freedom.

Cato, a libertarian policy think tank, ranked states according to how public policies affect individual freedoms. It measured economic, social, and personal implications of a wide range of policies including land use, education, and taxation, among many others.

Texas dropped one spot in 2023 to 17th on the list of states with the highest overall freedom. Because of the state’s high rating at number six for economic freedom, it was able to overcome its low personal freedom score, which put it last of all 50 states.

The state that topped Cato’s list for overall freedom was New Hampshire, followed by Florida and South Dakota. At the bottom were New York, Hawaii, and California.

Cato’s analysis pointed out that Texas’ criminal justice policies are “generally aggressive” and that its “cannabis laws are not only harsh; they are the worst in the country.”

The Texas Legislature made attempts during the 88th regular legislative session to address marijuana policy and its criminal enforcement with House Bill (HB) 218. The bill, which passed on the floor of the Texas House, would have lowered penalties for marijuana possession and expunged previous offenses. The bill was sent to a Senate committee but was never heard.

The Cato analysis also spotlights the state’s restrictions on gambling as well as requiring fingerprints for driver’s licenses. It also called educational freedom in Texas “meager.”

The battle over school choice in Texas has been a point of contention for lawmakers, as just last week an amendment was passed on the House floor that stripped education savings accounts out of the fourth special session's education omnibus bill. That amendment from Rep. John Raney (R-College Station) was supported by a bipartisan coalition of Democrats and Republicans.

Texas state saw an increase in pro-gambling lobbying in the past couple of years, and Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) gave initial indications that he would be open to the idea of legalized casinos in Texas, saying that they “create jobs” and “improve the lifestyles of those communities.” But those hopes were dashed when a constitutional amendment did not pass on the House floor and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said that “there is little to no support for expanding gaming from Senate GOP.”

“Texas talks a good game about freedom … but could stand to deliver a more freedom-oriented policy regime for Texans,” the Cato Institute stated.

Cato also ranked Texas 20th overall in regulatory freedom and provided a policy recommendation for the state to pass a law to allow “direct-to-consumer” vehicle sales, stating that “Texas can more easily take advantage of the new Tesla auto plant in Austin.”

Although Elon Musk made Texas the new home of Tesla manufacturing and increased his efforts to lobby the state government to change its car sales regulations, the state still requires a dealership to serve as a middleman between consumers and new car manufacturers for vehicle purchases.

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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