Fraser Institute’s “Economic Freedom of North America 2018” again paints a relatively bleak picture for economic freedom in Mississippi. Mississippi has been included among the “Least Free” states, those in the bottom quartile, for all but two years going back to 1998.
“The freest economies operate with minimal government interference, relying upon personal choice and markets to answer basic economic questions such as what is to be produced, how it is to be produced, how much is produced, and for whom production is intended. As government imposes restrictions on these choices, there is less economic freedom,” the report writes.
The data is reviewed among three categories: government spending, taxes, and regulations.
What are these categories important? As the size of government expands, the private sector becomes smaller and is slowly pushed out with government choosing to undertake activities beyond the traditional function of a limited government. As our tax burden and regulations grow, restrictions on private choice increase and economic freedom declines. Mississippi continues to have serious issues in both categories.
And we know what the analysis shows: The freer the state, the more prosperous it is. And the more it is growing in terms of in-migration. The least free, the more people are likely to be leaving in searching of better prospects.
Though Mississippi saw a slight improvement this year in overall rankings, the state has been on the wrong path over the life of the report. When it began in 1981, Mississippi was ranked 32nd. There have been some ups-and-downs along the way, including a peak at 24th in 1995. But overall, the numbers aren’t positive. The ranking of 45th that was released last year was the lowest the state has ever been.
Going back to 1981 and for many years after that, Mississippi did much better in the government spending and taxes categories than the numbers show today. That year, Mississippi had a government spending score of 7.01 and a taxes score of 6.75. This year those scores are 4.25 and 5.85, respectively. Regulations have shown the most positive movement, from 2.27 to 5.23, though still lower than all but seven states.
In 1981, Mississippi earned a score of 5.34. This year it’s 5.11. Only two other states, Kentucky and New Mexico, have experienced decreases from 1981.
Mississippi performed poorly compared to all neighboring states, and much of the Southeast. Alabama had an overall score of 6.22 (25th), Arkansas had a score of 6.09 (29th), Louisiana had a score of 6.26 (24th), and Tennessee had a score of 7.43 (4th). Those numbers put Tennessee among the most free, placed Alabama and Louisiana in the second quartile, with Arkansas in the third quartile.
When it comes to promoting policies that restrict freedom, Mississippi is sitting on an island. And, unfortunately, paying the price.
Overall, this data isn’t far off from a recent report from Cato Institute. Their report, “Freedom in the Fifty States,” put Mississippi 40th overall. A five-spot jump from 2014, but still in the bottom 20 percent.
Some positive trends, but still a long way to go.