Cato News Notes

November/​December 2018 • Policy Report

The 2018 edition of Freedom in the 50 States was released in August. This is the only ranking analysis of the states to include both personal and economic freedom in a comprehensive overview of public policy choices. This year’s surprise winner was Florida, pushed to the top spot by radical improvements in fiscal policy in recent years. The rankings attracted widespread notice in state and local media, with reporters eager to explain each state’s rankings. But not all the notice was positive. New York continues to place dead last by a wide margin, a fact that drew a rebuke from New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. In his denunciation, Krugman pointed to Florida’s relatively high ranking on infant mortality, typical of southern states. But in his eagerness to denounce a libertarian conception of freedom, Krugman made a basic factual error in making the same allegation against New Hampshire. The “Live Free or Die” state ranks second on overall freedom but also has the second‐​lowest infant mortality rate in the nation. The full report, including customizable interactive rankings, can be found at free​dominthe50s​tates​.org.


Cato’s project to repeal the Jones Act — a harmful bit of protectionist legislation from the 1920s that restricts the use of foreign‐​built ships in American waters — has the special interests on edge and fighting back. In a Washington Times opinion piece also touted by the American Maritime Partnership, a domestic industry group that defends the Jones Act, U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) defended the law as crucial to national security. At the time, Hunter was chair of the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee and thus a key obstacle to any attempts at reform. But in August, Hunter was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of misusing campaign funds for his personal expenses, and was promptly stripped of his committee assignments by House Republican leadership. Advocates of repeal, however, also lost an important ally with the passing of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a passionate longtime foe of the Jones Act.