Among conservative and libertarian circles, one of the most frequent debates concerns which state in the union has the most freedom. Many conservatives instinctively argue that Texas is the ultimate ‘cowboy state’ and that it therefore has the most freedom, largely due to its wild west heritage and Texans’ small-government ideology. Florida is sometimes mentioned as a free state due to its absence of an income tax, its cultural freedom and laid-back attitude, and its rockstar governor. Alaska has no income tax or sales tax, hardly any gun laws, and lots of open land. Recently, South Dakota’s governor became an overnight superstar in the hearts of pro-liberty Americans when she refused to ‘shut down’ her state while every other governor caved to the lockdown mob. Wyoming’s claim is that it has no income tax, no restrictions on firearms, and the fewest Democrats and most Republicans. Oklahoma was the only state without a single county that voted for Clinton in 2016. So, which state do I consider to be the freest – and why?

Firstly, we must acknowledge that this is largely subjective because each person sees ‘freedom’ differently and prioritizes various liberties over others. For me, I grant the most weight to gun rights, overall tax burden, educational freedom, economic freedom, traffic laws, government accountability/accessibility, law enforcement, criminal justice, and state budget. Some people do not care about guns or taxes much, and some people care only about cannabis being legal. To them, this article would not make much sense. 

The CATO Institute and the ‘Freedom In The 50 States’ project researched 230 policy areas and used a tremendous amount of data to compile a list of all 50 states in order of overall freedom. New Hampshire ranks #1.

Gun rights

After repealing the requirement for a concealed carry permit in 2017, New Hampshire essentially jumped to the top position among all 50 states in terms of gun rights. With no permits, restrictions on firearms, ammunition regulation, or magazine capacity limits, the state really has no burdens on firearms. Other than carrying in a courthouse, there is not really anything that a gun owner is restricted from doing, according to state law in New Hampshire. While 16 other states now have ‘constitutional carry’ laws, none seem to be as simple and broad as New Hampshire’s. For example, Oklahoma only allows permitless concealed carry for residents of the state. New Hampshire does not seem to have such a restriction. Vermont was the first state to allow for permitless carrying of a concealed firearm, and its people have a long tradition of freedom and gun rights. However, they are trending in the wrong direction. Last year, the state passed a large package of gun control bills, restricting private sales, bump stocks, magazine capacities, and more. It seems inevitable that Vermont’s anti-freedom ideologues will soon require a permit for concealed carry. On firearms, no state in the union has more freedom than New Hampshire. 

By comparison, states like New York, New Jersey, California, and other Democrat-run states are worlds apart on gun rights. In NYC, you cannot own a firearm unless you are a cop or a wealthy person who can afford to bribe the NYPD commissioner for a permit. New Jersey will also imprison anyone other than a cop with a gun – even an airsoft pistol. And California also passes more anti-gun laws each day, it seems.

How could New Hampshire improve? 

All I could think of is allowing us to carry in courthouses. In a perfect world, the NH legislature would also nullify federal restrictions on firearms. 

Tax burden

As the least-known state among the seven no-income-tax states in the union, New Hampshire has a very low overall tax burden. The only other state with no general income tax AND no general sales tax is Alaska. While many New Hampshire homeowners complain that their property tax bill offsets the other taxes, the state’s property tax is actually much lower than many other states. Totaling under 7% of total income, the overall effective tax burden for Granite Staters is the fifth-lowest in the union. The government’s annual budget of $6 billion is the 4th lowest in the union and the 10th lowest per capita. 

Compare this tax burden to Democratic states like New York, California, Oregon, and Minnesota, who steal 6-8% of your money before you even see your paycheck! The total tax burden in New York was 45% of my income in 2017.

How could New Hampshire improve? 

Decrease the property taxes and the gas tax, and eliminate the 5% taxes on interest and dividends. And abolish the ‘rooms, meals, and wheels’ tax. Actually, just eliminate the whole darn $0.24/gallon gas tax, while you’re at it. 

*UPDATE: In 2021, the legislature passed a law eliminating the tax on interest & dividends and cut various other business taxes.

Government accountability & accessibility 

New Hampshire’s 400-member House is the largest of any state, and each member is paid only $100/year. Allowing each Representative to represent only around 3,300 members of their community keeps the state’s politicians extremely accountable, responsive, and humble. And the meager salary keeps them very humble. The state also has 24 Senators, who earn the same low salary. Additionally, every elected official in New Hampshire, from Representatives and Senators to mayors and alderman and even the Governor must face the voters every two years. Additionally, every single bill that is proposed must have a public hearing in the centrally located and super accessible capital building in Concord. During the House and Senate hearings, anyone who wishes to speak on the record for or against a bill is given the opportunity to do so. I personally spent seven minutes bashing a socialist tax bill in a House committee in 2018, and it was a blast. The bill was successfully killed by the state’s dedicated liberty activists. 

Compare this state government to New York, California, Texas, and most other states. Most Americans cannot even get to their state capital without traveling long distances. If you live in New York, there’s a nearly 90% chance that you live over 2 hours from the capital. Even if you lived in Albany, you wouldn’t be able to stroll right into the State House and yell at your legislators as you could in New Hampshire. Additionally, State legislators throughout the union make a lot more money than the average citizen and do not consider themselves to be mortals like you and me. They are also the only people who technically give themselves raises.

How could New Hampshire improve? 

Considering that it is a government, the New Hampshire legislature is fantastic. My biggest recommendation would be to adopt ranked-choice or range voting

Home school

Unlike many of its neighbors, New Hampshire does not restrict, regulate, or control homeschool much. Any parent can educate their children at home from the start or pull their children out of school at any time. The only requirements are that the parent notifies the school district (or private school) and that the parent keeps some records and evaluate their child’s progress. The records and evaluations do not need to be sent to the government. Parents are supposed to cover all of the major subjects, according to state law. ‘Freedom in the 50 states’ ranks NH #9 on educational freedom. 

Compare this freedom to states like New York, which make it nearly impossible to educate your children at home, and throw you in prison and/or kidnap your child if you violate their laws.

How could New Hampshire improve? 

Abolish the requirement to notify the school district, the requirement to teach certain subjects, keep official records, and implement official evaluations. 

*UPDATE: In 2021, the legislature passed a law creating education freedom accounts (EFAs). For the first time ever in New Hampshire, some families will now be able to receive some of their tax dollars back so that they could use the money to educate their children at home or in a private school.

Trend

As a paramedic, the trend of a given situation is one of the most critical issues I concern myself with. Are things improving or worsening? When my patient is consistently deteriorating, it is troublesome. When my patient is improving with each treatment, I am optimistic. In the case of nearly every state in the union, freedoms are being destroyed and governments are growing stronger and passing more harsh laws. In New Hampshire, things are heading in the right direction. We recently repealed the requirement for a CCW permit, cut the state budget, and removed a toll on one of our highways. 

How could New Hampshire improve? 

You could move here and help us make New Hampshire even better. If you already live here, ask me how you can get involved!

More work to be done?

New Hampshire still has a lot of room for improvement on police powers, the war on drugs, lockdowns (Manchester PD has issued many ‘shelter in place’ orders, even long before COVID-19), surveillance, taxes, and many other issues, I’m sure. Considering that it is the freest and the most promising state, libertarians should consider moving here and helping us achieve liberty in our lifetime.