Lacking an individual income tax and featuring a hot climate, Florida has long enjoyed substantial migration of well-off retirees. Its personal freedom has lagged well behind, however.
Florida’s state-level tax collections are more than a standard deviation below the national average, while its local tax collections are about average. Florida’s fiscal decentralization does not offer homeowners a great deal of choice, however, because the state has only about half an effective competing jurisdiction per 100 square miles of private land. Government subsidies and debt are average, while government employment is much below average, falling from 11.1 percent of private employment in 2010 to 9.9 percent in 2014.
Florida’s regulatory policy is slightly freer than the national average. Despite the temptations posed by high housing demand, homeowners have been unable to enact exclusionary zoning on anything like the levels of California or New Hampshire. Our two measures of local zoning give a split judgment on just how restrictive Florida is. Land-use regulation appears to be a major political issue, but the courts have tools to restrain local governments, as the state has a particularly strong regulatory takings law. Florida has gone further than just about any other state to tighten criteria for eminent domain. Labor law is also above average because of a right-to-work law, but the state has a minimum wage. Cable and telecommunications are partially deregulated. The civil liability system is better than average and has improved significantly since 2000. On the other side of the ledger, the state is far below average on occupational freedom, and the homeowner’s insurance market is the most regulated and dysfunctional in the country.
On personal freedom, Florida now appears well below average, but as shown in Appendix Table B17, the state can expect to enjoy a substantial boost from the Supreme Court’s nationalization of same-sex marriage. Before that decision, Florida did not recognize any kind of same-sex partnership and banned private contracts amounting to marriage with a super-DOMA. Florida is also one of the states that had a sodomy law before Lawrence v. Texas. Florida’s crime-adjusted incarceration rate has risen over time and is now above average, even as its arrest rates for victimless crimes have fallen substantially. Florida is one of the top states for educational freedom, although homeschool regulations remain substantial. The cannabis regime is fairly harsh, while alcohol is lightly regulated. Gun rights are mediocre, as the state has waiting periods for some weapons, local dealer licensing, stricter-than-federal minimum age for possession, and virtually no open carry.