#37 Minnesota

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The overall freedom ranking is a combination of personal and economic freedoms.

From 2012

State Facts

Net Migration Rate (?) -1.5 % 
Personal Income Growth (?) 2.03 %
How does the freedom ranking relate to these?


Minnesota is a classic “blue state” in that it scores well above average on personal freedom and below average on economic freedom. Its economic performance has been similar to Wisconsin’s but well behind Iowa’s and both Dakotas’.

Minnesota is fiscally centralized, with low local taxes (3.0 percent of income) and high state taxes (projected 8.1 percent of income). Overall, the tax burden is high. Debt is about average, while public employment and subsidies are somewhat below average.

On the most important category in regulatory policy, land-use and environmental freedom, Minnesota is about average. However, both have declined recently with strict renewable portfolio standards. On labor policy, the state is below average, lacking a right-to-work law and passing a modest minimum wage in 2013–14. Workers’ comp funding was liberalized slightly in 2011–12. Minnesota has never tried to deregulate telecommunications or cable. Occupational freedom is middling, but the state did pass an extensive nurse practitioner freedom-of-practice law in 2013–14. The state lacks a hospital certificate-of-need law and various other cronyist policies (it abolished moving company licensing in 2011–12), but it does have sales-below-cost laws for gasoline and retailers generally. Its court system is highly rated and has improved over time.

Minnesota rates slightly below average on most categories of personal freedom but makes up for it with good criminal justice policies and same-sex marriage (enacted 2013). The incarceration rate is well below the national average but has risen over time (in 2000, it was three standard deviations lower than average!). The drug arrest rate is lower than average, while arrest rates for other victimless crimes are higher than average, but falling. The state’s asset forfeiture law was reformed in 2013–14, but without getting a handle on equitable sharing, its impact will be limited. Minnesota enacted a strictly limited medical marijuana program in 2014. Tobacco freedom took a big hit in 2013–14 with a hike in the cigarette tax (to $2.41 a pack in 2006 dollars). Educational freedom is above average, despite some private school and homeschool regulation, because of interdistrict public school choice, a modest tax credit/deduction law, and compulsory schooling of only nine years. Alcohol freedom and gun rights are both subpar.

Policy Recommendations

  • Fiscal: Trim spending on public welfare and parks and recreation, on which Minnesota spends much more than average, and reduce taxes on individual income and selective sales (excluding alcohol, tobacco, and utilities), which are above national norms.
  • Regulatory: Deregulate telecommunications and cable entry and pricing.
  • Personal: Liberalize off-premises alcohol sales by repealing blue laws and allowing wine and spirits in grocery stores. These changes would have raised Minnesota above Alaska on personal freedom.
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