Louisiana Ranks Below Average in Economic ‘Freedom’ Study, but the Trend is Up | Louisiana


(The Center Square) – Louisiana is making steady progress toward becoming a more economically free state, according to a recently released report by the Cato Institute.

Ranked 32nd in the nation, however, Louisiana still has a long way to go, the Washington-based think tank suggested in its report, Freedom in all 50 states.

“‘Freedom’ is a moral concept,” Cato argued, adding that “individuals should not be forcibly prevented from ordering their lives, liberties, and possessions as they see fit, so long as they do not ‘not infringe the rights of others’.

The 2021 study analyzed dozens of state and local policies in “fiscal, regulatory and personnel areas” and compared them to the ideal of “maximum equal liberty” or equality before the law. The result is a numerical index and a ranking list of states.

“Louisiana was once one of the least economically free states in the South, but its fiscal policy has improved significantly since 2008,” the 313-page report said. “The state is now in the middle of the pack when it comes to economic freedom and personal freedom.”

Authors William Ruger and Jason Sorens listed positive highlights before critiquing key areas of public policy.

Louisiana, a right-to-work state, scored well for labor market freedom. The state tax burden of 5% of income and the local tax burden of 4.5% of income hovered around the national average. Public debt has continued to decline since the 2008 financial crisis, as has the ratio of government employment to private sector jobs, they said.

“Needless to say, Louisiana is one of the most partisan states,” the study authors wrote.

Foremost among the problems cited is the state judicial system.

“Louisiana’s justice system has long been terrible, no matter how you measure it,” the report said. “It has been dragged down for this edition by being the second worst state for criminal justice policy, but that is an improvement from 2016, when it was the worst. Crime-adjusted incarceration rates are extremely high despite improving since 2016.”

The question is not lost on some policy makers and the business community. A state justice commission is assess how to reform the practice of imposing fines and costs on individuals in the criminal justice field. These costs fund local courts and often put people in debt to the system.

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, the state’s largest business group, is also spearheading a judicial reform movement. The association recently published a four-part series deepen the key aspects of the complex issue. The group argues that Louisiana’s court system lacks accountability standards that apply to the executive and legislative branches of state government.

The Cato report also cited Louisiana’s professional licensing laws, which it called “notoriously bad.”

“As of this writing, it’s still the only state to allow florists — out of concern for public health and safety, no doubt,” the report said. “Nurses and dental hygienists have very little freedom of practice, but physician assistants gained additional prescribing power in 2018.”

A state-issued exam licenses shows dozens of occupational categories, and many are low-risk occupations, such as barbers, auctioneers, and cosmetologists.

According to Ruger and Sorens, the most economically free states are Florida, Tennessee, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Idaho, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, and Texas.

The least economically free states are Hawaii, Vermont, Delaware, Minnesota, Arkansas, California, Mississippi, West Virginia, New York, and Maine.


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