File - Arizona fireworks

Fireworks bursts over the Tempe Lake, Arizona skyline. 

(The Center Square) – Only eight states in the country have more freedom than Arizona. 

That’s according to the nonprofit CATO Institute’s annual Freedom in the 50 States report, which compares states based on several different aspects of autonomy and choice in respective states. 

The CATO Institute is a libertarian public policy think tank that promotes limited government, free markets and peace.

The report uses hundreds of variables to gauge states on fiscal, regulatory and personal terms.

Despite a consistent improvement, Arizona fell two places to ninth for 2021, which uses 2019 as the most recently available data. 

“Arizona has moved up in the overall rankings during the past two decades, improving considerably on personal freedom while maintaining above-average performance on economic freedom,” the report said. “It has lost ground consistently on regulatory policy but is still ranked in the top 20.”

State lawmakers have instituted the best anti-cronyism laws in the nation, the report said. One particular area of improvement was the state’s laws regarding personal freedom, for which it ranked sixth overall. 

“Arizona’s personal freedom improvements are due to growing gun rights ('constitutional carry' passed in 2009/10); a medical marijuana law; school vouchers (passed in 2011/12); declining victimless crime arrests; the abolition of its sodomy law because of the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas; the judicial legalization of same-sex marriage; liberalization of its wine shipment laws; and a significant asset forfeiture reform in 2017,” the report said. 

The state struggled in ways similar to other “red” states, including incarceration rates, cigarette taxes and smoking and vaping bans. 

To make the state freer, CATO suggests making it easier for small neighborhoods to incorporate new municipalities and keep state aid low, opening up the telecommunications and cable industry to full competition, and legalizing for-profit casinos and card games. 

Living up to its “Live Free or Die” motto, CATO deemed New Hampshire the freest state in the nation overall. New York came in last.

Regional Editor

Cole Lauterbach is a regional editor for The Center Square covering Arizona, California, and Nevada. For more than a decade, Cole has produced award-winning content on both radio and television.