New Hampshire ranks first in Cato’s 2023 Freedom in the 50 States

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We’re No. 1!


Fresh from its No. 1 ranking in the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom in North America report, New Hampshire tops the 7th edition of the Cato Institute’s Freedom in the 50 States report.

“New Hampshire is once again the freest state in the Union and in 2022 set the record for the highest freedom score ever recorded in the 21st century. Governor Chris Sununu and the New Hampshire legislature have much to be proud of. In 2000, on the full index, Nevada was number one, just ahead of New Hampshire.”

The Cato report ranks states on 230 variables in the broad categories of economic freedom, personal freedom and fiscal policy.

New Hampshire excels in taxation and government spending. “The state government taxes less than any other state but Alaska,” the report concludes. The state scores well on rankings of government debt, government consumption and government employment.

Although New Hampshire fares well in many categories, our regulatory burden “is a blemish on such an otherwise free state,” the authors write.

Not surprisingly, “the Granite State’s primary sin is exclusionary zoning.” On local land use regulations, “New Hampshire is among the most regulated states.”

The report also dings New Hampshire for not having a right-to-work law or universal school choice, and for imposing a renewable portfolio standard that raises the cost of energy.

Florida, which ranks second in both the Cato and Fraser Institute reports, has improved its position dramatically in the last two decades. The Sunshine state has both a right-to-work law and universal school choice.

New Hampshire has stood atop the Cato rankings since 2011, and the state’s latest score is the highest in the history of the report, which began in 2000. Among the reasons for our high ranking this year was our relatively less burdensome approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. New Hampshire ranked 9th on COVID policies, which is a testament to how badly most states reacted to the pandemic.

But at a Freedom in the 50 States event in Manchester on Thursday, Gov. Chris Sununu and report authors Will Ruger and Jason Sorens all warned against New Hampshire resting on its laurels. The state and local governments still impose many unnecessary constraints on both personal and economic freedom. As long as those restrictions remain, they will continue to be a drag on the economy and give other states opportunities to dethrone New Hampshire from its position as America’s freest state, they said.