Press Releases

New Report Gives Low Grade for Utah

Salt Lake City, UT (August 16, 2016) — A new report issued by the Cato Institute, Freedom in the 50 States, highlights the degree to which states protect the personal and economic freedom of their citizens. Utah was ranked 20th.

The report—first published in 2009 by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University—grades states in three areas:

  • Fiscal policy: taxes, government employment, spending, debt, and fiscal decentralization
  • Regulatory policy: liability system, property rights, health insurance, and labor market
  • Personal freedom: a variety of categories including incarceration rates, marriage laws, education, guns, and alcohol

The report notes that “Utah does very well on regulatory policy overall” and “generally well on criminal justice policy,” though “quite poorly on alcohol, cannabis, gambling, and tobacco.”

Scholars also observe that Utah “had an excellent asset forfeiture law, but it has been successively weakened, most recently in 2013–14.” Libertas Institute has been at the forefront of this issue in recent years and will be supporting a reform effort by Representative Brian Greene in the 2017 legislative session.

Libertas Institute president Connor Boyack issued the following statement in light of the new report:

“While our state rightly receives many accolades for economic growth, there are other factors that place us well behind our peers. We remain committed to seeing Utah in the top 10 of this list in the future; our great state should not be in the middle of the pack when it comes to freedom.”

  • Mike Berry

    Is it really a liberty just because someone is free to do it? I can be free to murder my neighbor, but that pretty clearly takes away his or her rights. If alcohol, cannabis, gambling, and tobacco slowly “murders” me and/or my soul, or by intoxication, addiction my actions effect others’ safety, shouldn’t there be laws/regulations to prevent that?

  • Spencer F

    Yes but if you start to make the argument that these things are somehow obviously bad, then you open the door for the government to regulate anything it thinks will “slowly murder” you (soda, tanning, walking out late at night). The bigger question is should we be trying to control other people through the tool of government or are there better ways of influencing and educating people against what we think are destructive behaviors? Can you truly legislate morality (and beyond that is it ethical to force your morality on others) or is it something that society grapples with and changes by itself over time?

  • JeffMacbean

    @Spencer F Well said!

  • Greg

    @Mike Berry I do not feel any of my rights are compromised if somebody else uses alcohol, cannabis, or if he gambles. I don’t do these things, and any claimed ripple effect on the society in general is too tenuous to really affect me.
    Conversely, I am very much concerned if “doing good” provides an excuse for the government to erode the Constitution (and especially the Bill of Rights), because it is a direct threat to my completely legitimate liberties, taken away as a collateral damage to “fighting crime”.

  • HansenMarlin

    If marijuana is legalized in Utah, and I decide to get high, then drive and cause an accident, then yes.. there is already laws to protect my fellow citizens. People slowly ‘murder themselves’, as you say with a poor diet and lack of exercise, so do you want to have a government program to regulate what, and how much you eat? I don’t need the government protecting me from myself.