Massachusetts State Overview
Massachusetts has a reputation as a liberal state par excellence, and therefore it might be surprising to discover that the state is ranked about average on freedom and does particularly well on fiscal policy.
Massachusetts’s tax rates remain about average, and the government payroll is remarkably small at 10.4 percent of the private workforce, while government consumption plus subsidies is also extremely low at 8.8 percent of personal income. The biggest fiscal problem Massachusetts faces is debt, which is now 29 percent of income.
Massachusetts has one of the most tightly controlled and exclusionary land-use regimes in the country and completely fails to check eminent domain abuse. Labor laws are poor, with no right-to-work law, a minimum wage, and excessively strict workers’ compensation coverage requirements. The state is notoriously regulated on health insurance, with an individual mandate, pure community rating, “prior approval” price controls, and so on. Massachusetts still has a politicized auto insurance regulatory bureaucracy, despite lifting the “fixed and established” rate regime a few years ago. The cable and telecom markets remain traditionally regulated. However, the court system is well above average, and occupational freedom (except for nurses) is slightly above average.
Meanwhile, on personal freedoms the state has highly restrictive gun control laws: it is almost impossible to get a permit to carry, many types of weapons are banned, and there are strict permit requirements for purchasing any type of gun, expensive dealer regulations, and so on. It has fairly restrictive gambling laws, although after the closing date of this study, the legislature voted to authorize casino gambling. It also has a total fireworks ban, extremely strict home school requirements, the worst possible asset forfeiture rules, extremely strict campaign contribution limits, high cigarette taxes, and a total statewide smoking ban. On the positive side, marijuana laws are moderate, alcohol taxes are low (and there is no state role in distribution), same-sex marriage is allowed, and the crime-adjusted incarceration rate is by far the lowest in the country. With victimless crimes arrests also low, Massachusetts easily takes first in the freedom index’s “freedom from victimless crimes” subindex.
- Place tighter limitations on the state and local governments’ ability to issue debt.
- Enact statewide limits on local com- munities’ ability to keep out undesired newcomers with building permit ceilings, subdivision limits, and so on.
- Reform asset forfeiture laws to place the burden of proof on the government and redirect forfeiture funds to the general fund. Then ban equitable sharing so that the Department of Justice can no longer subvert state law.