#35 Michigan

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The overall freedom ranking is a combination of personal and economic freedoms.

From 2009

Michigan State Overview

State Facts

Net Migration Rate (?) -5.6 % 
Personal Income Growth (?) -1.71 %
How does the freedom ranking relate to these?


Each edition of this index has noted the disjuncture between Michigan’s fiscal and regulatory policy scores. The state has usually done reasonably well on regulatory policy but has always scored below average on fiscal policy. In 2009 and 2010, the state changed little on economic freedom, but its overall freedom score declined slightly because of new infringements on personal freedoms.

Michigan is a fairly centralized state, and local governments depend heavily on state grants, especially for schools. Spending, taxation, and debt are all a bit worse (higher) than average, while public employment is a bit better (lower) than average.

Michigan has a high minimum wage and until recently lacked a right-to-work law (if the new reform sticks, the state could rise four places on regulatory policy), but the state permits workers’ compensation self-insurance and exempts agricultural workers from the system altogether. Local zoning laws are ranked about average, regulatory takings require an economic assessment, and the state has thoroughly reformed eminent domain. Michigan has very little community rating for health insurance and has bucked the national trend by repealing many mandates. Telecom and cable have been deregulated. Occupational freedom, the tort system, and miscellaneous regulations all score about average. Nurses’ ability to practice medicine is particularly restricted, and a ban on territorial rating for auto insurance has a certain political logic but reduces insurance companies’ willingness to sell policies at all in Detroit.

On personal freedom, Michigan is average in most areas, but there have been some worrisome trends in 2009—10. The legislature banned the essentially harmless psychedelic plant Salvia divinorum, the state liquor stores raised markups on spirits, the total mandated years of schooling were expanded from 10 to 12, and a comprehensive statewide smoking ban was enacted. There have been some small but favorable changes in victimless crimes arrest and incarceration rates. Michigan could likely improve its gun control laws, since most of the state is fairly rural. Currently the effective initial permit cost for concealed carry is $255; however, one may openly carry without a permit. Dealers are licensed, a redundancy since they are already licensed by the federal government, and private sales must go through a dealer. Built-in locking devices must be sold with every handgun. Michigan does well on home school laws, but private schools are tightly regulated—they must get government approval, meet curriculum requirements, and employ licensed teachers (with exemptions).

Policy Recommendations

  • Trim spending on hospitals, libraries, parking facilities, sanitation/sewerage, and employee retirement, which are all above the national average. Property and sales taxes could most stand to be reduced.
  • Eliminate the parties’ role in nominating judicial candidates, and enact tort reforms (such as reforming discovery and adopting loser-pays) to improve the tort system.
  • Repeal some of the gun regulations mentioned above. If Michigan’s gun control laws were like Indiana’s, it would be 28th instead of 41st on personal freedom.
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