#34 Minnesota

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

From 2009

Minnesota State Overview

State Facts

Net Migration Rate (?) -1 % 
Personal Income Growth (?) 1.56 %
How does the freedom ranking relate to these?


Minnesota is a moderately liberal state with high trust in government, leading to communitarian policies on both economic and personal freedoms. The state lost a little ground in its rankings for 2009 and 2010, due mostly to changes in policies affecting personal freedom.

The state’s taxes are higher than average, but otherwise the state’s fiscal policy does not deviate much from the norm. Minnesota spends more than average on parks and public welfare. Selective sales taxes (not including alcohol, tobacco, and utility taxes) and individual income taxes stand out as particularly high.

On most regulatory policies Minnesota fits comfortably into the middle range of the states, but the state does stand out in a favorable manner for the quality of its court system and for miscellaneous regulations—mostly due to lack of a certificate-of-need (CON) law. On the other hand, Minnesota scores poorly on health insurance and labor market freedoms. Mandated benefits add 53.7 percent to the cost of a policy without mandated coverages, and the state requires both rate bands and “prior approval” of new rates in both the small group and nongroup markets.

On both firearms and marijuana policies, Minnesota is quite a bit more regulated than the average state. The state is ripe for change in both areas. Gun-dealer licensing and gun-store safety regulations are excessive, as is a law imputing criminal liability on a gun owner deemed to have stored firearms unsafely. Sentencing for marijuana-related crimes is extreme—both the cultivation of any pot and the possession of a large amount of pot are felonies, and a single cultivation conviction can lead to 35 years in prison—while the state has no provision protecting patients using marijuana for medical purposes from prosecution. On the other hand, Minnesota stands out positively on the “freedom from victimless crimes” category. The incarceration rate, adjusted for crime rate, is almost two standard deviations better (lower) than the national mean, and the drug arrest rate is almost a standard deviation better (lower) than the national mean. However, arrest rates for other victimless crimes (related to weapons, gambling, liquor, loitering, and prostitution) are far worse (higher) than the national average. Gun freedom, marijuana freedom, travel freedom, freedom from victimless crimes, and tobacco freedom all fell modestly in 2009—10, together bringing a noteworthy decline in personal freedom. The state bans Sunday sales of alcohol. Smoking bans are extreme. As a fairly liberal state, it is surprising that Minnesota does not recognize any same-sex partnerships.

Policy Recommendations

  • Trim taxes and spending in the areas noted above.
  • Roll back health insurance mandates (for example, mandates for speech and hearing specialists, osteopathy, dietitians, occupational therapy, reconstructive surgery, port wine stain removal, ovarian cancer screening, infertility services, and Lyme disease treatment). Even having average health insurance mandates would have raised Minnesota four places on regulatory policy.
  • Enact legal recognition of same-sex partnerships.
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