#20 Nevada

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

From 2009

Nevada State Overview

State Facts

Net Migration Rate (?) 18.4 % 
Personal Income Growth (?) 3.09 %
How does the freedom ranking relate to these?


Nevada has a reputation as a libertarian state, mostly because of legal prostitution and gambling, but on economic freedom the state fares significantly worse than one would expect of a state with such a moniker.

On fiscal policy the state now ranks slightly worse than average after slipping significantly between FY 2008 and FY 2010 in every fiscal category, due in part to a severe decline in personal income during the recession. Debt is now two standard deviations higher than the national average (at 29.1 percent of income), while taxes are now slightly higher than average (at 9.7 percent of income). Government spending and employment and fiscal decentralization still rank better than average.

Land-use freedom ranks above average due to fairly relaxed zoning and eminent domain reform. Nevada is a right-to-work state, but its effective minimum wage is one of the highest in the country. The state scores a little better than average on health insurance freedom, but improved significantly on mandates during the 2009—10 session. Telecom and cable have been deregulated. Unfortunately, on occupational freedom Nevada ranks as one of the worst states in the country, both in the extent and the severity of restrictions—fees, education/experience, and examination requirements are all two standard deviations higher than the national average. The life and property/casualty insurance markets are heavily regulated.

On personal freedoms, Nevada scores highly on gambling and prostitution, unsurprisingly. The state licenses many casinos and allows counties to decide whether to prohibit prostitution. In 2009—10 the legislature legalized same-sex civil unions with benefits equivalent to those of marriage, boosting Nevada from third place to second place in personal freedom. Gun control is limited, alcohol freedom is high, and marijuana laws are just average. Thus, it is not surprising that Nevada does very well on personal freedom. However, even here there is much room for improvement. Nevada’s private schools are the most regulated in the nation: they must conform to universal registration, state approval, teacher licensure, and detailed curriculum requirements. Measured victimless crimes arrests (for prostitution especially) are very high, but this might have something to do with the large tourist population. Nevada’s tobacco policy is moderately restrictive.

Policy Recommendations

  • Reduce spending in areas where the state spends over 50 percent more than the national average, as a percentage of the economy: air transportation, public buildings, libraries, parks, and unemployment insurance. Offer residents relief through lower sales taxes.
  • Change licensing to certification (or no state role) for professionals such as the following: farm labor contractors, clinical laboratory directors, environmental health specialists, title plant owners, counselors, interior designers, sign language interpreters, audiologists, pharmacy technicians, opticians, veterinary technicians, massage therapists, security guards, landscaping contractors, makeup artists, and crane and tower operators.
  • Deregulate private schools.
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