#33 Ohio

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

From 2009

Ohio State Overview

State Facts

Net Migration Rate (?) -3.3 % 
Personal Income Growth (?) 0.42 %
How does the freedom ranking relate to these?


Ohio scores well below average in terms of overall freedom and both economic and personal freedom. However, the state has improved since 2009.

Taxation in the Buckeye State is higher than average. On the plus side, government debt and spending are below average. However, public safety, administration, social service, and government employee retirement benefits spending are especially high as a percentage of personal income. Ohio is fiscally centralized.

Ohio performs better in the regulatory realm. The state’s liability system is roughly average. It does fairly well on land-use freedom, with better-than-average residential land-use regulation and some reform of eminent domain (though more work is necessary in this area). Ohio, like a few other states, does not allow private workers’ compensation insurers. However, unlike North Dakota and Wyoming, Ohio does allow employer self-insurance for workers’ compensation. The state’s occupational licensing regime and level of health insurance coverage mandates are decent. Ohio, as one might expect, is not a right-to-work state. Telecom and cable have been deregulated.

Ohio’s asset forfeiture laws are ranked below average and could use improvement. Gun control laws are above average and not nearly as bad as those of other large-population states like Illinois or California. In fact, Ohio allows open carry without a permit. The state authorizes sobriety checkpoints but does not mandate motorcycle helmets. Marijuana laws are liberal overall, but cultivation and sale sentencing could be reformed. Most gambling is illegal but social gambling is allowed. Homeschooling regulations are strict: teachers must meet qualifications and home school curricula are subject to disapproval. However, private school regulations are lighter. Draconian smoking bans are in place but cigarette taxes are now below the national average. Beer and wine taxes are reasonably good but the spirits tax is fairly high. The crime-rate-adjusted incarceration rate is well above average, but the drug enforcement rate is decent.

Policy Recommendations

  • Reduce taxes and reduce spending on public safety, administration, social services, and government employee retirement benefits to levels more consistent with national norms.
  • Look at Indiana as a model “Rust Belt” state in terms of regulatory policy and reform Ohio’s regulatory system according to that model (which ranks first in the country). For instance, consider changing the workers’ compensation system and rolling back occupational licensing. Adopt a right-to-work law in line with Indiana and Michigan.
  • Reform the state’s asset forfeiture laws by reducing the percentage of proceeds that go to law enforcement and putting the burden of proof on the government rather than owners, and ban equitable sharing with the Department of Justice to make these reforms effective.
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