On this freedom index, Alaska ranks #15


New Hampshire is the freest state, according to the 2023 Cato Institute “Freedom in the 50 States” report, and Florida ranks No. 2. Alaska comes in at No. 15. and New York State is at No. 50, the worst in terms of personal freedom. Many of the Democrat-run states are in the bottom tier.

The Washington, D.C.-based libertarian think tank ranks, the 50 U.S. states according to how their public policies affect individual freedoms in the economic, social and personal spheres.

Alaska is an unusual state because of its enormous oil and gas reserves and revenues, the report notes.

Alaska’s fiscal policy “scores fluctuate wildly depending on the global price of oil. With the end of the commodity boom in the 2000s, corporate income tax collections plummeted in Alaska, and the state buffered the decline with large withdrawals from its enormous rainy-day fund. Alaska has one of the highest cash-to-liability ratios of any state. The rise in Alaska’s ranking from 41st overall in 2007 to 15th today is driven entirely by fiscal policy, mostly declining state tax collections because of economic conditions but also real improvement in the size of government,” the study says.

But Alaska’s enviable net asset position has also made for something of a “resource curse” in the state’s expenditures, although Alaska has improved recently on these measures.

Government employment is 17.5 percent, but it was 20 percent in 2002.

“Government consumption is similarly high, but it hit its 21st-century low in 2022. Although local taxes outstrip state taxes, which are the lowest in the country—lately by a wide margin—local jurisdictions are so consolidated that virtually no choice exists among local government options,” the institute reports.

Labor union policies drive Alaska’s scores lower: “The labor market is far more regulated than one would expect for such a conservative state. There is no right-to-work law; the state has strict workers’ compensation mandates and a high minimum wage ($10.85 per hour in 2022). Many occupations are licensed in Anchorage and Fairbanks, where about half of the state’s population lives. Insurance is heavily regulated, and the state adopted a price-gouging law in 2020.”

However, the state gives more practice freedom to nurses and dental hygienists, recognizing full hygienist independent practice in 2022, does not zone out low-cost housing, and has one of the nation’s best civil liability systems, an area in which the state has improved a great deal during the past 25 years, according to Cato.

Personal freedom scores are high due to low drug arrests, legal marijuana, homeschooling freedom, and gun rights.

“The state’s civil asset forfeiture law is among the worst in the country, which probably accounts for why local police do not bother to ask the Department of Justice to ‘adopt’ many cases. The burden of proof is on the owner of the property to prove innocence, property is subject to forfeiture from mere probable cause, and the proceeds largely go to law enforcement. Sales of all alcohol, even beer, are prohibited in grocery stores. Alcohol taxes, especially for beer, are also among the highest in the country. Gambling freedom is low, and the cigarette tax is high at $2 per pack in 2022 ($5 a pack in Juneau). There is almost no school choice at all,” the report notes.

See Cato’s Freedom in the 50 States report here.

The 2023 edition updates and expands on the six previous editions of Freedom in the 50 States, examining state and local government intervention across various policy categories – from taxation to debt, from eminent domain laws to occupational licensing, and from drug policy to educational choice.


  1. Maybe I missed it. Was the 17.5% government employment state, local, federal, or all of the above?

    Additionally, are teachers part of that 17.5 %?

    The numbers are damning, but may not tell the full depth of the problem.

    • The “idiocy” you write of is the result of rent seeking.
      A limited number of businesses in control of a finite number of retail liquor&beer&wine licenses makes for a good incentive to keep it that way as it inhibits other would-be competitor entrants into the retail booze market.

    • It’s a weird remnant of once common Blue Laws. Someone, somewhere, thought less availability would make it harder for sinners to sin.

  2. Stories like this are silly. I’ve lived in multiple states, blue and red, and spent extended time in dozens more. At no point was my freedom impaired in any way.

    Yes, I’ve lived in some states that required me to purchase liquor and groceries in a different store. If you think that’s bad, try ordering alcohol in Utah – a state very big on “freedom”. These types of laws are better described as legislating economic advantages for one industry over another. In Alaska, I’m guessing the liquor stores are all in favor of preventing grocery stores from selling alcohol. Those liquor store owners want their freedom, but they also want as much of the market as their campaign contributions can ensure.

    • It has been argued, with a fair amount of validity I think, that a good part of the whole orchestrated Wuhan Virus fiasco, and the resulting warp-speed cranking up of the printing presses, was to bail out the Demonrat-led states such as New York and Illinois, and save them from their then-imminent fiscal bankruptcy.

      It seems like virtually nobody remembers how that prominent that issue was in the months leading up to the mass Covidian psychosis.

  3. I’m curious about how Alaska’s recent Moms for Liberty inspired book banning fervor might affect our freedom score compared to other states. Florida’s got it bad, that’s for sure. But M4L has only recently established a foothold in Alaska. Looks like our Attorney General has been sucked into the book censorship vortex. So, what do you think? Is Alaska destined to follow in Florida’s footsteps? Or will we chart our own path towards a universal right to read and to engage in a plurality of ideas through our public library systems?

    • Don’t think the right to pollute our children was part of the criteria. Neither was the right to beat your wife, kick your dog, poop in public, shoot up drugs, and many other things that are disgusting.

    • Talk to me about “plurality of ideas” when the Mormons can put their various religious books, pamphlets, etc into school libraries without progressive and evangelical heads exploding. Better, the growing number of books discussing the genuine medical and psychological issues involving trans people post surgery.

      There is no universal right to read.

      One can’t intellectually make a call for “plurality” then work to bar the ideas of others.

      This is a really bad swing and miss.

      • Public schools are where taxpayers send their children to be educated in our common language, history, science, mathematics, geography, etc. There should be very little instilling of ideology of any kind. Our current problem is the education bureaucracy has become a taxpayer-funded monopoly run by idealogues promoting their fanatic, Marxist/Socialist/AntiChrist agenda. The ambivalent, but cooperative, participants in the system have sold their souls for the money, cushy benefits and retirement. The system will need to be dismantled and restored under a competitive free-market model.

    • Reviewing books, marking books as “mature” , designating books for older children (as opposed to 1st graders) and having books in a “teen” section is not “Banning books”
      Please stop your progressive propaganda & start speaking truthfully.

  4. This ranking is produced by the ideologically-libertarian Cato Instituite and includes variables that many of us would not associate with “freedom” such as the ability for those without Social Security numbers (i.e. illegal aliens) to obtain driver licenses and the existence of constitutional bans on same-sex marriage (despite those bans being unenforceable). Even when discounting these purely ideological points, however, it is apparent that Alaska is not as free as many believe and there is definitely room for improvement.


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