Policy Report

First in Freedom Index

posted on in Education (PreK-12), Government Reform, Health Care & Human Services, Spending & Taxes
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Overall, North Carolina ranks 23rd in the nation and 5th among the 12 states of the Southeast. Florida holds the #1 slot on the FFI, followed by Arizona, Indiana, South Dakota, and Georgia.
The least-free state is New York, which is joined in the bottom five by New Jersey, California, West Virginia, and Kentucky.


North Carolina’s best showing is fiscal policy. Before the 2013 tax reform, North Carolina ranked among the worst states in the nation in tax climate. North Carolina now ranks 16th in the nation in fiscal freedom and 3rd in the Southeast, behind only Florida and Virginia.

On educational freedom, North Carolina ranks 18th in the nation and 5th in the Southeast. Strong protections for homeschooling were helpful here, as was the passage of opportunity scholarships in 2013. But North Carolina ranks below the national average in public school choice.
When it comes to regulatory freedom, our state ranks 36th in the nation and 8th out of the 12 Southeastern states. Although North Carolina’s right-to-work law, absence of state-level minimum wages, and recent tort reforms have been helpful, our state has relatively weak protections against eminent domain abuse and relatively strict occupational-licensing laws.
The state’s worst showing is in health care freedom, where North Carolina ranks 46th in the nation and dead last in the Southeast. The main culprits are our poor rankings on certificate-of-need laws and state benefit mandates on private health plans.
If North Carolina completely abolished its certificate-of-need regulations, our ranking on health care freedom would rise to 25th and our overall FFI ranking would rise to 16th.
Adopting the strong land-use and property-rights protections of neighboring South Carolina would raise North Carolina’s regulatory freedom ranking to 16th and our overall FFI ranking to 19th.
If North Carolina matched Colorado in public-school choice, our educational freedom ranking would rise to 13th and our overall FFI ranking to 15th.

First in Freedom Index

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About John Locke Foundation

We are North Carolina’s Most Trusted and Influential Source of Common Sense. The John Locke Foundation was created in 1990 as an independent, nonprofit think tank that would work “for truth, for freedom, and for the future of North Carolina.” The Foundation is named for John Locke (1632-1704), an English philosopher whose writings inspired Thomas Jefferson and the other Founders.

The John Locke Foundation is a 501(c)(3) research institute and is funded solely from voluntary contributions from individuals, corporations, and charitable foundations.