CATO: Michigan Seventh Freest State in the Nation

by Scott McClallen


Michigan ranked 7th nationwide in the CATO Institute’s 2021 Freedom in the States report.

The rankings use 230 metrics to rank states on how their policies promote freedom in fiscal, regulatory and personal realms. The Wolverine state advanced two spots from 2018 and four since 2016.

Michigan’s tax burden is 5.9% of adjusted personal income, while government debt is now below average at 15.9% of income.

CATO notes that Michigan has a slightly above-average incarceration rate but has passed wide-ranging criminal justice reforms in 2017. Other policies passed in 2020 include the Clean Slate package that will likely continue criminal justice reform.

Michigan’s asset forfeiture law is better than average thanks to 2015 and 2019 reforms.

Michiganders legalized recreational possession and use of marijuana for adults in 2018.

Michigan beat out Minnesota (38), Wisconsin (17), Ohio (31), Illinois (37), Missouri (11) but ranked behind Indiana (6).

New Hampshire (1), Florida (2), Nevada (3), Tennessee (4), and South Dakota (5) took the top-five spots in the nation.

Policy recommendations for Michigan

  • Fiscal: Cut spending on higher education, health, and sewerage, which is much higher than average. Use the proceeds to reduce income and property taxes.
  • Regulatory: Allow full nurse practitioner independent practice and prescription authority, and join the Nurse Licensure Compact.
  • Personal: Enact a liberal tax-credit scholarship or educational savings account program for private education.

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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on and Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.
Photo “Welcome to Michigan” by Ken Lund. CC BY-SA 2.0.






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