- Most Free
- Least Free
- #14 Overall
- #15 Economic
- #12 Personal
- Change in overall freedom, 2007–2009:
- Change in overall freedom ranking since 2007:
- Net domestic migration, 2000–2009 (% of 2000 population):
- Governor, 2011:
- Rick Perry (R)
- Legislature, 2011:
- House 98R/51D/1 Vac., Senate 19R/12D
Texas prides itself on being a freedom-loving state, and our rankings bear out that it is freer than most other states. However, its policies are sometimes not as consistent with individual liberty as the rhetoric of its officials and citizens would suggest. Indeed, Texas has slipped in the rankings and has much room for improvement. Texas enjoys one of the lowest tax burdens in the country and state spending is relatively low. Gun control is better than average, but the state falls short on open-carry laws, stricter-than-federal minimum age for purchase rules, and dealer licensing. Alcohol is less regulated than in most other states (although localities can interfere extensively in this realm), and beer, wine, and liquor taxes are low. Low-level marijuana cultivation is a misdemeanor, but otherwise marijuana laws are very harsh. Its lifetime maximum possible sentence for a single marijuana offense is draconian. Even more so than Tennessee, Texas is much less interested in arresting people for victimless crimes, excluding drugs, than its peers, but is much more eager than others to make drug arrests. Texas does not authorize sobriety checkpoints and has relatively light restrictions on motorist freedoms. Private and homeschools are almost completely unregulated. However, the state would benefit greatly from complete school choice. Labor laws are generally good, except for a prevailing-wage law. Texas is the only state not to require employers to contribute to workers’-compensation coverage. While Texas has only light community rating, it has imposed mandated coverages on health insurance that add significantly to the cost of insurance premiums. Texas is one of the leaders in telecom and cable “deregulation.” Unfortunately, eminent domain has not been extensively reformed. The state’s asset-forfeiture laws and liability system are both worse than average. In terms of the latter, ending the election of judges would probably help. Texas has higher than average cigarette taxes but slightly less restrictive smoking bans than many other states.
- Legalize casino gambling, slot machines, and sports betting. These changes would be especially useful as mechanisms for reducing the state’s budget shortfall.
- Liberalize drug laws. First steps would include legalizing medical marijuana, decriminalizing low-level marijuana possession, and reducing the extremely harsh maximum prison sentences for single marijuana offenses.
State Freedom Calculator
You know how free your state is today, but how free could it be in the future? Here are four policies from each area of the index--fiscal, regulatory, and paternalist--that allow you to play policy maker. Select from the options below and observe as your state's rankings in economic, personal, and overall freedom will be recalculated in real time and your state's ranking will rise or fall depending on your choices.