• Most Free
  • Least Free

Freedom Rankings

  • #25 Overall
  • #31 Economic
  • #18 Personal

Stats Breakdown

Change in overall freedom, 2007–2009:
Change in overall freedom ranking since 2007:
Net domestic migration, 2000–2009 (% of 2000 population):
Governor, 2011:
Scott Walker (R)
Legislature, 2011:
House 60R/38D/1I, Senate 19R/14D


Wisconsin has improved slightly since the last edition of the index but remains in the middle of the pack. In terms of economic freedom, the state’s spending and debt are roughly average. However, government spending on transportation and public safety are above national norms. The overall tax burden is quite a bit higher than average, as are individual income and property taxes. Eminent-domain-law reform has stalled and could go a lot further. Wisconsin has deregulated cable service but still needs further deregulation in other areas. The state has a prevailing-wage law, but minimum wage is not above the federal level. Occupational licensing is average and there is no community rating for health insurance (there are rate bands for small-group insurers). The state has mandatory interdistrict public-school choice and a voucher program. Regulation of private schools, including general curriculum oversight, is light. Homeschools are also regulated with some annoying notification requirements. Wisconsin has very respectable asset-forfeiture laws (over one standard deviation better than average). Like North Dakota, Wisconsin has very high victimless-crime arrest rates (both as a percentage of the population and as a percentage of all arrests). On the other hand, its drug law-enforcement rate is actually below average. Alcohol laws are among the best in the country, with taxes fairly low across the board. Wisconsin does not authorize sobriety checkpoints and, before the data cutoff, was one of three states not to require auto insurance (it has since passed a law). Cigarette taxes are very high, but smoking bans allow numerous exceptions. Wisconsin enacted a domestic-partnership law after the cutoff date for our data.

Policy Recommendations

  1. Reduce the income-tax burden while cutting back spending in areas above the national average, like education.
  2. Reformeminent-domainlaws.
  3. Broaden the school-choice/school-voucher reforms.
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.

Fiscal Policies
Actual Value: 11.0%
Actual Value: 19.8%
Actual Value: 23.2%
Actual Value: 0.121
Regulatory Policies
Actual Value: 0.0
Actual Value: 33.50%
Actual Value: 21.88%
Actual Value: 2
Paternalist Policies
Actual Value: 0.03
Actual Value: 0
Actual Value: $1.77
Actual Value: 0
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