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Living Freer Than Ever in Oklahoma

August 22, 2018 in Economics

By William Ruger, Jason Sorens

William Ruger and Jason Sorens

Recent reports show an upswing in economic growth for Oklahoma.
The state is moving in the right direction — but don’t let it
stop there.

Recently, we awarded Oklahoma with the title of most-improved
state in our book “Freedom in the 50 States,” a biennial ranking of
economic and personal freedom across the country. Since 2000,
Oklahoma has improved on each dimension of freedom we measure in
that study — fiscal, regulatory and personal — and has
moved from one of the bottom 10 states to one of the top 20 freest
states in the country.

The state is moving in
the right direction — but don’t let it stop there.

The state tax burden has fallen by about 25 percent since 2000,
while local taxes have held steady as a share of income. The state
also has done a good job of keeping its debt burden low. Oklahoma
passed a right-to-work law in 2001, letting workers opt out of
paying union dues. The state has made it easier to sell auto and
homeowners’ insurance, promoting consumer choice and competition.
Tort reform has cut businesses’ liability insurance costs. Legal
casinos opened in 2005. Oklahoma now gives more families
opportunities to seek out educational choices through a tax-credit
scholarship law and a voucher program for special-needs students.
In 2010, the state repealed driver’s license suspensions for
nondriving-related drug offenses. Oklahomans also got an assist
from the U.S. Supreme Court in striking down the same-sex marriage
ban.

What does all this new freedom mean in practice? Oklahoma’s 3.6
percent annualized economic growth rate over the period of 2001 to
2015 surpassed that of all neighboring states except Texas.

Despite these improvements, Oklahoma still imprisons a much
larger share of its population than most other states. This
suggests there are too many laws with criminal penalties attached,
including for consensual or victimless activities, as well as
excessive sentencing. Oklahomans took matters into their own hands
and passed a ballot initiative that reduced felony drug possession
to a misdemeanor.

Another significant problem for individual liberty is that civil
asset forfeiture, which offends most Americans, is rampant in
Oklahoma. If the police take your property, you have to go to court
to prove you are innocent in order to get it back, and the police
only have to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the
property is subject to forfeiture. The same goes for eminent domain
for private benefit: The state has done little to curb the ability
of government to take private property and give it to developers.
The Legislature has failed to limit the taking of property …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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