Texas politicians praise freedom in Texas. As always. Latest study: Hold my beer

In Reality check In their stories, Star-Telegram journalists delve deeper into questions of facts, consequences and accountability. Read more. Story idea?

Politicians across Texas often tout the state as a beacon of freedom. Those were exactly the words of Governor Greg Abbott in April when he accepted an award as one of the most influential people in the world.

“We have worked tirelessly to ensure Texas remains a beacon of freedom and opportunity for the entire world, and it is an honor to be recognized for all we have accomplished by being named one of the most influential people in the world by TIME100,” Abbott said. “From building the world's eighth-largest economy to leading a historic border security mission in the midst of the worst border crisis our country has ever seen, one thing remains clear: Where Texas leads, others follow.”

Abbott's statement raises the question of whether Texans are truly free. The state has indeed changed due to social and cultural events in the 20th century.

But a beacon of freedom? Not necessarily, as a study by the libertarian think tank CATO Institute shows. It compared the personal and economic freedoms of all 50 states in 2023 and ranked Texas 17th, based on more than 230 state and local public policies.

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Texas ranked 6th in the economic freedom category, which includes tax and regulatory policies in various categories such as state and local taxes, land use, and health insurance. The study found that local taxes are significantly higher than the national average, at about 4.7% of adjusted personal income, and that Texans have limited options when it comes to local government: There are only 0.33 jurisdictions per 100 square miles. The study also reported that public employment has declined dramatically. Private employment is 10.5%, and the state's share of GDP is just 9.2%.

When it comes to personal freedom, Texas came in at number 50 based on various factors such as education, firearms, tobacco, and victimless crime. It found that the state had very little educational freedom, incarceration rates much higher than the national average, the worst cannabis laws in the country, and the ongoing ban on sports betting.

Overall, the report recommended that Texas authorities change their policies. In order to ease the burden on taxpayers, the state must exercise more fiscal discipline at the local level and follow the example of other conservative governments and introduce a general education savings program.

Anna Harden

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