Americans' freedom has been gradually eroded over the last years, a new study has found, with the COVID-19 pandemic giving local officials more power over everyday life.
A new study by the Cato Institute, a Washington DC think tank that promotes individual liberty, limited government, free markets, has assessed each of the 50 states under 23 different categories, and produced an overall ranking.
The most and least free states are unchanged - New York being the least free, followed by Hawaii and California, and New Hampshire, Florida and Nevada being the most free.
New York is ranked 50th in the 'freedom ratings', and New Hampshire is first, according to the Cato Institute
William Ruger and Jason Sorens, the Cato Institute researchers who compiled the annual report, said that their analysis showed individual liberties were being curtailed across the board.
'Although the rights of some have increased significantly in certain areas, for the average American, freedom has declined generally because of federal policy that includes encroachment on policies that states controlled 20 years ago,' they state.
They looked at factors that varied depending on the state - such as taxation, marriage restrictions, rules around wearing seatbelts in cars and helmets on motorbikes, and marijuana and gambling laws.
New Hampshire, whose motto is 'live free or die', unsurprisingly came at or near the top on most metrics - although they were at the bottom of the rankings for land use and marriage equality.
'We ground our conception of freedom on an individual rights framework. In our view, individuals should be allowed to dispose of their lives, liberties, and property as they see fit, so long as they do not infringe on the rights of others,' the authors wrote.
'This understanding of freedom follows from the natural-rights liberal thought of John Locke, Immanuel Kant, and Robert Nozick, but it is also consistent with the rights-generating rule-utilitarianism of Herbert Spencer and others.'
Economic freedom involves both fiscal and regulatory policy.
Florida was ranked the freest state, with no individual income tax.
'Florida does especially well on economic freedom, and even more so on fiscal policy,' the authors write.
'Indeed, it is our top state on both.
'Regulatory policy is improved but mediocre compared with the fiscal side.'
Florida is followed by Tennessee and third New Hampshire.
'The Volunteer State lacks an income tax, and both state and local tax collections fall well below the national average,' the report notes.
New Hampshire's overall tax burden is well below the national average at 8.1 percent. The state government taxes less than any other state but Alaska.
The average individual income tax rate for all taxpayers is 13.3 percent, according to a Tax Foundation report from February 2021.