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How Well Does Your State Constitution Protect Individual Rights, Limited Government?

November 19, 2014

Phoenix–Today is Constitution Day and to celebrate the Goldwater Institute released a first-of-its-kind report that ranks each state constitution based on its current commitment to the Founders’ vision of limited government.

In “50 Bright Stars: An Assessment of Each State’s Constitutional Commitment to Limited Government” Goldwater Institute constitutional policy director Nick Dranias assessed and ranked the strength of limited government provisions of each state constitution as currently interpreted in recent court decisions and the quality and philosophy of each state’s judiciary.

He found that 48 states currently offer a better environment for securing limited government in state courts than do federal courts under the U.S. Constitution. Only Massachusetts and West Virginia fall below the federal baseline. Arizona ranked third in the country, close behind Minnesota, which tied Michigan and Ohio for first place.

“To secure the promise of liberty, Americans should take inspiration from their state constitutions and stand up for the limited government principles upon which our nation was built,” Mr. Dranias said. “This study shows that state constitutions are a natural frontline for defending our freedoms and reminding the federal government what our nation stands for.”

As policymakers in Washington, D.C. expand federal power further into business decisions and health care, many state constitutions offer a first line of defense to protect individual liberty. The report can also help guide individuals and businesses to states, like Arizona, where their liberty and property are most secure.

The report looked for ten categories of constitutional provisions that limit the power of government, from guarantees of personal freedom to balanced budget requirements to bans on corporate subsidies. The report appendix details which provisions are included in each constitution and assesses how they compare to the U.S. Constitution.

50 Bright Stars” is available online or by calling (602) 462-5000. Also online is an interactive map that allows users to compare states based on the constitutional provision they think is most important.

The Goldwater Institute is an independent government watchdog supported by people who are committed to expanding free enterprise and liberty.
About the author: Nick Dranias holds the Goldwater Institute Clarence J. and Katherine P. Duncan chair for constitutional government and is the director of the Institute’s Dorothy D. and Joseph A. Moller Center for Constitutional Government.



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