As West Virginians, we often find ourselves at or near the bottom of every national comparison. From education to income levels to percent below the poverty line, we frequently rank 48th, 49th, and 50th.
However, a recent study gives cause for hope. At long last, we're not last.
Well, sort of.
West Virginia is the 42nd freest state in the nation, according to the latest Freedom in the 50 States report by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
While it's great to be out of the bottom, we clearly have work to do: 42nd just isn't good enough.
But this study can help by serving as a guide to increasing freedom in the Mountain State and enjoying all of the benefits that follow: jobs, higher incomes, better quality of life and many more.
Research shows that states that rank highest in economic freedom levels provide residents higher standards of living and well being.
Freedom in the 50 States can help gauge economic freedom levels by measuring how free individuals in each state are from government interference.
The study focuses on three main categories:
* Fiscal policy, which includes tax burdens, government spending and government debt;
* Regulatory policy like property rights protections and occupational licensing constraints; and
* Personal freedoms such as restrictions on education, tobacco and alcohol.
Comparing West Virginia to neighboring Virginia, which ranks eighth in the Mercatus study, serves as a case in point.
While there are many differences between the two states - West Virginia has three BCS bowl wins - an alarming difference exists in their regulatory environments.
West Virginia puts an enormous regulatory burden on businesses, placing 49th in this subcategory.
Numerous costly and confusing regulations make starting and maintaining a business in the state more expensive and onerous than necessary. The time and money spent on complying with bureaucratic procedures could be better used for hiring workers and serving customers.