Recently, an article purported to show the ten most socialist states in America, connecting the argument to party politics. It may surprise you that free market economists have ranked the least socialist states, and half of them voted for Obama. On the other hand, among the most socialist states, many have cast ballots for Republican nominees.
Kurumi Fukushima made headlines with his article "The 10 Most 'Socialist' States in America" in early August. He defined socialism as
Socialism at its core is a political term applied to an economic system in which individual property, like money, is held and used in common, within a state or a country as an attempt to equalize the standard of living for the average citizen.
He also connected the argument to Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act), support for policies by the Democrats and President Barack Obama, as well as Republican opposition to this socialism.
Fukushima gets his data from taking the percentage of a state's GDP (form the National Association of State Budget Officers) that goes to a state's total expenditures (from the Bureau of Economic Analysis).
But what if there was a different way of calculating not only a state's level of socialism, and connecting it to politics more directly.
The Economic Freedom of North America, put together by Dean Stansel and Fred McMahon at the Fraser Institute, calculates economic freedom via several variables, including taxes, spending and labor freedom. And they calculate a rating for each state based upon those factors.
What might surprise you, is how all of this is connected to politics, or isn't.
You'd expect the most socialist states to line up with President Obama in the Democratic Party's camp, or at least most of them to be there. And we should see the least socialist states to back the Republican Party, right?
And that's the case with "state socialism."
Of the 20 "least socialist" states in the Economic Freedom of North America, half of them (Delaware, Nevada, Colorado, Illinois, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Iowa, Connecticut, Indiana and Minnesota) voted for Obama in 2008.
The other half supported John McCain: Texas, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Georgia, Utah, Alaska, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Kansas.
Of course, Romney helped retake Indiana and North Carolina (the latter by a narrow margin). And maybe the next ones on the list of least socialist are red states, right?
Wrong. Virginia, Oregon, Massachusetts, California, Washington, New York and New Jersey all cast ballots for Obama. Meanwhile, only four of the next 11 picked McCain and Romney: Tennessee, North Dakota, Idaho and Arizona.
Well, maybe the most socialist states backed Democrats, perhaps. That would also not be the case. These include Montana, New Mexico, Hawaii, Arkansas, Maine, Mississippi, Rhode Island, Kentucky, Vermont and West Virginia.
Perhaps socialism in America is just a little more complicated than which party the state voted for. Maybe it's a little more than state spending alone. Maybe it's about the power to regulate, the labor market and the ability to tax a host of products more than sheer volumes of dollars spent. And maybe both parties dabble somewhat in seeking to control the economy.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.