EFNA Network Zooms Ahead

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Appeared in Fraser Insight, Winter 2021

Dozens of members and partners of the EFNA Network turned their annual gathering into a Zoom conference call. The out-of-the-ordinary mode of connecting didn’t prevent them from exchanging innovative ideas, helpful best practices and a sneak peek of EFNA 2020, which was recently released worldwide.

Steered by Alan Dowd of the Fraser Institute and Meg Tuszynski of SMU’s Bridwell Institute for Economic Freedom, this sixth meeting of the EFNA Network brought together partners from Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, Iowa, Texas, New Mexico, California, Hawaii, Arizona, Ohio, North Carolina, Mexico and Canada.

The program was highlighted by Drew Cline of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy in New Hampshire, John Hendrickson of the Tax Education Foundation in Iowa and Rik Hafer of the Hammond Institute at Lindenwood University in Missouri.

Cline shared insights on how to generate interest about the report among state policymakers, and he offered tips on how to work with media partners before and after EFNA reports are released. Cline and his team have been highly successful in getting the EFNA message into policymakers’ hands, with the New Hampshire governor citing the report in both 2019 and 2020.

Hendrickson discussed the importance of leveraging social media and traditional media. He and his team generated and disseminated op-eds for statewide newspapers, using EFNA data and findings to support tax reform and regulatory reform efforts in the state.

Hafer described how EFNA can be useful to showcase the relevance of a university’s work to its hometown and home state. Using the report as a jumping-off point for op-eds can inform the “educated layman,” Hafer observed, and explain why the principles of economic freedom matter to the average family and average taxpayer.

Robert Lawson of the Bridwell Institute for Economic Freedom and Fred McMahon of the Fraser Institute offered insights on economic freedom in a global context. And McMahon and fellow EFNA co-authors Dean Stansel of SMU’s Bridwell Institute for Economic Freedom and José Torra of Caminos de la Libertad gave participants a preview of the 2020 EFNA index.

Among their findings: New Hampshire retains its status as the most economically-free state in the union, followed by Florida (2nd), Virginia (3rd), Texas (4th) and Tennessee (5th). At the other end of the spectrum, New York is again dead last, with West Virginia (49th), Alaska (48th), California (47th) and Vermont (46th) joining the Empire State in the EFNA cellar.

As for America’s neighbors, Alberta continues to be the freest province in Canada, followed by British Columbia and Ontario. Quebec is by far the least-free province. In Mexico, Jalisco and Michoacán de Ocampo are the freest states, while Campeche and Zacatecas are the least free.

Dowd, who serves as managing director of the EFNA Network, highlighted some of the vital statistics and impressive outputs of the EFNA Network, which now enfolds 58 members in 44 states, Canada and Mexico.

Since the Network’s creation in 2014, the EFNA report has been featured in 105 U.S. newspapers in 41 states. This, in turn, has enhanced the report’s impact on national media—places EFNA never appeared before the Network came into being: CNBC, The Hill, Forbes, Real Clear Policy, Washington Examiner, American Spectator, National Review Online and Investor’s Business Daily among others.

These local and national media placements have generated interest in state policymaking circles: Partners in Michigan, Ohio, Texas and New Hampshire have been especially adept at getting the report into the hands of legislators and governors. And those lawmakers have publicly cited the EFNA report and rankings.

During the 2019-20 cycle, the EFNA Network generated 512 U.S. media mentions in traditional media outlets such as newspapers, radio and TV—a 481.8-percent increase over 2013 (the last year without the EFNA Network). In addition, the Fraser Institute tracks outputs such as blogs, press releases, social media posts, e-newsletters, etc. The reason: These are the sorts of outputs EFNA Network partners are delivering directly to civic leaders, lawmakers and informed citizens in their states—which means these sorts of outputs can make a big impact. In year one of the EFNA Network (after publication of EFNA 2014), we tallied 36 of these digital placements emanating from 11 states. In the 2019-20 cycle, we saw 89 digital media placements in the U.S. emanating from 28 states and 17 national outlets—a record number of states represented in any single year since the EFNA Network was launched.

Add it all up, and the EFNA Network is spreading the EFNA message in innovative, high-impact ways across the United States and throughout North America.

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