State Report NH 3: Welcome to New Hampshire
Welcome to New Hampshire
Greetings from the White Mountains where the winters are cold and the women are beautiful. I want to tell members of the Free State Project a bit about our state to help you make a more informed choice.
Previously I have lived in three statist areas (Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New York) but moved to New Hampshire in 1999. New Hampshire is a conservative state, in the good sense of that word (referring to conservative Americans of the 1950s, not to European conservatives). The credit for this belongs to William Loeb, publisher of The Union Leader. Loeb turned his paper into a fierce enemy of the welfare state, and it remains so today. It is the dominant paper in the state and, while not completely libertarian, manifests a lot of good common sense.
Crime is very low. In 1999, our total crime rate was the lowest in the nation. The first winter I was here I was startled to find motorists leaving their engines idling (key in ignition) while they ran into the donut shop for coffee. In the small town of Brookline, in which I resided for a while (population 4,000), there was no case of murder in the 20th century. The right to keep and bear arms is specifically protected by the state constitution.
Using the SATs to measure education (not good, but at least objective), New Hampshire can claim to be the best in the country. There are states which score higher, but these states have a much smaller percentage of their population taking the test (hence only the smarter kids). Among states where more than 60% of the students take the SAT, New Hampshire regularly gets the highest scores.
New Hampshire is alive with small-business people. Almost everywhere you look there are small plazas, or shopping malls, or little alleys, peppered with small businesses. There is the same hustle and bustle that characterized most of America in the 1950s. You can pretty much go into any major city in the state without seeing loiterers. New Hampshire goes year after year with the lowest unemployment rate in New England. In 2001, our unemployment rate was 43rd nationally. And our personal income per capita ranks 6th ($34,334 in 2002).
Americans are fleeing most Northeastern states. The more statist ones are losing native population and only grow at all due to foreign immigrants. But New Hampshire is gaining population at a rate of about 18% per decade, and has more than doubled in size over the past half century. There is no specific economic or technological event (such as oil vis-à-vis Texas, gold discoveries vis-à-vis California, or air conditioning vis-à-vis Florida) to explain this population movement.
The state's motto was coined by General John Stark during the Revolutionary War. Recruiting a militia unit to march to the aid of Massachusetts (in what later turned out to be the battle of Bunker Hill), he told his men, "Live free or die." Stark's unit also played an important role in the battle of Saratoga.
New Hampshire has the highest mountains in the East, and the pine trees make the air clean and sweet. We are tied with Rhode Island for the second safest state (1.0 fatalities per 100,000,000 vehicle miles, in 2001). And the people here have a passionate interest in politics. There are many small newspapers of different views. There are only about 2,500 citizens per state legislator, and the latter are paid $100 per year. As a result, anybody can run for the state House of Representatives (two-year residency requirement). You can win election in many districts with just 2,000 votes, and in some places 1,000 votes will make you a state rep. You can reach voters by standing in the center of town or at the town dump and handing out leaflets; or for a small cost you can do a mailing. Although the state is clearly Republican, any given election can go either way.
New Hampshire has neither an income tax nor a sales tax. There are some minor exceptions to this but nothing significant. In 1999, New Hampshire ranked lowest in general revenue going to the state government on a per capita basis (Statistical Abstract 2001, p. 279)
There are a great many businesses located right on the Massachusetts border to attract Bay Staters trying to avoid their state's sales tax. These businesses employ a lot of people and pay a lot of municipal property tax. So there is an enormous vested interest against a state sales tax. On those rare occasions when the idea is floated, it dies a miserable death. A campaign was recently made for a state income tax (to obey the Supreme Court's very bad educational funding decision). The Democrat who led the fight was at first repudiated by his own party. When he was finally given the nomination, he suffered a dismal defeat. I expect that this was the death knell for the state income tax in New Hampshire as a practical political issue for the foreseeable future.
Statists from Massachusetts have tried to argue that New Hampshire's low state taxes are offset by high (municipal) property taxes. This is not true. Municipalities in New Hampshire have pretty much the same functions as anywhere in the country: education and police. Tax rates in New Hampshire are a little higher than in Massachusetts (which is limited by state law to 2.5%). In my town the rate is 2.8% on assessed valuation. But this is offset by the fact that land values in New Hampshire are much lower (for a Northeastern state close to a major job center); thus the amount of property tax the average person pays is probably lower than in Massachusetts (although I have not done the statistical work on this point).
If the Free State Project does choose New Hampshire, then the first order of business should be to start a newspaper in the southern part of the state (where there is minimal competition with The Union Leader). The Nashua Telegraph is a juicy target.
By the way, we New Englanders do not drop our "r"s. We do have a broad "A". And we do not talk the way JFK talked. (He was Irish and made a bad imitation of a Boston Yankee accent.)
So, if you want to come, we would love to have you.