Mea Culpa, It's No Longer North Dakota!
Mea Culpa, It's No Longer North Dakota!
By Tim CondonIt looks like I have to tender apologies to everyone for my article Our Most Important Decision. In it I went through a personal analysis process, and concluded that the "best state" to choose as the Freestate would be North Dakota. But then later came the article by our founder Jason Sorens, A Re-Examination of the State Comparison Matrix, where he asserted "Condon got it wrong," at least in part.
In his article, Jason recommends the use of the State Comparison Matrix, a downloadable spreadsheet that every Porcupine can access and/or download. The spreadsheet is a small (7 KB) file that anyone can use. Basically what it does (and it should be called the "state comparison spreadsheet") is let us quantify the internal workings of our own mental processes instead of letting them jumble around in our heads.
Blast you, Jason! As a result of reading his article, using the State Comparison Spreadsheet (Matrix), and reviewing other newly-available state data, I must admit I must confess (cough, cough) that I have changed my mind.
I can no longer argue in favor of choosing North Dakota as the Free State, for a variety of reasons. It wasn't just the state comparison spreadsheet. There are a number of other reasons for my change of heart. For one thing, there are several sets of data now available that weren't around when I penned my article. Consider:
- The article by Tennyson, "Analyzing the Freedom Orientation of
Existing State Populations," was not yet written.
- New variables were discovered and added to comparisons of the states,
including membership by teachers in the state in the National Education
Association teachers union, seat belt laws, percentage of state population that
is "native-born," presence of anti-smoking laws, "ideology" of the state
populations, etc. None of these were available when I penned my article.
- A new "measuring device" with regard to libertarianism or
"freedom-orientation" was brought to my attention, the online "Liberty Index"
put out by the Republican Liberty Caucus and edited by Prof. Clifford Thies.
That handy reference shows us what kind of politicians are being elected right
now by the populations of our candidate states.
So let's talk about it. How could I have felt so right but been so wrong?
Part I: Assessing new informationFirst of all, with all the arguing and discussing and experiences and inside knowledge and wisdom being bandied about on the various email lists manned by Porcupines, it has become clear that we're going to face a helluva lot more resistance than I had originally thought. We must steel our hearts to it, right now. Let's face it: Many, many people perhaps most people, even in America! are afraid of freedom. Afraid of liberty. They don't really want it, at least not if its beneficial effects haven't been directly demonstrated to them. They're afraid of what their neighbors and friends and co-workers and compatriots might do if they're allowed to have gasp! liberty in their lifetime.
All of which can add up to a form of hysteria. One example: I have several times posted on various FSP email lists the experience had by one FSP member, a Libertarian who was elected a year or two ago to the city council of a small town in Colorado. The town of Leadville was blessed with having an elected majority of libertarians on its city council. (A majority!) Yet here is some of what he experienced as he tried to do the right thing for the people of Leadville:
We were accused by our mayor, police chief, fire chief, newspapers, and more people in the audience than I had thought possible that we "were imposing a national libertarian agenda" on the people of Leadville. Our effort to discontinue a full time code enforcement position and to roll those duties into those of our eight remaining police officers (thereby reducing the force by one by not filling a vacancy) was met with accusations that we were going to lay off officers one by one until we had no police force.
The opposition extrapolated our lay off of a recently-hired administrative assistant into our eventually wanting to get rid of city hall. They extrapolated our efforts to get rid of business license taxes to our eventually wanting to get rid of all taxes and to let just anyone set up a business. They extrapolated our effort to get rid of the sign code and the P&Z [planning and zoning] code to getting rid of all codes which would result in anybody building anything they wanted to anywhere they wanted to. We became enemy number one of even people who, prior to our taking office, wanted us to repeal these things. When the fear-mongering got to them they accused us of trying to take over and shove our libertarian agenda down people's throats.
Yet these very same people were, and still are, at risk of being cited by these codes and one would have expected their support. We were accused of "going backwards" and undoing years and decades of hard work building those codes. When I cited Jefferson in a rebutting letter to the editor, other letter writers used that as evidence of our hypocrisy because Jefferson was a "big government" President. Sheesh!
When I read about the above, it made me realize that no matter what state we choose, ultimately we are going to be greeted, at least in part, by hysteria! Where do such reactions come from? It doesn't seem "normal," to a libertarian at least, for people to react in that way when confronted with the option of living in liberty. But think about it: Of course such people are going to be upset! If you challenge the "way we've always done things around here," and threaten the very basis of political, social, and economic power bestowed upon "some" (them) to the detriment of everyone else (us) well, yes, they're going to be scared and angry.
But that's exactly what the Free State Project proposes to do in the lucky state that will be chosen to become our Free State.
All of which got me to thinking: I really didn't fully factor into my past ruminations exactly how to figure out what kind of welcome, and resistance, we're likely to generate in the Free State. How could we do that? Consider the extra variables, what Jason calls the "culture" measures, in the state comparison spreadsheet. Clearly, I think this is an area that needs to be much more carefully highlighted, in addition to my ultimate variable of state voting population.
Consider the article by "Tennyson", who tried to pin down the notion of how "libertarian-oriented" each of the FSP candidate states is. He chose to do it by looking at who voted for "perceived small government" parties and candidates, as opposed to the alternative candidates and parties of "big government." He concluded that Wyoming, in addition to having the smallest population of any state in the U.S., is also the most "small-government-oriented" of all our candidate states.
Yet Tennyson's article didn't totally nail it down either. Other measures are needed. One, for instance, has appeared in the form of the new teacher-union membership variable (see economic and political data). Another is the measure of what percentage of a state's population is native-born (and thus how we may or may not be welcomed as migrating "outsiders").
Still another factor that I didn't originally consider is what kind of political representatives are the voters in our candidate states currently electing? In particular, what about U.S. Senators and members of the House of Representatives in Washington, DC? That question, I found, can be handily explored by reviewing the Liberty Index at the web site of the Republican Liberty Caucus (RLC). (A useful, in-depth explanation of the index can also be found here).
(Let's have a digression here: I know that some of you are recoiling in horror with a reflexive hostility toward the Republicans. Stop it. There are good ones, and there are bad ones; the members of the Republican Liberty Caucus are for the most part libertarians. If you go look at the web site of Republican representative Ron Paul, that ought to help. The fact is, there are "better" members of Congress, and there are simply "awful" members of Congress. We need to distinguish among the good, the bad, and the ugly. The RLC's Liberty Index helps us to do just that.)
Then there was an existing variable that I passed over rather lightly in my previous article, and that's the question of how much federal money flows into each state, as opposed to being paid out in federal taxes. North Dakota has the worst measure of all the 10 candidate states in that area, yet at the time I wrote the article I thought it to be of little importance. Jason's article where he said "I strongly disagree with the de-emphasis of federal dependence, and I think that Tim's analysis would have been more rigorous had he used the quantitative tools available" made me revisit the matter. I now conclude (dang-it!) that Jason's right, this variable should have been given much more weight than I originally allowed.
Why? Consider this: We know that we'll be widely attacked and regarded with fear and loathing from a non-insubstantial sector of the population in any state (let's call it "the political class" or "parasite class"). That group will be throwing everything at us but the proverbial kitchen sink to convince people to oppose us and our reforms. (One FSP member who ran for office as a Libertarian Party candidate experienced the spectacle of at least one woman who actually went door-to-door in his district for the sole purpose of urging people not to vote for him! We should expect no less.)
Consider what ammunition such people will have if they can say, "Right now we're getting all this free money from the federal government! And those Porcupines are trying to take it away from us! It's crazy to refuse all that free money!"
Maybe most people won't go for such arguments. But don't bet on it. Looking back to Jason, his particular area of scholarly study is "political secession movements" throughout the world. He has found that wherever people are benefiting from the rape of taxpayers elsewhere, secession movements are either stillborn or stymied in their efforts. Even though the Free State Project isn't a secession movement, those types of arguments can still be used against us as we try to re-assert proper Constitutional state autonomy from the federal government (as envisioned by the Founding Fathers). In sum, I am convinced by Jason's arguments in this area, and now believe that much more weight should be given to the "dependence on federal money" variable.
It's clear also that there are other variables in the state data tables that have a bearing on similar issues, and which I didn't give the consideration they deserve. The Economic Freedom Index, gun laws, levels of taxation as well as state and local taxation, the presidential vote (which is similar, by the way, to the measures examined in Tennyson's article), "ideology," anti-smoking laws, mandatory seatbelt laws, etc. All are indicative of the "cultural landscape" that we're trying to get at. But with all those additional variables kicking around, how the heck are we supposed to make sense of them to make a reasonable decision? That's where the State Comparison Matrix (Spreadsheet) comes in. Once you fiddle with it a little, you'll see how you can place and weight the values that you feel are the most important.
And that's just what I'm going to do right now. First a caveat though: I have not changed my mind about the first and most crucial variable: State voting population must be the most heavily weighted variable of all. And that means that we still end up with my original "final four" candidates.
Remember them, the final four? In descending voting population numbers, they are Vermont, North Dakota, Alaska, and Wyoming (in descending actual population, the list would be Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming). My original arguments still hold with regard to why Alaska and Vermont must be discarded, which still leaves North Dakota and Wyoming. In my article I said:
In the end, choosing between the final two states is a difficult proposition. However, in two important factors one stands out clearly above the other. First, a very large part of Wyoming, 45.9%, is owned by the federal government, while only 3.9% of North Dakota is (thus making North Dakota a "larger state" than Wyoming in terms of the land mass available for private ownership). And second, Wyoming is totally landlocked within the 48 contiguous states, while North Dakota has a long border with Canada. On two other less important measures, North Dakota also has an edge over Wyoming, the percentage of the population employed by government (18.5% vs. 22%), and in the projected new jobs outlook, 34,350 vs. 27,450.
Well. During the ensuing time, not only have I reviewed and accepted new variables and new views on existing variables I have also come to question my previous emphasis on (1) federal land ownership and (2) whether a state is "landlocked" or not. First of all, there are arguments in favor of higher-percentage land ownership by the federal government; this can be seen as a good thing (for instance, more land will be left as wilderness for enjoyment, and the state population may be kept lower than otherwise, which would benefit Porcupines). Secondly, given the importance of the Project, the historical significance of it, and the utterly crucial fact that we must be successful in our endeavor I don't see whether the Free State has a coastline coast, has an international border, or is landlocked as very crucial at all. Those considerations pale in the face of the two "giant" variables, voting population and amount of resistance and hostility we're like to meet, i.e. "current freedom-orientation" of the existing state population.
So let's now compare North Dakota and Wyoming again. In the most crucial variable of voting population, Wyoming demolishes all comers. It has the lowest overall population in the United States today; in 25 years it will still have the lowest population. It has well over 100,000 fewer residents than the next closest state, Vermont. And it had fully 75,000 fewer votes cast in the last presidential election than the next closest competitor, Alaska (Wyoming's entire "voting age population," found in Tennyson's article, is 72,000 less than the next closest state, Alaska). Wyoming wins.
Then there's the cultural arena, the "freedom-orientation" or "libertarian-ness" of the two states. In Tennyson's article he found that Wyoming clearly comes out the winner, indicating a voting preference for "small-government" political candidates over "big-government" candidates by 151% (followed by Idaho at 141% and then North Dakota at 73%). Wyoming wins.
Next, teacher union membership as a percentage of the state population: Wyoming comes in fourth in the state data table, tied with Delaware at 1.16%. North Dakota loses, coming in fifth place at 1.41%. Wyoming wins.
What about the percentage of native-born population in the state, indicating how willing people may be to accept a large influx of freedom-loving Porcupines. Wyoming comes in second, at 42.5% (just after Alaska, with 38.1%). North Dakota, on the other hand, comes in dead last, with a huge native-born population of 72.5%. Wyoming wins.
Now on to the Republican Liberty Caucus' "Liberty Index." The ratings are made according to a two-dimensional "Liber-Plot" that tracks Libertarian Party founder David Nolan's breakthrough insight from the 1970's: It measures freedom-orientation by tracking Congressional votes that relate to personal liberty and economic liberty. The result breaks the findings into four quadrants: Those who are against both economic and personal freedoms; those who are in favor of both; those who are in favor of personal freedoms but against economic freedom; and those who support economic freedom but not personal freedoms.
The resulting graph is very interesting, and merits close examination. The ratings break politicians into nine subsets: There are the "Left-wingers" and "Liberals" who tend to be stronger on personal liberties but weak on economic liberties. They are opposed by "Conservatives" and "Right Wingers," politicians who are strong on economic liberties but weak on personal liberties. Then there's the other axis the "Authoritarians" and the "Statists" who tend to favor neither economic nor personal liberty. And they are opposed by the "Enterprisers" and "Libertarians" who tend to favor both economic and personal freedoms.
Now on to North Dakota and Wyoming. Comparison is made easy because each has only one U.S. Representative and two U.S. Senators. North Dakota? The year 2000 ratings show that North Dakota had two Democratic senators, Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad. Its sole U.S. Representative was also a Democrat, Earl Pomeroy. All three are rated as solid Authoritarians, the worst possible place for a politician to be, anti-libertarian to the core. Very bad news for North Dakota.
Wyoming? In the year 2000 its sole Representative and both Senators were all Republicans. The two senators are Craig Thomas and Michael Enzi. The single U.S. Representative for Wyoming is Barbara Cubin (who is on the board of directors of the National Rifle Association, and as a member of the Wyoming Legislature in 1994 voted in favor of the state's new concealed carry law). In their ratings on the RLC Liberty Index, all three score as Libertarians (you don't have to believe me and you don't have to take the RLC's word for it; you can go to the site and look over the ratings, check the votes that the ratings were based upon, and see if you agree; I did). Wyoming wins big-time.
(As an interesting digression, how do Alaska and Vermont score on the same Liberty Index? Alaska's two senators, Ted Stevens and Frank Murkowski, both scored out as libertarians, while the single Representative, Donald Young, scored as an "Enterpriser" (in the right direction, but not enough to be labeled libertarian); all three are Republicans. Vermont? Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat scored out as a "statist" (in the direction of "authoritarian," but not all the way there); the other senator, Jim Jeffords, a former Republican who bolted the party to give control of the Senate to the Democrats in 2001, scored as a "centrist." Vermont's only Representative, socialist Bernie Sanders who got elected as an "Independent," scores out also as a statist.)
Finally, there is the measure that I tended to dismiss in my last article, the question of dependence on federal money. In that category, Wyoming comes in fourth (after New Hampshire, Vermont, and Delaware) with $1.14 coming into the state for every $1.00 that goes out in federal taxes. North Dakota, on the other hand, comes in dead last among all ten candidate states, with a whopping $1.95 coming into the state from the federal coffers for every $1.00 which flows out of the state. Wyoming wins.
I think we can begin to discern a pattern here, at least among the variables I feel are most important. Between my two final states, Wyoming totally destroys North Dakota as a favorable place to choose as our Free State. There just doesn't seem to be any real comparison. In remembering that I chose North Dakota before, this underscores the crucial importance of making decisions on which variables are really important and which aren't, and then assigning them relative weights.
It is clear, then, that with the variables I explored above, and given the importance I assign to them, Wyoming wins "going away."
Part II: Using the State Comparison Spreadsheet (matrix)Want to throw in the other "cultural" variables? Gun control laws? Voting for libertarian, conservative and Republican presidential candidates? Taxing levels? Spending levels? Land control laws? The economic freedom index? Seat belt laws? Citizen "ideology"? Homeschooling laws? Mandatory seat belt laws? Sheesh! I can go on! As you can see, any serious consideration of the majority of the cultural factors, not to mention the other factors, quickly turns into a quagmire unless, that is, we use the State Data Comparison Spreadsheet (what Jason calls the Matrix). So let's have at it. What follows is a detailed explanation of how to use the spreadsheet, and how I "weight the variables" in order to come up with the winning state (and as I write this, I haven't yet done it, so even I don't know the answer; I'm doing it right now).
First of all, let's start with what I think are the most important variables. As I continue to argue, population is the most important variable by far (that's why the state data tables are set up with the lowest population state at the top Wyoming and move down through the larger population states as you go down).
Now go ahead and open up the state comparison matrix (spreadsheet), and follow along with me. (To open it, and download and save it, use your web browser to go here. You have to have a copy of the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or some other compatible spreadsheet that can open Excel files on your computer; if you don't know about this, or need help, ask a computer-nerd friend; they'll be able to help you. In a pinch, send an email directly to me and I'll help too.)
Now click on each of the three tabs at the bottom, "How to Use This Spreadsheet," "Compare," and "Raw Data," and see what comes up on your screen for each one so you'll get comfortable with it. Then click on the "Compare" tab. In the upper left of your screen you see the columns labeled "Category" for Column A and "Variable" for Column B (notice that the categories in Column A are, from top to bottom: Size, Viability, Culture, and Quality). Then move one more step to the right, to Column C which is labeled "WEIGHT" at the top. This is the column where we're going to put numbers for all our variable "weights"; each row, from #2 through #31, is a separate variable.
(Incidentally, if you can't see all the Rows on the left, #2 through #31, you may need to use the vertical "movement bar" over on the right side of your screen. Similarly, if you can't see Column C on your screen, you may need to shift the columns over by using the horizontal "movement bar" at the bottom right of your screen.)
So now we're ready to start typing in "variable weight numbers" in Column C, from top to bottom. But wait! I want to deal with "population" first, since I believe it's the single most important variable. "Voters" (number of votes cast in the 2000 Presidential election) is in row #2 up at the top, but there's also a "total population" row, #4. Although I say population is the most important single variable, and I want to give it the largest number of points, I don't want to end up giving it an unfair advantage by giving huge points to both voting population (row #2) and total population (row #24). That ain't fair, so I won't do it. Instead, I'll say that I want to give a total of 15 points to "all kinds of" population. I'll give 7.5 points to Voters and 7.5 points to Population. You do that by clicking on the Column C box in row #2 so that the box is highlighted, and then you type in your value. (Remember, "columns" run vertically, from top to bottom; "rows" run horizontally, from left to right.)
Voila! You've got it! You type in a 7.5 in the #2 row and a 7.5 in the #4 row, both in the "WEIGHT" column, which is "C" up at the top. Be aware also that you can move the "highlight" around by using your arrow keys.
(At this point you may want to consider taking all of the "default" values out of all the other rows so you start with a "clean slate"; you can accomplish this by highlighting the WEIGHT column in each row, hitting the space bar, hitting return, hitting the space bar, hitting return, etc. Try it, it's easier than it sounds, and you end up with all the rest of the boxes empty, which is a good place to start. This is also a good time to do a little experiment: Put your mouse pointer over one of the variables in the "B" column and hold it there; in a second you'll see an explanation of exactly what that particular variable entails, so you don't have to look around to see what the "meaning" of each row is.)
Now, let's dispose of the other two "Size" variables, including "Finance" and "Area." My thinking is that they're not really important in the overall Porcupine scheme of things, so I decline to give them any points at all. Zero for both of 'em.
Next in the vertical "Category" column on the left side of your screen come the "Viability" variables, rows #6 through #8. They are "Geography" (coastal vs. international border vs. landlocked), "Dependence" (ratio of federal spending in the state vs. tax outflow), and "FedLand" (percentage of federal-owned land in the state). Jason feels that geography is important; that's why if you put your mouse pointer over "geography" on the state comparison spreadsheet, you'll see that Jason has awarded higher points to states with larger coastlines and international borders (that's why he has "JS" there, to indicate that that's his point-evaluation). Well fie on Jason! I used to think that having a coastal zone or an international border was important. I don't now. Who cares if we have a seaport or seashore if we can't win elections? Who cares whether we have an international border if we can't implement our political reforms and shrink state government by 75% or more? Population must come before everything else. And existing freedom-orientation (i.e. the amount of resistance and hostility we're likely to encounter) must come just after that.
I give zero points to geography.
What about percentage of federal-owned land in the state? As mentioned above, there's an argument to be made in favor of a higher percentage of federal land in a state. Be that as it may, I don't really care. We'll be negotiating with the federals after the Free State is well-established. The question of state land under federal control will be one of the issues to discuss. In the meantime, it's not going anywhere. Zero points to FedLand.
And then there's Dependence. This is the Viability variable that I unwisely dismissed in my original article. As I said, I've reconsidered, due in no small part to Jason's information. His Ph.D. dissertation research has shown that "autonomist parties are consistently more powerful in regions that 'lose out' economically from centralization." And he's right. Reflecting on it, it only makes sense. And as I mention above, if we pick a highly federal-dependent state, think about the storm of hatred, hostility, and hysteria that will descend on us when we start telling people that "the Free State can do without federal subsidies and the strings that come with them; we want to re-establish Constitutional federalism and maintain our freedom." Hooooo boy. This variable is important; nowhere near population and existing freedom-orientation, but it's still in the ball park. I give it 3 points.
That takes care of the Viability category.
Next there is the large list of Culture variables, rows #9 through #25. I feel "Culture" is very important, but the variables vary widely in how important they should be to us (and thus how they should be weighted with points). The important ones should have a real bearing on what we call "freedom-orientation" or "libertarian-ness." Since there are so many of them, and I don't want to write a thick novel here, let's go through these relatively quickly. Here's how I score the culture variables:
- Spending (relatively important): 3 points.
- Taxes (less important, but still there; state bureaucrats can deficit
spend without raising taxes sometimes) 2 points
- Prez (way important because it indicates the propensity of the voting
population to vote for perceived "lesser-government" candidates) 5
- Gun control 3 points.
- Homeschooling 2 points.
- Natives (very important, as explained above) 5 points.
- UrbanAreas (state population which lives in urbanized areas; Jason argues
a lower percentage is better; not important) 0 points.
- UrbanClus (percentage of total population that lives in relatively densely
populated small towns; not an issue, in my opinion 0 points.
- NEA 1 point.
- Ideology (kind of subjective, in my opinion) 1 point.
- GovEmp (percentage of the population that works for some level of
government; I don't think it's necessarily a terrible thing if a certain
percentage of the population works for government, but it does indicate a cadre
of people more likely to resist radical government downsizing, so it does have
importance) 3 points.
- EFI (wellll
I dunno; the Economic Freedom Index was whipped up by
two economists from Clemson University and one from the University of Chicago;
they appear to know their Hayek and Friedman
but it still seems a little
arbitrary to me) 2 points.
- LandPlanning (fairly important; a measure of just how powerful the petty
bureaucrats have managed to become in a state) 3 points.
- SBSI ("small business survival index"; too arbitrary, and affected by
variables not of importance to us) 0 points.
- CPS ("child protective services"; again, somewhat arbitrary and affected
by extraneous facts, but still a measure of how brazen the state bureaucrats
may be in kidnapping children) 2 points.
- Smoking (just how much arbitrary, anti-freedom, anti-property,
anti-individual, unconstitutional power are the people giving the politicians
in a state) 2 points.
- SeatBelts (and how brazen are the politicians in restricting individual
choice in order to kowtow to the insurance industry) 2 points.
Up to now we've dealt with three out of the four categories. That leaves the last remaining category of "Quality," which includes the variables like livability, crime levels, average income, the jobs outlook, and amount of land privately owned as opposed to government-owned. In my previous article I argued that the Quality variables are pretty unimportant, except for the amount of land in a state not controlled by some level of government. I now believe that none of the quality measures are important. We will make our own quality; we will create our own jobs; we will stamp out "real crime" and protect real rights while abolishing victimless crime laws. And we will make our own "livability." The Free State is going to be the most exciting, fast-growing, entrepreneurial, enjoyable place to live in the entire world, not just the United States. Zero points for all the "Quality" variables.
Now, as I said, I'm doing this from scratch as I write it, so give me a minute here to finish filling in the variables as above. And we have a list of how the states come out in my subjective weightings. Take a look at the "TOTAL" row at the bottom of the spreadsheet, and follow along with me (with the numbers rounded off); here's how the states shake out, with the higher numbers being the "best choices":
Notice something? It doesn't turn out the way you'd expect; there are surprises. For one thing, Vermont comes out ahead of Montana? And Montana is next to last? What is going on? I can explain: The State Comparison Matrix (spreadsheet) compares states according to how much weight you subjectively choose to give each variable. My weights go extremely heavy on population variable numbers, and very heavy on Presidential vote as well as percentage of native-born citizens in the state. You'll want to assign your own weights and preferences. Either way, it makes for surprises.
Keep this in mind also: There are some variables that simply aren't covered, such as the remoteness of Alaska. I believe it would be impossible to get the requisite number of Porcupines to commit to leave their family members and other loved ones so very far behind if Alaska were chosen.
Still another consideration is what might be called "personal intangibles." They're not really intangibles, but each person has a "personal sense" of the value of them. For instance, some of us strongly favor the austere majesty of mountains. That tends to downgrade great plains states like North and South Dakota as well as a coastal state like Delaware, no matter how variables are arranged.
Thus, in the end, your voting preferences should be informed by both the undeniable utility of the State Comparison Spreadsheet (matrix) as well as what your personal feels are about "where you want to be." The state comparison spreadsheet will help you in this quest.
Bottom line? Each of us has to make our own personal decisions based upon our own internal radar. I now repeat what I have said in the past: Every one of the FSP candidate states is acceptable to me. I will go to any state that is chosen (including Alaska, a state I originally opted out of but do not now). The fact is that wherever the Free State turns out to be, we're going to have a heck of an adventure moving there and transforming it into a limited-government, freedom-oriented state, just as the Founding Fathers originally intended.