Libertarians eye Wyoming
|Title:||Libertarians eye Wyoming for relocation of 20,000|
Libertarians eye Wyoming for relocation of 20,000
by Ilene Olson 07/23/03
CHEYENNE Wyoming's low population and conservative mentality have put the state in a prime position be the target destination for 20,000 Libertarians as part of the party's Free State Project.
"We like Wyoming," said Keith Carlsen, spokesman for the project. "It's not only a beautiful state, but it has the lowest population. It's easier to persuade less people.
"Wyoming is one of the most pro-freedom, independent-minded states in the country," Carlsen said.
But Gov. Dave Freudenthal said Libertarians "are overestimating the receptivity of their ideas in the state."
And local economist Dick O'Gara warns that an influx of 20,000 people could put a burden on the state's employment system and cause unemployment to rise.
As of Friday, 4,703 Libertarians had signed up nationwide to participate in the project. Literature on the Free State Project describes it as a plan in which 20,000 or more liberty-oriented people will move to one state and work within its political system to reduce the size and scope of its government by two-thirds.
One-fifth of the project's members are retired, with most of the remaining members in their 20s and 30s, he said. Carlsen, who stopped off in Cheyenne during a publicity trip through Wyoming this week, is 21.
A vote on which of 10 states identified as possible homes for the movement will begin Friday and continue through Aug. 15, Carlsen said. In addition to Wyoming, those states are Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Vermont.
"We're not actually going to move until we have 20,000 people," he said. While plans call for membership to swell to that number by 2006, "I think we can do it in two years," Carlsen said.
After that, the members will move to the selected state within five years.
Carlsen said Wyoming and New Hampshire are the unofficial favorites so far.
Selling points for Wyoming include the state's lack of an anti-hate crimes bill and the Wyoming Supreme Court's recent ruling that bars cannot be sued for continuing to serve already inebriated customers, even if they go on to cause a fatal car crash afterward.
Those are indicators that political correctness has not infiltrated the state's government, Carlsen said.
A report co-authored by Carlsen says, "This is a state that consistently responds to candidates advocating a small government agenda."
But another report by Greg Garber and Peter Saint-Andre notes that "Wyoming's government sector is a bit larger than one would desire," with 22 percent of the state's population working for federal, state or local governments.
That report said the archetypical Wyoming resident "is characterized by the various meanings of the word 'ornery.' This can mean obstinate, cantankerous, obstructionist, resentful and revengeful, or independent, individualistic, non-conformist, and strong-minded.
"Over the years, outsiders (particularly Easterners used to the snarls of city dwellers), have fallen in love with the good, sweet, innocent, lovable, open-handed sons and daughters of the West, only to find out later that there's hard rock underneath. Things like loyalty, respect, consideration and instant handy response to emergencies and disaster are embedded in the rock too."
Carlsen's report touts Wyoming's lack of personal or business state income taxes. It also cites the state's rating as "America's Wealth-Friendliest State" by Bloomberg, and its ranking by the Tax Foundation as the state with the most business-friendly tax climate.
In addition, the Republican Liberty Caucus considers Wyoming's congressional and legislative delegations to be the most libertarian in the nation for both fiscal and social issues, the report says.
Carlsen cited examples such as U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., who was the only senator to vote against a recent trade restriction bill, and state Rep. Keith Goodenough, D-Casper, who voted against a tax on cigarettes during the 2003 Legislature and is pushing to legalize marijuana in the state.
"Can we win in Wyoming?" the report asks, then answers with "a resounding yes."
Free State Project members "could build a majority by capturing a mere 57 seats among the smallest districts of all our candidate states. Elections are so cheap in Wyoming that the Wyoming U.S. House and Senate elections cost less than 25 percent as much as the same elections in New Hampshire," the report said.
Freudenthal disagreed with that logic.
"I do think they're picking out a few things and reading more into them. They see them as much greater bellwethers of opinion than the average citizen does," he said.
In a separate report, Carlsen predicts that finding jobs won't be a problem for the 20,000 people the project would relocate to the selected state.
Because 20 percent of the people in the project are retired or will soon be retired, only about 15,000 would need jobs, he said.
Carlsen writes that many of the project's members are single.
"Chances are high, that if these single members marry, they will marry other Free State Project members or citizens of the selected state." Some of those families are likely to choose to live off one income, he said.
In addition, a large number of Free State Project members are self-employed, with another group working through the Internet, he said.
Additional jobs are available within 100 miles of the state's borders for professionals who feel the drive is worth it, he added.
Carlsen says in the report that moving 20,000 people into any state will create new jobs and demand for services.
"By the time the move to the selected state is being completed, 1,000 to 3,000 jobs will have been created simply because of our moving to the selected state," he said.
In addition, "as many as thousands of us will be elected to office," Carlsen writes. "Many of these public office jobs are full-time jobs with full-time pay. Once in office, we will begin to reduce regulations and business restrictions.
"This will open up, potentially, thousands of new jobs for the taking. The selected state will turn into the Free State and become a per-capita powerhouse" regardless of which state is selected, he said.
O'Gara, director of the Center for Economic and Business Data at Laramie County Community College, called that assertion "laughable."
O'Gara said an influx of 20,000 people in the state is more likely to create a rise in unemployment than many additional jobs.
"There would be some truth to that on the retirement side, where people have existing incomes. They're in a position to buy homes."
The rest are job keepers and are looking for income. They're not going to be generating jobs.
"Either the unemployment rate will soar, or they are going to displace existing workers. My guess is that the majority will not have the job skills we're looking for, and that most of them will have to take a wage/salary cut if they move to Wyoming," O'Gara said. "The cost of living may be higher than they are anticipating, especially in terms of housing."
"We're barely holding our own when it comes to any job creation," O'Gara said. "It would probably take them 10 years to get 20,000 people in here.
"It is extremely remote that this will ever materialize," he said of the entire project.
Though he disagrees with the logic behind the Free State Project, Freudenthal said the Libertarians are free to move forward with it.
"They're entitled to their opinions and whatever actions as long as they operate within the laws," he said. "It's a free country."
These media articles are maintained on a non-commercial basis by The Free State Project, a non-profit organization, for historical, educational, scholarship, and research purposes. (For information regarding "Fair Use", see US Code Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 107).