Free State Project considers Wyoming
By CNSNews.com 04/24/03
Cheyenne (CNSNews.com) - A Yale political science student wants to set
up a libertarian utopia in a sparsely populated U.S. state. Wyoming is a
According to the group's website
"The Free State Project is a plan in which 20,000 or more liberty-oriented
people will move to a single state of the U.S., where they may work within the
political system to reduce the size and scope of government. The success of the
Free State Project would likely entail reductions in burdensome taxation and
regulation, reforms in state and local law, an end to federal mandates, and a
restoration of constitutional federalism, demonstrating the benefits of liberty
to the rest of the nation and the world."
The group, now collecting signatures of willing participants, says it will
choose a state - Wyoming? Montana? Idaho? - once it gathers 5,000 signatures.
Wyoming is under consideration because of its low population (less than 500
thousand), and therefore small number of voters, among other factors.
Jason Sorens, founder of the project, told WyomingNetwork "Wyoming is an
attractive state for many Free Staters because of the self-reliant, independent
attitudes of its citizenry, its low taxes, its open spaces, and the
oft-demonstrated willingness of the state government to challenge the federal
government when it oversteps its constitutional limits."
An October 13 , 2002 Associated Press article at the group's web site quotes
2002 Libertarian candidate for Wyoming governor Dave Dawson as supporting the
'"It's a great idea," he said of the Free State Project. 'The problem is
getting Libertarians to do something all together is a lot like herding cats.'"
"Dawson said he would love to see the plan succeed but doesn't think Wyoming is
the place. The state is not as independently minded as everyone thinks, he
said. Still, he said, "'I think it's realistic. It's certainly not easy.'"
"We don't want to wait decades...to realize the benefits of robust individual
liberty and the failings of the nanny state," says the Free State Project
A May 17 meeting notice at the
Wyoming Libertarian Party website states "Debra Ricketts, Director and
Treasurer of the Free State Project, will discuss the Free State Project and
its impact on Wyoming should Wyoming be selected as its target state."
WyomingNetwork contributed to this story.
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Turn me loose, set me free
By Wayne Laugesen 11/14/02
Grab your gun, and tell the old lady to start packin' up the kids. It's time to
move to Wyoming to create a free state. That's exactly what libertarian-minded
people, from all over the country, are planning to do in droves.
For too long, Libertarians have comprised the party of refreshing
and popular ideas but no results. Like members of all third parties,
Libertarians have enjoyed victories that are really just hollow
consolations. Libertarians, for example, took majority control of an entire
city council recently. Unfortunately, the pothole politics of Leadville,
Colo., don't free American citizens from oppressive taxes, big business and
What Libertarians need, if they are to become a real player in American
politics, is this: two members in the United States Senate, at least one
member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and a governor. (Holding onto
the Leadville City Council won't hurt them, either!)
How do they accomplish this substantive step toward the major leagues? They
take over Wyoming, Vermont, or one of the other 10 states (or the District of
Columbia) that consist of fewer than 1.5 million residents. (Other possible
targets are: Idaho; Maine; New Hampshire; Hawaii; Rhode Island; Montana;
Delaware; South Dakota; North Dakota; and Alaska)
The invasion of one of these states will happen within the next decade. In
the works is a well-organized political maneuver headed by the Free State
Project. Already, more than 1,500 Libertarians have signed a pledge to move
to the soon-to-be-freed state once the organizers of the project decide which
state to liberate. The goal is to get 20,000 Libertarians or libertarian-minded
people to commit to taking over a state by moving to it and voting.
Getting 20,000 people to agree to live free is no gargantuan task, so don't
make the mistake of writing this off as a pie-in-the-sky dream of the political
fringe. And don't make the mistake of thinking 20,000 hardcore voters, who
all believe in less government and lower taxes, isn't enough to take over
most federal, state and local political offices in an entire state.
Wyoming, which would be the best selection, consists of only 493,782
people. Wyoming has fewer people than live in the tiny cities of Wichita,
Kans., or Colorado Springs. Wyoming's population base isn't twice the size
of Boulder County's. Would it be a stretch to believe in an effort by all
the country's Libertarians to control the politics of Wichita? Nope. So it
should be no harder to visualize a successful political coup in Wyoming.
Despite Wyoming's sparse population, it has as much clout in the United
States Senate as does California-a state that's home to 33,871,648 people-or
33,377,866 more people than live in Wyoming. California has two Senators;
Wyoming has two Senators. Each U.S. Senator, whether from California or
Wyoming, has one vote on any given bill. Likewise, California has one
governor; Wyoming has one governor. Wyoming has one U.S. Representative,
even though the state's entire population falls short of comprising a
Liberal Democrats-who hold the uneducated view that America is a
"democracy"-loathe this dynamic of American politics. They would like to
see the Electoral College vanish, so the urban majority could dominate
all aspects of American government. The founders knew better than to allow
that to occur. They knew that pure democracy would result in tyranny of the
majority, not liberty. So they designed a system that empowers minorities
so much power that they enjoy a mighty hedge against mob rule. We're not a
"democracy," but a constitutional republic that employs some democratic
principles such as elections. If we were a pure democracy, my right to own
guns would have long ago been taken by a whimsical vote of the majority. My
right to publish editorials that ridicule the majority would have long ago
been taken away. If this were a democracy, the opportunity for a minority
political group to take over an entire state-a state with seemingly lopsided
clout-would have been nixed by now.
Wyoming is so important to the national political landscape that outside
interests pumped tens of millions of dollars into the most recent senatorial
race. ABC's Robert Krulwich ran the numbers in creative ways designed to
give people some idea of how much money individual votes are worth in a
state with fewer than a half million residents. Krulwich proved that with
the money spent on the Senate race, mostly by outside sources, each candidate
could have taken each potential voter to dinner 11 times.
Money doesn't guarantee victory, even in a tiny state, because the
other side of a two-party political system can usually match the spending
dollar-for-dollar. Human infiltration, however, can't be defeated. Imagine
20,000 voters, who each cast straight pro-liberty ballots, diluting the tiny
electorate of Wyoming. Also consider the fact that Wyoming-like Vermont,
the second smallest state with 608,932 residents-already has libertarian
leanings. Both are rural states, where the native culture tends to value
self-sufficiency while rejecting the kind of urban interdependence that
statist, liberal, big-government politicians so like to exploit.
After moving 20,000 voters to a small state, here's what the Free State Project
hopes to do: repeal state taxes and wasteful state government programs;
end grants and collaboration between state and federal law enforcement;
repeal all state gun control and drug prohibition; end asset forfeiture
and abuses of eminent domain; privatize utilities and untwist big business
monopolies. When all that's done, the free-staters plan to negotiate with the
federal government for a return of the state's constitutional autonomy.
Then, let's hope they'll "take over" and free a few more states.
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Liberty-minded activist group has eyes on Wyoming
By Lara Azar 10/14/02
CHEYENNE With its small population, limited government and
independence-inclined residents, Wyoming looks like a leading candidate for
the Free State Project.
The project is just about what it sounds like. With about 1,200 members,
it aims to move 20,000 "liberty-minded individuals" to a given state.
Why? So that they can form a large enough segment of its voting population
to change its political nature, from its criminal codes to its tax structure
to its interaction with the federal government.
And they plan to use the threat of secession as the leverage to do it.
The Free State Project is the brainchild of Jason Sorens, a 25-year-old
political science doctorate candidate at Yale University.
He and his wife, Mary, will be two of the 20,000 if the project proceeds
as he hopes. He is a Libertarian, but the Free State Project while
certainly aligned with the party is independent of it.
"We think government is too large, too distant, and we also think that we
need to get back a bit more to our constitutional principles and start to
take the Constitution seriously," Sorens said, speaking recently from his
home in North Carolina.
It may sound unfair, Sorens acknowledged 20,000 strangers moving to a
state and essentially taking it over at the ballot box. But that is why Wyoming
is a likely candidate to help them accomplish their goals, he said.
"That?s why we?re looking at states that are already pro-freedom and pro-small
government," he said. "Of course we will be interested in making some changes;
however, these aren?t going to be drastic changes, and we?re going to start
"We?re not going to come in like gangbusters, obviously."
It all sounds great to Dave Dawson, the Libertarian candidate for Wyoming
governor. As he has made his way up and down the campaign trail, Dawson has
advocated less government at every turn.
He wants to repeal federal income tax laws and see the state pull out of
everything from education to health care.
"It?s a great idea," he said. "The problem is, getting Libertarians to do
something all together is a lot like herding cats."
Dawson said he would love to see the Free State Project succeed, but doesn?t
think Wyoming is the place to do it. The state is not as independently minded
as everyone thinks, he said.
Still, though, said Dawson: "I think it?s realistic. It?s certainly not easy."
U.S. Attorney for Wyoming Matthew Mead would not disparage the project, but
he did recognize that it would have a difficult time circumventing federal
law if that is the intention.
"Of course, they?re free to move to this state or any other state," Mead
said. "And if they want to try to change state law, they?re free to do that.
? But they will be subject to the same federal laws as everyone else."
Data provided on the group?s Web site, www.freestateproject.org, shows that
Wyoming is among the top four states considered for the move, along with
Delaware, New Hampshire and Alaska.
Population is the critical factor, according to the site. Project research
has found that 20,000 activists could influence only states with fewer than
about 1.5 million inhabitants, or those that spend less than $10 million on
political campaigns in any given election two-year cycle.
Other criteria include coastal access for trade, an existing "pro-freedom"
population, a lack of dependence on federal funds and a decent job market.
It is the economy that would hurt Wyoming?s chances most, Sorens said, as is
the fact that it is "landlocked" by other states. But both might be overcome,
"We?ll probably actually be creating more jobs than we?re taking, in that
our group is very much skewed toward professionals and business owners,"
Secession is not the goal, Sorens said, but it is the bargaining chip.
"I doubt that any American state would actually go through with that, but
the very idea of the possibility should make it easier for us to achieve
concessions with the federal government," he said.
Sorens said the group faces a self-imposed deadline of September 2006 to
have all 20,000 members. He hopes to have 5,000 members by September 2004,
also when the state will be chosen.
"I think we have a good shot at it," he said. "But if we were unable to reach
5,000 by then, we would really have to consider whether to pursue the project."
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Wyoming one of four states targeted for Libertarian plan
By Associated Press 10/13/02
CHEYENNE, Wyo.(AP) A North Carolina man is targeting Wyoming, Delaware,
New Hampshire and Alaska for an experiment to overhaul a state's government
and wean it from federal control.
Jason Sorens, 25, a Yale University political science doctoral candidate,
Libertarian and founder of the Free State Project, plans to enlist 20,000
"liberty-oriented individuals" to move to a state and reform its laws,
from criminal codes to tax structure.
The government's only role should be to defend citizens from force and fraud,
Drug and gun laws would be repealed, and asset forfeiture and abuses of
eminent domain would end, the project's Web site states. Utilities would be
privatized, and inefficient regulations and monopolies would be eliminated.
The plan includes opting out of federal mandates and ultimately negotiating
with the federal government for appropriate political autonomy. The threat
of secession would be used, if needed, as leverage.
"We think government is too large, too distant, and we also think that we
need to get back a bit more to our constitutional principles and start to
take the Constitution seriously," Sorens said recently from his home in
Sorens said his group, which has 1,220 members, faces a self-imposed deadline
of September 2006 to recruit 20,000. He hopes to entice 5,000 members by
September 2004, which is when a state will be chosen.
"I think we have a good shot at it," he said. "But if we were unable to
reach 5,000 by then, we would really have to consider whether to pursue
Population is the critical factor, the group says. With 20,000 activists,
it could influence only states with fewer than 1.5 million residents or
states where less than $10 million is spent on political campaigns in any
election cycle, project research has shown.
Other criteria include coastal access for trade, lack of dependence on
federal funds, a decent job market and a certain Libertarian streak.
"We're looking at states that are already pro-freedom and pro-small
government," he said. "Of course we will be interested in making some changes;
however, these aren't going to be drastic changes, and we're going to start
"We're not going to come in like gangbusters, obviously."
Wyoming's economy and landlocked status would hurt the state's chances to
become the testing ground, but Sorens said both might be overcome.
He said secession is not the goal but the bargaining chip.
"I doubt that any American state would actually go through with that, but
the very idea of the possibility should make it easier for us to achieve
concessions with the federal government," Sorens said.
U.S. Attorney for Wyoming Matthew Mead said the project's backers would have
a difficult time circumventing federal law if that is the intention.
"Of course they're free to move to this state or any other state," he
said. "And if they want to try to change state law, they're free to do
that. ... But they will be subject to the same federal laws as everyone
Libertarian candidate for governor Dave Dawson supports the Free State
Project. He has advocated less government at every turn on the campaign
trail, pushing for repeal of federal income taxes and handing education,
health care and other government programs to the private sector.
"It's a great idea," he said of the Free State Project. "The problem is getting
Libertarians to do something all together is a lot like herding cats."
Dawson said he would love to see the plan succeed but doesn't think Wyoming
is the place. The state is not as independently minded as everyone thinks,
Still, he said, "I think it's realistic. It's certainly not easy."
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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).
We Made the Move! Russell Kanning
Date of move: March 2004
Reported by Tim Condon, FSP Participant Services
For the early-mover members of the Free State Project, it's usually pretty
clear why they "make the move" to New Hampshire. But some make the move for
reasons other than the chance to live in liberty among other freedom-lovers.
Russell Kanning is one of those: He moved for love! Call it "Porcupine
love" (if the whole notion isn't sharply self-contradictory). Upon moving to
the Free State from Wyoming in November 2004, he married FSP leader and
super-activist Kat Dillon (who herself had moved to New Hampshire from Texas
less than a year before). They now make up a Porcupine family of three with
Kat's daughter Kira.
Russell was living in Victorville, California sometime 2003 when he first
read about the Free State Project. "I signed up within days of reading about
the FSP for the first time," he recounts. Then he moved to Wyoming later that
year with his family, hoping that that state would be the state chosen.
Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately Russell had one more move to make before
he could live among other liberty-lovers after New Hampshire was chosen in late
2003 by the FSP membership vote.
It was unnecessary for Russell to do any advance scouting in the Free
State. He and Kat had already struck up an online friendship as a result of
both being activist FSP members. "I knew I would like any part of NH," he says,
"so I had not made any exploratory visits. But I did ask plenty of questions.
And I married Kat as soon as I moved into the state, to Keene."
About his first impressions, Kanning says "I like New Hampshire even more
than I thought. It's not quite as cold in the winter as I expected, and it's a
little warmer than Wyoming. Also, the people are very friendly in New Hampshire
and seem to have positive impressions of the FSP on the whole."
Russell recounts the same story about both anticipation and trepidation
upon coming to the Free State and meeting other Porcupines. "One of the things
I was looking forward to in NH was meeting my fellow Porcupines," he remembers.
"I have not been disappointed. I've met so many Porcs in the past few months
that I can't name them all. In fact, many of them I met in just the first few
weeks after arriving."
Any fears about the cold winters that some people use as an excuse not to
make the move to the Free State? "I wasn't concerned about the weather,"
Russell says. "I knew I would like New Hampshire no matter where I ended up. I
had been living in southern California for about 16 years, but I grew up in
Montana and Utah, so I was used to cold and snow." But even so, New Hampshire
turned out to be a shock for Kanning: "I've never lived in a place with this
much rain and all the beautiful trees," he marvels.
One thing that did concern him, he says, was the welcome or lack thereof
that he and other Porcupines would receive upon moving to New Hampshire. "I was
curious to find out how 'flinty' the locals would be," he says. "As it turns
out, they're friendly and don't seem to mind outsiders coming from as far away
He was also surprised by the condition of the roads in the Free State.
"Since we have so many hills in New Hampshire, and winding roads, I'm surprised
at how nice the roads are, and how well you can get around the state. It's also
pretty obvious that the road conditions worsen as soon as you cross the border
into the Peoples Republic of Massachusetts," Russell says with a grin.
What about the job situation? Was he worried about his ability to find a
job? Not at all: "New Hampshire is a very busy place, and it wasn't hard at
all for me to find the kind of accounting work that I do," he recounts.
Kanning is also looking forward to doing wintery sport things with his new
family in Keene. "My new wife and daughter went sledding for the first time in
their lives yesterday," he said. "We'll also be doing some outdoor skating,
which will be new for all of us. I'm an avid sports fan and like to play
basketball too, so I'll continue doing that here in New Hampshire. I'm also
making the big switch to New England teams from the Utah Jazz, Denver Broncos,
and LA Dodgers, since New Hampshire is now my home and will be my home from now
Any words of advice to others who may be contemplating the possibility of
moving to the Free State as part of the FSP migration? Russell is very explicit
about that: "You will not regret moving to New Hampshire early," he says.
"Everyone I meet is glad they moved, and I'm surprised at how much we can
accomplish already in the state, and how much the good people of New Hampshire
are welcoming us here. Each of you should move as soon as you can. You'll love
every minute in your new home in the Free State!"
Back to We Made the Move!
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Keith's Tour of Wyoming
From the 19th of July to the 28th of July 2003, I toured Colorado, Wyoming, and
South Dakota. I spend the majority of my time in Wyoming and this report
chronicles my time in that state. Overall, I finished the tour thinking that
Wyoming is an even stronger candidate state than I had previously thought. I
know most Free State Project members are unable to take a tour of Wyoming but I
hope you learn something new about the state from my travels.
July 19th Ft. Collins, CO
- There are decent looking mountains right next to the city.
- The city features a nice outdoor walking mall just like Boulder, CO and
- Large companies like HP and factories are just a few minutes off the
- Colorado State University is huge.
- There are other local universities like the University of Northern
Colorado and the University of Colorado.
- It takes just over 30 minutes to go from Ft. Collins, CO to Cheyenne, WY
(going around 80 mph, potentially you could drive faster but it might not be
recommended) but it would take a little longer too go from downtown Cheyenne to
downtown Ft. Collins.
- The consensus opinion was that you could work in Ft. Collins and live in
Cheyenne and that people already do it.
- However, I was cautioned that the Interstate is closed for a handful of
days a year because of wind and the snow drifts it can cause.
- It takes just over 90 minutes to get to the Denver Airport from Cheyenne.
- In Colorado, people drive fast and it is not unusual for the flow of the
traffic to be 85 mph.
- In Wyoming, people are more likely to drive around 70-80 mph (the speed
limit is 75).
- I'm not sure if this is because there is very little stress in Wyoming or
if it's just so magical that people slow down to take in all of the wonders.
July 21st Torrington, WY
- The city is 75 minutes from Cheyenne.
- The drive between the two cities consisted of hills, bluffs, rock
formations, farmland, and grassland.
- The sign said that Torrington has 5,700+ people. And I counted seven
- The hotel that I stayed in charges $25 per night (or $120 per week), after
- That means someone could stay there for around $500 per month and get a
hotel room, continental breakfast, maid service, cable, local calls, water, and
- The hotel offered no discounts and charged me one dollar less for paying
- It is a locally owned hotel and the owner accidentally charged me a dollar
extra so he walked to my room to give me the dollar.
- Scottsbluff, NE is 35 minutes away.
- Scottsbluff has everything you would expert from a town its size
including: Super Walmart, mall, zoo, gentleman's club, and a Radio Shack.
- Scottsbluff National Monument and Chimney Rock are just outside of
Scottsbluff, NE. They are both amazing places with excellent trails that go
all the way to the top of Scottsbluff National Monument.
- I think Torrington has extra jobs because I noticed illegal aliens in
- Scottsbluff, Gering, and Mitchell (5 minutes from Torrington) also have
jobs and the roads are easy to drive all winter long.
- The only problem is that Nebraska has an income tax (like Idaho, Montana,
Maine, Vermont, and Delaware).
- Houses are very inexpensive in Torrington. Decent safe houses in town
- I was looking at property and I noticed 40 acres (13 miles from town) with
a well, electric, and phone lines advertised for $45,000.
- Torrington gets very little snow but has high humidity in the summer. I
did not feel hot, though, because of the breeze.
- I am seriously thinking about moving to Torrington if Wyoming is picked.
- Torrington seems to be a farm town with sugar beets, wheat, corn, and
beans being the major crops.
- There is also a community college in Torrington (and Cheyenne, and Casper,
- Community colleges are great because students get more one-on-one time
than at universities, for about 1/2 to 1/4 the price.
July 22nd Guernsey, WY
- Guernsey is a nice little town of around 1,100 people.
- People do not need to lock their house doors; some people still leave
their keys in the ignition and the car doors unlocked.
- This town has a 1,000 yard shooting range.
- Guernsey is a beautiful small town with both public and private miniature
Black Hills all around the town.
- I went in the Guernsey State Park and met a nice couple from CO that goes
their to look for rocks.
- They told me all about Wyoming and its rock history and all kinds of other
- They even gave me this special type of rock that they had just found.
- They said it was valuable outside of Wyoming and that it would look great
if I shined it up (I was a little confused).
- They said that there is a lake a few miles away that is used by people
with wave runners from all over the West.
- The state park has nice canyon walls that are right next to the road (a
little too close for comfort).
- Guernsey has decent houses for around $40,000 and all of the houses are
- The charm of this town will stay in my memory for along time.
- I was at a local diner and I saw a child helping his parents out (for some
reason the parents were not charged with child abuse and violation of child
labor laws :) .
- I stayed with Mark Spungin, the President of the Wyoming State
- I do not want to describe his house very much but it had a nice garden
with sunflowers (among other pretty plants) and would be a dream home for
anyone that is crazy about guns.
- Both he and his wife were extraordinarily nice.
- Actually, I stayed in the Boston T Party suite :)
- Mark had been on the town council before.
- It was a local, non-partisan election and he could have won again but he
wanted to be Mayor.
- He ran for Mayor and did OK; ran for State House as a Libertarian Party
member but didn't do very well.
- He told me that a libertarian had been elected to his state House district
before but that he did not get reelected.
- Mark said that the gun laws in Wyoming are some of the best in the country
(our research backs this up) and that there is not much discontent with them.
- He said he likes the Free State Project and hopes it comes to Wyoming.
- I asked him if any other state was better for the project and he said
nope, Wyoming is the best.
- Actually, a couple of times he said "we" like he was a part of the FSP (it
seems like he is part of the project, at least in his heart).
- He thinks that large cities are breeding grounds for big government.
- I asked him about the tax situation in Wyoming and he said that he only
pays around $260 a year in property tax.
- He said that if 2,000 of us joined the WSSA we would have massive power
and if we were activists we might be able to change the gun laws.
- He said that he thinks Wyoming would go for Vermont Carry.
- He told me that in Wyoming they don't allow local cities to make gun laws
so that no city can prevent you from carry open or concealed (if you have a
- He said that in Alaska local governments are allowed to make strict gun
laws and that Anchorage's gun laws are more strict than the Alaska state laws.
- He told me about
Boston T Party's book, Molon Labe. It's a fictional tale about a group
like the FSP moving to Wyoming and slowing changing the minds of the people,
county by county.
- I asked him about Wyoming's smallest county,
- He did not think many people would want to live in that country, but that
it would not be hard to influence the county.
- I asked him about
County and he said he liked that county and if he was not in Gurney, he
might live there.
- He told me a story about how some big government politicians tried to
increase the size the Thermopolis's (the major city in Hot Springs County)
government and they were all voted out in the next election.
- He said you have to be honest with the people of Wyoming (State Senator
Bruce Burns later said the same thing).
- He told me that they don't have DUI checkpoints in Wyoming.
- I asked him that if he likes the FSP so much, why doesn't he join.
- He said he already lives in Wyoming.
- He said that he is going to retire in 2004 so he will have more free time
to be an activist.
- He homeschooled his kids and I asked him about the homeschooling laws in
- He said his family had no problems teaching his kids exactly what he
wanted to teach them and that around 20 kids in his small town are
- He said the Wyoming Highway Patrol only has around 166 members.
- Right after I left, he and his wife headed off to go practice shooting for
some national shooting completion.
- His wife, Beverly Spungin, is an even a better shooter than he is
(and a great cook), grew up in North Dakota.
- She shared with me a couple bright spots of North Dakota: great soil, and
fields & fields of sunflowers.
- However, she did say that North Dakota was too flat for her.
- She is the Vice President of the
Wyoming State Shooting Association,
the Secretary of the Wyoming Libertarian
Party, and also a volunteer firefighter/EMT.
- She said that they did not have a major snow storm last year until March
and that they do not get much snow in Guernsey.
July 23rd Douglas, Glenrock, and Casper WY
- I met with State Senator John Schiffer (R) of Kaycee, Wyoming.
- His district covers all of Johnson County (with Buffalo and Kaycee being
the main towns) and the southern part of Sheridan County.
- He told me that term limits are real and they are going to start next
- He bought me peach pie (yum) at a little restaurant in Kaycee (this is a
very small town).
- John said he would like the FSP to come to Wyoming because he thinks new
ideas and discussions would be useful.
- He is already a committee chairman, but might be set to become one of the
Senate leaders. (He is already the VP of the Senate).
- He is a rancher and is one of the few people I saw in Wyoming that looked
like a cowboy. His shirt was torn and it looked like he had been working has
ranch before our meeting.
- He told me that Wyoming passed the recent cigarette tax increase because
Wyoming has to produce a balanced budget every year and it was an easy way to
balance the budget.
- I told me why they did not just make cuts and he said they also made cuts
- He said he did not agree to vote for the tax increase until a sunset
provision was added to it.
- I asked him why Wyoming was the least regulated state in the country and
used the example of
laws in Wyoming.
- He said that it is called "fencing" and they try to keep that out of
- He explained fencing as this: someone in one industry moves in and tries
to enact tough laws to keep others out.
- He said that they try to prevent such practices in Wyoming.
- He told me that they have preemption laws for guns in Wyoming. This means
that Wyoming towns cannot pass gun laws that are more strict than the state
- He said people would be willing to work with us issue by issue but it
would be hard to hold a coalition together because people are very independent
- I asked him if there were any counties that would respond positively to
our smaller government message.
- He said every county would respond positively to it but explained that
there are constituents for every program.
- He said that he likes to hear what the people of his district think about
- He said that he thought medical marijuana would pass as a ballot
- He told me that his daughter moved to Portland, Maine but could not handle
the winter there.
- He said that the winter is much worse in Maine than in Wyoming.
- I met with State Senator Bruce Burns (R) of Sheridan, Wyoming.
- He said that Montana is too big and spread out for the FSP to succeed in
- He said that Wyoming already has one of the smallest governments.
- He said the Democrats of Wyoming are like Republicans.
- He said he likes the idea of the FSP but thinks the people and state of
Wyoming already have so much in common with the FSP, that things would not
change much in Wyoming.
- He bought me lunch at a steak house in Sheridan.
- He thought that we should pick Vermont.
- He said it is the only state that elected a self-proclaimed socialist to
the US House.
- He said that we could make a huge national impact if we picked Vermont and
changed its entire Congressional Delegation.
- He pointed out that we would not make much impact with Wyoming's
Congressional Delegation because they are already so inline with us (they are
considered the most pro-gun by Gun Owner's of America and the most libertarian
by the Republican Liberty Caucus, and Senator Michael Enzi is considered to be
the most libertarian US Senator in the nation).
- He did admit that Vermont has harsh winters.
- I tried to explain why Wyoming and New Hampshire were leading states but
he would not let up on this Vermont idea of his.
- He said that a sizable minority of the Vermont population is upset and
they will be go along with our agenda if we move there because they have
nowhere else to go.
- He said that there is not widespread discontent in Wyoming because the
government is already so small in size and scope.
- He said that the religious Republicans used to be discontent and that they
tried to take Wyoming county by county.
- He said they move from county x to county y and are now in Platte
- He said that they lost and the Republican Party has already moved away
from them (but they have nowhere else to go).
- He said some of them do not even vote any more.
- The impression I got from everyone is that abortion is a losing issue in
Wyoming, and so the Wyoming Republican Party is more inline with America on the
issue than other state Republican Parties.
- Bruce gave me ideas on where to hike in the Bighorn Mountains and asked me
how my trip was doing.
- It seems as though everyone is Wyoming unofficially works for the
Department of Tourism as everyone asked me if I was having a good time.
- I went on a free tour of the historic
- Apparently the Sheridan Inn was owned by
Buffalo Bill Cody who also founded Cody,
- According to the volunteer tour guide (who also happens to be a local
school principal) Buffalo Bill used to be one of the most famous Americans in
- Sheridan is a town with lots of tourism and lots of retired people.
- The area is very pretty and Sheridan looks like an authentic Western town.
- There is a gentleman's club right across from the post office.
- The town has four golf courses and looks absolutely beautiful.
- I left Sheridan and entered Montana.
- As soon as I got in Montana I noticed that I was on an Indian Reservation
and that it was against the law to use the Interstate turnarounds.
- In Wyoming it is legal to use the Interstate turnarounds I even saw
one sign that encouraged it.
- I quickly left Montana and headed for the
- There are two small towns between Sheridan and the Bighorn Mountains.
- It was nice to see a drive-thru liquor store in a town with only 500
- Drive-thru liquor stores are all over Wyoming.
- Sheridan's real estate is pretty steep.
- Houses start around $70,000 and go up to around $800,000.
- You can get a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house for around $125,000 if it is
older and not near the mountains, and things go up from there.
- The Bighorns were amazing and were much better than all of the other
mountains I had ever been in (Smoky Mts, Green Mts, Adirondack, Casper Mt,
Black Hills, Colorado Rockies)
- There was a clear lake where less than a handful of people were fly
- A long and clear stream fed the lake.
- I played around in the stream and noticed a few leeches (or worms) but
they wiped right off.
- Now I feel that I have to go back to Wyoming just to spend more time
hiking and climbing rocks in the Bighorn Mountains.
- I talked to my Mom on the phone and she said the family is pushing for me
to move to New Hampshire (almost 1/2 of my family live in Northern New
- I noticed that there was a $30 hotel in Sheridan (a family business) but I
stayed in a $40 hotel instead.
- I felt sprinkles twice in Sheridan (this was the first time I had felt
water since entering Wyoming).
- Gillette, Wyoming is the energy capital of the world (coal, oil, natural
- I noticed a restaurant called "Taco Time" in Moorcroft (near Gillette).
- The lady at the counter said that it is a national chain from Oregon (I
had never heard of it).
- If that is true, Taco Time was the 4th national chain of taco restaurants
that I saw in Wyoming.
- I noticed that Wyoming has tons of miles of the Black Hills that are not
- I visited
Tower National Monument.
- People are not supposed to climb the tower without a permit, but I cannot
imagine how they plan to enforce that rule.
- The tower is spectacular and the views from about half way up are
- I was unable to climb any higher because after that point it became all
crack climbing and I cannot climb cracks without the proper climbing gear.
- The park ranger said the national monument gets around 5,000 visitors per
day during the tourism season.
- After Devil's Tower I visited Hulett,
Sundance, and Aladdin, Wyoming.
- Hulett, Wyoming has a small rally (that attracts 10,000 gearheads) and a
topless rodeo during the Sturgis Rally.
- Sundance, Wyoming has a topless drag race during the Sturgis Rally.
- I found out that the Wyoming police are less strict than the South Dakota
police during the Sturgis Rally.
- ...in South Dakota until the evening of the 28th...
- Newcastle is a nice, inexpensive
- It has a Pamida discount general/ drug store.
- These stores are in small towns all over Wyoming and South Dakota.
- The cashier said the store is a national chain and they even have stores
- My hotel room cost me $25 (it was a family business).
- Newcastle is surrounded by the
Black Hills of
Wyoming on three sides and the prairie hills on the other side.
- Newcastle would be a great town to retire in because it's in the Black
Hills, is very inexpensive, and has everything most people need (local
restaurants, chain restaurants, a pharmacy, a general store, a medical center,
and all the other stuff).
- Custer, SD is 45 minutes away and Rapid City is 80 minutes away.
- The FSP could differently capitalize on the big Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
by moving a lot of people (and changing the laws) into either Weston County
(Newcastle) or the county above it (Crook County).
- Both counties are in the Black Hills and very nice areas where property is
- Jewel Cave National
Monument is 25 minutes from Newcastle.
- Jewel Cave is the 3rd largest cave in the world.
- "Box work" cave formations are very neat and look like little (or big)
boxes all over the walls.
- A ranger at Jewel Cave said the park gets around 75,000 visitors per year.
- Wind Cave
National Park (which features a large prairie dog town and wild buffalo) is
45 minutes from Newcastle.
- Wind Cave is the 6th largest cave in the world and contains about 95% of
the world's cave "box work" formations.
- Wyoming has bingo centers (that you and I would call casinos) all over the
- Wyoming has a horse track and Cheyenne, Casper, and Rock Springs have
simulcast horse races from all over the country.
- South Dakota has three different lotteries and casinos all over the Black
- Almost every town in western South Dakota that I visited had a casino.
- Deadwood, SD is a high casino and tourism town.
- Most of these casinos are small and lots of them just have machines (like
the casinos in MT and WY).
- However, some of the SD casinos had a couple poker and black jack tables.
- There was no ID check at the casino entrances.
- I even saw a few kids walking around the casinos with their parents.
- Every town had a hotel for $40 per night (and more expensive ones also)
- I did no research, but it was still easy to find a $30 hotel room in
Sheridan and $25 hotel rooms in Newcastle and Torrington.
- They were all family owned businesses (the hotels in the three towns
- My hotel room in Casper cost $40, but the lowest-priced hotel I could find
in Cheyenne was $80 (because of Cheyenne Frontier Days).
- Normally there is a hotel that costs less than $40 in Cheyenne.
- Two of the hotels that I stayed at in Wyoming did not even have bibles (a
first for me).
- All of the hotels had cable and HBO.
- Torrington, Guernsey, and Newcastle have very, very inexpensive housing
$35,000 to $50,000 and you can get a decent 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house.
- In Casper and Sheridan housing prices depend on how close to the mountains
- I did not checking housing prices anywhere else.
- I heard someone say that in the towns near mountains, houses costs
noticeably more than in the towns without mountains (and it makes sense).
- However, Guernsey is surrounded by nice hills and Newcastle is surrounded
by the Black Hills so I am not sure how true that is.
Comments about other candidate states
- Mark (the president of the WSSA) said that Montana has a large
environmentalist group and that they don't want to be free.
- Beverly Spungin (the vice president of the WSSA) said that North Dakota is
too flat for her (and she is from North Dakota)
- Bruce Burns (R state Senator from Sheridan) said that Montana was too big
and the people are too spread out for it to work.
- Bruce Burns also said that we should pick Vermont because everyone would
notice us if we kicked out the socialists and changed the makeup of Congress.
- Of course, part of Bruce's argument would also work for South Dakota,
because Tom Daschle is from SD.
- John Schiffer (R state Senator from Kaycee) said that his daughter spent
one winter in Portland, Maine and found it to be much worse than a Wyoming
- Michael (the executive director of the Wyoming Taxpayer Association) could
not figure out why Idaho was on the list.
- The general consensus was that Wyoming had harsh winters but the Northeast
had even worse winters.
- Fort Collins has mountains but they are not covered in trees.
- Casper Mountain and the other mountains near Casper, Wyoming are great.
- Most of Casper Mountain is covered with trees but some parts are not and
it even has ski and snowmobile trails.
- The Bighorn Mountains stretch for seemingly miles and are magnificent.
- The Bighorn Mountains have tons of skiing and snowmobiling and hiking and
- These are mountains for the nature lover.
- The Black Hills of Wyoming/South Dakota are very nice and cover a
extremely large area.
- There are highways that connect most of the Black Hills and the few places
without highways have gravel roads.
- The Black Hills attract millions of tourists every year.
- Whether you want to fish, water ski, swim, hike, rock climb, sail, bike,
gamble, or just sightsee, the Black Hills have something for you.
- I did not see any of the other Wyoming mountain ranges.
- I really do not know about restaurants.
- I brought half my food.
- For most of the rest I ate a combination of Chinese, Mexican, and fast
food (like I normally do when I eat out).
- Basically, I just ate like I normally do and that was very easy to do.
- I also ate at a nice steak house and a couple of little diners (the food
- If you like Chinese, Mexican, fast food, Italian, diners, chain
restaurants, and the other foods that Americans commonly eat you will hardly be
inconvenienced by Wyoming.
- I actually noticed types of restaurants in the Black Hills of South Dakota
that are not even common to where I live (because the area is a tourist Mecca).
- Rock (oldies, 70s, 80s, and modern), Country (60s to present), and
Christian are the most popular types of music in Wyoming, if you judge by
amount of radio stations.
- National Public Radio is aired in almost every town.
- Sheridan has two classical music stations (which also play operas).
- Buffalo has one classical music station.
- I enjoyed the country music stations more than the stations in the South
because they played both old and modern country music.
- Cheyenne has at least one Hits station that plays alternative rock, rap,
R&B, and modern rock.
- I could hear many of the Fort Collins stations in Cheyenne.
- Casper has two stations that play alternative rock, rap, R&B, and
- Talk radio is found throughout Wyoming.
Cable and Internet
- Every town that I stayed in had cable.
- Every town had internet access.
- My high-speed cell phone internet worked in every town I stayed in.
Alcohol and Drugs
- It was nice to see drive-thru liquor stores even in towns with only 500
- People in Wyoming think Methamphetamine is a serious problem (if only they
knew about Crack).
- Wyoming is one of the places where politics can still take place at bars.
- Some Wyoming towns already profit from the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
- Hulett, WY has a small rally that attracts 10,000 gearheads.
- Hulett also has a topless rodeo.
- Sundance, WY has a topless drag race.
- The police in Wyoming are known for being less strict during the rally
than the police of South Dakota.
- Because of the massive tourism that the Black Hills gets and this rally,
there is a huge potential list of customers that we could draw into near-by
- We just have to figure out what these potential customers want and how to
make it happen (or legalize it)
- Bruce (state Senator from Sheridan) said there is not widespread
discontent with state government.
- The general consensus is that Wyoming is not overflowing with an unlimited
supply of excessive jobs.
- Parts of Wyoming get very hot in the summer (almost as hot as Boise,
Idaho, but thankfully there is usually a nice breeze in these places).
- I lost cell phone reception in areas near Gillette, Wyoming.
- Hotel prices near Cheyenne go up during Cheyenne Frontier Days (by 100% to
- Keith Goodenough (D) said that he wants us in Wyoming and could use us.
- I asked Keith if he thought another state would be more receptive and he
did not think so.
- Keith told me that the Democrats in Wyoming have a higher NRA score than
- I do not know about local politicians but the Wyoming Congressional
Delegation (all Republican) has the best Gun Owners of American record in the
nation so I am guessing that both political parties have great gun records.
- John told me that they have preemption laws for guns in Wyoming. This
means that Wyoming towns cannot pass gun laws that are more strict than the
- Both Keith and John thought the majority of the voters in Wyoming support
- Mark Spungin homeschooled his kids and I asked him about the homeschooling
laws in Wyoming. He said his family had no problems teaching his kids exactly
what he wanted to teach them and that around 20 kids in his small town are
- Mark told me about Boston
T Party's book, Molon Labe. It's a fictional tale about a group like
the FSP moving to Wyoming and slowing changing the minds of the people county
- Michael summed it up by saying that people in Wyoming have a "live and let
live" attitude and don't care about your personal life.
Positives of not being in a large city
- I'm from one of the largest cities in America, so being in Wyoming was
dramatically different than what I am used to.
- I've come to the conclusion that I liked living in Wyoming
- The air was clear.
- Never once did a smog or ozone warning come on the TV and tell me not to
- Even though the speed limits were higher than I'm used to, people did not
drive any faster than I'm used to.
- It seems that people were more relaxed and calm and were not in a hurry to
- Laid-back is a way of life.
- I could see for miles and miles and miles.
- I could actually see the stars at night!
- Wyoming is the type of place that starts cooling off around 3 or 4 pm.
- You can camp outside for most of the year.
- If I sold the property I currently own and took my savings to Wyoming, I
could buy a house and live the same quality of life I am currently living, for
around $18,000 per year.
- In other words, it costs very little to live in Wyoming.
- Wyoming is SAFE!
- There were not long lines at the stores.
- Mom and Pop stores still exist.
- People are friendly and helpful.
- People are honest.
- Mountains, mountains, and more mountains.
- Deer are common, almost too common.
- Hunting is big, I mean big.
Wyoming Report # 2
(With additional research and editing by a half-dozen other Free State Project
Disclaimer: This report covers many of the political aspects of Wyoming
in detail but, it does not cover all areas because it is intended as a
supplement to the 1st
and 3rd Wyoming Reports.
However, since it was written at the same time as the 3rd Report, there is some
overlap. The author of this report has put over 400 hours of research and
thought into the question of which candidate state is best for the Free State
Project. The author is from a large eastern metropolitan center (Memphis, TN)
and originally opted-out of every state west of the Mississippi, but has since
developed a bias towards Wyoming and opted-back-in every state except North
I. Ability to Succeed
There are currently 10 states under consideration by the FSP. These are
Alaska (AK), Delaware (DE), Idaho (ID), Maine (ME), Montana (MT), New Hampshire
(NH), North Dakota (ND), South Dakota (SD), Vermont (VT), and Wyoming (WY).
Several critical factors combine in Wyoming, to make it one of the most
likely states to succeed. These factors are:
- Overall population
- Number of voters
- Expense of elections
- Political climate
- Citizen ideology
- Cost of living
The first five factors are some of the most important factors for determining
which candidate state should prevail, while the last factor is the trump
Wyoming is the only state where these six factors combine in such an
FSP-friendly way. Look at the data for yourself:
- Overall population for selected states
|| Best of all 10 states |
|| Worst of all 10 states |
- Number of voters (in 2000 election) for selected states
|| Best of all 10 states |
|| Worst of all 10 states |
- Expense of elections (highest recent election) for selected states
|| Best of all 10 states |
|| 3rd of all 10 states |
|| Worst of all 10 states |
- Political climate (% small government vote for President in 2000) for
|| Best of all 10 states |
|| Worst of all 10 states |
Citizen ideology towards small government principles
||Best of all 10 states |
||3rd of all 10 states |
||Worst of all 10 states |
Interpretations: Out of the five factors most critical to the success of
the Free State Project, Wyoming is the best state three times and the third
state two times. Idaho is the worst state once, and both New Hampshire and
Vermont are each ranked the worst state two times. According to the five most
important factors, no other state is even in the same ballpark as
Wyoming. Wyoming has around one-half the population, voters, and
expense of elections as compared to the large states and is much more
small-government friendly than all of the small states (except Alaska). In
this regard, Wyoming has the best of both worlds.
Source: All of the statistics come from Jason's spreadsheet.
- Cost of living
What about the trump card cost of living?
Having a high cost of living hurts a state. The reason? Not everyone
who wants to help the FSP will be able to move to the chosen state. Some
people will have to take care of their elderly parents; others might not be
able to move because the cold exacerbates the arthritis in their knees or they
are divorced and want to be near their children; some people might think that
they are making progress towards liberty in warm, dry, and sunny New Mexico.
There are many other possible reasons. However, these folks might still be
willing to help the FSP's chosen state out, financially. Should the FSP
just give up on these people? NO! We should encourage them to help us out
the only way they can, by financially supporting the various freedom projects
that will be going on in the chosen state.
Right about now, you maybe saying, "That does make sense, let them help us.
However, what does that have to do with cost of living?" Simply this: money
goes further in a state with a low mean household income than in a state with a
high mean household income. The people that choose to stay in New York City,
San Diego, San Francisco, Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami, or Atlanta and make
$100,000 per year, are likely to give the same amount of money to the freedom
movements of the chosen state no matter which state is picked. That money will
go much further in a state like Wyoming where the cost of living is low, than
it will in New Hampshire or Alaska where the cost of living is very high. It
is not a coincidence that Wyoming and North Dakota have lower costs of living
than New Hampshire and Vermont do. Wyoming's cost of living is around 93% of
the national average, which compares very favorably to 103% for Delaware, 108%
for New Hampshire, and 123% for Anchorage AK.
Housing costs must also be considered as part of this equation. If a family
owns 50% of a house that costs $300,000 in California and sells that house,
they will have around $150,000 to buy a new house in the chosen state. Now,
would that $150,000 buy a better house and more land in a state like Wyoming
with low housing and land costs, or in a state like New Hampshire with high
housing and land costs? The answer is clear: the family benefits more by moving
to Wyoming than it does by moving to New Hampshire.
What about the opposite? For example, if an average family from Alabama
or Oklahoma wants to move to the chosen state and owns 25% of their $100,000
house, this money goes further in the low housing cost environment of Wyoming
than in the high housing cost environment of New Hampshire. It might be so
hard for the family to get a house in New Hampshire they are forced to live in
a low-quality apartment. I know this is not the end of the world (I currently
live in an apartment) but it is still an issue for that family.
Wyoming does not have a low average household income, either. Wyoming's
average household income is only around $1,000 below the national average, or
$38,000. However, after Wyoming's average household income is adjusted for
cost of living, it is slightly higher than the national average. Four of the
other candidate states have higher mean household incomes than Wyoming while
five have lower ones. This puts Wyoming about in the middle. If you want to
take this strategy to the extreme, Montana is lowest with an average household
income of $33,000. However, in my opinion, that is too low. Wyoming, on the
other hand is just around the national average. This is good, because this
means the money coming to Wyoming will be worth more in the local economy than
the money would be in Alaska or New Hampshire, but at the same time the people
from Wyoming will be able to afford to buy out-of-state products and travel out
Alternative theory on ability to succeed Robert Hawes, a fellow
Porcupine posted an
alternative list of major factors for success to the FSP Forum. He goes
about it a different way but still picks Wyoming as the top candidate state.
Population, again Let me go back to the most important factor:
population. This is the most important factor because we have to assume
that none of the states are as liberty and small government oriented as the FSP
members are, otherwise the FSP would have never been created. The candidate
states have been chosen based on one main factor, population. Lots of Jason's
original research dealt with the Parti Quebecois of Quebec, Canada.
Jason, the founder and President of the Free State Project, described how the
PQ had 100,000 paying members in a Canadian province with around 6,200,000
residents when it gained a parliamentary majority in 1976. This makes one PQ
activist for every 62 Quebec residents. The FSP would need 20,000
activists in a state with fewer than 1,200,000 residents to attempt to
duplicate the PQ's success. If you never read Jason's article or want to read
it again, you can find it
How do the candidate states measure up to this important barrier?
| Pop. Divided |
by 20K Activists
|| 24.9 |
|| 30.8 |
|| 31.7 |
|| 32.1 |
|| 38.0 |
|| 40.3 |
|| 45.4 |
|| 63.7* |
|| 64.7* |
|| 67.0* |
* Over the limit of 62
Jason has speculated that if the FSP does not get 20,000 members the project
will fold and a new, looser-organized project will take its place and probably
decide to move to a small state like Wyoming. If people move to the selected
state before the project has 20,000 members, this might be a disaster for the
FSP. These people will be unlikely to move again; after all, they just spent
thousands of dollars to move to the chosen state. This means the FSP members
will be split between the chosen state and Wyoming and neither group will
succeed. The other possibility is that most people will decide to move to the
chosen state anyway, and the project will fail because it will lack enough
members to make changes in the chosen state. If Wyoming is not picked, then
the project might not even get off the ground. However, if Wyoming is picked
and 20,000 members do not sign up, Wyoming will still be the back-up state when
Jason shuts down the project. This means that people can move early to Wyoming
and not have to worry about moving again, or inadvertently splitting the
project, unlike all of the other states.
I have studied the data and talked with people that have lived or currently
live in the states. There is nothing that makes the more populous states such
as New Hampshire and Idaho two and one-half to three times as good as Wyoming.
Given these numbers, the real question seems to be, why should we not
pick Wyoming, as opposed to why should we pick a more populous state?
What if a large amount of people drop out of the project in a few years?
The project will be doomed in a large-population state like Idaho, but it will
likely still succeed in Wyoming. A quote on the FSP Forum, by a fellow
Porcupine, says, "After we finally make the vote, chances are a good chunk of
us will bow out; estimates on the initial loss of membership range from 10% to
25%. This will happen regardless of which state is chosen." It just makes
sense to err on the safe side. Remember, this is our future and the future of
our dream freedom. If we bite off more than we can chew, this unique
opportunity for "freedom in our lifetime" might be forever lost. We must start
small and work from there. We should not fool around with freedom and pick a
state because it has a beach, a casino resort, or a Chinese restaurant in every
town! Sure, these are factors that deserve a small amount of consideration, but
they are not as important as freedom.
II. Government and Taxes
The Republican, Democratic, and Libertarian Party are the only major political
parties in Wyoming. Wyoming, unlike six other candidate states (including
Alaska, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Idaho) actually has term limits for its
legislature. Wyoming has a ballot initiative process, unlike New Hampshire,
but it is regulated more than it should be.
- District Sizes
Wyoming's House has 60 members: 45 Republicans and 15 Democrats, each
representing around 8,200 residents. This compares favorably to most states,
including Montana, South Dakota, Alaska, and especially Idaho, which has huge
districts consisting of over 36,500 residents per district. New Hampshire has
some districts with over 21,000 residents but also has some very small
districts. This means the 400 members of the New Hampshire House have much
less influence than the 60 members of the Wyoming House.
House District Sizes
| Reps |
| 150 |
|| 60 |
|| 151 |
|| 100 |
|| 70 |
|| 98 |
|| 40 |
|| 41 |
| 400 |
|| 70 |
Source: Joe Swyers
The Wyoming Senate has 30 members with a party breakdown of 20
Republicans and 10 Democrats, each representing around 16,500 residents. This
compares very favorably to most states. For example, Montana has 18,189,
Alaska has 32,189, Maine has over 36,500, Idaho has over 38,300, Delaware has
over 38,400, and New Hampshire has over 53,000 residents per Senate district.
Senate District Sizes (rounded)
|| Only 20 Senators |
|| Only 24 Senators |
When both House and Senate district sizes are considered, Wyoming is
about equal to Vermont for small district sizes. When you consider Wyoming has
term limits and a ballot initiative process, it moves even farther ahead of the
pack. Wyoming is clearly one of the easiest states to access as far as state
legislative assembly is considered. When all four factors are considered, New
Hampshire, Delaware, and Idaho stand out as being the hardest to access as far
as state legislative assembly is considered. These states are hindered by not
having term limits, and New Hampshire does not even have a ballot initiative
- State Deficit
Wyoming is one of the few states in the country with no deficit.
Wyoming had a surplus in 2002 and has a reserve fund. On the other hand,
Alaska, Maine, New Hampshire, and South Dakota have growing debts. This has
caused some parts of Alaska to start collecting a general sales tax and a
growing fight in New Hampshire between groups that want to raise the income tax
and groups that want to raise the property tax. This issue is important
because the residents of a state will be much less likely to lower taxes (like
the FSP wants) if the state is experiencing a growing budget shortfall.
State Budget Deficits ($Millions)
|| 2003 Deficit
| 2002 Deficit |
|| 0.0 |
|| 7.4 |
|| 19.6 |
|| 67.1 |
|| 0.0 |
|| 19.7 |
|| 221.0 |
|| 0.0 |
|| 150.8 |
|| 777.4 |
What about the overall tax issues? Wyoming is already one of the most
appealing states in the nation for tax purposes. Only three of the candidate
states have no personal income taxes, and Wyoming is one of them. Only one of
the candidate states has absolutely no corporate income tax, Wyoming is that
state. Wyoming's property tax rates are about half of the national average.
Even the sales taxes are low in Wyoming, but many Wyoming sales taxes can be
avoided by using planned purchasing strategies. Much of Wyoming is only
two to three hours away from Billings or Bozeman MT where there is no general
sales tax. In Wyoming, many people routinely barter for goods and services.
Usually these barter activities go unreported to the IRS. In addition, most
goods may be bought over the internet or second hand and are not subject to
Here are rankings for the major tax rates:
| WY, AK, SD
| NH, ND
| DE, MT, ID
| VT, ME
|| Very High|
| MT, DE, NH, AK
|| Very Low|
| ID, VT, ME, WY, SD
Corp. Income Tax
* NH also has a Business Enterprise tax
| SD, MT
| AK, ID
| ME, DE, ND, NH*, VT
|| || || ||
|| || ||
(I am not sure if I am using the best
source for this table. However, I am certain that WY has the lowest and NH
the highest). No info for ND.
- Other tax issues
States typically get most of their revenue from personal income, corporate
income, sales, and property taxes. However, some states do not even tax one or
two of these categories. The states that limit the types of taxes they impose
on their citizens deserve extra recognition from FSP members. Tax cutting
strategists and theorists have long recognized certain principles that are
common to most state governments. One of the commonly recognized principles
notes that all tax rates generally increase over time. Because of this,
anti-tax groups tend to think that limiting the types of taxes is the best way
to control government growth.
Wyoming stands out as the only state that does not collect two different
types of taxes. The citizens of Wyoming have done a better job controlling
their state government's desire for more taxes than any of the other candidate
states, according to this train of thought. In addition, Wyoming has no
capital gains or death taxes, as some states do. Even Wyoming's gas and
electric utility taxes are low.
Absence of Taxes
| DE, MT, NH
|| No state or local general sales tax|
| WY, AK, SD
|| No personal income tax|
| WY, SD (only taxes financial companies)
|| No corporate tax|
|| No wage tax, but: interest, dividend, and
| ID, VT, ME, ND
|| Tax their citizens every which way they can!|
What is the difference between states with no income tax and states
with no sales tax? Which is better? According to economists from the
Austrian school (the best known libertarian economic school), not having an
income tax is better than not having a sales tax. In addition, a sales tax, or
consumption tax, is fairer than an income, or production tax. An income tax is
more likely to hurt production than a sales tax is likely to hurt consumption.
In fact, the Cato Institute, a leading libertarian policy organization,
authored a policy
report that explains why the federal government should end the national
income tax and replace it with a national sales tax. Constitutional Republican
believes that a sales tax is more in line with Constitutional principles
than an income tax. The Republican Liberty Caucus, a libertarian organization
founded by Ron Paul (former Libertarian Party presidential candidate and the
only libertarian U.S. Rep. in Congress),
believes that a sales tax is more inline with freedom principles than an
income tax. Also, the National Taxpayers Union is against
both progressive and income taxes. This same principle holds true on a
state level. In addition, sales taxes tend to be more in line with libertarian
thought, because they are usually flat. On the other hand, state income taxes
tend to be anti-libertarian because they usually have progressive rates.
Again, the Cato Institute agrees with this train of thought.
Not only that, but all of the candidate states except for North Dakota and
tourist hotspots. The tourists that visit these states are subject to
state sales taxes but are not subject to state income taxes. This means that a
state, which relies more on sales taxes receipts, places less of a tax burden
on its citizens. For these reasons, states that do not have income taxes (like
Wyoming) have an advantage over states that do have income taxes (like Idaho,
New Hampshire, and Montana.)
- Low-tax strategies for individuals
Low-tax strategies are important to some FSP members. These FSP members do not
like to pay many taxes, and adjust their lives so that they may avoid as many
taxes as possible. Wyoming is one of three candidate states without an income
tax on wages, interest, or dividends and the only state that has no corporate
tax. Wyoming, like many states with large rural populations, has a great deal
of trade and barter activity. This activity usually goes unreported and is not
counted as income. Wyoming has very low property taxes and borders
sales-tax-free Montana. In fact, the metropolitan and shopping center of
Montana (Billings) is less than two hours away from Sheridan, Cody, Lovell, and
Powell WY. Wyoming residents from Gillette, Buffalo, Worland, and Jackson
often shop in sales-tax-free Montana. These towns offer the unique opportunity
(found no where else in the country) of no inventory, corporate, wage,
interest, dividend, or sales tax, and very low franchise and property taxes.
All of this, in addition to the barter trade, makes Wyoming the best state for
III. Guns, Laws, and Resistance to the Federal Government
Wyoming is a pro-gun state and has one of the most active gun cultures in the
country. Wyoming passed a law that allows the state government to prevent
lawsuits against the gun industry. Wyoming is tied with Vermont for having the
least restrictive hunting laws. Joe Swyers, an individualist and elected city
council member, ranked the 10 states hunting laws as:
Hunting Laws (10 = best, 0 = worst)
|| DE |
|| 0 |
Many different animals are hunted in Wyoming, including black bear, cougar,
coyote, turkey, jackrabbit, elk, antelope, deer, bighorn sheep, geese, duck,
gray wolf (soon to be, if Wyoming gets its way), etc.
Wyoming has "peaceable journey" laws. Even though there is no exact way to
determine gun ownership rates, the best research estimates that 88% of
households in Wyoming own a firearm. This is the highest percentage in the
country and much higher than most of the eastern FSP states. The three lowest
FSP state levels are Maine (48%), New Hampshire (36%), and Delaware (29%).
A Wyoming resident does not need a permit to carry a handgun unless he
or she wants to carry concealed. Many states legally allow open carry of
handguns but in most of these states, open carry is not practical like it is in
Wyoming. In Wyoming, even the tourists do not get scared when they see guns
carried openly. The tourists just think it is part of one of the Old West
shows, which are performed in many of Wyoming's towns during tourist season.
Many people in large cities (especially east coast cities where handgun
ownership rates are low, e.g. Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Providence) are
afraid of guns. These people tend to react poorly when they see guns being
carried openly. This is true of the Boston MSA (which includes much of
southern New Hampshire) and of Delaware. This is also a problem in eastern
South Dakota, which is one of the reasons so many people have concealed carry
permits in South Dakota. I know open carry is also frowned upon in very
liberal Burlington VT. My uncle, an NRA member from Burlington, even frowns
upon concealed carry. Most likely, this is also a problem in Boise ID,
Anchorage AK, and Portland ME.
Wyoming has the third-highest rate of gun retailers in the nation, with 147 gun
retailers per 100,000 residents. In fact, Wyoming actually has more gun
retailers than the much higher population states of Maine and New Hampshire.
Out of all 10 states, Wyoming has the second-highest rate of machine gun
ownership, only behind New Hampshire. Wyoming has more machine guns in the
hands of its citizens than Montana, South Dakota, or Alaska.
Wyoming has the highest rate of gun shows, per-capita, in the U.S. Wyoming's
rate is over twice as high as Idaho's and around seven times New Hampshire's.
By absolute numbers, Wyoming has 50 gun shows per year compared to New
Hampshire's 17 in 2000, Alaska's 4 in 2000, and California's 188 in 1999.
Gun Retailers per 100k Residents
|| 18 |
Gun Shows per Year
||Shows per |
|| 10.00 |
|| 6.00 |
|| 3.75 |
|| 3.50 |
|| 2.00 |
|| 1.50 |
|| 1.00 |
|| 1.00 |
|| 0.75 |
|| 0.50 |
The people of Wyoming value their freedom; it is part of their culture. For
the most part, the people of Wyoming tend to be some of the most
individualistic people in the country.
Wyoming has less of a need for the federal government than most states. It has
no metropolises, no cesspools of crime, and no welfare ghettos that think of
the government as the answer to every problem.
Wyoming does not have a huge problem with farmers demanding aid from the
federal government (unlike North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Idaho).
Even Wyoming's animals are free from the confines of a zoo. The entire state
is a zoo! With wolves, cougars, bears, bison, bald eagles, and wild
Wyoming is already one of the most free, least restrictive states in the
country. If we move to Wyoming, we will already be a few years ahead of where
we would be in most of the other candidate states, as far as freedom is
- Wyoming is a right-to-work state (unlike Montana, New Hampshire,
Delaware, Alaska, Maine, and Vermont).
- Wyoming is one of the 15 states in the U.S. (five of them are FSP states)
that allow most class C fireworks. New Hampshire and Idaho are more
restrictive, while Vermont and Delaware outright ban fireworks.
- Wyoming requires motorcycle helmets for children, but it does not
require bicycle helmets like Delaware and parts of Montana.
- Wyoming has some of the least restrictive window tinting laws in
the country, whereas New Hampshire, Delaware, and Alaska are more restrictive.
- Wyoming has the least restrictive smoking laws in the country,
while all of the other FSP states are much more restrictive. Delaware has the
most restrictive smoking laws in the country.
- Wyoming, South Dakota, Idaho, and Montana have the least restrictive
speed limit laws out of the candidate states. The interstate speed
limits are generally 75 mph in the above states, but only 65 mph in New
Hampshire, Alaska, and Delaware.
One former resident of Evanston WY, said that many of the cars traveling
between Salt Lake City UT, and Evanston WY go 80-85 mph without fear of being
- Wyoming has no laws regarding extra-high minimum wages or living
wages, unlike Vermont, Maine, and Montana.
- Wyoming has no statewide land-use planning laws, unlike Idaho, New
Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont.
I did some research on both economic and social freedoms in all 50 states and
report based on the research. I used a total of 15 different
easy-to-compare factors for the report. The report listed Wyoming, South
Dakota, and Alaska, three of the least-populated states in the country, as the
freest states in the country. The conclusion to the report stated, "The most
free states in the country tend to be the western states with very low
population density rates." Wyoming and Alaska are the farthest west, low
population density states in the country.
Resistance to Federal Government
Wyoming openly and actively resists federal laws. Many of Wyoming's citizens
believe that Wyoming law trumps federal law. Sometimes the state tries to
resist or ignore federal laws, while other times, the state takes the federal
government to court:
- Wolf case The U.S. Department of Interior reintroduced wolves into
northwest Wyoming in 1995. The wolves have caused so much damage and have
grown in such numbers that they are no longer an endangered species. Wyoming
passed two bills that guarantee that farmers and ranchers will be allowed to
shoot wolves on sight, hunting of wolves will be encouraged, and the federal
government will have to reimburse Wyoming for all damages caused by the wolves.
The Wyoming legislature is sick of the federal government and resents the lack
of foresight it demonstrated prior to reintroducing the wolves into Wyoming.
See here and
- Wyoming was the last state in the country to raise the minimum drinking
age to 21 years of age and did not pass zero tolerance laws until 1998.
Wyoming did not pass a law preventing drivers from drinking while they drive
until 2001. However, this bill did not prevent passengers from
drinking. This law is not in accordance with federal law, which states that
the passengers cannot have open containers. Because Wyoming chose not to
follow the federal mandate, it lost some of its federal highway funds. Here's
how the states stack up:
For more information on the issue of drinking and driving in Wyoming read, why the
West has resisted drunken-driving crackdown.
Minimum Drinking Age Set to 21
|| ND |
|| 1936 |
Year of Zero Tolerance for Under 21
|| ME |
|| 1983 |
- County sheriff in charge - County sheriffs in Wyoming demanded that all
federal law enforcement officers and personnel from federal regulatory agencies
clear all their activities in a Wyoming county with the Sheriff's Office. In
addition, Wyoming sheriffs demanded to see all of the BATF's and IRS' records
relating to Wyoming. Wyoming took the federal government to court and won
because it argued that the state was in charge based on the 10th Amendment to
the United States Constitution. Sheriff Mattis, the main sheriff representing
the Wyoming Sheriffs' Association, said, "I hope that more sheriffs all across
America will join us in protecting their citizens from the illegal activities
of the IRS, EPA, BATF, FBI, or any other federal agency that is operating
outside the confines of constitutional law." The courts ruled," Wyoming is a
sovereign state and the duly elected sheriff of a county is the highest law
enforcement official within a county and has law enforcement powers exceeding
that of any other state or federal official."
here, here, and
- Wyoming sued the federal government over control of its forests and won
the case. The federal government wanted permanent and complete control over
the federal forests in Wyoming. Wyoming knew that the federal government
refused to actively manage forests and that this would hurt tourism, traveling,
and lead to more and larger forest fires. See
- Even Wyoming's citizens sue the federal government. Wyoming's citizens
have the right to sue the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. It was previously
thought that the BLM was somewhat immune from lawsuits, just like the IRS used
to be, but that is now changed because of
one brave Wyoming man.
- Wyoming reads the federal fine print and is able to lead other
states in fights against the federal government. Wyoming started a water
rebellion when it read the fine print in a federal government water rights
scheme. Wyoming noticed that the scheme would give the federal government
final control over all government and private water in Wyoming, and the state
knew that was unconstitutional. Wyoming was able to influence other state
governments to join the water rebellion. In fact, both government and private
organizations from various Western states joined together, to fight the federal
government. See here and here.
- The federal government's National Park Service tried to prevent people
from climbing Wyoming's famous Devils Tower during June. June is supposedly a
sacred month to some of the Native American tribes from South Dakota. The
Native American tribes and the National Park Service worked together to stop
the climbing. The Nation Park Service called for a voluntary ban on all
climbing during June. The Wyoming Friends of Devils Tower and the Mountain
States Legal Foundation fought the action. The federal courts agreed, they
ruled that the National Parks Service violated the First Amendment to the
United States Constitution and Devils Tower National Monument's own management
policies. The United States still means something in Wyoming because its
people care about freedom. See here.
- Wyoming's State Supreme Court keeps state and local governments, and the
press in check. Laramie tried to restrict newspapers, but the Wyoming State
Supreme Court said that violated the First
Amendment. The Wyoming Department of Health thought that it would help
children by making it mandatory for them to get vaccinations. The Wyoming
State Supreme Court found
mandatory vaccinations unconstitutional. The Gillette News-Record wanted
to release the names of concealed carry permit holders. The Wyoming State
Supreme Court said that would
violate the privacy of the permit holders. After all, open carry of
firearms has always been legal in Wyoming. The only reason Wyoming passed
concealed carry laws in the 1990s was so people could carry a firearm without
other people knowing about it. In Wyoming, you are innocent until proven
must be treated as such. See also here and here.
IV. Groups That Could Work Against Freedom
These groups include: the Green Party, labor unions, teacher unions, religious
groups, and Native Americans.
- The Green Party
Ralph Nader, the Green Party
presidential candidate for 2000, was not able to even get on the ballot in
Wyoming. He could not get enough signatures to be on the ballot, even though
the standards were not very strict. The Libertarian, Constitutional, Reform,
and Natural Law parties were all able to get their presidential candidate on
the ballot in Wyoming. This compares very favorably to many other of the FSP
candidate states where Ralph Nader not only got on the ballot, but also won a
substantial number of votes.
Green Party voters in the 2000 presidential
|| Almost half as much as the expected FSP membership |
|| Almost half as much as the expected FSP membership |
|| Almost as much as the expected FSP membership |
|| More than the expected FSP membership |
|| More than the expected FSP membership; 1 in 10 voters |
|| More than the expected FSP membership |
|| Almost double the expected FSP membership |
- Labor unions
Labor union members form another group that might oppose increased freedom in
the chosen state. A significant percentage of the budgets of labor unions are
spent on contributions to the
campaigns of statist
politicians. According to the Labor Research organization, only New
Hampshire and Wyoming resisted voting for a "big-labor"-supported candidate in
the whole nation during the last election cycle. Of all 10 states, only
Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Idaho have right-to-work laws.
Union membership rates tend to be less in right-to-work states, but the rates
are also influenced by the presence of certain jobs which unions prefer to
organize, as well as other factors:
Labor Union Membership (in thousands)
Would you rather have 20,000 union members oppose the FSP (like Wyoming), over
twice as many (like Idaho and Montana), or over thrice as many (like New
Hampshire and Maine)? If New Hampshire is picked, union membership will be
three times as large as the FSP membership.
Of course, this is not to say that all union members would oppose us. Some
states' own set of circumstances could play into our hands, even with union
members opposing us. It's just that given the track record of labor unions in
this country (and how very few members opt-out of seeing their contributions
going to support statist politicians), it might be desirable to have fewer
union members in the chosen state. Even if the union members wanted to help
the freedom movement, in the six states that are union controlled, including
New Hampshire, union members would still be forced to fight against the freedom
movement, with at least their union dues
- Teacher unions
On the FSP Forum, Joe Swyers said, "Total teacher numbers is a crucial factor
for the FSP just like total voter numbers. In Idaho, Maine, New
Hampshire, and Montana, the teachers would outnumber the 20,000 Free State
Teachers, especially union teachers, are activists if
for no other reason than they daily reach a large number of students and their
parents." Joe makes a compelling argument. Teacher unions routinely fight
against: tax cuts, the liberalization of home school laws, any changes in
school curricula, and any type of cutback in funding for government schools.
Wyoming stands out as the only state the does not give teacher unions
monopoly power or forced dues. Wyoming has the third-lowest
percentage of NEA teachers, behind only South Dakota and Idaho. In addition,
Wyoming has the smallest number of teachers and the smallest number of
Joe also categorized the 10 candidate states based on how much their laws
restrict teacher unions. Restricting teacher unions is a good thing, and so
the states listed first should be considered best, and the states listed last
should be considered worst, for this criterion.
% of K-12 employees in the NEA (2000)
|| % in NEA
|| no |
|| no |
|| 38 |
|| 51 |
|| 53 |
|| 64 |
|| yes |
|| 60 |
|| 66 |
|| 74 |
here and here.
(States with less than 1,000 AFT "votes" were omitted from the source for AFT
- Religious Groups
Wyoming is the fifth least-religious state in America, and is likely the
second least-religious candidate state, according to this
addition, Wyoming has much more religious diversity than most states.
WY Religious Preferences
| No religion
|| 20% |
|| 18% |
|| 17% |
|| 9% |
|| 9% |
|| 7% |
| Latter-Day Saints
|| 7% |
|| 5% |
|| 4% |
|| 4% |
Wyoming has better religious diversity than the nine other candidate states.
If the major religions of one of the other candidate states stood united
against freedom, we would have a very difficult time trying to help the state
break free. That's why religious diversity is important. In a state
like Wyoming, all of the religions would have to stand against us to
have a substantial impact against the FSP, but in states like New Hampshire,
Vermont, North Dakota, South Dakota, Maine, and Montana, just one or two major
religions might be able to break the FSP.
However, the Christian members of the FSP should not be afraid of moving to
Wyoming. For example, K-Love, a national group of Christian radio stations
from California, has five stations in Wyoming. Wyoming's religious groups can
be broken down to different regions of the state, to some extent. The
southwestern portion of Wyoming has the bulk of the state's Latter-Day Saints
population. The least religious parts of Wyoming tend to be the mining towns,
and the college town of Laramie.
Religious Monopoly Control
(% of state residents in the 3 major religions for that state)
(Lower % is better)
|| (18% Catholic, 9% Lutheran, 9% Baptist) |
|| (15% Catholic, 14% Latter-Day Saints*, 9% Baptist) |
|| (22% Catholic, 14% Lutheran, 7% Methodist) |
|| (35% Catholic, 6% Baptist, 6% Congregational) |
|| (20% Methodist, 19% Baptist, 9% Catholic) |
|| (24% Catholic, 15% Baptist, 9% Methodist) |
|| (38% Catholic, 6% Methodist, 6% Congregational) |
|| (27% Lutheran, 25% Catholic, 13% Methodist) |
|| (35% Lutheran, 30% Catholic, 7% Methodist) |
* The Mormon Church claims that 26% of those living in Idaho are LDS.
data for AK.
- Native Americans
Wyoming has one Indian reservation the Wind River Indian Reservation.
Most of the reservation is in Fremont County (whose largest city is Riverton).
However, most of the people in Riverton are not Native Americans. Native
Americans, both on and off the reservation, make up 2.3% of Wyoming's
population and represent the second-largest minority group in Wyoming. (The
largest minority group in Wyoming is Hispanics at 3.2% to 6.4% of the
population, depending on how you define Hispanic).
Native American population %
|| AK |
| < 1
|| < 1
|| < 1
|| < 1
|| 15.6 |
When compared to Wyoming, the other western and mid-western states have both
more Indian Reservations and a larger Native American population. Native
Americans might work for, against, or indifferent to the principles of the FSP.
Many Native Americans are unemployed and rely on government subsidies.
However, because they are unemployed they have plenty of free time to be
activists. If the FSP members are able to convince the Native American
population of Wyoming, or any other states, that we are on their side, there
could be thousands of new freedom activists!
V. Miscellaneous Factors
Miscellaneous factors include such things as: pro-business environment, climate
and weather, livability, friendliness, gambling, private schools, jobs,
"firsts", and location.
- Pro-Business Environment
According to the 1999
Index which ranks all 50 states, Wyoming has more economic freedom
than eight of the other candidate states. The Index ranks Wyoming better than
New Hampshire, Delaware, Montana, and Alaska:
Economic Freedom Index (1-50)
The 2002 Small Business Survival Index
ranks Wyoming as the third-best state for small businesses in the entire
country. Wyoming bests such states as Florida, New Hampshire, Texas, and
Delaware. The candidate states of Idaho, North Dakota, Montana, Vermont, and
Maine are all ranked as part of the worst 25 states in the country for
Expansion Management Magazine ranked Cheyenne as a
Five Star Community
for quality of life. (These rankings were done so that small to
mid-sized companies would have a basis to compare different cities for
Many people have companies that are financial, electronic, or mail order
related. No matter which state is picked, the profits of these companies will
not change much. However, the dollars made from the company will mean less in
Alaska or New Hampshire than they will mean in Wyoming, because of its low
cost of living. Likewise, if one of these companies moves from New
Hampshire or Delaware to Wyoming, the dollars will be worth more and the
company owner will be able to help the FSP out to a greater degree. Most
business owners prefer a general sales tax, like Wyoming has, to personal and
corporate income taxes, like New Hampshire, Idaho, Montana, Alaska, and Vermont
have. Businesses find that sales taxes are easier to comply with than personal
and corporate income taxes. This is because sales taxes are straightforward
and easy to understand, unlike corporate tax laws.
According to the Fiduciary Group, Delaware and Wyoming are the only two
candidate states that have a worldwide reputation for being
business-friendly. (See the Fiduciary Group's
report on Wyoming). According to a
report by CRA of
America, Wyoming might be a better state for LLCs than either Nevada or
Delaware. In 1977, Wyoming became the first state to authorize Limited
Liability Corporations. Wyoming has some of the most liberal LLC laws in
the country, and continues to attract both national and international
Wyoming is much less regulated than most states. Wyoming has many
advantages for companies (in addition to being personal and corporate income
tax free). You do not even have to get a business license in many parts of
Wyoming. For example, Johnson County (with its towns of Buffalo and Kaycee)
has no business license requirements. Although the state of Wyoming just
created a standard set of building codes (the Universal Building Codes
standard), many of Wyoming's counties do not have any laws relating to the UBC
standard and do not enforce the state law. The northeastern states, especially
New Hampshire and Maine, have many 19th century farmhouses. Many people want
to see these houses preserved even if it means that property owners cannot
renovate the houses, as they see fit. Environmental regulations are hurting
the mining business in Montana, the fishery and logging businesses in Maine,
and even the housing market in Vermont.
- Livability and Crime
Out of the 10 candidate states, Wyoming has the second-highest livability
ranking. In fact, according to a
report by Morgan Quitno Press, Wyoming is the eighth-most livable state in
the country. The report also claims that Wyoming has the sixth-lowest crime
rate in the country. Wyoming helps prove the libertarian point the private prisons do not automatically mean high crime because Wyoming is a very low crime state.
Percent of prison population in private prisons:
North Dakota, 5.1%
South Dakota, 1.7%
Delaware, New Hampshire, and Vermont, 0%
Wyoming is a friendly and welcoming place to outsiders. Several million people
travel to Wyoming on a yearly basis. These tourists spend money in Wyoming and
help support Wyoming's economy. Wyoming's tourists come from all walks of life
and have made Wyoming's residents accustomed to interacting with all types of
people. Most people that live in Wyoming are not even from Wyoming. In
fact, only 42.5% of Wyoming's population is native, making it the second-best
candidate state for that factor. Wyoming is far enough west that people do not
care about the North-South division that is more prevalent in the East.
Wyoming welcomes both Northerners and Southerners.
- Private Schools
Wyoming has the third-highest percentage of children enrolled in private
schools. According to the following report, the percent of children in
Wyoming's private schools is around 250% higher than New Hampshire's.
% of School-Age Pop. in Private Schools
(Elementary and Secondary)
[Source] 1994 (sorry, latest figures I
After looking at the above report, a Porcupine gave the following insightful
observations on the FSP Forum: "States like Wyoming have a political
disadvantage over states like Delaware. In Delaware, everyone in Wilmington
who can afford to do so sends their kids to private school because of the
center for drugs and violence that some of those big city public schools have
become (or at least are perceived to be). Whereas, Wyoming schools seem clean
and safe, and even some of the richest families send their children to public
Wyoming is expected to produce fewer jobs in the next 10 years than any of the
other candidate states. This topic bears extended discussion.
- Wyoming's past and future growth
According to the 2000 Census, Wyoming's population grew from 453,588 residents
in 1990 to 493,782 in 2000. This means that Wyoming was able to handle 40,194
new residents in 10 years. Currently, Wyoming has a lower than average
unemployment rate, which means that all of the people who moved to Wyoming in
the 1990s were able to find jobs. Wyoming's per-capita income is
growing much faster than the nation as a whole, and has progressed from
36th in the nation (1996) to 28th in the nation (2000) and is currently 20th in
the nation (2001).
Cheyenne WY is the northernmost city in the Rocky Mountain's Front Range
region. This region has around 2.5 million people, many high-tech companies,
and good transportation lines. Over time, more and more Colorado companies are
moving to Wyoming. They choose Wyoming because of its low crime and very low
taxes. If the FSP is able to prove to these companies that we are a
pro-business organization and have a skilled workforce, then we will be able to
attract even more companies to Wyoming.
- Out-of-state jobs
Wyoming is better positioned than most states, including all of the western
states, for out-of-state jobs. Wyoming should have enough jobs for the FSP, by
itself. However, some members may want very specialized jobs that are not
available in relatively small MSAs, like Cheyenne WY. Ft. Collins CO, for
example, is larger than Billings MT, and is only 40 miles from Wyoming.
Wyoming is close to both the Salt Lake City/Park City/Ogden and the Ft.
Collins/Longmont/Denver areas. Wyoming is even closer to Montana's largest
population area, Billings, than almost all of Montana itself is. Wyoming is
less than one and a half hours from Billings, MT. Parts of western Wyoming are
much closer to two of Idaho's four largest cities than almost all of Idaho is.
Even the Black Hills region of Wyoming is not isolated. In fact it is closer to
the second-largest MSA, and entertainment center, of South Dakota than almost
all of South Dakota is. Also, Wyoming is only 30 minutes away from the largest
city in western Nebraska Scottsbluff.
All of these cities and metro centers offer some jobs that may require only a
few days per week of actual in-office work. Pilots, marketers, advertisers,
investors, writers, healthcare professionals, truck drivers, telecommuters, and
franchise expanders will have no trouble finding work in these out-of-state
cities. It should be noted, that all of these jobs are available in Wyoming,
Front-range MSAs near Wyoming:
- Ft Collins/Loveland - distance 40 miles, population 260,000+
- Greeley - distance 63 miles, population 200,000+
- Longmont/Boulder - distance 71 miles, population 300,000+
- Denver - distance 94 miles, population 2,200,000+
- All of the above - population 3,000,000+
- All of the above - 2025 projected population 5,000,000+
More statistics on Ft. Collins MSA from the Northern Colorado Economic Development Council:
- The Ft. Collins MSA is one of the 10 fastest growing MSAs in the country
- The Ft. Collins MSA expects 215,000 new jobs between 1997 and 2010
- ? Median Income is $58,200
- ? Major Employers: Colorado State University, ConAgra Beef,
Hewlett-Packard, Agilent Technologies, Poudre Valley Health Systems, Eastman
Kodak, Wal-Mart, State Farm Insurance, StarTek, Inc., Woodward, Advanced
Energy, Teledyne WaterPik, McKee Medical Center, Anheuser-Busch, and Celestica
- Job growth
Let us consider the notion of "more jobs is better" (the assumption made in the
spreadsheet concerning the Jobs variable). We can make a list of advantages
and disadvantages of a high-growth state and a low-growth state:
High job-growth state:
- More jobs might mean the state is probably already experiencing heavy
immigration, which may lead to hostility towards newcomers. Add to that a
political agenda, and we may have a difficult time in the area of acceptance.
- More jobs might mean the economy in the state is already healthy. This
means FSP influence will be harder to prove in "turning things around", thus
making the Free State model less attractive to other states. FSP may thus be a
- More jobs, above the needs of FSP and Friends-of-FSP, will draw economic
refugees from other states. These will dilute FSP efforts to free the states,
particularly if the refugees are from nearby statist states that are exporting
jobs due to poor economic policies.
- More jobs means a fast-increasing population, so FSP may have difficulty
staying on top of things, and may find itself more in a defensive role, rather
than making progress in increasing freedom.
- More jobs might mean the choice in places to live would be wider, although
jobs do tend to be concentrated in larger cities.
- More jobs might mean easier access to occupations for FSP members who are
Low job-growth state:
- Fewer jobs, especially at the lowest levels, will effectively shut off all
statist immigration for the period that FSP members are immigrating to the
state. This will give us time to get up-to-speed politically, and start
influencing things particularly in the area of providing other
disincentives for statists to move to the state, which will be needed as FSP
policies gradually improve the economic picture.
- Fewer jobs might mean the economy is flat. Thus, we should be able to
subsequently make a convincing demonstration of the benefits of freedom to the
economy. This demonstration will help spread freedom to neighboring states,
particularly those that are languishing.
- Fewer jobs might mean more difficult access to occupations for FSP members
who are not retirees (the retirees should have no problem). It will take more
years for all our member-population to move to the state. However, uniquely in
Wyoming's case, its status as the default backup state (in case FSP fails to
reach 20,000) means members can start moving there immediately after the vote
is taken, so members will have more years to immigrate to Wyoming.
- Fewer jobs might mean that more FSP members will have to go to tech or
vocation school to learn a new skill.
- Fewer jobs might mean that more FSP members might want to travel out of state for a job. (Wyoming is one of the best candidate states for this. The Ft. Collins MSA starts only forty minutes from Cheyenne and expects 215,000 new jobs between 1997 and 2010.)
A further factor to this equation is that it will become generally known that a
large block of business-friendly people will be moving to the chosen state. In
addition, this block of people will have diverse skills. These facts might make
corporations reconsider Wyoming in a new and positive light, for location of
The above shows that, far from being an unalloyed good, a high jobs number
serves to ease initial FSP entry into the state, while likely making
things more difficult for us, later on. For that reason, in the large FSP
comparison spreadsheet, Paul Bonneau pegged an intermediate number of jobs
(60,000) as ideal for the FSP, rather than just using it as a simple "more is
better" measure, as Jason did on the regular spreadsheet.
Wyoming is a trend setting state and the first state in the nation in several
different categories. I am not sure how important this factor is; certainly,
it is not as important as the first five factors I discussed in this report.
However, this factor was brought up on the FSP Forum, when it was mentioned
that New Hampshire has the earliest, or first, primary in the nation. This is
true, although any state, at any time, can change when it has its election
primary. Wyoming has an impressive list of firsts, itself. Some of these may
be good while others might be looked at as bad, but one thing is for sure,
these trends did catch on in the rest of the country. Many people think that
the FSP might spread to other states, in much the same way that Wyoming's
- First state to allow women to vote
- First woman Justice of the Peace
- First all woman jury
- First woman bailiff
- First woman elected to a statewide office (Superintendent)
- First woman governor
- First town to be governed entirely by women
- First national park
- First ranger station
- First national monument (Devil's Tower)
- First national forest
- First American rodeo
- First state to allow limited liability corporations
centrally located between the northwestern, southwestern, and mid-western
states. Because of this, Wyoming's interstate roads travel from Canada to
Mexico and through New York City, Chicago, Omaha, Salt Lake City, and San
Francisco. Wyoming is located less than two hours from large airline hubs in
Salt Lake City and Denver. Wyoming is surrounded by the low-population,
liberty-friendly states of South Dakota, Montana, and Idaho. When the FSP is
successful in Wyoming, any of these candidate states would make a good second
state to liberate.
Wyoming is one of only two FSP candidate states which does not share a border
with Canada. Some people have tried to claim this is a strike against Wyoming.
However, I feel that this factor is a plus for Wyoming. Having a border with
Canada gives the federal government more Constitutional power in a state.
Especially now, with the Homeland Security Department, a growing international
terrorist threat, US Patriot Acts I and II, and increased border controls,
having a Canadian border could be a hindrance to a candidate state.
Kelton, a fellow Porcupine, published a series of
very interesting articles dealing with land-locked states, border security,
and economic freedom of neighboring states. After the articles, he summed up
the articles with the conclusion: "The Myth has been debunked! 1) A border
with Canada is a potential liability. 2) A long coastline is not
necessary or even desirable for a free state to exist."
Even if all of the problems the U.S. government might bring on a
Canadian-bordered Free State are ignored, it should be noted, that the Canadian
government would likely be against the Free State. The Canadian central
government is anti-freedom, in general. It is against many of the things the
FSP member love, like guns. Even the provincial governments are against
freedom. According to
Economic Freedom in North America, all of the Canadian providences, except
for one, have less economic freedom than even the least-free American state.
Canada might try to blame all of its future crime, gun, drug, and moral
problems on the Free State. These issues were discussed in detail on the FSP
Forum thread titled,
Border with Canada? Bad Idea. Canadian Government is not a friend.
Key Wyoming Benefits
- Comparison Spreadsheets
Both Jason and Paul Bonneau made spreadsheets that compare the FSP candidate
states on various factors. Jason tried to limit
spreadsheet to the factors that he thought were most important for the FSP
members to consider. Paul's spreadsheet includes many of the same factors.
Additionally, he added a large number of useful but less important factors to
the spreadsheet. Both spreadsheets place Wyoming well ahead of the rest of the
- State-by-state Comparisons
- Wyoming vs. Alaska
Some of the FSP members feel Alaska is the best state. However, in my opinion,
Wyoming surpasses Alaska. Wyoming is located near the center of the country,
whereas Alaska is almost a week's drive from the lower 48. The groups that
would oppose the FSP are more powerful in Alaska. It has a larger percentage
and amount of government, labor union, teacher union, Native American, and
Green Party members than Wyoming. Alaska is the coldest and most isolated of
the candidate states, whereas Wyoming is the third-warmest and is very close to
two major metropolitan centers. Alaska has more opt-outs than any other state
and is likely to lose many more people after the first winter, than Wyoming is.
Alaska has a much higher percentage of people receiving government assistance
than Wyoming. Alaska has a reputation for attracting criminals and is the
ninth-highest violent crime rate in the country, whereas Wyoming is one of the
safest states in the country.
Campaigning would be very hard during Alaska's cold season because: the
daylight hours are very short, much of Alaska is to cold to go outside (for
many people), and it literally takes four to five days to drive from Alaska's
largest city to its capitol city. Out of all the low population states, Alaska
has the largest state legislative districts. This is because Alaska only has
40 members in its state house and 20 members in its state senate. This
compares very poorly to Wyoming, which has the second-smallest state
legislative districts in the county. In addition, Alaska has a large budget
deficit problem, whereas Wyoming is the only candidate state that does not have
a budget problem.
- Wyoming vs. South Dakota
Some of the FSP members have suggested that South Dakota is the best compromise
state for the FSP project. While this is an interesting point, I believe that
Wyoming actually is the best compromise state. South Dakota is very dependent
on farming and the federal subsidies that come with it. Wyoming is near two
major metropolitan centers but South Dakota is not near any. Wyoming has
better religious diversity than any of the candidate states, but in South
Dakota the combined numbers of Lutherans, Catholics, and Methodists make up 65%
of the population. Wyoming has a very low native-born population while South
Dakota has the second-highest native-born population. Wyoming has warm areas
spread all across the state, but the only remotely warm part of South Dakota is
in one section of the Black Hills. Wyoming has both windy and non-windy areas
while all of South Dakota is quite windy. Wyoming has mountains, hills, and
valleys, but almost all of South Dakota is very flat.
- Wyoming vs. Montana
In many ways, the same group of FSP members is attracted to both Montana and
Wyoming. However, Wyoming has many advantages over Montana. Wyoming's
population is much more likely to vote for small-government candidates for
President, and its citizen's ideology is more pro-freedom. Montana has much
stronger opposition groups in the way of stronger labor union (because of no
right-to-work laws), teacher union, Green Party, and Native American groups.
Montana has a big problem with liberals from California moving to the entire
western part of the state; as opposed to Wyoming, where California liberals are
only moving to Jackson Hole. Montana's farmers are very dependent on the
federal government; and many of the people are on welfare. Montana has a large
border with Canada, which opens it up to all types of homeland security, border
control, and terrorist prevention laws and federal regulations. Montana has
the lowest mean household income in the country, whereas Wyoming's is more in
line with the national average. Montana is heavily regulated with parts of it
having bicycle helmet and living wage laws, unlike Wyoming, which does not have
such laws. One Porcupine even said that they think of Montana as, "the Maine
of the West." In fact, in Wyoming, many places do not even have business
licenses or building code laws. Wyoming has lower property taxes than Montana
and also has no income or corporate taxes.
- Wyoming vs. New Hampshire
Although New Hampshire is better for the FSP than some states, it does not seem
to compare favorably to Wyoming. For starters, Wyoming's population is only
39% as large as New Hampshire's. Wyoming has inexpensive elections at
$4,700,000, whereas New Hampshire has the most expensive elections, at a
whopping $19,600,000. If these numbers hold, the FSP members will have to come
up with well over four times as much money to run campaigns as successfully in
New Hampshire than in Wyoming. New Hampshire has a very low estimated rate of
gun ownership, at only 36%. Wyoming, on the other hand, has the highest
estimated rate of gun ownership in the country at 88%. In addition, Wyoming
has 10 gun shows for every 100,000 people, whereas New Hampshire has only 1.5.
New Hampshire has large state legislative districts (especially senate) and no
term limits or ballot imitative processes, while Wyoming is just the opposite.
New Hampshire is not a right-to-work state, and because of this, it has both a
large number of members in both labor and teacher unions.
New Hampshire is surrounded by very statists states (Maine, Vermont,
Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Providence Plantation,
and Canada), while Wyoming is surrounded by many liberty-friendly states
(Montana, South Dakota, Idaho, Colorado, and Nevada). This means that if New
Hampshire was picked it would likely attract the few freedom activists that are
left in its surrounding states. This would leave the freedom movements of the
surrounding states in even worse shape and prevent the FSP from expanding into
New Hampshire's neighboring states. However, something even worse is already
happening in New Hampshire: statists from Boston are moving to New Hampshire at
an alarming rate. This growth is expected to increase, and even more so if the
FSP selects New Hampshire and de-regulates business laws.
- Wyoming vs. Idaho
Even though some people consider Idaho a superior candidate state over New
Hampshire, this does not necessarily mean that Idaho is superior to Wyoming.
Wyoming has several very important, distinct advantages over Idaho. Idaho's
current population is over 2.68 times the size of Wyoming's, and is expected to
grow so fast that it will soon be three times. This is a major concern,
because it could indicate that Idaho needs three times as many committed and
dedicated freedom activists as Wyoming, in order for the entire project to be a
success. Wyoming's state house and senate districts are much smaller than
Idaho's. Wyoming's districts are 8,230 and 16,000 people, while Idaho's are
36,962 and over 38,300, respectively. Wyoming does not tax personal or
corporate income, and it has low property tax rates. On the other hand, Idaho
taxes its citizens every which way it can, including personal income, corporate
income, sales, and property taxes. Idaho has a very large and powerful
Latter-Day Saints contingent that is whole-heartedly against such trivial
activities as smoking, drinking, and using products that contain caffeine. The
Mormon population of Idaho is estimated at being anywhere from 14% to 26% of
the state's entire religious population. In Wyoming, on the other hand, as one
Porcupine said, people just want to be left alone.
- Wyoming vs. other low population states
Wyoming stands out as the best low population state. Wyoming is in a class of
its own, as far as population is concerned. Many people consider South Dakota
and Delaware to be low population states, but their respective populations are
over 50% larger than Wyoming's. Even though Alaska and Delaware are low
population states, their state legislative districts are very large, whereas
Wyoming has the second-smallest district sizes in the country. Wyoming voters
were more likely to vote for a small government candidate during the 2000
presidential election than voters from any other state, including all of the
low population states. In addition, the ideology of Wyoming's citizens is more
pro-freedom than every low population state except for Alaska. In fact, the
ideology of Wyoming's citizens is, figuratively, light years ahead of Vermont,
Delaware, and North Dakota. Wyoming is not very dependent on federal
subsidies, unlike North Dakota, South Dakota, and Alaska. Out of all low
population states, Wyoming has the second best weather. In fact, the weather
is so bad in Alaska, North Dakota, and many parts of South Dakota, that many of
the FSP members might abandon one of those states after their first winter
- Wyoming vs. other western states
There are many reasons to believe that Wyoming is the best western state for
the FSP. Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Alaska are the four western states the
FSP is considering. Wyoming's population is anywhere from 140,000 to 842,428
less than any of the other western states. Wyoming has fewer labor union and
teacher union members than any of the other western states, which means less
opposition to the principles of freedom. Wyoming does not have a Green Party
movement, unlike Alaska and Montana, which have both a strong, growing Green
Party, and other pro-regulation, environmental groups. Wyoming receives less
federal aid than any other western state. Wyoming has a higher mean household
income than any of the other western states, except for Alaska (which has a
very high cost of living). The state house and senate districts are smaller in
Wyoming than in any of the other western states, and they are much smaller than
in all of the western states, except for Montana. The city governments in
Wyoming are smaller and impose fewer regulations than the city governments of
all other western FSP candidate states. Wyoming is the least isolated western
state; it is closer to major metropolitan centers than any of the other western
- Smallest number of people, registered voters, and actual voters
- Smallest number of teachers and unionized teachers
- Highest vote for small government candidates
- Highest percentage of gun ownership and gun shows
- Only FSP candidate state without a budget deficit
- Most libertarian members of Congress
- 2nd Best
- 2nd lowest percentage of native residents
- 2nd highest livability ranking
- 2nd most economic freedom
- 2nd lowest number of labor union members
- 2nd smallest state legislative district size
- 2nd most centrally located state
- 3rd Best
- 3rd least expensive elections
- 3rd most freedom-friendly citizen ideology
- 3rd best gun laws (and 1st in hunting laws)
- 3rd warmest winters
- Near two major metropolitan centers (Denver, Salt Lake City)
- Western individualist culture
- State government actively resists the federal government
- Very low taxes (no income, capital gains, or death taxes; lowest property taxes)
- No US/Canadian border federal regulation/homeland security issues
- Internationally recognized for very liberal limited liability corporation laws
- No Green Party or socialist presence
- High speed limits and few police
- Excellent outdoor recreational opportunities
- Two wonders of the world:
and the Grand Tetons
by Fran Tully
This report is very different from any of the other state reports that I have
read. Rather than crunching numbers and comparing charts, I want to discuss
what it's like to live in Wyoming.
I first discovered Wyoming on a coast-to-coast bicycle trip in the summer of
1981. I stopped at the base of the Grand
Tetons and camped for five days at Jenny Lake. The entire trip took me five
weeks, and I spent five of my 35 days hiking and fishing in Grand Teton
National Park and cycling back and forth to the town of Jackson Hole. From the
moment I got off my bike at Jenny Lake until this day, I have always known that
is where I wanted to spend the rest of my life. When I met the woman I
eventually married, we were living in Manhattan, NY. She had to meet my first
prerequisite before I would even ask her on a date. I posed the question every
potential girl friend has had to answer since 1981 "If you were married
and your husband wanted to live in Wyoming, would you have a problem with
that?" Obviously, my wife passed the test. Two years later, we moved to Wilson,
a small town 15 miles from Jackson at the foot of the Grand Teton Pass.
There are things that make Wyoming special that are hard to put into words.
Likewise, there are things that make Teton
County special, but very different from most of Wyoming. The purpose of
this report is to try to explain why I find Wyoming unique and one of the most
excellent places I have ever been.
hunting are among
the best that the country has to offer. Other outdoor activities include
backcountry skiing, dog sledding, camping, hot springs, mountain biking,
snowmobiling, horseback riding, hang gliding, adventure racing, horse racing,
rodeos, white water
rafting/ kayaking, gliding,
and wilderness orienteering.
The climate does not seem harsh at all when compared with coastal states.
Having lived in New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Florida, I found
Wyoming to have the most desirable climate of them all. While the winter did
bring low temperatures, the arid climate made them seem very comfortable. I
went most of the winter with just a thermal undershirt, a tee shirt, a fleece
or quilted overshirt, flannel-lined jeans, and my Sorrel boots. There were only
two weeks or so when it was very cold, and then I just wore my ski jacket. The
days were sunny and bright. The air was crisp and clean. There were at least 20
days when we had an elk or a moose come within 20 feet of our deck and graze.
In the year that we lived there, we never felt the need to dress up.
The trees were mostly evergreens and aspens and seemed hundreds of years old.
Some of them were huge. Most of the people we met seemed healthy and sturdy if
not downright rugged. Unlike most of the places we have lived, when we met
people, they just asked approximately where you lived and where you skied. We
were not subject to the "20 questions" that folks in many other areas of the
country hit strangers with like "do you have any kin around here, where
do you work, what church do y'all go to, what brings you out here,
other questions that I think are nobody's business. The people we encountered
wanted privacy and respected ours. In the year that I lived there, I never had
a key to my house, and never removed my keys from my truck. The people I met
were all happy to be there, and wishing that others had not discovered it and
driven the property prices through the roof.
When I opened an account for video rentals, I put down my name and phone
number. No SSN, no driver's license, no home address, nothing. I asked, "Is
this all you need?" and the clerk said, "Yeah, you're not planning on leaving
town anytime soon, are you?"
When we opened a checking account, the people were friendly and courteous. One
day, I went in to make a deposit of $12,000. The girl looked at me and said,
"Are you sure you want to put ALL this in one deposit?" when I asked why
wouldn't I, she explained that she wasn't really supposed to tell me this, but
anything over $10,000 had to be reported to the government. I appreciated her
assistance and made two deposits instead of one. I cannot imagine another bank
in the country offering such advice.
There was a small-town feeling, without the small-town gossip. People work hard
and play hard. During hunting season, businesses close down so that their
employees and owners can go hunting. When you are hiking, or camping away from
the towns, there is a closeness with nature that I have never seen anywhere
else. The animals and humans seem to co-exist in harmony. I believe it's one of
the only places in this country where you can imagine what it must have been
like to visit the West before the white man destroyed it. There are literally
hundreds of miles of backcountry where one can hike or camp for weeks and never
see another human. When you live in Wyoming, it's hard to explain how much
larger the sky is. The mountains in the distance seem to give you a perspective
that you can only get out West. While there, we saw bears, mule deer, elk, big
horn sheep, antelope, mountain lions, owls, bald eagles, golden eagles, hawks,
wild horses, and moose.
The town of Jackson had a rodeo, and
the town of Wilson had a "practice rodeo" right next to the park. On Wednesdays
I would take my kids to the park and we would watch the cowboys practice their
rodeo skills while the girls played in the park. In town, there were two
theaters where plays were performed
every day of the summer,
more art galleries, a
saloon that has a bear on display that was killed by one of the previous
with his bare hands when he was 60 years old! There is a
shopping district downtown that mostly caters to tourists but is quaint and
surrounds the town square, which is framed in thousands of pounds of elk
antlers. In the winter, just north of town is one of the
refuge in the country. There is an excellent smoke shop, three ski resorts,
two golf courses, a few museums,
class fly shop, three theaters, a ballet company, a symphony, a damn good
hockey team, a great
community center with a pool for swimming, scuba lessons, and kayak lessons.
There is also a new hospital.
While we were there, my wife gave birth to our second child. We inquired about
a midwife because we had used one for our first baby and found it a very
pleasant experience. In Jackson, the doctor's wife was a midwife and my wife
gave birth at the foot of a king-sized bed in a private room. The entire staff
treated us like family and there was no rush for them to take the baby, give
shots or any of the other things one might associate with childbirth. My wife
and I held the baby for an hour before they took it away for only a few
minutes. It was a peaceful, relaxing experience.
Just south of town was one of the nicest private
shooting ranges I have ever been to. It costs $20 a year to join, and you
get the combination to the lock on the gate, and can come as often as you like,
as long as the sun is up. On weekends, one can shoot skeet from seven stations.
The time I went, I was shooting with the number-four ranked shooter in the
Moving from New York, we were very concerned about being able to get good food.
Where would we shop, how were the restaurants, could we get a decent bagel and
a good cup of coffee? We found several coffee shops that would put Starbucks to
shame. While we lived there, they built the largest Albertson's grocery store
in the country in Jackson Hole
with a Starbucks, and a wine and cigar shop
attached. We also found excellent restaurants including The
Snake River Grill, which I would
compare to any of the top restaurants in the country.
The schools were good, the nightlife was adequate, and the liquor stores were
in competition with each other not state-run.
We enjoyed a picnic or hike to a hot spring nearly every weekend of the summer.
There were also street parties, and art auctions with wine and cheese. A few
times, buddies and I would go out for a slice of pizza and a pitcher of locally
brewed beer and then go out for some night skiing for $5. You could go out for
a bike ride and never hear a horn blow.
The town had a beautiful library that was built with
donations. In fact, on several occasions, people came around with a
"pledge sheet" to raise money for a public building or a local public event. I
was always impressed how quickly they raised all the money they needed and
NEVER went to the government for the money (maybe this is why they are one of
the only states in the country with NO deficit). They also raised $2,000,000 in
donations to buy off a proposed nuclear waste contract and send them packing.
When a proposal was up for charter helicopter permits, the paper ran a negative
story and people in the town signed a petition to end the discussion. When
someone lost a pet, they called the
radio station, which
promptly mentioned the loss every 10 minutes until the pet was recovered. If
you had anything to sell, you called the shopper show and sold it within a few
minutes. If you wanted a place to live, you put a sign on the door of the
Many of the locals smoked pot, but I never heard of an arrest. I heard several
stories of people getting stopped with open containers only to receive a
warning. If you had too much to drink in one of the many local bars, the bars
would pay for a cab to take you home. During ski season, there were dozens of
backcountry skiers hitching a ride to the top of the mountain. They never had
to wait for more than a few cars to pass before someone picked them up.
I have to say that while the cost of living in Jackson was pretty close to the
same as Manhattan, the quality of life was far superior. In Jackson, I lived
life and enjoyed every minute. I never felt like a rat on a wheel. The people
seemed to all share the same love of nature and excitement that I did. They
seemed to cherish their privacy and seemed to all be familiar with the "code of
the West" which Vin and JJ have previously mentioned.
While Jackson may not be the best or most affordable place for many of the Free
Staters to live, it's nice to know that such a paradise is within a relatively
Some of the other towns we enjoyed and would consider living were
Pinedale, a real cowboy town with
good food, a gorgeous lake, excellent hunting and fishing, and one of the best
high school swim teams in the country. Pinedale is also home to
Museum of the Mountain
Man. One thing that really impressed us about Pinedale, besides the best
bacon I have EVER found on the planet, was that the front page of their
newspaper always had news about a high school football, wrestling, baseball,
rodeo, or soccer event. There was also a picture of some kid with an elk, a
moose, or a fish on the front page. It was an absolute treat to see that the
priority of the town was good news about their kids and not the latest bad news
being pumped out by every other paper in the country.
Another town we loved was 60 miles south of Jackson called
Afton. This is home of our
Olympic gold medal wrestler, Rulon
Gardner. While Wyoming schools are in the top ten in the country, Afton's
school is ranked in the top in the state. Afton is in peaceful
Star Valley. In addition to being a
very affordable alternative to Jackson, Star Valley offers excellent golf,
snowmobiling, and other outdoor activities. I am still kicking myself for not
buying a three-bedroom log cabin there with seven acres, a well, and access to
BLM land for only $150,000.
Another spot that I liked was
Hoback Ranches. The
properties were excellent, but there was no winter access. The locals would
leave their trucks at the highway and take their snowmobiles to their homes.
This was just a little too rough for my wife, but there were some great deals
on 20 acres that backed up to 1,000 acres of BLM land.
Wherever the Free State Project ends up, we need to be happy. While I admit
that Wyoming can be a hard place to start over, I think that the FSP has a
bunch of stubborn individuals with huge hearts who have resolved to make it
anywhere and do whatever it takes. Wyoming is not just a state with 400,000
freedom lovers that time forgot; it is a state where we can enjoy a fantastic
way of life in a pristine environment. I honestly believe that if one is an
outdoor person, they will not find a better place to live. I admit that my wife
and I occasionally miss the ocean, but L.A. is only a two-hour flight away.
I hope that you get a chance to visit Wyoming before you vote. If not, visit
some of the web sites and read the other reports on Wyoming. In my opinion,
Wyoming will offer the least resistance to our efforts. And with all those
days of sunshine, it will be easy to stay happy and focused.
by Greg Garber and Peter Saint-Andre
As anywhere, there are all sorts, but nowhere are extremes of personality more evident and tolerated. A democracy of people who are all individuals, rather than all just equal... The archetypical Wyoming citizen 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. Even in the late twentieth century, specimens of this character abound outside the radius of Better Business bureaus.
In any case, this orneriness is usually covered with a somewhat superficial facade of smiling politeness, or even joviality. 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. Just don't believe everything a citizen tells you.
Wyoming by Nathaniel Burt, pp. 15, 18
This is also a pretty good description of the typical Porcupine.
Wyoming's government sector is a bit larger than one would desire. 22% of the populace works for federal, state, or local governments (compared to less than 14% for DE and NH, 18.5% for ND, 20% for MT, and 30% for AK). However, Wyoming is less dependent ($1.14 received for every $1.00 paid in federal taxes) on the federal government than ND ($1.95), MT ($1.67), or AK ($1.63); although this does not compare favorably with DE ($0.86) or NH ($0.71). To some extent these numbers may be skewed by the presence of BLM employees and other federal workers, although they are slightly worrisome. However, in another measure of self-reliance, only 0.2% of Wyoming residents were on welfare as of the year 2000; this compares to NH 1.1%, ND 1.2%, MT 1.5%, DE 2.2%, and AK 3.9% (source: www.acf.dhhs.gov/news/stats/caseload.htm).
In the 2000 general election, a presidential year, Wyoming cast 221,685 ballots. In the 2002 general election, Wyoming's 496,000 people cast only 188,028 ballots.
2000 Presidential Election
Tennyson's analysis shows that Wyoming has both the greatest percentage of small government voters and the least number of big government voters. In the 2000 election, 60,908 votes were for big government candidates, while two and half times more votes (152,851) went for small government candidates. The only other state which comes close to favoring small government to this extent is Idaho. A potential problem for Idaho is if it's large voting aged population decided it didn't like porcupines, we would have little ability to compete. Tennyson's analysis suggests this is only a remote possibility, but Wyoming is even less risky.
In a typical election year, approximately 200,000 ballots are cast in Wyoming, which would mean a porcupine to native ratio of 1:10. Roughly speaking, this means each porcupine would only need to convince 5 natives to vote our way. Using figures from the 2000 election the ratios for all states would look like this:
Porcupine to Native Ratios
Voting Age Population
When voter turnout or voting age population and the native propensity to vote for small government candidates are considered, Wyoming is the clear winner.
The Wyoming Legislature meets for 60 days every other year and for a 30 day budget session in off years. Politics is not a full time occupation in the Wyoming Legislature. They hold real jobs such as house wives, mechanics, and college professors. Since they live in the real world, they would probably be more sympathetic to our cause than professional politicians.
The number of House and Senate members is proportional to the population of the counties. According to one estimate most of the political power comes from the Cheyenne, Laramie, and Casper areas.
2002 Wyoming Statutes
TOPICAL INDEX OF RESOLUTIONS AND MEMORIALS
2002 General Election Results
1998 and 2000
Town and Country
Measures of how urban states are vary widely, and can be misleading (e.g., New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the country, is made up mostly of many small but dense and densely-packed towns rather than one large metropolis). Wyoming's average population density is around 5 people per square mile -- more than Alaska's 1, comparable to MT's 6, less than the 10 or so in the Dakotas, and way less than 140 in NH or 400 in DE. Yet by some measures Wyoming is 65% urban! However, Wyoming is not urban in the way that, say, New Castle county, Delaware, is -- this county contains 440,000 people (only 50,000 fewer people than live in all of Wyoming!), most of them in or near Wilmington. The largest towns in Wyoming are Cheyenne and Casper at around 50,000 people each. From there the population of Wyoming towns drops off dramatically -- in fact, fewer than 20 towns in Wyoming have a population greater than 5,000 people, and only 5 (Cheyenne, Casper, Laramie, Gillette, and Rock Springs) have more than 15,000 people.
Half of Wyoming's population lives in the fourteen most populated towns. These are the cities of: Cheyenne, Casper, Laramie, Rock Springs, Gillette, Sheridan, Green River, Evanston, Rawlins, Riverton, Cody, Lander, Worland and Torrington. The first two cities account for 1/5 of the population; The first 3 account for 1/4 of the population and the first 4 account for 1/3 of Wyoming's population. In all 71% of Wyoming's population lives in it's 109 cities as of 1996. Outside of city limits population density drops to 0.69 people per square mile, or 1.46 square miles per person. Half the population lives in the counties of Laramie, Natrona, Sweetwater, Fremont, and Campbell, 5 out of 23 counties.
Acceptance of Outsiders
Of the states under consideration, only Alaska has a higher percentage of residents who were born out of state. Wyoming is comparable in this regard to New Hampshire, and compares quite favorably with places like Maine and the Dakotas (which have a much higher percentage of native-born people, and thus are not as open to outsiders). The relatively high percentage of non-natives in Wyoming bodes well for acceptance of porcupines and for their ability to make a difference.
The Wyoming economy is a perennial underperformer. The reason may be that it is heavily dependent on natural resource extraction (especially coal and natural gas). Also, it is quite far from major markets and transportation links are less than ideal. In addition, it's perceived by younger people as boring, which is why so many of them leave Wyoming for places like Denver. The ability of porcupines to find or create jobs in Wyoming will be an important factor in the decision process.
Historically, Wyoming's economy has grown in a series of booms. The peak of the most recent such boom occurred in 1981. Since then it's economy has diversified in service and manufacturing jobs.
Wyoming's economy has diversified since the boom and throughout the period of the 1990s. This may help buffer Wyoming against economic ups and downs in any particular industry. However, increased diversity for Wyoming, as currently constituted, appears to be consistent with lower wages. The question is whether Wyoming's economy can continue to diversify without negatively impacting wages further. The answer is yes, provided growth is encouraged in industries which, like mining, offer higher wages. To this end, the State and its communities may want to consider attracting Manufacturing and/or high-wage Services firms into Wyoming. Of course, our ability to do this rests on many factors, including our ability to provide the labor and satisfy employers' needs with respect to the quality of that labor.
Is Wyoming's Economy Diversifying and Is Economic Diversity in Wyoming Desirable?
by: Mark A. Harris, Sociologist, Ph.D.
That said, Wyoming's per capita personal income ranked 20th in the US at 97% of the national average. It increased 5.9% from 2000 to 2001 while the national average was only 2.4%.
The average cost of a 3 bedroom house in Laramie is $110,000. Housing sales range between $70,000-$510,000. Homes for sale spend an average of 100 days on market. Average apartment rental is $300-$600/month. Average home rental is $600-$850/month. The images below show Wyoming's per capita income, median household income, and median home value relative to the rest of the country.
Death and Taxes
Wyoming does not have a state personal or corporate income tax. It is the only state under consideration by the FSP that does not have a corporate income tax. The sales tax is 4%. Counties may add to sales tax, for instance in Albany County the total sales tax is 6%. According to the October 1998 issue of Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine Wyoming ranked lowest of the 50 states in total tax burden.
A June 2000 survey by the Wyoming Taxpayers Association found that the state's residential property tax rate of 0.753 percent of market value compares favorably to an average of 1.4 percent for surrounding states and 1.2 percent to 1.5 percent average tax rate for all states, depending on the price of the home. Nominal property tax rates, or mill levies, vary widely among the over 400 separate government bodies in Wyoming that levy property tax. (From Bankrate.com .)
State Tax Info at Bankrate.com
Current Job Offerings
History & Physical Environment
Wyoming is not Florida. It's high and dry, often windy, temperate in the summer, and cold in the winter. However, it's usually sunny, which helps quite a bit. As noted, the local climate varies somewhat depending on elevation, so that low-elevation towns like Lander are generally warmer and more temperate than high-elevation towns like Laramie.
Wyoming is landlocked. It is bordered by South Dakota and Nebraska on the east, Colorado on the south, Utah on the south and west, Idaho on the west, and Montana on the north. Personally I'm not convinced that this puts Wyoming at a disadvantage with respect to any other state in the lower 48, other than perhaps Maine (which shares a border with only one other state). Alaska is the only state that is superior in this regard, since it is not contiguous with the rest of the states.
Wyoming is a big state and much of it can be described only as empty. Partly this is because the environment is fairly harsh -- much of the state is high plains desert. Elevation has a large impact on the local climate, which is why towns like Riverton and Lander (elevation 5350 ft.) are more temperate than, say, Laramie (elevation 7165). Towns along the front range of the Rockies (e.g., Cheyenne and Casper) tend to be windy a lot of the time. This is less true in the western part of the state (e.g., Jackson and Evanston), which also receives more precipitation. Wyoming is not as densely mountainous as Colorado. The mountain ranges in Wyoming (e.g., the Snowies, Big Horns, Wind Rivers, Tetons, and Absarokas) tend to be separated by large stretches of relatively flat terrain with smaller mountains interspersed. These flatlands tend to be sparsely populated; one can often drive for 50 or 100 miles or more and pass through only a village or two. And because most of these flatlands are dominated by sagebrush, with trees being found only on the mountain slopes, one can often see for 100 miles in any direction. Truly a land of wide open spaces.
Weather is probably the last thing we should consider when choosing a state for our project. However since people often bring it up, here's the low down.
FARGO HECTOR I AP
LEWISTON NEZ PERCE
SIOUX FALLS FOSS FI
Monthly Median of Daily Mean Temperatures (degrees F)
Sioux Falls SD
Temperature drops about 3.6F for every 1000 feet of altitude. Use the elevations above, and the temperatures below along with the elevation of a location within that state you may be interested in to get a rough idea of what temperatures are for that area. Unfortunately for Wyoming, most of the state is at a high elevation. In a typical year, there are 109 cloudless days, 85 rainy days, 23 snowy days, 86 inches of snow. In New Hampshire, there are 69 cloudless days, 167 rainy days, 43 snow days and 158 inches of snow.
The Chinook factor also needs to be explained. In the correct Western FSP states only central Montana and eastern Wyoming have Chinooks. Chinooks are warm winds from the south generated by being on the east slope of high mountains...Chinooks have change temps in MT and WY very quickly. The greatest extreme being 100 degrees in Browning, MT in the 1930's (from +54 to -46 degrees within a 24 hour period). ND, AK, ID, and SD (except around Rapid City) don't have Chinooks. Neither does western MT or extreme western WY.
Ben Irvin on the FSP-state-discussion list
My general impression after looking at much weather data is that Wyoming is not Key West. However, the temperatures seem warmer than New Hampshire and cooler than Delaware. Observing the states via webcams, Cheyenne is the most consistently sunny location. Delaware is the most consistently dreary. A visit to this site shows that indeed Wyoming gets more sun than any other state under consideration. Compare Wyoming's 4-4.5 average low peak sun hours with 4 for northern Florida and 1.5-2.5 for the Northeast. Greenhouses, solar heating, and arguably photovoltaics appear to be viable options in WY.
If you'll be visiting Wyoming with a view to settling or just exploring, you might want to look into some of the following localities (these are places I like -- your mileage may vary). I've broken them down into three categories: "cities" of over 10,000 people (I use the term "city" advisedly, having lived on Manhattan Island for 5 years); towns of 2,000 to 10,000 people; and villages of less than 2,000 people.
Of the cities, I've never found Casper or Cheyenne very appealing. Cheyenne is the closest place in Wyoming to the big cow town of Denver, and it's not unheard of for folks to commute from Cheyenne to the north side of Denver, or to Boulder or Fort Collins. So if you don't want to be too far from civilization, you might want to check it out. Rock Springs is the butt of many a Wyoming joke, so it's probably not an exciting place. Gillette has grown quite a bit in the last few years because of a boom in natural gas extraction in the area. Laramie is home to the University of Wyoming so it's got more culture than other towns in the state, though the local politics tend to be more left-leaning than Wyoming as a whole. Evanston and Sheridan are two quite pleasant smaller cities and well worth investigating.
There are quite a few towns in the 2k to 10k range in Wyoming. Jackson is probably the best-known; it's also just about the only place in Wyoming that has much of a California influence, because the scenery there (Teton mountains) is awfully impressive. It's also overrun by tourists in the summer (spillover from Yellowstone National Park), so I tend to avoid it. Cody, Buffalo, Riverton, Lander, and Thermopolis are some other great small towns. I haven't spent much time in Kemmerer, Powell, Wheatland, Torrington, Douglas, or Newcastle, so I can't steer people toward or away from them. I do know that the best onion rings I ever had were to be found Newcastle, though. :)
Wyoming has lots of villages that may be intriguing to those who prefer a "backwoods home" kind of atmosphere. My favorites are Story, Dubois, Meeteetse, Alpine, Saratoga, Encampment, and Centennial.
Visit Wyoming and see for yourself!
Wyoming Tails and Trails. History and photos
Is it easy to commute to jobs out of state if that were necessary. No need to spend much time here; travel doesn't get any easier than Wyoming. In Wyoming there is nothing but wide open road. I25 cuts it in half North and South, I80 crosses East and West in the South, I90 crosses East and West in the North. Most of the highways in Wyoming are in good shape, and due to the fact that there isn't a town every 15 miles, you can cover ground at a respectable pace. There are plenty of highways, going anywhere you want to go, in state, or out. Besides the paved roads, there are countless short cuts across the desert. Traveling anywhere in Wyoming is duck soup.
Anonymous person familiar with Wyoming
Wyoming Tribune-Eagle Newspaper
WyoDEX Websites within Wyoming
The City of Laramie as an Example
Laramie pop. 27,204 in Albany County pop 32,014 in Southwest Wyoming. Median household income is $28,485 with wages between $5.15 to $21.60 per hour. Cheyenne is 45 miles away, Fort Collins Colorado is 65 miles, Denver Colorado is 129 miles.
Laramie has about 34 houses of worship. There are two Assembly of God churches, Nine Baptist, three LDS, two Catholic, three Lutheran. There are also a mosque and a Synagogue.
Wyoming ranked 8th in the nation for the lowest pupil to teacher ratio in public elementary and secondary schools. The average elementary class size is 17.4 students. Of graduating seniors, 65% enroll in college. On the ACT exam, Laramie students average 22.7 while the national average is 21.0. The University of Wyoming Fall 2000 enrollment was 9,459. Wyoming rates among the top 10 states for percentage of adults with a high school degree, high school graduation rate and per capita public libraries.
Wyoming is a strong contender, if for no other reason than its extremely small population. It has all the advantages of Montana (other than the border with Canada) without the tax burden, bloated government, and large population. It also compares favorably with North Dakota, since it is much less dependent on the federal government and has a much larger percentage of outsiders. The major downsides to Wyoming are its economy and its geopolitical location, although these two factors weigh down Montana and North Dakota too, and the locations of New Hampshire and Delaware are sub-optimal as well. Wyoming is worth considering seriously among the members of the Free State Project.
January 2, 2003
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of the Free State Project, its Officers, or Directors.