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Moving to Manchester Head 'em up! Move 'em out!
by Karl Beisel 6/9/04
I'm pleased to report that I closed on my house in Manchester last weekend,
and will be making the move on June 19, just in time for the PorcFest and NHLA dinner the
I want to take a moment to explain how I came to select Manchester as my
new home, and tell a little about my impressions of the city.
Last December, I did a week-long driving tour of southern New Hampshire,
stopping in the towns on a list of possible destinations. My route took me
through Keene, Claremont, Lebanon, and Hanover, then down to Concord and
Manchester, then up to Rochester, Portsmouth and finally Hampton. I prefer a
more urban lifestyle, so I did not stop in small towns and rural areas. I'll
describe my impressions of each town briefly.
Keene: This is a neat and vibrant medium-sized city, dominated by Keene
State College in the center of town. Its downtown has many businesses that
cater to a college crowd. By all appearances, Keene is a great place to live.
It is, however, a bit too isolated for my wants, and it has a reputation for
being one of the most "liberal" towns in the state, which has advantages and
disadvantages, I suppose.
Claremont: This city was mentioned months ago as a possible destination
for Free Staters. But be warned, this town is in rough shape. Claremont was
the town that originally brought forth those infamous Claremont lawsuits, which
resulted in the statewide property tax. The Claremont lawsuits are just the
latest attempt by the Claremont government to foist their self-created economic
disaster onto the rest of New Hampshire.
Although it has a reasonably pretty downtown with a beautiful City Hall,
about a third of the shops are shuttered. It has several abandoned mill
buildings that will soon be the home of a technical college that will be moving
from its current location north of town. Otherwise, the downtown is in a
perpetual state of "revitalization" that has apparently been going on for
decades, at great taxpayer expense, and to little effect. Despite all this,
the town manages to support BOTH a K-Mart and a Wal-Mart, among the many stores
located on Claremont's particularly ugly sprawl strip. There are few jobs and
worse-than-usual public schools. The good news: dirt-cheap housing, and the
city is nestled amidst some beautiful rural semi-mountainous country.
Lebanon: North of Claremont, Lebanon is like a smaller version of Keene;
it has a community college at the town center. It's much prettier than
Claremont, and there is actual industry there; it seems to benefit from the
nearby interstate highway and its proximity to wealthy Hanover a couple miles
Hanover: Home of Dartmouth College, with its premier medical school.
Georgetown on the Connecticut River, and absolutely beautiful. This is the
definition of a college town; Dartmouth College practically IS the town.
Downtown, the many shops, bars and restaurants cater to a college crowd, and
the many out-of-state visitors. There are a couple of ski resorts close by as
well. By most measures, a fine (though expensive) place to live.
Concord: A bit closer to what I'm looking for, though a tough egg to crack
politically, due to the large number of state employees and lobbyist-types. It
has a vibrant downtown, with the State House at the center. I visited the
State House, and the stories I've heard are true. No metal detectors, no bag
searches. I walked through the corridors unmolested. I walked by the office
for the "Speaker of the House." I could just walk in if I felt like it.
Living with the police presence of Washington, DC, this experience was quite
novel. I didn't stay in Concord long, because I wanted to get to the 2nd city
on my "short list", Manchester before the end of what, as it turned out, was
literally the shortest day of my life (the farthest north I've been on a winter
solstice). As I headed out, I noticed the Federal Building, which is oversized
and fronts the street at crooked angle, with its bunker-style architecture,
completely out of character with the rest of the city, like a UFO had landed in
Concord. Typical. Anyway, I decided to avoid I-93, and traveled back roads
through Bow to Manchester.
Manchester: There's a whole lot more going on here than anywhere else in
New Hampshire. Manchester is the largest city in the state, at about 108,000
people. Its downtown is dominated by a series of large mill buildings, many of
which had been abandoned for a long time, but are now mostly in use as
warehouses, offices, hotels, retail shops, apartments, a museum, and even a
branch of UNH. The downtown is bustling, and it promises to become even more
so, with the construction of a new minor league baseball stadium, and new
downtown apartments. Manchester may have a reputation for an industrial-grit
character, but its downtown is becoming increasingly "yuppie" with new
independently-owned coffee shops and restaurants. I'm a yuppie, so I like this
Transportation is excellent. I-93 and I-293 both go through town (I-93 is
being widened now), and there is a small bus system, apparently used mostly by
the elderly. As in most NH towns, homes tend to have a lot of off-street
parking, which is especially important because of the winter parking ban (most
towns in New Hampshire have ordinances that ban street parking during the
winter months). There is also rumored to be a future passenger rail line
connecting Manchester to Nashua and Boston, but its status is unclear.
Manchester has several identifiable neighborhoods. The very center of the
city east of Elm Street (Manchester's "main" street) is densely packed with
4-12 unit tenements, where mostly lower-income residents live. Along Elm
Street and in the Mill district along the Merrimack is the site of much
post-industrial redevelopment, and an increasingly popular area (read: pricey)
for those who like genuine urban living.
Outward, the neighborhoods are generally identified as one of four "ends"
north, east, west and south. The "West End" is the part on the west
side of the Merrimack River. This is mostly lower-middle income, mostly
apartments mixed in with businesses but also some houses. The "North End" is
the upscale part of town, with many large houses, especially along Elm Street,
which is ridiculously wide. The "East End/Hanover Hill" neighborhood is
largely middle class, as is the "South End" both of which consist mostly of
single-family homes. Beyond these urban neighborhoods is the customary
asteroid belt of sprawl, with its cookie-cutter colonial houses and strip
malls. Beyond that, it gets rural quickly.
Manchester has everything three pro sports teams (baseball, hockey,
and arena football), a major shopping mall (The Mall of New Hampshire), and a
newly updated airport with flights throughout the country (note to self: get on
Airport Commission and make them stop piping FOX NEWS throughout the airport).
There are also many parks, and a large lake (Lake Massabesic) where you can
enjoy fishing and light boating. The quality of life here is something to
Rochester: After visiting Manchester, I knew that was the place to be.
But Rochester was also one of my "short list" cities, so I headed up that way.
I've heard some not-so-flattering things about this city, but I didn't think it
was that bad. If you like the seacoast region, Rochester still has
reasonably-priced real estate, and a reputation, whether true or not, for being
among the more libertarian-leaning towns in New Hampshire. The city's main
newspaper has an emblem that reads "Your Rights, Your Liberty." Sounds good to
me. I think Rochester is a good compromise city for those who want a city like
Claremont but with less poverty. Some Free Staters have suggested Rochester as
a candidate for a larger "free town" but I'm not aware of any takers so far.
Portsmouth: I buzzed through Portsmouth pretty quickly. I hear it's a
great downtown, but fabulously expensive, being right on the seacoast. It's
also a major retirement destination, and a high-tech employment center, due in
part to the proximity of a US Navy shipyard that builds submarines (this base
has been under the threat of closure for some time). I hear the downtown was a
dump not so long ago. Now it's a major tourist destination and a choice spot
for uppity living. Lots of restaurants and touristy shops.
Hampton: After a few days in Portland, Maine, I headed back south to
Hampton, one of New Hampshire's beach resort towns. It is located adjacent to
the Seabrook nuclear power plant. Its downtown is right on the coast, with a
small beach, complete with a boardwalk and beachy trinket shops. It was the
dead of winter, so the whole place was shut down; even the McDonalds was
boarded up. From what I could observe, at least in winter, there must be a
rule that you have to be over the age of 65 to live in Hampton. Apparently,
like Portsmouth, Hampton is retirement destination. I'll have to return this
summer to get another take.
The decision: Manchester.
So, why Manchester? Having lived in very urban neighborhoods in
Washington, DC and Arlington, VA, I've come to prefer the urban, where I may
walk to most of my destinations, and where I feel I can take a more active part
in the community. New Hampshire is one of those special places where its inner
cities are, for the most part, still vibrant, productive, and safe. Manchester
in particular has a sort of aura about it that seems almost to brag about its
industrial ethic, an embodiment of the Yankee spirit that I find so appealing.
I want to be a part of that. Other towns share that spirit, but perhaps
Manchester's mill yards and the raging Merrimack River through the center of
town, and even its large buildings and traffic congestion on Elm Street, make
it stand out.
Manchester is the very heart of southern New Hampshire; anyone living there
has access to the employment opportunities and amenities available in
Portsmouth, Nashua and Concord, and even Metro Boston.
Politically speaking, I know only a little about Manchester politics, just
what I've occasionally read in newspapers. As the largest city in the state,
with its share of urban problems, I see living there as an opportunity to help
open up discussion to new ideas for solving these issues in a way that is
consistent with the principles of liberty. I certainly don't see Manchester
ever becoming a libertine "free town", but I can imagine that one successful
and innovative reform in local government, in a city of that size, could serve
as a powerful example of what such policies can achieve. I'll do my best to
take my time in becoming a member of the community; and I will pursue my goals
as such a member. And so, we'll see how it goes.
Meanwhile, on to the Manchester in New Hampshire, the Free State
Back to Guestbook
Go Where They Want Your Business
by Taylor George
One guaranteed quality of South Dakota is her commitment to a
business-friendly atmosphere. This commitment is not something South Dakota is
shy about. Just consider one of several media campaigns that are broadcast
daily into the larger radio airwaves of Minneapolis by the Sioux Falls
Development Foundation. Go here to read what they are saying: www.siouxfallsdevelopment.com.
Pay particular attention to the vast amount of research which compares taxes
and expenditures by state, and concludes that Sioux Falls, SD is one of the
best places to do business.
The Sioux Falls Development Foundation conducts daily assaults on the high
taxes of the state of MN. These campaigns boast of the fact that South Dakota
has no state corporate income tax, no personal property tax, and no state
personal income tax. They also provide convincing evidence that doing business
in South Dakota can save your business at least $1 million off the bottom line
(100-person company). The advertisements also boast of special
business-friendly tax breaks that the city of Sioux Falls has enacted for
companies relocating to the area, such as significantly reduced commercial
property tax for up to 5 years.
The Small Business Survival Committee, a D.C. based small business advocacy
|| SBSI Score |
|| 27.060 |
|| South Dakota
|| 28.250 |
|| 32.010 |
|| 32.150 |
|| 33.180 |
|| 34.250 |
|| New Hampshire
|| 36.250 |
|| 36.830 |
|| 38.160 |
|| 39.540 |
With an outstanding 2nd place ranking, South Dakota is one of the
friendliest business atmospheres in the nation. The ranking is based on taxes,
electricity costs, workers' compensation costs, total crime rate, right to
work, number of bureaucrats, and state minimum wage. You can read more about
these rankings at:
During the recession of the past couple years, South Dakota banks assets as
well as savings and loan assets have increased significantly. For example, in
Sioux Falls alone, bank assets rose from $29 billion in 2000 to $43 billion in
2001. In 2001, the city of Sioux Falls had $322 million of new construction;
nearly $130 million of that was non-residential.
South Dakota offers the FSP more than a bustling urban community. South Dakota
contains the Black Hills, along with Mount Rushmore. For pictures go here: www.theblackhills.com.
These are the fabled Black Hills of South Dakota, an oasis of pine-clad
mountains on the Great Plains. The Black Hills offer everything you expect from
a mountain vacation: five national parks, scenic drives, waterfalls, abundant
wildlife, acclaimed recreation trails and trout fishing. A place where bison
and wild horses still roam free. South Dakota Vacation Guide
If you're wondering whether the Black Hills are as grandiose as some of the
mountains in Colorado or Wyoming, don't. They're not as big, but they offer
the state a decent amount of tourism, and an interesting landscape compared to
the rest of the state, which is mostly flat.
Bob Newland, the Libertarian candidate for Attorney General in the 2002
election, received 12,131 votes. This is interesting for the FSP because it
introduces a few questions. Why did Bob Newland receive 12,131 votes, while
all other statewide Libertarian candidates received less than a tenth of that
amount? Are these 12,131 voters libertarians, or did they just dislike the
other two candidates?
One reason is that Newland was at the center of two major referendums on the
ballot last fall. One measure would have legalized the growth and cultivation
of hemp with less than one percent THC. The other was a measure called
"Constitutional Amendment A." The latter received fair amounts of national
exposure and would have made it possible for the accused to argue the validity
and applicability of laws in South Dakota courts. Unfortunately these measures
failed, but Newland did his best to promote them and in doing so may have
garnered higher name recognition among libertarian voters.
To read more about efforts in South Dakota for Amendment A go here:
particular interest are the county-by-county voting results and the analysis
about why the measure failed.
To read more about efforts in South Dakota for legalized hemp go here:
One problem the FSP may encounter is the possibility of voter fraud within the
Democratic Party of South Dakota. South Dakota does not require a photo ID to
register to vote, and absentee ballots can be obtained without personal
appearance. National Review Online also reports that the South Dakota
Democratic Party was paying $3-per-head bounties for voter-registration cards.
It goes without saying that some voters were receiving more than $3. It
certainly is strange that South Dakota has 48% Republican voter registration
and has two Democrats for senators.
These political games are particularly bad for the FSP because we know that the
media will not afford our project dirty politics, as they will the Democrats.
The FSP will have to play a cleaner game given the fact that most media outlets
will be unsympathetic toward our cause. We already have conservative talk
radio hosts like Michael Medved telling lies about the FSP. Just think what
liberals are going to write who are much less sympathetic about reducing the
overall size of government.
The FSP must also take into account the large Indian Reservations in South
Dakota. The FSP should not take lightly the fact that Indian Reservations
depend heavily upon the federal government. This dependence could bring
resistance to many of the rights we would propose for all of South Dakota's
citizens, including legalized gambling.
On the other hand, the Indians could turn out to help the FSP. County voting
results on "Amendment A" show that the Indians supported the measure (see
county voting result from above links). The Indians also showed major support
for the effort to legalize hemp. In addition to these factors there is
speculation that the Indian population in South Dakota is tired of being
treated like children by the federal government. This may all mean that in
reality the Indians may support our cause more than we would have realized. If
those in the FSP can embrace the Indian culture and prove to them that we care
about their liberties as well as our own, we could cultivate a lasting
Another factor for South Dakota is that politics is becoming slightly expensive
for a lower population state. According to the Associated Press, $5 million
was spent in the primary races for the 2002 federal elections, and most of it
by unsuccessful candidates (Joe Kafka, AP, 10/31/2002). AP also reports that
campaign spending for governor in South Dakota was in excess of $7 million,
breaking the old record of $2.8 million set in 1994. This new trend is
probably due to the tightly held senate race between Thune and Johnson which
brought a lot of outside money.
South Dakota is a predominantly Republican state, as evidenced by the state
legislature. The South Dakota House of Representatives holds 49 Republicans
and 21 Democrats, but the Reservations remain the wildcard of South Dakota
politics, one just can't be sure how they would respond to reducing the size of
state government. For the purposes of the FSP the Reservations would have
little to do with early success; later on, however, when the FSP decides to run
a candidate for governor, Indian support could become more important. South
Dakota is a state that is eager for new business, and it is a state with some
disdain for big government, but probably not the level of disdain held in Idaho
The greatest asset South Dakota offers the FSP is balance. South Dakota is
small enough for our efforts to succeed, yet big enough for us to have a job,
or start a small business.
Examining Population and Political Accessibility
By Keith Murphy
The author has directly managed nine campaigns for state legislative
office in Maryland, resulting in six victories. In addition, he has consulted
for numerous local races in Baltimore City. These services have included all
aspects of campaign management, from analyzing district demographics and voter
files to fundraising to production of literature and signs to organizing
volunteers and door-to-door. He is eagerly awaiting the opportunity to put
this experience to work for those who share his political viewpoints, in the
Boosters of small population states, such as Wyoming, Montana, Vermont, and
Delaware, will be happy to tell you that the population factor is crucial to
the success of the project. It is a cornerstone of the FSP.
But why? Why does population matter?
The typical answer is that the more people are in a given state, the more
difficult it will be to reach a required saturation point, a tipping point, in
order to achieve the political power it will take to put the state on a course
to liberty. Thus,
small-state boosters claim, 20,000 activists in New Hampshire are
equivalent to only 7,500 in Wyoming.
This is an extremely simplistic way of measuring the states against each other,
and could lead to an uninformed vote. It assumes that all other things are
equal. But the states are not equal, and there are real and distinct
differences between them. For example, isn't it logical that population is
only a concern to the degree that the native population leans against us?
Would the FSP have a better chance in a state with low taxes and a
live-and-let-live attitude, with a population of a million, or in a state of
600,000 with high taxes and onerous infringements on personal liberty? While
there inarguably is not yet a fully libertarian state, some are clearly closer
to the ideal than others. The closer a state comes to that ideal, the more
irrelevant the population factor becomes. This is why members spend so much
time weighing and arguing about tax rates, gun laws, drug arrests, and other
rough indicators of a state's "libertarian-ness."
But when considering the impact of population on the state choice, there may be
another factor that's even more important than political culture. From the FSP
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.
Even more than population, this whole project is dependent on the
accessibility of the political system of the chosen state! Even
if the given state has a small population, and leans libertarian politically,
if the doors to power are closed to us by stifling election laws, all of our
efforts will have been in vain. Many of these election laws are directly
related to the population issue.
- Each state has different district sizes for their legislature.
- Some states allow multi-member districts, and some do not.
- Some have fusion, and some do not.
- Some have nonpartisan local races, and some do not.
- The ballot access requirement varies widely from one state to the next.
- From a logistical viewpoint, campaigns are more difficult in some states
than others, due to geographic features.
- The form of local government is very different from state to state.
- Finally, one state offers an executive council.
A brief overview of these features is provided here.
Population is only relevant to the state-choice issue for the effect that it
has upon our ability to influence the political reality of the chosen state.
But each state has very different systems, producing varying districts of very
different sizes. District size for each office is one of the key components of
understanding the relevance of population, as it provides some measure of the
work to be done to begin to take power from the existing political structure.
Even if you ignore differences in political culture, the overall population
number is only relevant for those select offices that have the entire state as
its district. For example, if you assume that Wyoming and New Hampshire are
equally libertarian, then it should be easier to win the governorship of
Wyoming than that of New Hampshire, as the number of votes required is
substantially less. The same would apply to other statewide offices, such as
state's attorney, treasurer, etc. Given the tremendous undertaking of running
a credible campaign for these statewide offices, in any of the ten states, it
is inevitable that our initial efforts will be concentrated on offices with
many less constituents, such as state legislative office and local offices.
The district size is (per the US Supreme Court's disastrous decision in Baker
v. Carr) decided by dividing the state's population by the number of seats.
This gives the "ideal" district size. Every ten years, following the census,
state legislators pore over voter demographic data, and (being careful to
include their major campaign contributors in their district and making it as
hard as possible for opposing parties) redraw the district lines to account for
shifts in population. Each district must be within 5% of the ideal district
size, a measure the Supreme Court apparently found under the sofa cushions. As
noted above, in general it is true that the smaller the district size the
easier it is to win, as the fewer voters that must be courted to achieve
victory. The smallest house districts in the nation can be found in New
Hampshire, beginning at 2,987 citizens. Vermont comes in next, with 4,059
citizens for its single-member districts. Wyoming can boast the smallest
uniform districts, with an ideal district population of 8,230.
State Legislative Districts
Idaho, North Dakota, and South Dakota all have two-member districts. Vermont
has a mix of single-member and two-member districts. New Hampshire is a
peculiar case, because of a state constitutional provision that prohibits
splitting towns without their permission. This results in multi-member
districts of varying size, as detailed below.
Multi-member districts may be "at large", meaning that all members represent
all constituents, or they may be broken into sub-districts. Multi-member
districts that are broken into sub-districts (A, B, etc.) usually cover large
geographic areas, the given rationale usually being that legislators should
live reasonably close to their constituents. Sub-districts usually operate
just like single-member districts, in that constituents go into the booth and
cast just one vote for that office. In comparison, in at-large districts
voters go into the booth and cast as many votes as there are seats. Idaho,
North Dakota, and South Dakota all have two-member house districts, some of
which are broken into sub-districts and some of which are not. In New England,
the unit of political power is not counties but towns, and districts are drawn
in such as way so as to avoid splitting towns wherever possible. The New
Hampshire Constitution actually forbids splitting towns without their
concurrence, resulting in a wide variety of district sizes. Where Vermont's
house consists entirely of one-member and two-member districts, New Hampshire's
house districts each have between one and fourteen seats, with the majority of
districts having between three and five seats. New Hampshire and Vermont have
no sub-districts, as do some of the larger western states.
The practical effect of at-large multi-member districts is that voters get as
many votes as there are seats. The major parties sometimes have difficulty
finding candidates to run for all the seats in a large district, and it is easy
to court the "extra" votes of a constituent. If a Republican has ten votes,
and only has eight Republicans to vote for, he is much more likely to give one
or both of his extra votes to a Libertarian than a Democrat. Of course, the
same is true of a Democrat. Party loyalists are much more likely to vote for
a third-party member than they are for "that other party." For example, in
2002 the Wyoming LP ran Marie Brossman for Secretary of State against an
incumbent Republican. The Democrats did not field a candidate. It was a
brilliant move that paid off handsomely, as Ms. Brossman received 17% of the
vote and gave the LP major party status in Wyoming until 2006.
Those states with at-large multi-member districts offer an electoral advantage
over those that don't. New Hampshire with its wide variety of district
sizes, offering constituents up to 14 votes each is particularly
attractive in this category.
Fusion allows a candidate to run for office under two or more parties
simultaneously. In the nineteenth century, fusion was a regular occurrence
throughout the nation, but it was such an opportunity for third parties that
the major parties worked in concert to ban it in most states. Of the ten
candidate states, it is only possible (with slight variances in application) in
Vermont, Delaware, Idaho, Maine, South Dakota, and New Hampshire. Of these six
states, it would appear that fusion only regularly occurs in Vermont and New
Hampshire. The other states could require an attorney general's opinion and a
court case to establish a modern precedent, and the first successful use of
fusion could trigger a belated effort by the major two parties to ban it.
When a third-party candidate runs under a major party banner, several important
things are accomplished. First, the major party includes the nominee on all
campaign literature, effectively paying to get the third-party's word out.
Second, the nominee benefits from straight-ticket voters in the general
election, that distinct subset of voters who don't even bother to look at the
candidates' names. Third, the very act of cross-nominating winners gives the
Fusion is always an electoral advantage, but when combined with multi-member
districts, especially large multi-member districts, it produces real
opportunity. This is explored in greater detail in the companion report
A Strategy for Achieving a Libertarian Caucus.
Nonpartisan Local Races
Delaware, Vermont, and New Hampshire have predominantly nonpartisan local
races. This is an important advantage, because most members who desire to run
for office will be cutting their teeth in the local races first. This is an
important way to build both name recognition for future political ambition and,
in a bigger sense, to build the political machine that elects party members
year in and year out. When the race is nonpartisan, the candidates cannot rely
on a party label. Instead, the focus is on the candidate's message and
arguments. This can only benefit those of us who wish to run as Libertarians.
To clarify, there may be other candidate states that possess this advantage,
but the supporters of those states have not brought that information forward.
To the best of the author's knowledge, only
Delaware, Vermont, and New Hampshire offer nonpartisan local
Some members have advocated that we subvert one or both of the existing major
party structures in the free state, while others have said that a new party or
the Libertarian Party is the way to go. If you find yourself in the former
group, then there is no advantage or disadvantage to the various states in this
regard. If you find yourself in the latter group, then this has a tremendous
impact on which state is the best choice.
- Alaska For major party status, a political party must either
have nominated a candidate for governor that received at least 3% of the vote
in the last general election or have registered voters equal to at least 3% of
the votes cast for governor in the last general election. There are no
provisions allowing nomination by petition.
- Delaware For major party status, a political party must
register at least 5% of the total number of voters in the state. A minor party
may nominate by convention as long as it has registered at least .05% of the
voters in the state. Alternatively, anyone may be placed on the ballot upon
submitting a number of petitions equal to 1% of the voters to be served by the
- Idaho Any party may qualify for major party status in one of
- Having three or more candidates for state or national office at a general
- A candidate receiving at least 3% of the votes cast for state or national
- Submitting a number of petitions equal to 2% of the number of votes cast
Anyone may file as an Independent by submitting the relevant number of
petitions: 1,000 for statewide office, 500 for congress, 50 for the state
legislature, or 5 for county office.
- Maine "Major parties" are defined as the two parties polling
the highest vote totals for governor in the most recent general election.
Third parties are blatantly shut out on this score. However, minor parties are
still qualified to take part in a primary if they hold municipal caucuses in at
least one municipality in each county of the state, if a state convention is
held, if the party's candidate for governor or President polled at least 5% of
the total in either of the last two general elections, AND if it was on the
ballot for either of the last two general elections.
- New Hampshire For major party status, a political party must
nominate a candidate for governor or United States Senator that obtains at
least 4% of the vote in a general election. A political organization (minor
party) may still have its name on the ballot for the general election by
submitting a number of petitions equal to 3% of the votes cast in the last
general election. Anyone can be nominated by submitting 3,000 petitions for
governor, 750 for state senator, or 150 for state representative.
- North Dakota A political organization may not nominate
anyone for statewide or legislative office unless it:
- Holds a caucus meeting in every voting precinct throughout the state by
May 15th immediately following a general election,
- Had a candidate for president or governor receive at least 5% of the vote
at the most recent general election, OR
- Submits 7,000 petitions to the secretary of state.
Independents must be nominated at the primary election, with a different ballot
clearly marked "No-Party." The number of people nominated for each office
through the no-party process is twice the number of seats. In other words, as
there can only be one governor, no more than two "no-party" candidates can be
- South Dakota For major party status, a party must submit a
number of petitions equal to 2.5% of the votes cast for governor in the last
preceding election. A minor party may have its designation on the general
ballot by submitting 250 petitions for statewide or federal office, or 5
petitions for legislative or county office. Independents may be placed on the
general ballot by submitting a number of petitions equal to 1% of the total
votes for the office of governor in the relevant district or subdivision in the
most recent general election.
- Vermont For major party status, a party must have received
at least 5% of the vote for any statewide office in the most recent general
election. Minor parties may not nominate someone for statewide office unless
town committees are set up in at least ten different towns. Anyone may be
nominated to be on the general election ballot by submitting 250 signatures for
statewide offices, 100 for state senator, or 50 for state representative.
- Wyoming For major party status, a political party must
nominate a candidate for statewide office that obtains at least 10% of the vote
in a general election. To nominate via petitions, the party must submit a
number of petitions equal to 2% of the votes cast in the relevant jurisdiction
for the office of United States Representative in the preceding general
The area of the candidate states, and their districts, is a factor that
deserves serious consideration. Some states have a larger rural population,
while the residents of some states prefer living in denser areas, mostly due to
climate issues. There are two primary reasons why the area of the state should
be a concern. First, the logistical difficulty of operating a campaign is
directly proportional to the distance that must be covered. Campaigns in
denser districts may be done on foot, whereas larger districts require hours to
canvass in a vehicle. Second, larger areas make influencing the political
process more difficult. There is much to be done in this regard, such as
testifying before senate and house committees and visiting legislators to
discuss issues. This is much easier when the state house is within easy
Geographic Rural/Urban Characteristics
||The area of the states in square miles.|
|| The area divided by the number of state house districts. This is merely
an average; it is important to remember that urban districts are quite small
while rural districts are much larger.|
|| The percentage of the population of the state that lives in urban areas,
as defined by the United States Census Bureau. |
|| The distance from the state capital to the population center of a given
state. This measure represents spatially where the capital is in regards to
the population of the state. (See here and here).|
In the western states and in Delaware, the primary form of local government is
based on county jurisdictions. Within each county there may be incorporated
areas that may enact their own ordinances, as long as they are in compliance
with the laws of the state and county. The end result of this system is to
have all citizens under a tiered system, with those living in municipalities
suffering from an additional level.
The three New England states are different. While they have counties, they
exist mostly as lines on the map. Most of the functions of local government
are performed at the town level, and the majority of the land area in the
states is incorporated. In general, courts are operated at the county level,
but all other functions, from roads to police to fire service to schools, are
administered at the town level. Issues are discussed at town meetings, giving
each citizen an opportunity to speak his mind.
This form of government has several important advantages. First, it is the
closest to the people, assuring that everyone in each town knows their elected
town officials personally. Remember, most power rests in the hands of town
officials instead of county officials administering vastly larger areas.
Second, it provides citizens amazing control over the town budget. In New
Hampshire, fifteen signatures is enough to place a budget item, called a
"warrant," on the ballot for referendum. If you don't want that new high
school, get fifteen signatures and vote it down. If you don't want the town to
get a new garbage truck because you think trash collection should be
privatized, get fifteen signatures and put it on the ballot. Many towns have
less than 1,000 people, and some have less than 100. Hart's Location, NH, only
has 37 residents. Each town is in control of all of its spending.
This brings me to the final advantage of the town-centered form of local
government. There are some areas of the New England states that are not
incorporated. These are very lightly populated, and residents contract with
the nearest town to provide those services that they do not provide for
themselves, such as schools. There is no constitutional provision in New
Hampshire requiring public schools, but there is a constitutional prohibition
against the state issuing unfunded mandates to the towns. Thus, there is no
reason why a small group of FSP members could not simply move to an
unincorporated area and incorporate as a new town. For this town, they could
write their own charter, prohibiting public schools, taxes, zoning, and
anything else they wish. They could even decide to not have a police
For that matter, there are even some low-population towns that a few dozen FSP
members would quickly overwhelm from sheer numbers. The current ordinances
could be repealed and the charter altered. The degree to which this
opportunity exists varies throughout the New England states. Vermont's
constitution does not protect towns from unfunded state mandates, while Maine's
constitution requires public schools to be maintained. New Hampshire offers
As noted earlier, population as a factor in the state choice is
only relevant because of the implications it holds for our ability to influence
the process and work within the political system. For elections, the
population of the entire state only matters when the entire state is your
district; that is to say, for statewide offices. There are very few statewide
offices. In most states only the governor, attorney general, and treasurer
come under the heading of "statewide," and these are the only offices for which
the state's population is an issue. As we will likely begin in local and state
legislative races, it is the size of those districts that should most concern
New Hampshire possesses an advantage in this regard: the ability to influence
the executive branch without winning a statewide office. The governor works
with an elected "Executive Council," which must approve any expenditure over
$5,000. They help the governor craft the budget, approve the placement of
roads, and otherwise direct the day-to-day operation of government. The
council has five members, elected from districts of roughly 247,157 persons
each. These districts are, then, each almost exactly half the population of
Wyoming, and would allow us to influence the executive branch earlier than is
possible in any other state.
It is extremely simplistic to measure the candidate states against each other
simply on the basis of overall population, as doing so assumes all other things
are equal, which is assuredly not the case. There are two primary complicating
factors that must be taken into consideration when weighing population. The
first is the degree to which the native population leans with or against us.
It is far better for the project to be in a state of a million people who lean
libertarian than in a state of a half-million that leans socialist.
The second factor, which is even more important, is the accessibility of the
given state's political system. There are many measures of accessibility, some
of which can be quantified and some of which cannot. They include such
measures as district size, whether the state has multi-member districts or
fusion, or both, ballot access, and other unique features.
Considering population as a factor through these lenses provides a much more
accurate picture of our chances of actually effecting change in the candidate
states. One state, in particular, leaps to the top of the pile, both in terms
of the libertarian leanings of the native population and, most importantly, in
openness of the political system. On every measure here reviewed, New
Hampshire comes out at, or near, the top. Of critical importance is the fact
that New Hampshire offers that which no other state can: fusion combined with
large multi-member districts. This crucial advantage is explored further in a
companion report, Towards
Victory: A Strategy for Achieving a Libertarian Caucus.
NOTE: The opinions and commentary expressed in this
essay are those of the author and are an exercise of free speech. They do not
necessarily represent the views of Free State Project Inc., its Directors, its
Officers, or its Participants.
Everything I Own Has Got Wheels underneath It
by Glen Hubbell
You will never be able to clearly measure how much of your current,
economic life is determined and controlled by other people until you commit
to the full time RV lifestyle.
The most obvious difference is the cost of your home: A good used motorhome
or travel trailer can be bought for under $20,000 and paid off in a few
years as a simple car loan. A conventional stationary home will cost you
far, far more and require decades to pay off.
The next most obvious difference are the taxes and other assorted fees: An
RV can be licensed and insured in the cheapest possible state (Nevada is
very popular). A conventional stationary home, on the other hand, is a easy
target for every tax proposal, insurance scheme, and community improvement
The third most obvious difference is the utilities: In an RV you own your
own utilities. You can make any alterations or improvements you like,
within the limits of common sense highway safety regulations, and can shop
around for the best buys (non-fluoridated water, cheap propane,
next-generation storage batteries, etc). In a conventional stationary home,
you are told what utility services you can have, how much they will cost,
and you will need to get permits to alter or improve anything - or face
The single most expensive cost related to operating an RV is the cost of
fuel and repairs required to drive it. Here though, a wide variety a
strategies have evolved to suit every budget and purpose.
Some people never go anywhere. They buy a piece of land and park the rig,
or pay a small rent to hook up to a friends house, or get a long term
caretakers job which allows them to hook up for free.
Other people bounce from place to place as money or jobs allow. Others make a habit of moving from one free campground to another (up to 14 day
limit). Others, like myself, park the rig somewhere as a base camp and
use a smaller camper to do all the exploring and sightseeing.
And finally, because of space and weight considerations, everything you own
or want to own must be thought about and justified: the barbell set and the
aerobic jungle gym thing? The two car garage full of stuff you might need
someday? 100 different clothing outfits with matching shoes? Probably not
easy to justify.
Once you get through this process and work out your personal system, you
will find a level of economic freedom you never thought possible. Also this
will be a freedom that you create and control every day - not a political
freedom that requires agreement with other people or a cultural freedom
that constantly requires you to tell other people to mind their own
NOTE: The opinions and commentary expressed in this
essay are those of the author and are an exercise of free speech. They do not
necessarily represent the views of Free State Project Inc., its Directors, its
Officers, or its Participants.
Libertarianism and Land Value Taxation
By John H. Beck
Professor of Economics
- LIBERTARIAN FOLLOWERS OF HENRY GEORGE
For some libertarians any tax is illegitimate (Feser 2000). However, one
tax that has received some support from libertarians who advocate a limited
government financed by taxation is a tax on land values. The most famous
advocate of land value taxation is Henry George, the author of Progress and
Poverty (1879). Yeager (1984) identifies several libertarian views shared by
Henry George, including his opposition to protectionist trade policy, his
rejection of socialism, and his defense of natural rights including property
rights. Several prominent libertarians in the early twentieth century were
influenced by Henry George, including Albert Jay Nock, author of Our Enemy the
State (1935), and Frank Chodorov, who became the director of the Henry George
School of Social Science and editor of the Freeman in 1937 (Nash 1996, 11-14;
Raimondo 1993, 114-129). Maurice Allais, one of four future Nobel prize
winners attending the first meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society in 1947,
declined to sign the society's Statement of Aims because its defense of private
ownership of land conflicted with his Georgist ideas (Hartwell 1995, 42). This
illustrates that Georgist ideas about land ownership and taxation have
frequently been divisive among libertarians. Yeager (1984, 160) notes that
Murray Rothbard rejected George's moral and economic arguments for land value
taxation, although Rothbard applauded George's discussion of patents and
copyrights as well as his advocacy of free trade.
- ARGUMENTS FOR LAND VALUE TAXATION
There are both equity and efficiency arguments for land value taxation. The
equity argument is that land is given by nature and the value of the land was
not created by human effort. Furthermore, increases in the value of land are
caused by public services and economic development in the neighborhood, not by
the effort of the landowner. For example, the construction of an interstate
highway will increase the value of land near a highway interchange as this
becomes a more desirable site for business development. Therefore, it is
argued, because the landowner has done nothing to deserve the gain from his
ownership of land, the government should capture this gain through taxation and
use it for the benefit of all members of society. However, as discussed in
section IV below, there are also equity arguments against replacing the current
system of property taxation with a tax only on land values.
The efficiency argument for land value taxation is that, unlike almost all
other taxes, it does not discourage productive activity or distort choices
among consumer goods. A tax on wages discourages work effort. The property
tax on improvments discourages construction and other improvements. Tariffs on
imported goods discourage international trade. But the supply of land is
fixed, given by nature. A tax on the value of land (based on its potential
use), will not discourage the landowner from making the land available. The
owner must pay the same tax regardless of what he does or does not do with the
land. It should be noted that the method of assessing land values is crucial;
changes in the market value of land attributable to permanent improvements to a
site should not be included in the taxable land value.
- POLITICAL CONSIDERATIONS
Advocates of any tax reform proposal need to consider likely sources of
opposition and support and to devise strategies to minimize opposition and
build a coalition of supporters.
Opponents of land value taxation have often charged that this would shift
the burden of taxation to farmers, who own large areas of land (Peirce 2003,
6). Although in fact family farmers might benefit from an increase in the tax
rate on land value offset by a reduction in the tax on improvements (Wenzer
1999, 239-268), a reform strategy assuaging farmers' fears would have greater
chance of success. Limiting land value taxation to urban areas rather than
adopting it as the "single tax" for all state and local government revenues
would eliminate opposition from farmers.
Environmentalists are not often allies of libertarians, but land value
taxation is one issue which both might support. Environmentalists support
replacing the property tax on improvements with land value taxation in urban
areas because it would encourage more development in urban centers and
discourage sprawl (Durning and Bauman 1998, 57-65; Wenzer 1999, 205-223).
- IMPLEMENTATION ISSUES
"An old tax is a good tax." This adage does not merely reflect the fact
that people prefer the taxes to which they have grown accustomed to new,
unfamiliar taxes. The implementation of any tax reform affecting the taxation
of durable assets raises serious equity issues, and land is the most durable of
assets. This is due to the phenomenon of "tax capitalization." The value of
an asset reflects the present value of the expected future income to be derived
from that asset. Anticipated future taxes reduce the expected future income
and thus are "capitalized" in the value of the asset.
To understand how tax capitalization may create inequities when unexpected
tax reforms are implemented, consider an unanticipated shift from a property
tax applied at the same rate to land and improvements to a tax on only land
value that yields the same total revenue. Compare the effects of this change
on the values of two properties, a parking lot and a parcel with a ten-story
office building. Almost all of the value of the parking lot is the land value,
but most of the value of the parcel with the office building consists of
"improvements." The market value of the office building will increase as the
anticipated future taxes fall, and the value of the parking lot will fall as
the tax rate on the land value increases. When the current owners of these
properties purchased them, they each paid a price that reflected the
expectation that the old property tax system would continue into the future.
The unanticipated tax reform causes a "windfall gain" to the owner of the
office building and a "windfall loss" to the owner of the parking lot. Many
people consider such windfalls "unfair."
One method to ameliorate such windfalls is to implement tax reforms
gradually. For example, rather than immediately abolishing the property tax on
improvements and imposing a tax on land values sufficient to raise all the
desired revenue, a "split-rate" property tax might be adopted. Under this
system the land component of property values is taxed at a higher rate than the
tax rate on improvements.
- EMPIRICAL STUDIES OF LAND VALUE TAXATION
Pittsburgh, along with a few smaller Pennsylvania municipalities, has had a
"graded" or "split-rate" property tax for several decades. Prior to 1979, the
city of Pittsburgh taxed land at twice the rate applied to structures (although
county and school district property taxes applied the same rate to land and
improvements). After 1980, the city of Pittsburgh raised its rate on land to
about five times the rate on structures. This policy change provides an
opportunity for researchers to test empirically whether land value taxation
really does have the beneficial effects ascribed to it by theoretical analyses.
Oates and Schwab (1997) analyzed building activity in 15 "rust belt" cities
from 1960 to 1989 and found a significant increase in building activity in
Pittsburgh after the 1980 tax reform. Of course such empirical studies are
plagued by the difficulty of measuring the effect of a change in one variable
when other variables that might affect the outcome are changing as well. In
the case of Pittsburgh, the increase in taxes on land was accompanied by large
tax abatements on new structures although there was no decrease in the property
tax rate applied to old buildings. Oates and Schwab conclude that the revenue
raised by the land tax increase allowed the city to grant tax abatements on new
building and to avoid raising other taxes that would have discouraged economic
activity in the city. Additional studies showing the effects of the split-rate
tax in Pennsylvania are Bourassa (1987 and 1990) and Cord (1983).
Cord (1983, 172-173) briefly mentions evidence of the effects of land value
taxation compared to the conventional property tax on land and improvments from
Australia. A more extensive study of the Australian experience was done by
Edwards (1984), who found that the value of new housing and the housing stock
was greater in Australian communities that taxed land at a higher rate than
improvements than in communities with a uniform property tax on land and
For libertarians who believe markets generally allocate resources
efficiently, the best tax is one which creates the least distortion of market
incentives. A tax on the value of land meets this criterion. Furthermore, the
benefits of local government services will be reflected in the value of land
within the locality. Therefore, it may be deemed fair that landowners pay
taxes to finance these services in proportion to the value of the benefits they
receive. Although Henry George advocated a tax on land values as the "single
tax" to replace all other taxes, a tax on land value seems especially
appropriate for municipal governments. If a complete shift from the current
property tax to a tax on land value alone seems too radical, municipal
governments might reduce the property tax rate on improvements while imposing a
higher tax rate on the value of land.
Land value taxation has been under consideration in several eastern
European countries. As reported by Youngman and Malme (1999), Estonia adopted
a tax on the market value of land in 1992. Nations considering a tax structure
fostering a market economy in the post-communist era may present one of the
most promising opportunities for implementing land value taxation.
Borcherding, Thomas E.; Patricia Dillon; and Thomas D. Willett. "Henry
George: Precursor to Public Choice Analysis." American Journal of Economics
and Sociology 57 (April 1998): 173-182.
Bourassa, Steven C. "Land Value Taxation and New Housing Development in
Pittsburgh." Growth and Change 18 (Fall 1987): 44-55.
Bourassa, Steven C. "Land Value Taxation and Housing Development: Effects
of the Property Tax Reform in Three Types of Cities." American Journal of
Economics and Sociology 49 (January 1990): 101-111.
Cord, Steven B. "Taxing Land More Than Buildings: The Record in
Pennsylvania." In The Property Tax and Local Finance, pp. 172-179.
Edition by C. Lowell Harriss. New York: The Academy of Political Science,
Durning, Alan Thein, and Yoram Bauman. Tax Shift: How to Help the
Economy, Improve the Environment, and Get the Tax Man off Our Backs.
Seattle: Northwest Environment Watch, 1998.
Edwards, Mary E. "Site Value Taxation in Australia: Where Land Is Taxed
More and Improvements Less, Average Housing Values and Stocks Are Higher."
American Journal of Economics and Sociology 43 (October 1984): 481-495.
Feser, Edward. "Taxation, Forced Labor, and Theft." The Independent
Review 5 (Fall 2000): 219-235.
Gaffney, Mason. "Equity Premises and the Case for Taxing Rent."
American Economic Review 82 (May 1992): 274-279.
George, Henry. Progress and Poverty. New York: Walter J. Black,
Hartwell, R. M. A History of the Mont Pelerin Society.
Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1995.
Horton, Joseph, and Thomas Chisholm. "The Political Economy of Henry
George: Its Ethical and Social Foundations." American Journal of Economics
and Sociology 50 (July 1991): 375-384.
Martin, Thomas L. "Protection or Free Trade: An Analysis of the Ideas of
Henry George on International Commerce and Wages." American Journal of
Economics and Sociology 48 (October 1989): 489-501.
Nash, George H. The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America.
Wilmington, DE: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 1996.
Netzer, Dick. "On Modernizing Local Public Finance: Why Aren't Property
Taxes in Urban Areas Being Reformed into Land Value Taxes?" American Journal
of Economics and Sociology 43 (October 1984): 497-501.
Nock, Albert Jay. Our Enemy the State. New York: Free Life
Oates, Wallace, and Robert Schwab. "The Impact of Urban Land Taxation: The
Pittsburgh Experience." National Tax Journal 50 (March 1997): 1-21.
Peirce, William S. "The Progressives and the Property Tax: Ohio's
Constitutional Convention of 1912." Paper presented at the Public Choice
Society meeting, Nashville, TN, March 2003.
Raimondo, Justin. Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the
Conservative Movement. Burlingame, CA: Center for Libertarian Studies,
Teti, Dennis. "The Socialist Idealism of 'Supply Side' Economics -- Henry
George's Progress and Poverty." The Political Science Reviewer 14
(Fall 1984): 195-228.
Wenzer, Kenneth C. (ed.), Land-Value Taxation. M.E. Sharpe, 1999.
Whitaker, John K. "Enemies or Allies? Henry George and Francis Amasa
Walker One Century Later." Journal of Economic Literature 35 (December
Yeager, Leland B. "Henry George and Austrian Economics." History of
Political Economy 16 (1984): 157-174.
Youngman, Joan, and Jane Malme. "Issues in Land Taxation and Property
Taxation in Central and Eastern Europe." In Proceedings, 91st Annual
Conference on Taxation, pp. 137-143. Washington, DC: National Tax
NOTE: The opinions and commentary expressed in this
essay are those of the author and are an exercise of free speech. They do not
necessarily represent the views of Free State Project Inc., its Directors, its
Officers, or its Participants.
Financing a Free State
Once a free state is chosen, one of the first orders of business will be to
repeal all forms of excessive and abusive taxes and revenues and replace them
with fair and very limited financial sources. Even in a free state, these
changes may take some time, but they will at least be workable. Of course the
reductions in funding must coincide with equal reductions in spending and
downsizing of the state and local governments.
Because all forms of taxation are forms of theft, libertarians must be very
careful to construct any financing proposals so that they can never provide too
much revenue or abuse any people. Although no taxes are ideal, some are much
more abusive and prone to excesses than others. To make a wise decision on what
is preferred, one must first analyze all forms of taxation and revenue sources
and then choose one or two that are the least oppressive. Of course, we must
also identify those that are the most oppressive so we can put them on a fast
track toward early repeal.
Let's begin with the pros and cons of current forms of government revenue
sources beginning with the worst and working toward the best:
- LICENSURE: Licensure is basically government "permission" to earn a
living or perform some other routine activity upon the payment of a "fee" or
other remuneration, and also in some cases, the following of certain
regulations and meeting certain "qualifications." Although it consumes only
relatively small amounts of people's wealth directly, it is highly invasive and
limits the amount of free enterprise that can enter the economy.
In a free libertarian society, one of the most sacrosanct rights is earning a
living and enjoying the fruits of one's labor. The very thought of any form of
licensure or regulation is anethema, and all forms of it should be repealed
- PROPERTY TAXES: This is probably the oldest form of taxation and was
implemented centuries before income, sales and other taxes were ever conceived.
But being old and well-entrenched does not make it desirable. Property taxes
mandate that people must pay "rent" to the state (or whatever government) just
to keep and use their own private property. In other words, they deprive the
property owners and users a portion of their own property. The value of a
person's property does not necessarily relate to his income or ability to pay.
Although some people can pay these taxes with little difficulty, others can
suffer the loss of their homes, farms and other property through unemployment,
medical emergencies, natural disasters or other hardships. During the great
Depression in the 1930's, losses like these were routine even though the taxes
Property taxes are also invasive, although the invasiveness varies with the
type of property being taxed. The most invasive are personal property taxes and
taxes on so-called "business-personal property." These require that either the
owners provide the government with inventories or allow the government to snoop
into their private homes and businesses. The invasiveness is somewhat less on
land, buildings and vehicles, but it is present nevertheless.
Governments like property taxes because they are easy to enforce. If someone
doesn't pay his tax, the government yanks his property out from under him and
sells it. They are also "recession proof." When the economy turns down, sales
and income tax collections fall with it, forcing government to downsize
somewhat. But even though property values also fall, governments rarely adjust
assessments downward to compensate.
Property assessments can be arbitrary. Constitutions and civics books will say
"fair market value." But what is going to prevent any government from
stretching a property's market value towards its higher replacement value and
taxing it accordingly?
Furthermore, governments love to re-assess property. Re-assessments are now
occurring more frequently than ever, sometimes as often as every year. Some of
these re-assessments can be invasive. And the costs of the re-assessments
(often inflated) are added to the property tax bills.
Governments inflate property values in other ways. Cities routinely annex
surrounding property (they have a particular affinity for businesses), often
without the owners' consent and against their wishes. Once annexed, the cities
impose their own property taxes (over and above existing state and county
taxes) and also add numerous regulations and restrictions. They frequently
provide "services" and "improvements" like water and sewer lines, street
lights, etc. that the owners may neither need nor want and jack up the
properties' assessments. The cities get tax windfalls, and the owners get
A property tax variation endorsed by Henry George and others, is a tax on land
only. The argument is that since land is natural and not the product of one's
labor, it is a suitable item to tax. Nevertheless, even if none of the
improvements are taxed, they are attached to the land and are therefore lost if
the land is seized.
A more sensible form of land taxation for a free state might be to exempt a
person's first 160 acres (the size of a typical farm) as tax-free. This would
help protect a person's home and other basic assets from seizure. To avoid any
form of invasiveness to establish the land's taxable value, any remaining
acreage could be taxed a fixed amount (about $1 or $2) per acre statewide,
regardless of its value. But even this form of land taxation would not be
desirable except, perhaps, in a special emergency where foreigners or
corporations conspired to buy up large acreages in an effort to corrupt the
government or deprive the free state citizens of available land. However, a
more practical solution in a situation like this would be to simply prohibit
massive investments and occupations by foreigners with idealologies hostile to
a free state environment. If land ownership diversity diminishes too much and
small numbers of people hoard too much land, a limit can be placed on how much
land any person, family or corporation can own and occupy.
Bottom line, no form of property tax is desirable in a free state.
- INCOME TAXES: Income taxes are much newer than property taxes. A first
if not the first proponent of an income tax was Abraham Lincoln.
He decreed that one be imposed upon the American people to finance the War of
Northern Aggression. Fortunately, the Supreme Court declared that it was
Income taxes did not get a foothold in America until 1913, and state income
taxes did not begin until the 1930's. Since then, they have grown from very
modest rates on the richest people to complicated nightmares for everybody. We
all know the horrors of income taxes withholding, FICA, complex
deductions, mountains of paperwork, and sometimes draconian enforcement.
Needless to say, no form of income or occupational tax should ever be tolerated
in a free state.
- SALES AND USE TAXES: Sales taxes are much simpler than income taxes. And
since they tax consumption rather than production, they are less disruptive to
Nevertheless, general sales taxes have serious disadvantages. They should never
be imposed on basic essentials. Food, heating oil, utilities, services,
medicine, vehicles, used items, and sales between individuals should never be
Even a sales tax on only luxuries at a rate of only 5% might generate more
revenue than a free state can legitimately use. Therefore any widespread form
of a sales or use tax should be considered undesirable.
- MOTOR FUEL TAX: In a free state, huge money pits like government-run
education, housing, medical care, public assistance, and numerous similar
programs would be eliminated. The one relatively large program remaining would
be the construction and maintenence of roads and bridges. The way to do this
is with a user fee. But things like toll booths and tracking devices impose
serious problems ranging from traffic jams to privacy invasions not to
mention high costs and inefficiency.
The best and fairest form of user fee is what we already have in every state
a motor fuel tax earmarked exclusively for roads and bridges. It
is simple. It is easy to implement and collect. It is fair. The big trucks and
gas guzzlers that impact the roads the most pay proportionally more fuel tax.
All roads remain absolutely free to use at all times without checkpoints,
roadblocks, privacy invasions and other impositions.
The only adjustment needed here is to streamline expenditures, eliminate waste
and unnecessary projects, and ensure that fuel tax rates remain low.
- "SIN" TAXES: These are sales taxes on strictly nonessential things that
are considered harmful or frivolous by large numbers of people. These include
tobacco, whiskey, gambling, prostitution, recreational drugs, and similar
Since sin taxes are not nearly as unpopular as most others, their rates are
often much higher. In many cases they are so high they promote lucrative black
markets that act as a limit on the revenue governments can collect. A limited
number of sin taxes might be tolerable in a free state. But rates should be
kept low certainly not above 10%.
- A STATE LOTTERY: The beauty of a state lottery is that it is strictly
voluntary. It requires absolutely no expenditure for enforcement except to
enforce honesty in its own ranks. Neal Boortz calls it "a tax on stupid
people." Certain "Christian" types claim that it rips off poor people. But the
bottom line is that it is totally voluntary, and regardless of how stupid or
poor a person might be, he is better off buying tickets voluntarily than being
forced to pay any tax he cannot afford.
A state lottery will not generate a great deal of revenue. In every state, a
lottery has a built-in limit. This is a desirable feature for a free state as
it will provide a limit on government growth. With the exception of roads and
bridges, a state lottery might provide all the revenue a state needs to provide
the remaining essential services like law enforcement and courts (remember,
illegitimate victimless law enforcement and imprisonment will be ended).
- VOLUNTARY CONTRIBUTIONS: If anybody has doubts that voluntary
contributions could never adequately fund a free government, he should drive
around the countryside and look at the multitudes of new churches that are
mushrooming everywhere. Many of these churches are ugly but are still
expensive. Some churches have programs that are not popular with many people.
Nevertheless, people generously fund them voluntarily.
If people are willing to fund churches, there is no reason they would not be
willing to voluntarily fund government. In fact, a mere look at the excesses
seen in some churches is prima facie evidence that some people might be
inclined to over-fund necessary government.
Obviously voluntary funding would not be able to finance today's government
behemoths. This, of course, makes voluntary funding a useful limit on
government growth. But even with voluntary funding, some checks and balances
must be put in place.
A Constitutional limit should be set so that no government will be over-funded
(in addition, of course, to spending limits and the absolute prohibition of
debt). Any surplus funds that accumulate shall be placed in a special account
and remain untouchable until it either reaches $50 per capita or 10 years pass,
whichever is sooner, whereupon it is refunded in equal amounts to every adult
The funding must be structured so that it is totally anonymous. Nobody should
be ostracized for not contributing his "fair share," or even if he contributes
nothing. This is necessary to protect the people's freedom of choice and to
ensure the natural limits of voluntary funding. In addition, nobody should get
"credit" for financing any part of government or program. Otherwise people in
high places can be bribed into doing special favors for generous donors.
CONCLUSION: The most important thing to consider when financing a free state is
not providing "enough" revenue, but to make sure the sources of revenue are
sufficiently limited so that government cannot grow out of control. If one must
err in his calculation of revenue, it is far safer to fall on the low side with
inadequate funding than to estimate too high and risk a runaway government.
All forms of revenue should have strict limits regarding amounts and rates.
They should not be allowed to increase. One must always remember that it is
the nature of government to grow. It is an uphill climb to downsize government
or even to keep it in check. But it must be done if a free state is to remain
Back to Essays
This "shadow ad" campaign consists of three, half-page, week-long ads in the
Mountain Times newspaper, in
The issue revolves around Killington's threat to secede to New Hampshire,
due to the high taxes in Vermont. See related news stories in:
Boston Globe, and
These ads welcome Killington to join the Free State Project in New
Thanks to FSP Advertising Coordinator, Amy Knickerbocker.
Killington TV ad
The Free State Project begins our first TV advertising
This TV ad is about the high taxes in Killington, VT (paid to the VT
state capital of Montpelier) and suggests viewers consider joining the FSP.
The ad aired over 30 times during the week of 2/26/04 - 3/1/04 on TV
stations Channel 31 WNNE (W. NH and E. VT) and Channel 5 (W. Vt and E. NY).
Ad placements included the Noon and 5 pm news programs, the Today Show, Jay
Leno, Conan O'Brien, Saturday Night Live, Eyewitness News for Kids, and a few
The ad was written by FSP members Justin Somma and James
Maynard, and stars James as the street huckster, Justin as the person who
loses $19, and Pat (James' girlfriend) as the onlooker.
The ad is available here as a Windows Media (WMV) file, in 3 flavors. (You
will probably need to download the file, and then play it with an appropriate
And here is a short news story about the making of the above ad: