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 Jason P. Sorens
(See also Vermont Report #2.)
Vermont remains one of the smallest states in the country, despite the famed
"hippie takeover" of the 1960s and 1970s. Wyoming is, in fact, the only state
with less population. Vermont's economy is centered mostly around tourism and
niche consumer goods, such as maple syrup, cheese, Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream,
Vermont Teddy Bears, and so on, with some manufacturing and high-tech industry
The purpose of these state research papers is to take into account
"intangible factors" not taken into account by the quantitative state
comparison matrix. On that spreadsheet Vermont usually ends up between #4 and
#7 on the ranking. But are there factors affecting likelihood of success that
the spreadsheet cannot take into account? For the purposes of this paper,
factors are divided into three categories: openness of the political system to
libertarian ideas and influence, availability of jobs, and quality of life.
Vermont has one of the most vigorous third-party traditions in America. Its
sole representative in the U.S. House, Bernie Sanders, is a Socialist. (In most
elections the Democrats decide not to field a challenger, however.) The
socialist Liberty Union party had success in local elections in the 1970s.
Today Burlington, the largest city of Vermont, has been turned into a
"progressive" (socialist) experimenting ground. The Grassroots Party is
dedicated to the legalization of marijuana. However, the rural areas of Vermont
remain conservative, with a libertarian undercurrent, and the Libertarian Party
has succeeded in electing quite a few candidates to local offices and
occasionally even to the state house. The Ethan Allen Institute is a
Today Vermont is wracked by polarized political conflict between the
dominant leftists and the conservative old stock. "Take Back Vermont" is the
conservative organization dedicated to restoring Vermont's traditional
political orientation. Its immediate impetus was the "civil unions" law giving
legal recognition to homosexual partnerships. However, TBV has simply not had
the numbers to effect political change. Vermont went solidly for Gore in 2000.
Vermont remains a strange hodgepodge of liberal and conservative elements.
Down the street from the "natural health foods" store (which looks as if it
used to be a farmers' market) is the guns Ã¯Â¿Â½n' ammo shop. Vermont is renowned
not just for its more socialist tendencies but also for its concealed-carry law
- or rather, lack of one. You don't need permission from the government to
carry a concealed handgun - the only state in the Union for which this is true.
Vermont is known for having some rather tyrannical zoning and land-use
restrictions: one often hears stories about store owners fined for having signs
that are either too large or too small. On the other hand, some would claim
that Vermont's quality of life has benefitted from some of these regulations:
for example, billboards are banned on all Vermont highways. The alternative
explanation for Vermont's unique lifestyle is that the state largely bypassed
the industrial revolution, moving from an agricultural society into a high-tech
In general, Vermont has a decentralized, "smaller is better" approach that
could dovetail nicely with libertarian aims. Despite some of their more
draconian laws, they are promulgated and enforced by town councils, not some
Oregon-style "Metro" monstrosity. Vermont has a secessionist movement, inspired
perhaps by Vermont's history of secession and independent nationhood. (It
seceded from New York and remained independent until 1792.) Retired professor
Thomas Naylor, who has written a good deal on the future of secessionism in
America, is a member of the Vermont Independence Party (which as far as I know
has not begun contesting elections yet).
If the Free State Project were to choose Vermont, we would probably have to
abandon the idea of creating a "pure libertarian society." One Vermonter
estimates that the number of hippies who moved to Vermont in the 1960s and
1970s was about 20,000 - that means we would face an activist base the same
size as ours which would fight tooth and nail to prevent certain regulations
from being repealed. We could certainly tip the balance toward a more
free-market approach, but the areas where we could do the most would be: 1)
personal liberties, like marijuana freedom; 2) autonomy, even independence. If
we were to choose Vermont, creating a federation of autonomist forces (Vermont
Independence Party, Libertarian Party, other independentists of all ideological
orientations) would probably be our best course of action.
One comment one often hears about New England is that it is a bastion of
socialism. This observation is used to argue that if we chose a northern New
England state, our position would be precarious, because leftists could easily
move in and mess up our work. However, this threat is probably overblown. The
bastions of socialism are along the coast: New York city, New Haven,
Providence, Boston. Western Massachusetts, upstate New York, northern
Connecticut, most of New Hampshire, and most of Maine are conservative, in the
rock-ribbed, "old New England" way. We wouldn't have to deal with New Yorkers
except when they come for a long weekend to ski.
With regard to jobs, Vermont might be a difficult place. Most business is
small-scale, meaning that the ratio of employees to employers is low. Many of
us would have to start our own businesses. One source does mention that IBM,
IDX, and Husky, located in Chittenden County (Burlington area), are "always
looking for qualified workers." (Another source mentions that IBM has been
cutting back during the recession, however.) The same source mentions, however,
that Vermonters perceive "flatlanders" as coming in to take jobs from them. He
mentions that many independent software programmers, graphic artists, and court
reporters have successfully set up their own businesses, and that native
Vermonters aren't typically interested in high-tech jobs. The jobs forecast for
Vermont is quite bleak (36,000 new jobs forecast between 1998 and 2008, and
that was before the recession), so that it might turn out extremely difficult
to move in 20,000 people in even a five-year period. This fact just emphasizes
that we will have to create our own jobs for the most part.
As far as quality of life goes, I rate northern New England very highly. If
one values community and the small-town life, there is no better place in the
country. The winters are long and snowy, but even a Southerner like me can
handle it with enough clothes. The location of Vermont is quite attractive:
living in Vermont you are but an hour or two from Montreal, a melting pot of
English-Canadian and Qubecois culture, a truly European city in that it is
markedly cultured, clean, and safe compared to some American cities. Boston and
New York are close enough for weekend excursions, and if you like mountains
(though not very high ones), the Green Mountains of Vermont, the White
Mountains of New Hampshire, and the Adirondacks of northern New York are
gorgeous, especially in fall (with the blazing colors) and winter (with the
On tangible factors Vermont comes out better than average, and I think
intangible factors make it clearly one of the six or so states that should be
considered seriously. The main problems, as mentioned, are the hardcore
leftists who will almost certainly prevent us from reaching some of our goals
and the lack of a good job market. If you do highly specialized work that
requires an employer with a lot of capital, you might do well voting for other
states, ones that have metropolitan centers.
July 27, 2002
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those
of the Free State Project, its Officers, or Directors.
Vermont Report #2
by Jason P. Sorens
(This "report" is a series of reflections on a recent trip to Vermont. See
also Vermont Report #1.)
I arrived at the Burlington airport on Saturday around noon and met Robert
Maynard, the president of Citizens for Property Rights in Vermont. We had
lunch and chatted about the state of the libertarian movement in Vermont.
The Vermont Libertarian Party split in 2000. The leadership at the time was
strongly anti-conservative and expelled those who were opposed to the civil
unions law, including the lone Libertarian representative in the state house,
Neil Randall. (He was elected as a Libertarian/Republican.) The civil unions
issue was not the only reason for the split. There was a major disagreement in
strategy. The leadership wished to pursue a purist, intellectual course and
rejected making alliances with the Take Back Vermont movement and its
"populist" approach. Although Take Back Vermont has been most closely
associated with the civil unions issue, the movement actually started in 1998
with opposition to the school funding law, Act 60, which has resulted in a
significant increase in property taxes in many parts of the state.
Robert Maynard was one of those who favored making alliances with the
populist conservatives, and he left the Libertarian Party. Neil Randall won
re-election in 2000 as a Republican. Robert admits that there are pitfalls in
allying with the political right in Vermont, and my subsequent experiences
would bear this out. The Take Back Vermont movement is seen as "extremist" or
"reactionary" in much of Vermont, certainly the Burlington area. This has to
do with the rhetoric and strategy of the movement more than anything else, I
believe. At the CPR meeting I was a bit uncomfortable with the way people
talked about "the homosexuals", "out-of-state homosexual money," "the
homosexual agenda," and similar phrases, as if people who are homosexual are
politically or even culturally monolithic. There's also an infamous story
about the opponents of Act 60, who protested in front of the capitol and during
this protest brought out the old car of a particularly liberal state senator,
which they had purchased, and destroyed it with sledgehammers. The grassroots
conservatives in Vermont are not exactly slick political operatives, and it's
clear they rub many people the wrong way with their blunt, oppositional
The people at the CPR meeting were mostly very favorable to the FSP. I
handed out several Statements of Intent and shook hands with Neil Randall, who
gave a talk as well. He was defeated in the 2002 election, as were many other
quasi-libertarians in the Vermont House. I also met Hardy Macia, an early
joiner of the FSP and Vermont LP activist. He ran for the state house as a
Libertarian/Republican and came within 100 votes of victory. Neither Hardy nor
Neil had held elective political office prior to running for state house. The
large size of the house - and small size of districts - makes it relatively
easy for newcomers and political neophytes to win election, if they are good
After the meeting, I headed out with the NPR folks who are doing a segment
on the Free State Project for "This American Life," a national program that
runs weekly on NPR stations. We met with one of the leaders of the Progressive
Party in Vermont, Anthony Pollina. He ran for lieutenant governor in 2002 and
won 25% of the vote in a three-way race. Needless to say, he was basically
opposed to the Free State Project and insisted that Vermonters would reject our
ideas, because they favor "the active engagement of government." It was
difficult for me to reply to this, because he was a Vermont resident and I was
not, although I knew that many of my views were shared by Vermonters,
particularly those of the old stock. The reporters asked where he was from,
and it turns out he moved from New Jersey to Vermont in the early 1970s. "So
didn't you do exactly what Jason is planning to do?" they asked. He grinned at
that and backpedalled somewhat. "Well, if you're coming to Vermont for the
quality of life and will work toward strengthening our communities, you're
certainly welcome," he replied.
After the interview, I returned to Robert Maynard's home, where I was
spending the night. We stayed up and talked politics some more. I presented
the idea of a non-partisan voters' league to him, and he thought that was an
idea that could work particularly well in Vermont. "The problem in Vermont is
that you need the grassroots conservatives for your activists, but you also
need to be able to reach out to rank-and-file progressives and moderates and
not scare the bejeezus out of them," he said. "For that, you'll need an
effective leadership. But I think the Take Back Vermont folks are learning
very quickly how to play the political game." He said that, historically,
Vermont was the most libertarian state in the country, the only state to oppose
FDR and the New Deal, and the state that gave the country Calvin Coolidge, the
20th century's most libertarian president. However, it has changed a great
deal since the 1960s, and now New Hampshire is more libertarian than Vermont.
Robert, a fourth-generation Vermonter, said that he'd be unable to move from
Vermont, since he had recently bought a new business, but said that putting his
biases aside, he believed Vermont and New Hampshire were about equal in
potential for success. New Hampshire is about "ten years behind" Vermont in
the march to statism, and has a much better organized conservative-libertarian
movement than Vermont. But Vermont is smaller, the town meeting tradition is
stronger in Vermont, and Vermont's history is an asset. Robert believes that
land area is a crucial consideration: to form a grassroots movement you will
have to hold town meetings around the state, and short driving distances are
essential for these. A potentially workable alternative is a state that has a
few population centers, in each of which we would have significant
concentrations of activists. He lent me The Vermont Papers by Bryan and
The next day, the NPR reporters and I met with the mayor of Burlington. He
is Bernie Sanders' successor to the post and runs as a Progressive.
Nevertheless, he is much more moderate than Sanders. He was also a bit more
welcoming than Pollina, though he said that we would be unable to "take over"
the state, due to Vermonters' liberal views and resistance to outsiders. He
believed that we would become a significant part of the general Vermont milieu,
merely one group among a diversity of ideological groups. He did mention
several times that he believed Progressives and Libertarians had quite a few
things in common. He even admitted that Vermont's regulatory process had
become unworkable, and that it needed to be streamlined in order to work for
small business, something that Pollina had refused to concede. However, he
said that he was committed to strengthening code enforcement in Burlington and
providing subsidies for people to buy homes. Government apparently has a
fairly significant role in funding home purchases in Vermont. This, when
combined with the congested permit process for new developments, probably is a
significant cause of the housing shortage in Vermont, which is something almost
everyone we talked to mentioned as a problem in getting 20,000 people to settle
in the state. When government subsidizes home-buying, it pushes up demand for
homes, and when the regulatory process prevents supply from adjusting, we have
a shortage. The reporters asked the mayor to draw a map of Vermont and show
which parts of the state would be most supportive of our movement. He drew
Vermont and New Hampshire, indicated the Connecticut River as the border
between the two, and drew an arrow from Vermont to New Hampshire. "That's
where you need to go, across the river." We had a good laugh about that.
After meeting with the mayor, we walked around the restaurant and spoke to
some "ordinary Vermonters." Since we were in downtown Burlington, most of them
were definitely progressive types. We did meet one fellow who described
himself as basically libertarian, and said that he voted for both Libertarians
and Progressives in local races. He said he did this because he wanted all
views to be heard. This seemed to be a common thread in responses to our idea.
Vermonters are natively anti-establishment. I can't remember exactly how, but
I got into a debate with one fellow over separation of school & state. I
wasn't completely well prepared for that discussion, and though I had arguments
for every point he made, I don't think I brought them down to a readily
understandable level. One good analogy to use to make the case for separation
(which I only thought of much later) is to compare education to other
industries. Kids have a right to be fed as much as educated, so does that mean
restaurants and grocery stores should be government owned and operated? Of
course not - and you can talk about why government ownership of groceries &
restaurants would fail: lack of choice & competition resulting in declines
in quality, the necessity of rationing to control demand for a "free" service,
etc. All these arguments apply equally well to schooling.
After this we met with the principal of Burlington High School. As could be
expected, she was pretty much a typical NEA type who rejected all significant
reform of government schooling out of hand. Bush-ian "quality control" was
about the most she was willing to consider. She said we "should probably move
out to Idaho or somewhere, where I hear a lot of people own guns and homeschool
and hate the government." This wasn't a particularly productive
We then visited with Mary Alice McKenzie, a business owner and major figure
in the Republican Party in Vermont. Apparently her name has been mentioned in
the past as a potential gubernatorial candidate. She described her political
views as "very fiscally conservative and socially liberal." She's basically a
libertarian! She's also a pragmatist, though, and was very complimentary
toward the mayor of Burlington, crediting him with repealing some of the more
egregiously anti-business measures instituted by Bernie Sanders when he was
mayor. She thought the political model of the Free State Project was sound and
believed that we would have a major impact if we moved there. Her main caveat
was the economy. She said that regulations were stifling jobs growth, and that
lack of risk capital would make it very difficult to start new businesses. She
was very interested in and supportive of our efforts otherwise, however. It
was heartening to hear such a major figure in Vermont support our efforts.
The last interview was with a part-time lobbyist for the forestry industry,
an acknowledged libertarian who studied under Milton Friedman and Gary Becker
at Chicago, where he did graduate work in economics. The reporters asked him
if he would consider signing up for the Free State Project, and he said he
would, though he was committed to working in Vermont. So I gave him a form,
and he signed up on tape, opting out of all states except Vermont. I asked
him how much of the state legislature was already libertarian. He estimated
that matters were better now than they were a few years ago, and that a third
of the house (50 members) were friendly to our ideas. I have a feeling this
includes a lot of conservatives, and maybe some iconoclastic liberals. He said
there were 25-30 real socialists in the house, and of the 50 who support us, 15
were true libertarians through and through. So that's 10% of the state house
that we would "have" right away when we move in.
Some things I noticed from all the conversations I've had this weekend are:
1) A good way to introduce the Free State Project is to say that we are
researching states based on their favorability to ideas of smaller government
and more individual freedom, for the purpose of promoting one state as the best
place for Americans with such ideas to settle and live. This way it sounds
less like a hostile takeover, which it really isn't, in my view. 2) Vermonters
value independence and non-conformity, and evaluate candidates more on personal
characteristics than ideology. 3) You don't need a lot of political experience
to win state house seats. Nevertheless, political liberals seemed to have a
lot more experience than political conservatives. They are more willing to
serve on boards and commissions and make a career out of politics. 4) There
aren't many native Vermonters left, at least in Burlington! I think we met
only two native Vermonters out of all the people we spoke to. A couple people
mentioned that most of the state legislative seats are occupied by non-natives.
Whether you are a native or not doesn't have much relevance for political
success. 5) Ideological polarization lies beneath the surface in Vermont,
though people are quick to deny it. The mayor of Burlington claimed that it
was an "urban myth" to think that there was a coordinated attempt by leftists
to take over Vermont in the 1970s. Conservatives insist that there was, and
Robert Maynard mentioned a few stories and episodes that suggest to me that
there was such a coordinated attempt, though more loosely organized than the
FSP. Overall, this issue is a very touchy one in Vermont. 6) Vermonters are
proud of their heritage of town government, even though state government has
increasingly taken functions away from local government. Decentralization
could be a major winning issue for a libertarian movement in Vermont. 7) It's
cold! I like it, though. There was a good bit of snow on the ground, perhaps
a foot in some places, and it snowed gently most of the time I was there. The
winter could wear on some people, but complaining about the weather is looked
down upon in Vermont. There was one facetious suggestion that to keep out
riff-raff, the highways should not be plowed.
It was a productive and fascinating journey. I wish I could do a tour of
this kind in all the states we're considering.
February 5, 2003
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those
of the Free State Project, its Officers, or Directors.
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.
Best for Liberty? An Analysis of Three Leading States
by Robert Hawes
With the Free State Project (FSP) closing in on the
5,000-member mark, the time for the state vote is close at hand. After
rigorous research and debate, a few states have slowly migrated their way to
the top of our list of candidates, and it is time that we took a good, hard
look at these states to see which might make the best candidate for a future
free state: Idaho, New Hampshire, and Wyoming (in no particular
Many feel that all three of these states possess various virtues that rank them
as the most liberty-friendly states in the country, but the question remains:
which is best for liberty along the lines of what the FSP has in mind?
A few thoughts for your consideration
In terms of total population (from the
| New Hampshire
In his essay What Can 20,000
Liberty Activists Accomplish? Jason Sorens revealed that the FSP's target
participation level of 20,000 activists (as well as the slate of candidate
states) was chosen based on the example of Quebec's Parti Quebecois,
which achieved a parliamentary majority in 1976 as follows:
"At the time, the PQ had a paid membership of roughly 100,000,
while the population of Quebec at that time was 6.2 million. In other words,
having a paid member for every 62 citizens of the province gave the PQ a
parliamentary majority. Applying the same ratio to the FSP's membership goal,
we get 1.2 million population for a state in which 20,000 party members could
win majorities at the state level. The following states have less than 1.2
million population: Wyoming, Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont, South Dakota,
Delaware, Montana, Rhode Island (Hawaii, Idaho, New Hampshire, and Maine are
If you are trying to influence and reform government in a given region, it only
makes sense that your chances for doing so improve if the number of those who
support you is as large as possible in proportion to the total population of
that region. That is the logic of the FSP's plan: a higher number of
activists concentrated in a lower population region. Population was thus
the first criteria by which candidate states were selected.
That said, those that qualify based on their populations are not necessarily
equally workable. Those states that are further beneath that cut-off level are
logically better candidates (as long as there are not significant intervening
factors) due to the fact that they allow for progressively higher saturation
levels of activists with regard to the total and voting populations of a state.
Here is a ratio comparing the above three states (considering 1 FSP activist,
out of 20,000 total, for every state resident):
|| 1 to 24.5|
| New Hampshire
|| 1 to 61.8|
|| 1 to 64.7|
Rounding up, New Hampshire maxes out at the upper acceptable limit of the
activist-to-resident ratio (1 to 62), and Idaho clearly exceeds it. Wyoming,
on the other hand, is far below the threshold and thus represents more than
twice the saturation levels that the FSP could have in either New Hampshire or
But now let's say that the FSP does not attract 20,000 activists. Instead, it
only attracts 15,000. How do the numbers look then?
|| 1 to 33.0|
| New Hampshire
|| 1 to 82.4|
|| 1 to 86.3|
New Hampshire and Idaho are now far above the upper acceptable limit of the
activist-to-resident ratio, while Wyoming is still far beneath it. In fact,
Wyoming could drop to less than 8,000 activists and still equal the
activist-to-resident ratio in New Hampshire and Idaho. This means that at
full-strength, half-strength, or even less, Wyoming allows the FSP activists to
saturate the state's population more heavily than either Idaho or New
Hampshire, which grow dangerously out of reach as the number of activists is
reduced. This is a serious consideration for us. If we choose a state that
will take a full 20,000 hard-working participants, and we get any fewer than
that, or if they are not as activist as we need them to be, there is a great
likelihood that we could fail in our attempt to create a free state due to our
effective activists simply being vastly outnumbered.
Also, if we vote for a higher population state at 5,000, and then do not get
all 20,000, we could end up with a split in the FSP's ranks. According to the
FSP's FAQ, the assumption is that the FSP
will disband if it fails to reach 20,000 within five years of its start-up date
(September, 2001). If we have, say, only 12,000 in the FSP by 2006, and 3,000
have already moved, the remaining 9,000 will have to decide whether to join the
others in a place where we would likely not be able to create a free state,
give up and go their separate ways, or fall back to another state where 9,000
would have more of a realistic chance at attaining the goal. Choosing a smaller
state eliminates this issue as the need to fall back in the event that we fail
to reach 20,000 would be less likely to occur (particularly in Wyoming
there is no smaller state than this one).
- Voting-Age Population
Voting-age population numbers reflect the number of state residents that we
will be actively working with (or against) since they are the ones who are
eligible to vote and participate in the political process alongside us. The
more of them that there are, the more potential they have to either help us or
In terms of voting-age population (from the 2000 Census):
| New Hampshire
Idaho and New Hampshire are virtually the same here, at nearly one million
voting-age inhabitants each. However, notice again that Wyoming presents far
less of an obstacle.
20,000 FSPer's would represent:
|| 5.5% of voters|
|| 2.2% of voters|
| New Hampshire
|| 2.2% of voters|
Once again, we see that our saturation is much higher in Wyoming where we would
represent more than twice the total percentage of voting-age residents as in
either Idaho or New Hampshire. At 15,000 activists FSPer's would represent:
|| 4.1% of voters|
|| 1.6% of voters|
| New Hampshire
|| 1.6% of voters|
So if the FSP is only able to attract 15,000 or so activists to its chosen
state, we see that this would give us nearly three times the saturation among
voting-age residents in Wyoming as in either Idaho or New Hampshire. Which
figure are the politicians likely to take more seriously? Which figure is
likely to make more of a difference in a close election? The answer here may
very well be tied to our degree of influence and success in implementing our
- Urbanization Largest MSA's
These are the largest metropolitan areas (MSA's Metropolitan Statistical
Areas) that are fully within each candidate state (some may overlap with other
states, but these numbers do not incorporate the overlapping portion):
|| Boise City and Nampa|
| New Hampshire
Why list only the largest MSA's? Because it shows what is likely to be the
single most difficult area to access, influence, and reform. Conducting
campaigns in more heavily populated areas is generally much more difficult
because they tend to be havens of statist thought, government dependency, and
entrenched opposition. Welfare recipients and those who are more dependent
upon other forms of government assistance (such as public education and
housing) are more heavily concentrated in these areas. These folks are the
least likely to listen to our political reform message due to the fact that the
removal of such programs and services (as we would likely target) would impact
them first and foremost.
Densely populated areas are also home to big business interests, which are
often directly tied to political offices via campaign contributions and union
activism. Our intent to introduce greater competition in the market place, and
to remove preferences, would likely cut into the profit margins of such big
business entities, earning us their wrath as well as that of their political
partners. Political party machines are also generally more entrenched in such
areas due to the statist-driven infrastructure that they have put into place
and now maintain for a willing constituency.
The media is also a crucial element to larger population areas, and one that we
must not underestimate. Most of us realize that the media in this country is
overwhelmingly statist-oriented, particularly those media outlets owned and
operated by such industry giants as Gannett. Their message is very clearly a
Leftist one, and their power to do harm to budding movements such as ours is
enormous. They can focus both local and national attention on us, and while
this may not necessarily phase us, consider what impact it might have upon the
residents of our chosen state should they find themselves being ridiculed
before the nation because of something that we are driving. Embarrassment and
a desire to avoid controversy could create a backlash against us.
So, for those reasons, I decided to go with the sheer size of the largest MSA's
we'd be dealing with. As such, they represent places where campaigns might be
cheaper and less time-consuming, but they also represent ascending levels of
difficulty with regard to the other factors that I mentioned (which could
negate any advantages).
Which of these areas would presumably be easier for 15,000 or 20,000 activists
- Political History and Trends
This element reflects the degree to which a state has historically supported
lesser-statist or non-statist candidates (over a lengthy period of time). In
places where there is a more established history of support for
liberty-friendly candidates, we will find an electorate more willing to listen
to our message, and perhaps sooner than elsewhere.
Changing a state to be what we would like it to be, will be an uphill battle in
many ways, not the least of which is going to be persuading the electorate to
deviate from the current statist mentality that pervades this country. But the
further an electorate is from our ideological foundation, the longer it will
take us to educate them, hence the longer it will likely take for them to
support our reform efforts. We will have a large group of activists working
together, but we cannot do this by ourselves! We will have to convince a
relatively large portion of the present electorate to support us. How tough we
make that on ourselves, and thus how long it takes, is up to us.
With this idea, I present two measurements for your consideration:
The above two measurements show Wyoming and Idaho with a commanding lead over
New Hampshire. Note once again the size of voter turn-outs in these states and
judge yourself where the FSP's few thousand would have their largest impact on
the state vote.
- "High Votes for Conservative and Libertarian Presidential Candidates"
(from the FSP's State Data Page). This is
a ranking of how often our candidates states have supported more
|| No. 1 of 10|
|| No. 2 of 10|
| New Hampshire
|| No. 7 of 10|
- Analyzing the Freedom Orientation of Existing
State Populations by "Tennyson". In this analysis, Tennyson compares how
the states voted in the 2000 presidential election and ranks them by what
percentages they voted in favor of "Big Government" candidates and "Small
|| 71.5% for "Small Gov't" candidates
|| 60,908 to 152,851 votes with 59.7% voter
|| 70.1% for "Small Gov't" candidates
|| 144,869 to 349,601 votes with 53.7% voter
| New Hampshire
|| 51% for "Big Gov't" candidates
|| 288,504 to 279,211 votes with 62.3% voter
- Expense of Elections
When the FSPer's first start out, we're going to be low on both cash and
experience. We could always team up with the local GOP or libertarians, as has
been suggested, and this could have some advantages in saving us time, effort,
and expense. However, at the same time, any assistance they render us will
basically equate to a level of dependency that we will have on them. They
could assist us
at a price. A price that could slow our agenda or end
up compromising it completely depending upon the circumstances.
To succeed, we may have to join up with the local GOP (LP, Constitution Party,
or what-have-you) but we should also have an environment where we can run our
own candidates or at least support worthy candidates outside of main parties,
if necessary. Even if we do work within, say the GOP, there will still be:
primaries and run-offs; mailings; get-out-the-vote drives; television, radio
and newspaper ads to purchase (among a host of other things), and all of this
costs money. Our chances to successfully access the system in our candidate
states will thus be largely dependent upon how much it costs to get a chance at
The three states we are examining rank as follows (from "Low Campaign
Expenditures" ("Fin" variable) on the FSP's
State Data Page):
|| No. 3 out of 10|
|| No. 5 out of 10|
| New Hampshire
|| No. 10 out of 10|
- % Native Population = to FSP Acceptance?
The attitude of our new state's current inhabitants toward new-comers may
realistically impact our effectiveness there. Thus, the FSP may be more
acceptable to the residents of states in which a higher percentage of persons
are not native to that state. For instance, Maine seems to have quite a
reputation of being suspicious of those who are "from away." This is not
really surprising when you consider that, as of 1990, 70.6% of Maine's
population was native-born.
The three states we are examining rank as follows in terms of what percentage
of their population is actually native (from a
forum thread and thanks to Joe Swyers for compiling):
|| (43.4% in 1990)
|| No. 2 out of 10|
| New Hampshire
|| (45.8% in 1990)
|| No. 3 out of 10|
|| (52.1% in 1990)
|| No. 4 out of 10|
- Term limits
Term limits can assist by preventing opposition forces from using the power of
incumbency and name-recognition in order to permanently entrench themselves in
the legislature. In other words, term limits open up the field to greater
competition from those who might not otherwise be able to compete with
powerful, well-financed, political elite. This could be a powerful tool for us
to gain access to the system in whatever state we choose.
Of these three states, only Wyoming has term limits (which go into effect in
A voter initiative approved term limits in Idaho; however, the state
legislature repealed the measure. Idaho's governor vetoed the repeal, and the
legislature then voted to override his veto (50-20 in the House, 26-8 in the
Senate). A new effort is currently underway to secure term limits in Idaho.
New Hampshire does not, and has not had, term limits.
- Initiatives and Referendums
Initiatives allow state voters to bypass the legislature and governor and
propose a law or constitutional amendment to be placed on the ballot.
Referendums allow voters to vote on a law passed by the legislature in order to
keep it from taking effect. Both of these measures can be used to defeat
partisan political forces that might otherwise prove unassailable by means of
the normal legislative process, and could thus prove invaluable for our
Unions and Right-to-work Laws
- Idaho has both the initiative and referendum, and requires:
"All petitions for initiative and referendum must contain
signatures of registered voters equal to 6% (40,772 signatures) of the
qualified electors at the November 5, 2002 general election before being
considered for final filing." [Source]
- Wyoming has both the initiative and referendum, and requires:
"28,204 (signatures) 15% of the total votes cast in the
Idaho and Wyoming also require that those signing the initiative proposal
reside in a specified number of counties. Idaho's process is somewhat simpler
although it requires more signatures due to its larger population. (*Note
In Wyoming, the FSP's projected 20,000 would nearly muster enough
signatures just by themselves to put an initiative item on the ballot. In
Idaho, it would take a little over twice our own number).
- New Hampshire does not have either the initiative or referendum
In states without right-to-work laws, you could be required to join a union and
pay dues in order to hold a job. Unions are infamous for their political
activism, and you could very well find your dues going to support political
causes you do not agree with. States with powerful, forced-membership unions
would present a difficult obstacle for us, and in many cases, we would be
partially financing our own opposition.
Wyoming and Idaho both have right-to-work laws. New Hampshire is not a
right-to-work state; however, right-to-work legislation has been introduced
One particularly powerful union organization is the teacher's union. They have
considerable political clout because of their proximity to "the children," and
could give us a real battle when it comes to education reform issues.
Of the three states that we are considering here
- Wyoming does not allow for either teacher monopoly bargaining or
forced dues (the only one of our ten candidate states that meets this
description putting unions at their least powerful).
- Idaho allows for teacher monopoly bargaining, but not for forced
- New Hampshire allows both teacher monopoly bargaining and forced
Some Concluding Thoughts on These Three States
This report could be much longer and more involved; however, I believe that it
adequately addresses some of the most important issues in our consideration of
which state the FSP should select.
The main thrust of the FSP is an attempt on the part of, we hope, 20,000
activists to transform one state of the Union into a bastion of liberty.
Candidate states have been narrowed down based on two criteria to date: 1)
population and 2) liberty-orientation.
As explained previously, the FSP's 20,000 activists are targeted at states of
no more than 1.2 million inhabitants, based on the Quebec example. This is in
order to achieve the maximum possible saturation of FSP activists in relation
to the native population of that state. The higher the saturation of FSPer's,
the better our chances for success. Two states (Rhode Island and Hawaii) were
also eliminated; not due to their populations, but because they are infamous
statist strongholds. So population is not even the deciding element by itself.
Population and liberty-orientation must both prove to be reasonably favorable.
Of all of our candidate states, and particularly among what appear to be the
top three most-considered states, Wyoming stands out strongly due to the
fact that it is one of the most liberty-friendly states in the country, and
allows us the maximum possible saturation of FSP activists among the general
inhabitants due to its low population. Even among the lower population states,
Wyoming still maintains a commanding lead.
Here are some other things to consider about these states
- New Hampshire
New Hampshire boasts some impressive personal liberty provisions and incentives.
For instance, seatbelt and helmet usage are not required there, nor is auto
liability insurance. New Hampshire ranks 2nd in the FSP's "gun freedom"
measurement, and is 2nd in expected job outlook (behind Idaho). New Hampshire
has no personal income tax or state sales tax (ranking 2nd of all ten states
for overall low taxes), and has elected a number of libertarians to lower
offices. (The one libertarian serving in New Hampshire's legislature recently
switched to the GOP).
New Hampshire is undoubtedly the freest state in New England; however, it also
has some issues that detract from it as being the best state for liberty, as
per the FSP's designs.
New Hampshire does not tax goods and services or wages. However, it does have
four types of income taxes. New Hampshire taxes dividends, interest, general
business revenue, and has a unique tax called the "business enterprise tax."
New Hampshire's comparatively high property taxes are also tied to funding for
public education, a fact that will make them difficult to reduce as it will
bring us into direct conflict with the teacher's unions, which are at their
most powerful in this state since New Hampshire allows for both monopoly
bargaining and forced dues. This may make both education reform and property
tax reductions an almost insurmountable problem in New Hampshire. The short
distances between cities in New England, and the region's overall proximity to
major statist enclaves such as New York City, Boston, and Burlington also make
it likely that Leftist media elements could more easily draw national scrutiny
on us, and Leftist sympathizers could easily bus in supporters for rallies and
demonstrations. The NAACP is one example of a special interest group that has
mastered this tactic. The unions have as well, and such groups are capable of
exerting enormous pressure on local businesses and politicians. In New
Hampshire, their propaganda masters and other reinforcements would be within
easy hailing distance.
New Hampshire has nearly one million voting-age inhabitants and lacks term
limits and the initiative and referendum, meaning that state-wide level reforms
must be routed through the legislature; and ballot issues must be backed and
approved by a larger number of voters. This puts the FSP's potential 20,000 or
so activists at a decided disadvantage. Without the initiative and referendum,
we will be unable to work around the legislature, meaning that our attempts at
reform will lie at the mercy of the major political parties that control state
politics. And without term limits, those major political parties will be able
to continue fronting the same candidates year after year, making it difficult
for us to have a chance at introducing better candidates into the system and
have them actually prove viable. Incumbent politicians would be able to use
their name-recognition and experience to draw greater funding and essentially
eclipse competitors in a number of ways as a result. Thus, New Hampshire's
comparatively large population will weigh against us most heavily here.
New Hampshire has a 400-member legislature and very small districts (the
smallest having 3,089 people), which can be an advantage in that it may offer
more of a chance for more people to participate in the system. However, New
Hampshire's districts are growing with its population. Its largest House
district is currently at 21,559 inhabitants, which is larger than in any other
state, with the exception of Idaho. Legislation has recently been introduced
to reduce district size even further, but its passage is not yet certain.
Also, on the other side of the legislative coin, New Hampshire has the largest
Senate districts of any of our candidate states: 53,000 people, which is far
ahead of the closest runners-up, Delaware and Idaho, both of which have Senate
districts of more than 38,000.
New Hampshire is the fastest growing state in New England, a factor that is
causing problems with regard to providing for education and transportation
funding in addition to expanding its electoral districts. These issues are
likely to begin driving up taxes in the state and renewing the call for a state
income or sales tax. New Hampshire defeated a state income tax attempt in
2002, but the opposition is not likely to vanish into the woodwork. Witness
the example of Tennessee where vehement tax protests virtually besieged the
state capital on several occasions. However, the legislature still adopted tax
increases and more may be on the way. In a related example, Oregon recently
defeated an income tax increase measure. The Portland School district is now
pushing to implement an income tax on Portland residents strictly to fund
education within the Portland MSA. And the powers-that-be in Oregon politics
are already working on another sales tax proposal just a few weeks after
their previous attempt was defeated!
New Hampshire is especially vulnerable to new tax proposals due to the fact
that the state is nursing a rising budget deficit. It was at $19.7 million in
2002 and is projected to rise to $54.6 million in 2003. This will put
additional pressure on the legislature to increase existing taxes or implement
new ones. In politics, there is rarely any sort of true "defeat." There is
only "next time."
Finance also comes to bear in terms of activism when you consider that New
Hampshire ranks at the bottom of our ten states when it comes to expense of
elections. The 2002 tax battle in New Hampshire was a costly one. It is
evident from this that there are strong political forces at work here, and that
they are locked in a determined contest for control of the state's political
system. We are at great risk of being out-spent by the opposition in this
Also, consider the fact that New Hampshire's neighboring states have little
reputation for being liberty-friendly despite the fact that they are FSP
candidate states (with the exception of Massachusetts, of course). Vermont
might have been dismissed by the FSP for statist tendencies (like Rhode Island)
were it not for its "Vermont Carry" provision, which allows anyone to carry a
gun without a concealed carry permit. Maine consistently scores at the bottom
of our measurements, and Massachusetts is infamous for its statist tendencies.
If the FSP moves into New Hampshire, it will most likely draw freedom-lovers
desiring to escape from the oppressive taxes and statist systems in Vermont,
Maine, and Massachusetts (if not New York as well). This may bolster the FSP's
numbers in New Hampshire, but I believe it would also isolate the state. If
what freedom-loving element there is in those states leave them for New
Hampshire, it seems that they would become even more statist. This could then
have the effect of raising a perimeter around New Hampshire, preventing us from
being able to expand this movement in the future as the neighboring states
would likely be more hostile than ever. It might then be said that New
Hampshire could serve as a magnificent contrast to the statist governments of
Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts, but the fact of the matter is that it
already does! And these states are not changing to conform to it. Why should
we expect them to do so in the future, particularly if there are fewer
liberty-loving people lobbying for change in them?
Some also fear that statists will flee from the increasing cost of living in
nearby locations like Boston due to New Hampshire's growing economy and job
market. After all, the population pools that employers will have available to
draw new hires from in New Hampshire's region of the country are mostly statist
strongholds. If such people do move in, they could effectively dilute the
FSP's activists. Thus, either way you look at it, New Hampshire is situated
very badly in terms of potential allies and enemies.
Personally, I believe that Idaho is the best choice among the three most
populous candidate states: Idaho, Maine, and New Hampshire.
Idaho is at a disadvantage in that it has the largest population of any of our
ten candidate states, the largest House districts, and very large Senate
districts; however, as you can see below, it has various advantages that place
it above New Hampshire in my analysis.
- Has the strongest predicted job growth of all ten states (New Hampshire is
2nd) and is not located as close to major statist enclaves, thus making it less
likely to attract statist immigrants seeking better jobs
- Has the lowest number of voting-age inhabitants of our three largest
states: 924,923 out of 1,293,653 total inhabitants (as compared to 926,224 out
of 1,235,786 total in New Hampshire and 973,685 out of 1,274,923 total in
- Has the 2nd lowest degree of federal dependence in the West (after
- Has an international border and even port access for those who believe
this is a positive (but small and remote enough not to worry others too badly)
- Has the lowest campaign expenditures of the three largest states (ranks
5th overall as compared to 10th for New Hampshire)
- Has the 2nd highest number of votes for conservative and libertarian
presidential candidates (after Wyoming, and as compared to 7th for New
- Ties with Wyoming for 3rd place in terms of gun freedom
- Ranks 4th (under New Hampshire) in terms of low number of native residents
- Ties with New Hampshire for 1st in low number of NEA/AFT members
- 1st in economic freedom (as compared to 4th for New Hampshire)
- Has more privately and locally held land than New Hampshire (in fact,
Idaho's private and locally held land totals an area greater in size than the
entire State of New Hampshire)
- Has some of the most varied terrain and mild temperatures of any of our
candidate states certainly milder than New England (more suitable to a
larger number of folks)
- Has the initiative and referendum (for working around a stubborn
- Has the term limits issue in hot contention as a possible threat to the
GOP-dominated legislature (may be a good issue for us)
- Is a right-to-work state
- Empowers teacher's unions less than New Hampshire (allows monopoly
bargaining but not forced dues)
- Borders lower population, liberty-friendly states where we could easily
expand the movement in the future and build a regional solidarity
- Has a budget deficit but has reduced it substantially from the last fiscal
year: $221 million in 2002 to $75 million (projected) in 2003
Idaho is likely to be acceptable to a larger number of both westerners and
easterners, and together with its mild climate and vibrant economy, is the most
likely (in my opinion) to attract 20,000 or more activists. Adding to this,
and in addition to the initiative and referendum, Idaho also gives us a native
population that, despite its large size, votes heavily in favor of small
government candidates (refer back to the above criteria for details). I also
believe that the low population, liberty-friendly neighboring states are a
significant factor here. Idaho gives us a more realistic chance of building
regional solidarity to oppose the statist power of the growing "mega states" in
Washington DC (CA, IL, NY, etc.
If we need to pick a higher population state, it seems that Idaho gives us more
advantages for dealing with that population, attracting 20,000 activists, and
expanding this movement in the future.
- Has the lowest total and voting-age populations in the country (again,
giving us maximum saturation of activists among the inhabitants)
- Has the initiative and referendum
- Has term limits (which go into effect in 2004)
- Has no individual income tax or business tax at all
- Has some of the lowest property taxes in the country
- 2nd lowest gas tax of our candidate states (0.13 only Alaska is
lower with 0.8)
- Has the lowest federal dependence of all the western states (4th out of
all 10 states)
- Has the 3rd lowest number of government employees (behind North Dakota and
- Has the 3rd smallest House districts of all ten states (no more than 8,230
people), and the 2nd lowest Senate districts (no more than 16,500 people)
- Has the 3rd lowest campaign expenditures of all ten states (after North
Dakota and Vermont) Idaho is 5th, New Hampshire is 10th
- Ranks 1st in high votes for conservative and libertarian presidential
candidates (Idaho is 2nd, New Hampshire is 7th)
- Leads all western states (except for Alaska) in highest per capita income
(ranks 5th of all 10 states) New Hampshire is 2nd, Idaho is 6th of all ten
- Ranks 1st for lack of state-wide land-use planning (Idaho is 6th, New
Hampshire is 7th)
- Ties for 3rd with Idaho for favorable gun laws (New Hampshire is 2nd)
- Ranks 1st for gun ownership rates and gun shows (88% est. gun-ownership
rate Idaho had an est. 76% and New Hampshire had an estimated 36%)
(Wyoming had 50 gun shows in 2000 Idaho had 49, New Hampshire had 17)
- 2nd lowest number of unionized laborers 20,000 (North Dakota is 1st
with 19,000 Idaho has 42,000 to New Hampshire's 60,000)
- Ranks 1st for low numbers of unionized teachers (5,713 to Idaho's 11,132
and New Hampshire's 11,834)
- Ranks 3rd for "low level of city urbanization" on the state data page (1st
of all western states) New Hampshire is 8th, Idaho is 9th
- Ranks 2nd under "livability" on the state data page (New Hampshire is 1st,
Idaho is 8th)
- Ranks 2nd for lowest number of native-born inhabitants (42.5%) New
Hampshire is 3rd, Idaho is 4th
- Ranks 2nd under "economic freedom" (Idaho is 1st, New Hampshire is 4th)
- Ranks 4th in "more private and locally owned land" (Idaho is 5th, New
Hampshire is 9th)
- Has no state budget deficit has a $1.8 billion surplus (very
unlikely there will be any call for new taxes here, in fact, Wyoming is
considering lowering its 4% sales tax)
- Has a large royalty income from mining activities (the source of its $1.8
billion surplus), which helps fund education and various aspects of government,
giving the FSP an opportunity to lower or eliminate other types of taxes (it
also shows fiscal prudence on the part of Wyoming this fund has existed
and grown steadily since 1974)
- Borders several other FSP candidate states where this movement could
spread (Idaho, Montana, and South Dakota)
- Wyoming's population is concentrated in several pockets throughout the
state (such as Cheyenne and Casper), but the population in these areas is not
as high as that in other larger areas like Boise City or Anchorage, or the
Wilmington and Boston MSA's. This means that more of our activists will be
voting and otherwise supporting one another in the same elections, enhancing
their group strength without spreading it too thin or presenting it with too
large and powerful of a target. Our combined numbers would thus be more
manifest on the town, county, and state levels here.
Wyoming is also closer to large population centers than any other western
candidate state. Denver is within 90 minutes of Cheyenne, the state capitol,
and Boulder is even closer. Fort Collins, Colorado is only 45 minutes from
Cheyenne. Salt Lake City is one and a half hours from Wyoming (Park City,
Utah, part of the Salt Lake MSA, is only one hour and 10 minutes from Wyoming).
So Wyoming, while it does not have many inhabitants or "big city" amenities
itself, is closer to both than any other western candidate. The Denver area is
also growing and expanding toward Wyoming, and we will be close enough to reap
the benefits of that economic progress; however, we will also have the state
line between ourselves and Colorado keeping that state's more statist
politics at bay. And despite this growth trend, the immigration rate into
Wyoming is yet low enough that it is not affecting Wyoming politics and
infrastructure to any great degree.
Additionally, we have a chance to help Wyoming diversify its economy, something
that it needs and wants to do. By moving in people and jobs from all over the
country, we can help diversify the state economy and raise the standard of
living to a degree that would be impossible for us to duplicate in Idaho or New
Hampshire where the economies are more robust and the people more affluent.
Not only would this be a very positive thing for the people of Wyoming, but it
would also be an opportunity for us to diminish our "outsider" image and prove
that we are coming to contribute to Wyoming, not just "using" it.
In terms of more "livability" elements, Wyoming's climate and terrain are
greatly varied (it has the third warmest winters of our ten candidate states),
a fact that would make it easier for FSPer's to find someplace to live that is
more in line with their expectations and desires. States like New Hampshire,
Vermont, Maine, Alaska, and North Dakota are well-known for their harsh winter
conditions. New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine are definitely located well
within the snow-belt as well (for those of you who don't enjoy shoveling the
stuff). Parts of Wyoming can have harsh wintertime conditions as well, but
there are also other areas with milder conditions, a choice that we won't have
to the same degree with small states like VT and NH. And again, there are also
urban areas and open countryside, making it possible for a larger number of
FSPer's to find more acceptable and desirable places to live than states where
most of the population is concentrated in one certain part of the state.
Wyoming the Best State for Liberty?
All of these elements working together, and combined with the fact that Wyoming
allows the FSP a chance at the maximum possible saturation of activists to
residents, places Wyoming head-and-shoulders above the other nine candidate
states. Nowhere else do we have this number of benefits and liberty-friendly
elements along with so low of a burden for each FSP activist. Nowhere else
could we have so great an impact so very quickly simply by being there
and voting. And nowhere else will our natural opposition be as weak (the NEA,
and other unions and special interests both in sheer numbers and
political machinery). Wyoming is also located farther away from the statist
media and political elements (including special interest groups) that could
damage us so badly if we were located closer to statist enclaves like Boston
and New York.
Again, consider the notion that the FSP could fall short of 20,000
participants; or even if it gets all 20,000 that they might not be as activist
as necessary for one of the larger states. Even 20,000 libertarians who
confined their activism to voting could make an impact of some sort in any of
these states, or gather together and hold influence over a few towns or
counties, but could they achieve a free state? And when you consider that
8,000 to 10,000 in Wyoming could accomplish as much if not more than 20,000 in
Idaho or New Hampshire, consider what 20,000 in Wyoming could do!
As has been pointed out in our discussions already, a few libertarians forming
a township or gaining a majority influence in a county might be able to enact a
number of reforms; however, the extent of what they could accomplish could be
severely curtailed by the state government. States simply have much more
political power than town and county governments. They also have
representation in the United States Congress. Thus, if it is at all possible,
we should try our best to go somewhere that would allow us a greater voice in
the state government.
Wyoming presents us with a very real chance at achieving a majority
representation in a state legislature and thus a very real chance at "liberty
in our lifetime." Overall, it makes us less reliant upon the various unknown
elements that we face in other states such as: "will we have enough?" or "will
they really move?" or "will they do the work that's necessary to succeed?" Any
of these elements could be fatal to our efforts in the higher population
states. In Wyoming, they hurt us the least because our numbers count for so
much more even before anything else is considered.
Thank you for considering this perspective on what may be the most important
decision that we ever make.
In particular, my thanks go out to Joe Swyers, Keith Carlsen, and
Paul Bonneau for the time and effort they have expended in gathering and
posting much of this data.
thread on the FSP forum for a compilation of various threads relating to
the state decision.
What the Spreadsheets Tell Us
In this article I will examine different inferences that can be drawn from
manipulations of the spreadsheets.
Some, who are not familiar with spreadsheets, may find this exposition a little
slow-going. For them I'd just suggest skimming, and noting how the state
rankings worked out in each section, along with the tentative conclusions
following the rankings. The rankings are always presented with the most
desirable states at the left.
I refer to two spreadsheets. The "standard" one is available on the state data page. The "big" spreadsheet is my
modification of the standard spreadsheet, which I will make available to anyone
who emails me. It is different in the following ways:
- It has many more rows, 80 at the time of writing. I add new rows whenever
quantifiable measures are discovered, as time permits.
- The normalization used is less unfriendly to low performers than the one
used in the standard sheet, for any given variable. For example, if one
variable had a 500 in the best state and 400 in the worst, the big spreadsheet
normalizes this to be 10 for the best state and 8 for the worst (in other
words, it is proportional). The standard spreadsheet would normalize to 10 for
the best and 0 for the worst.
- The normalization allows for intermediate values to be "best", rather than
a simple "more is better" or "less is better" rating. A few variables seem
better with intermediate values as optimum.
- There is much more potential for inadvertent "overlap" of the variables in
the big spreadsheet, due to the large number of variables there. For example, I
have a variable called "Population" and another, "Population2025". These two
are so highly correlated that they are almost the same thing. Assigning large
weights to both of them would be like assigning all that weight to one of them.
So, users must be careful when assigning weights, to avoid overloading the
highly correlated variables.
Most of the discussions in this paper will refer to the big spreadsheet.
So, what sorts of things can you discover with spreadsheets?
You can get a good approximation for the "freedom culture" in the state. You
can find out which states are good for personal freedom, which for economic
freedom. You can get an idea which states have a government that loves to
spend. You can find out how many activist opponents we will face. You can see
how certain variables changed over time. You can even take a stab at predicting
the FSP population that's predicted to move to the different states.
Let's try these out on the big spreadsheet, which is ideal for this purpose
because of its numerous variables.
To discover what states have a general climate of freedom, we concentrate
mainly on what Jason calls the CULTURE variables. We eliminate anything having
to do with population, or FSP viability. We also ignore most items in the
I used 3 possible weights: 1 for variables if lower importance, 2 for variables
of middling importance, and 4 for variables of high importance. Variables get a
4 when they are better, more direct measures of a freedom culture. They get a 1
if they are either are indirect or less sure measures, or those that are not
These variables were assigned weights of 4:
Ideology, RLCFreedomPers, RLCFreedomEc
These variables were assigned weights of 2:
Dependence, Spending, Taxes, DeathTaxes, Revenue, Debt, Prez,
GunControl, Homeschooling, NEATeachers, NEAMonopoly, EdSpendingGSP,
EdSpendingPupil, NTU, GovEmp%, GovEmp, RightToWork, EFI, SBSI, EFNA,
LandPlanning, SmokingRegs, SeatBelts, BikeHelmets, MCHelmets, AutoInsRegs,
HealthMandates, PublicHealthCare, LiquorLaws, MarijuanaLaws, MarijuanaArrests,
These variables were assigned a weight of 1:
GunOwners1, GunOwners2, AllTeachers, UnionMembers%, UnionMembers,
UnionRep%, CPS, CPSAdoptedOut, HuntingRegs, HunterOrange, HunterTraining,
DRCPerfRank, DRCBusVitRank, DRCDevCapRank
The definitions for these variables are found in the
Appendix, and discussions about them are found via links in the spreadsheet
itself. This particular weighing is stored for your use in the "Weight Vectors"
page of the big spreadsheet, with the name "Culture"; if you have the big
spreadsheet you may modify it as you like, of course.
I do not claim these weight assignments make perfect sense. One could obviously
make many different choices than I have.
Let's see what the spreadsheet yielded:
So, the conclusion, at least from my weighing, is that Wyoming, Idaho, New
Hampshire and South Dakota are the 4 states in our list with the strongest
culture of freedom in the people. This is, of course, an indirect measure, as
we are assuming that the culture of the people is reflected in the laws and
regulations they tolerate living under.
I created another weight vector (stored in the spreadsheet weight vectors page
under the name "Personal Freedom"). It is similar in concept to the culture
exercise above except that the variables associated only with economic freedom
were eliminated. And some others, such as the variable PrivateLand, were added,
when they seemed to have something to do with personal freedom. The details of
this vector may be examined by opening the spreadsheet.
Here are the results:
With my weigh vector, Idaho rises to the top in personal freedom; South Dakota
looks less friendly (it has dropped substantially from its overall freedom
culture measurement). So we can see that we'd have work to do in the personal
freedom area, if we picked South Dakota.
I created another weight vector (strangely enough called "Economic Freedom", in
the weight vectors page). Again it is like the above, except this time we are
now considering only the economic side of freedom. Here is the result I get
with my weight choice:
While Wyoming is again in top spot for economic freedom, this is clearly South
Dakota's strong suit, essentially tying in second place with Idaho. Somewhat of
a disappointment, New Hampshire drops to 6th in this list. And the big surprise
is Delaware, with its reputation of being a business haven, only making a poor
10th place showing. I suspect Delaware's reputation is based on its use by
large corporations for registering there, not for small business and
entrepreneurial advantages; and anyway, other statist trends have been noted
recently, in that state.
In the above weighing I did not give QUALITY variables any weight, being
concerned more with freedom per se rather than economic vitality and
opportunity (which may be quite good even in very statist states, e.g.
California). But I tried another one, like the above but this time factoring in
a heavy weighing of QUALITY variables (called EcFreedomAndQuality in the weight
Government spending tendencies
I created a weight vector with only these weights: Spending=20, Debt=10,
Revenue=Gov2PerCapita=5 (all but Spending are per capita measures; Spending is
a per-Gross State Product measure). This was not stored anywhere. The results:
Populous states with large Gross State Products and low spending, like New
Hampshire and Idaho, do well on this measure of government spending tendencies.
It does downgrade states like Wyoming and Alaska that benefit from having
mineral resources and investment portfolios; such will tend to spend more than
otherwise. Normally we might not downgrade states for spending this money,
although the question has to be asked, what are they going to do when the
minerals run out? (That's more a problem with Alaska, which has a small supply
of oil.) Will they then be hooked on government spending?
I have to add that Wyoming is unique in this country in having a "no-frills"
state-level government. As shown by the
Expenditure Report of the National Association of State Budget Officers (p.
19 of the .pdf file), outside of the basic spending categories of "education",
Medicare, public assistance, corrections and transportation, Wyoming alone in
the country spends 0% of its budget in the category "Other". The national
average is 32.1% in that category, and my own state of Oregon tops the list
Government taxing tendencies
I created a weight vector having only these weights: Taxes=20,
DeathTaxes=NTU=5. This was not stored anywhere. The results:
Interestingly, back in the '70's Alaska had the highest state and local taxes
in the nation. For many years now, it has had the lowest in the nation. New
Hampshire has also had consistently low taxes over a very long period of time.
There has been some justifiable concern on the FSP web forum that taxes are not
a very reliable measure for us. Not only that, but federal taxes (not part of
this measure) dominate state and local taxes. Personally I think focusing on
just a few variables, as in the above tax and spending examples, is not a very
good way to base one's decision on a state. It does indicate special issues or
Our activist opposition
I created a weight vector having only these weights:
I should explain this choice. First, I have some pairs of variables like
UnionMembers and UnionMembers%, that differ only in the "%". The first is the
number of union members in the state, the second is the percentage of union
members in the state population. The number is more important because it
represents how many activists will be directly opposing us. The percentage is
less important, but still matters some, because this percentage of the voting
public can be assumed will vote against us.
I chose Dependence because those feeding at the trough will not want to see
that trough emptied. I chose UrbArea% because large urban agglomerations are
reliable sources of statist opposition. I chose PeoplePerCop because that
indicates a bit about the strength of the corrections establishment in the
state, which will resist cutting down the War on Drugs and the like. I chose
NEAMonopoly because it places powerful tools in the hands of our opponents. The
others should be self-explanatory. The results:
The large states, Idaho, New Hampshire and Maine predictably fall to the
bottom; since they are large, our opponents will be numerous there.
Surprisingly, despite its socialist reputation, Vermont climbs pretty high.
This is no doubt due to its small state status and lack of big cities. It
probably shouldn't be that high because we will face strong opposition in
dismantling all the statist measures they have enacted. I suppose that
demonstrates the fallibility of spreadsheets.
Charting long range trends
I have a long term trend of some data. An example below shows one of our three
comprehensive economic indices, the Economic Freedom of North America index
(note the horizontal axis is not linear; Frasier Institute first started taking
data for this index every 4 years, and now is doing it every year). Charting
data this way, while time consuming and difficult, reveals that substantial
changes happen over not very long periods of time. With FSP presence in one of
these small states, our influence in these sorts of indices should be quite
The charts also suggest other lines of inquiry. For example, what happened in
the '89-'93 time frame to harm New Hampshire's position in this index? What did
they do later to fix things?
I include this only as an example of the kind of information long-term data may
provide to us. It remains to chart and exploit this for numerous other
Predicting FSP population in the different states
Here we get into the far out limits of what you can do with the spreadsheet.
Making such a prediction is extremely problematical, in my opinion; only
slightly better than pulling it out of... the air.
I have added an extra weighing column to the big spreadsheet, called
FSPDrawWeight. The intention here was to weigh the spreadsheet variables not
with any sense of FSP success, but simply to consider those variables that
would influence people to move. For example, the QUALITY variables are weighed
much higher here, and the SIZE variables not at all. The Jobs variable got far
and away the highest weight (5 times higher than anything else), and this was
used as a simple "more is better" variable, not an "intermediate value is
better" as on the regular weighing. Then I assumed the state with the lowest
draw would get 20,000 FSPers, and predicted the draw in the other states using
that assumption and the result of the FSP Draw weighing, and from that the
number of voters in the state per FSP activist. Here are the results of my
I don't know what you can do with this, other than to say that in Maine, we'd
be in serious trouble. And that Idaho is the state likely to draw the largest
FSP population, a result that seems intuitively correct. This exercise was
meant more as a fun spreadsheet exercise, than as something one could hang
one's hat on. Actually, it is probably a better indicator of the draw we'd have
with "friends", than with the members some have taken to calling our "broken
glass eaters" (those who would go anywhere to be free). To estimate the draw of
the latter you'd want to recalculate after having flattened or almost
eliminated the QUALITY variables.
Using the full spreadsheet
Up to this point we have been looking at the big spreadsheet which is useful
for making inferences about different subjects, but we were not considering so
much the needs of the project as a whole. Now we turn to the regular
here, to consider the project itself.
Here are the weights that I came up with, along with Jason's, which are the
default in the sheet:
First, a comment on spreadsheet differences. In the standard spreadsheet,
unlike the big one, variables NEA and GovEmp are a percentage of the
total population, rather than a straight number. I think I know why Jason did
it this way; they are thus not "dependent" on the total population (i.e., they
are not connected to population). But there is still a problem with this. If we
had two states "A" and "B" with the same percentage of NEA members, but state
"A" has twice the population of state "B", then state "A" will have twice the
number of NEA members as will "B". Yet it will be ranked the same in this
spreadsheet. This is not a desirable situation; and the same situation exists
for GovEmp. NEA members and government employees will be our primary
opposition as activists.
I believe the answer in the standard spreadsheet, as it currently stands, is to
weigh these two variables rather low, and increase the weight of the population
variables (because you will understand that larger populations will naturally
give rise to larger numbers of NEA members and government employees, an
There is another difference in the Jobs variable. In the standard spreadsheet
it is a simple "more is better" variable, while in the big spreadsheet I put
60,000 as the optimal number (3 times the number of FSPers, not all of whom
will need jobs as some will be spouses). My reasoning was that if the jobs get
much higher you have the potential for a lot of them to be filled by economic
refugees who might be statists; actually I'm thinking even 60,000 was perhaps
too high for an optimal number of projected jobs.
I have done a linear regression on the projected jobs vs. population, and it
turns out (not surprisingly) that the more people you have in a state, the more
job openings there will be in the future; so that, in effect, jobs and
population are connected. The correlation is quite high. However in the
standard spreadsheet Jobs is a simple "more is better" variable and
Population/Voters are "less is better" variables. Some large state advocates
have advised taking population variables (Population and Voters) to a weight of
zero while weighing Jobs highly. This has the somewhat absurd effect, since
Jobs and population are so closely connected, of penalizing Wyoming for having
a small population!
The bottom line here is, leave at least some weight in the population variables
(Population and Voters) and don't weigh Jobs too high. If you want to take Jobs
higher, you must (to avoid a bogus result) do the same with the population
My weighing generates the following results for the top 5 states:
Just to experiment, I used my preferred weights but zeroed out the population variables:
Again, this weighing makes no sense because it penalizes the states for having
a small population. Even so it's interesting to see Wyoming is only barely
bumped out of 1st place.
The result Jason got with the default weighs he has loaded in the spreadsheet
Finally, getting back to the big spreadsheet, this is the top 5 result I get
with my preferred weights:
This is a useful cross-check between the two spreadsheets. The big spreadsheet
is not kind to DE (and to a lesser extent, NH) because these two do not do so
well with the numerous small variables added to the big spreadsheet. On the
other hand, SD does do well on them, and with the added comprehensive economic
index there (EFNA).
Spreadsheets are not the be-all or end-all. There are a fair number of factors
that are not easily quantifiable, and thus are not found in the spreadsheets.
But those factors ought not be the only thing you base your decision on. If you
have a favorite state that, with a reasonable selection of weights, does poorly
in the spreadsheets, you have a problem. At the very least, there is some
justification that needs to be done, to keep this state as a favorite. I would
say that we shouldn't rank states highly in the vote if they can't make it at
least into the top 3 or 4 slots in the spreadsheets.
Some people have gotten a lot of mileage out of creating lists of "firsts" for
their favorite state. This is interesting, but it unfortunately does not lend
itself well to comparison with other states, and of course all the bad factors
are left out. Spreadsheets allow you to organize your thinking about what is
important and what is not, and to consider most of the quantifiable factors.
In the examination of such factors as economic freedom, personal freedom and
others, Wyoming usually does quite well. With the weights I have chosen for
running the entire spreadsheet for overall results (and these are done without
regard to which state does better on what), I normally see Wyoming in first
place with a commanding lead. I suspect most people will come out with a
Appendix: Variable Names
|| Number of government school teachers|
|| Lack of mandatory automobile insurance regulations**|
|| 10 = No bicycle helmet law; 9 = No law except in Billings; 0 = Helmets required|
|| Children removed from home by CPS|
|| Children adopted out of foster care after removal from their families by CPS|
|| One point for not having each of the following: Inheritance Tax, Estate Tax, Generation Skipping Tax, Gift Tax|
|| Total state and local debt per capita|
|| Federal expenditure to federal tax ratio|
|| Development Report Card ranking for business vitality*|
|| Development Report Card ranking for development capacity*|
|| Development Report Card ranking for performance*|
|| Dollars spent per $1000 Gross State Product. A measure of teacher union influence.|
|| Per pupil spending in public schools, adjusted for regional costs differences. A measure of teacher union influence.|
|| Clemson University comprehensive economic freedom index*|
|| Economic Freedom of North America, an economic freedom index by Frazier Institute*|
|| % of population employed by state & local government at all levels|
|| Number, in thousands, employed by state & local government at all levels|
|| State gun freedom**|
|| Percentage of homes owning guns|
|| Percentage of suicides that are gun suicides, a measure of firearms ownership|
|| Unfunded state mandates on health care providers**|
|| According to HSLDA, 10=no notification required; 7=minimal regulation; 3=moderate regulation; 0=high regulation|
|| Amount of hunter orange required: 10 = none, 5 = 1 garment, 0 = 2 garments or 400 sq in.|
|| Lack of hunting regulations|
|| Hunter training course required|
|| Citizen ideologies in the states|
|| Lack of statewide land planning schemes|
|| An index showing regulation of liquor, wine and beer**|
|| Arrest rate per 100,000, averaged over the years 95-97. Note, arrest rate may be as much affected by population propensity to smoke as by police enthusiasm.|
|| An index showing severity of marijuana possession laws**|
|| 10 = No MC helmet required; 8 = No MC helmet required for 18 or older; 0 = MC helmet required|
|| NEA/AFT monopoly bargaining power for all teachers - deduct 5 points. NEA/AFT forced dues for all teachers - deduct 5 points.|
|| Number of government school teachers in NEA|
|| Percentage of time congress persons voted in agreement with National Taxpayers Union, averaged over several years*|
|| Ratio of the number of citizens to each LEO (Law Enforcement Officer) in the state|
|| Vote for conservative & libertarian presidential candidates in 2000|
|| Support for publicly-funded health care - tax expenditures|
|| Total state & local revenue per capita|
|| 10=Right to work state (no forced union membership or dues), 0=not a Right to work state|
|| 10-year index of congresspersons for economic freedom by Republican Liberty Caucus|
|| 10-year index of congresspersons for personal freedom by Republican Liberty Caucus|
|| Small Business Survival Index, grades states on a collection of factors for entrepreneurial friendliness*|
|| 10 = Seatbelt not required; 5 = Seatbelt required, fine <= $10; etc.|
|| Lack of smoking regulations.**|
|| State and local government spending as a percentage of Gross State Product|
|| Total state and local taxes as a percentage of income - note, does not include "user fees"|
|| Percentage of union affiliation of employed wage and salary workers by state, (union members only)|
|| Number of union members, in thousands|
|| Percentage of union affiliation of employed wage and salary workers by state, including all persons represented by collective bargaining contracts|
* These variables are "comprehensive indices", meaning they are a collection of
numerous related factors to give a more reliable overall picture, compiled
** These variables are "comprehensive indices", or at least indices containing
more than one related factor. They give a more reliable overall picture. They
are compiled by FSP researchers.
Why the Free State Project Should Consider Just Six
An Analysis of the State Comparison Matrix
Note: The research presented in this paper - and accordingly, its
conclusions - are now seriously outdated. See
this essay instead for the author's up-to-date research.
by Jason Sorens
Recently we produced
a state comparisons
spreadsheet containing all the major variables of interest to the Free
State Project for the purpose of selecting a state. The additional
"color" has been filled in by state research reports. Now that we
have the data, I think we can safely eliminate several of the states under
consideration in order to make our selection decision more manageable. I will
make the case in this paper that we should include the following six states in
the final vote, three from the West, three from the East: Alaska, Idaho,
Montana, New Hampshire, Vermont, Delaware. If there is popular demand for it,
we could also include Wyoming or North Dakota, though in my judgement they
could well be eliminated.
My argument is based mostly on findings from the state comparisons
spreadsheet. This spreadsheet allows the user to weight different variables
according to his own choosing and then ranks the states accordingly. What I
have found is that weighting does not matter very much: the same group of
states is always on top. While reading this paper, I recommend that you open up
the state comparisons
here for Mac-suitable version) and follow along.
I will begin by giving my "ideal weighting" and looking at the
results. Ideally, each of the four categories of variables - Size, Viability,
Culture, and Quality of Life - should be roughly equally weighted. However, I
think there is a case for weighting Size and Viability slightly above the other
two. Culture doesn't matter so much because the culture in every state in the
U.S. is very far from what we want it to be. Some states are clearly "more
libertarian" than others, but even these states are not very libertarian
at all compared to what we would consider to be ideal. Quality of Life is not
quite as important for me as the other categories because I can deal with a
temporary reduction in Quality of Life if it is necessary to bring about a free
Accordingly, I have weighted the variables in the following way. Size has
two variables: number of voters and campaign spending. Both are important, but
campaign spending is less important than number of voters. I have weighted
campaign spending with a factor of "4" and number of voters
"7." In my view, number of voters is probably the most important
variable of all, though as we shall see federal dependence is also important.
The total Size weighting is thus 11.
Viability has to do with the ability of the state to survive and prosper
under autonomy or independence, should it eventually be achieved. My
dissertation research has shown that autonomist movements are much stronger
when the region in question pays more to the central government in taxes than
it receives in expenditures. When it receives more in expenditures, autonomist
movements are weak. Given the strength and robustness of this finding, I think
federal dependence is a very important variable. I have thus weighted it
"7." The other variable having to do with viability is geography.
Opinions differ on how important this is: some saying that coastline (and to a
lesser extent, foreign border) is essential, others saying that coastline is
good but not essential. I would tend to agree with the latter, but I would
stress that coastline or border has many advantages relating to the prospective
economic benefits from free-market policies. These benefits are all greater the
more trade-oriented we are, and trade orientation requires coastline. In
addition, if worst comes to worst, coastline and border both allow for easier
surreptitious escape from the country. I have given geography a "3"
Culture indicators include: presidential election results, government
spending, taxes, gun control, and homeschooling regulations. Since government
spending and taxes are essentially two measures of the same underlying
variable, I have weighted them together the same as presidential election
results: "4" - or 2 each for taxes and spending. Since gun control
and homeschooling measures deal with specific policies rather than
comprehensive ideology, I have given them much lower weightings. Gun control
differences in absolute terms are fairly small among the states now under
consideration, so I have given it and homeschooling both "0"
weightings in this first simulation.
Quality of life indicators include: crime rate, per capita income, new jobs
forecast, livability rating, "hidensity," and "lodensity."
Since I don't care about population density, I haven't weighted the density
variables (but I will do so later in the analysis). Per capita income and jobs
forecast are two measures of the same item of interest: our economic well-being
after the move. It's probably the most important element of quality of life, so
I've given each a "2." Crime rate I've given a "3" and
livability rating a "0": the subjectiveness and variability of this
factor make it nearly worthless, in my view.
All this adds up to the following ranking of the 13 states under
consideration: Wyoming, Delaware, New Hampshire, Alaska, Idaho, Vermont, North
Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Nevada, Maine, West Virginia, New Mexico. The
first four are well above the rest, and Vermont, Idaho, and the two Dakotas are
well ahead of Nevada, Montana, and Maine. Finally, West Virginia and New Mexico
are far behind everyone else.
|Wyoming ||251.55 |
|Delaware ||231.09 |
|New Hampshire ||226.52 |
|Alaska ||222.47 |
|Idaho ||203.65 |
|Vermont ||201.33 |
|North Dakota ||194.38 |
|South Dakota ||182.61 |
|Montana ||158.03 |
|Nevada ||157.30 |
|Maine ||134.80 |
|West Virginia ||87.59 |
|New Mexico ||55.23 |
Now what happens if we "shake up" the weightings? What follows is
what scientists call "extreme-bounds analysis": you change the values
of certain parameters to their most extreme plausible values and see if the
results change. First, I'm going to weight low population density very heavily,
as many Westerners in the FSP would likely do. If I give it a "7"
weighting, make it tied for the most important variable in the analysis, the
ranking looks like this: Wyoming, Alaska, New Hampshire, Idaho, North Dakota,
Vermont, South Dakota, Delaware, Montana, Nevada, Maine, West Virginia, New
Mexico. The ranking doesn't change much, except that Delaware, with the highest
population density in the group, falls a long way.
|Wyoming ||320.85 |
|Alaska ||292.47 |
|New Hampshire ||272.58 |
|Idaho ||271.11 |
|North Dakota ||262.94 |
|Vermont ||259.99 |
|South Dakota ||251.05 |
|Delaware ||231.09 |
|Montana ||227.14 |
|Nevada ||224.31 |
|Maine ||197.76 |
|West Virginia ||144.63 |
|New Mexico ||122.79 |
Now I will shake up some other variables. Let's say you're not concerned at
all about Quality of Life: you'd be poor and crime-ridden for the chance of
building a free society. If I set all Quality variables to zero and return
LoDensity to zero, we get the following ranking: Wyoming, Delaware, Alaska, New
Hampshire, Vermont, North Dakota, Idaho, South Dakota, Montana, Nevada, Maine,
West Virginia, New Mexico. This is virtually the same as the first ranking.
|Wyoming ||215.20 |
|Delaware ||201.02 |
|Alaska ||196.03 |
|New Hampshire ||177.01 |
|Vermont ||167.55 |
|North Dakota ||158.95 |
|Idaho ||158.80 |
|South Dakota ||147.18 |
|Montana ||126.88 |
|Nevada ||117.95 |
|Maine ||98.64 |
|West Virginia ||59.14 |
|New Mexico ||31.39 |
Let's add the Quality of Life variables back in and consider what happens if
you're not really concerned about coastal access. If put "0" on the
geography variable, the ranking changes ever so slightly: Wyoming (far ahead of
everyone else), New Hampshire, Delaware, Idaho, Alaska, Vermont, North Dakota,
South Dakota, Nevada, Montana, Maine, West Virginia, New Mexico.
|Wyoming ||251.55 |
|New Hampshire ||205.52 |
|Delaware ||201.09 |
|Idaho ||194.65 |
|Alaska ||192.47 |
|Vermont ||192.33 |
|North Dakota ||185.38 |
|South Dakota ||182.61 |
|Nevada ||157.30 |
|Montana ||149.03 |
|Maine ||104.80 |
|West Virginia ||87.59 |
|New Mexico ||49.23 |
What if you think geography is really important? We'll give it a
"7" weighting and see what happens. Not much: Delaware, Alaska, New
Hampshire, Wyoming, Idaho, Vermont, North Dakota, South Dakota, Maine, Montana,
Nevada, West Virginia, New Mexico.
|Delaware ||271.09 |
|Alaska ||262.47 |
|New Hampshire ||254.52 |
|Wyoming ||251.55 |
|Idaho ||215.65 |
|Vermont ||213.33 |
|North Dakota ||206.38 |
|South Dakota ||182.61 |
|Maine ||174.80 |
|Montana ||170.03 |
|Nevada ||157.30 |
|West Virginia ||87.59 |
|New Mexico ||63.23 |
What if you're just as concerned with Culture as with Size and Viability? If
we add one to each of the Culture variables, including homeschooling and gun
control, Culture gets a total "13" points, compared to 11 for Size
and 10 for Viability. The resultant ranking is this: Wyoming, Alaska, Delaware,
New Hampshire, Idaho, North Dakota, Vermont, South Dakota, Montana, Nevada,
Maine, West Virginia, New Mexico.
|Wyoming ||282.87 |
|Alaska ||259.70 |
|Delaware ||253.04 |
|New Hampshire ||251.10 |
|Idaho ||234.18 |
|North Dakota ||216.20 |
|Vermont ||213.35 |
|South Dakota ||209.17 |
|Montana ||184.18 |
|Nevada ||177.04 |
|Maine ||148.95 |
|West Virginia ||99.70 |
|New Mexico ||69.50
Let's try to make the weightings as favorable as possible to Western states
and as unfavorable as possible to Eastern states. I've weighted Geography
"0," Livability "0," Income "0," Gun Control
"0" (New England states actually best here), and LoDensity
"7." The ranking that results is as follows: Wyoming, Idaho, North
Dakota, Alaska, Vermont, South Dakota, New Hampshire, Montana, Nevada,
Delaware, Maine, West Virginia, New Mexico. Not surprisingly, Delaware falls a
great deal here, but the only "unusual" states that surpass it are
South Dakota and Nevada. South Dakota is still behind North Dakota, and Nevada
is still far behind most Western states. Maine, West Virginia, and New Mexico
are the laggards as always.
|Wyoming ||308.05 |
|Idaho ||260.31 |
|North Dakota ||249.39 |
|Alaska ||246.64 |
|Vermont ||246.54 |
|South Dakota ||245.27 |
|New Hampshire ||240.78 |
|Montana ||218.14 |
|Nevada ||215.30 |
|Delaware ||181.09 |
|Maine ||164.63 |
|West Virginia ||144.54 |
|New Mexico ||112.81 |
I've also tried lowering the dependence variable, just in case you didn't
buy my argument above. The ranking still doesn't change.
So no matter how you cut it, Wyoming, Alaska, New Hampshire, and Delaware
are almost always at the top, with Idaho, the Dakotas, and Vermont following
closely behind. West Virginia and New Mexico are always at rock bottom and
Maine, Nevada, and Montana also do rather poorly.
Ben Irvin has presented eloquent arguments in favor of Montana. Why does
Montana do so poorly here? First, its voting population is larger than many of
the states we're considering. On state and local taxes and spending, it is
downright bad. Montana has a bloated state government. Its per capita income is
the absolute lowest. Its jobs forecast is mediocre, it is highly dependent on
the federal government, and even on issues like gun control and homeschooling
it is not clearly above the rest. Montana appears to have an "atmosphere
of freedom," but that atmosphere doesn't seem to be translated into the
policies that can be statistically measured. Still, its many
"subjective" benefits mean that it should be considered in the final
Maine also has some defenders because of its coastline. But Delaware has a
long coastline as well (New Hampshire is scored below both states and Alaska as
well because of its short coastline), and it has advantages that Maine does not
have: many, many fewer voters, less expensive elections, much lower state
spending and taxes, lower federal dependence, more jobs (despite Delaware's
much smaller population!), and a better position on homeschooling. Thus, it
seems that Delaware is a better choice than Maine, and that Maine can safely be
eliminated from the vote. However, this will not be something for the Research
Committee to do; we will need to have a membership vote on the issue. More on
From the above analysis, I think it is clear that we can eliminate Nevada,
West Virginia, and New Mexico from the analysis as well, because like Maine
they always do poorly. We can also eliminate South Dakota, because it is quite
similar to North Dakota, and North Dakota always scores better. There's no
reason to include South Dakota in the vote with North Dakota there. If Maine is
excluded, that leaves us Alaska, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire,
Vermont, Delaware, and North Dakota: eight states. I think it would be a good
idea to have an equal number of Eastern and Western states. Why? Because with
an unbalanced number of states, Westerners might disperse their votes over the
greater number of Western states, while Easterners' votes will be relatively
concentrated on the 3 Eastern states. Having more Western states in the vote
would be an unfair advantage for Eastern states.
So which Western states should be eliminated from the group of eight? I
would argue for Wyoming. Even though Wyoming comes out at the top of the
ranking quite often, its dismal jobs outlook makes it totally nonviable. Its
jobs situation makes it equivalent to a hypothetical state that looks really
good on most measures but has a population of 5 million: despite its
advantages, it simply isn't doable. If we tried to move 20,000 people to
Wyoming within a space of five years, most of them would not get jobs. Ben has
suggested that people could survive in Wyoming by hunting, fishing, and living
in teepees. I think that proposal would be a very difficult sell to 20,000
people from all walks of life, at all ages in life, and from all parts of the
country. Given that Idaho and Montana are perfectly viable choices right next
door, I think Wyoming could be eliminated readily. Again, though, since Wyoming
has defenders, we probably don't want the Research Committee to eliminate it on
its own. North Dakota is a similar situation. Almost all the Westerners I've
talked to don't want to move there, because of its brutally cold winters
detailed in the climate report. It's even worse than
many parts of Alaska. However, I have heard a few people defend the Dakotas as
potentially good choices.
What I think we should do then is to have a membership vote. We would have
the whole membership of the FSP vote on which two of these Western states to
eliminate: Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and on which one of
these Eastern states to eliminate: Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Delaware. I
believe the research presented in this report indicates that the ideal
arrangement would be to have Alaska, Idaho, and Montana in the final vote for
the West, and Vermont, New Hampshire, and Delaware for the East. Narrowing the
number of states to six will allow voters to focus their attentions better, the
Research Committee to study the candidates in more depth, our proposed meetings
in candidate states to be easier to organise, and prospective members to be
more confident about their signup decision. At the Research Committee meeting
this Saturday (August 31, 2002), we will decide whether to adopt this plan for
a membership vote, so stay tuned!
August 28, 2002
The views expressed in this essay do not necessarily represent those of
Free State Project, Inc., its Directors, or its Officers.
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.
South Dakota Advantages
by Crystal Bogue
As a general rule, most people dedicated to the FSP think that states such
as New Hampshire or Wyoming will win this race. Granted those two seem like
the place to be for one reason or another and both rank considerably high on
the scale of being more "libertarian" than the other eight. Depending on the
poll and the reason for it, South Dakota always seems to fall in the middle.
Never number one but never number ten either. Let's consider what South Dakota
has to offer in relation to the other states and what makes it the best
candidate for success in this "free state race."
South Dakota has taken it upon itself to prove that states don't need income
tax from the people. It is interesting because there are VERY few states that
believe this. This is not to say that SD doesn't have taxes. All the states
of taxes in some form or another. When considering the sales tax of the
states, SD only has a 4% tax on all items. This percentage is relatively low
when considering other states.
Cost of living is another factor. South Dakota is among the bottom
percentage of cost of living which contributes to the ability of the people to
stay in business. This lower cost of living coupled with a growing economy
only spells success for the state in more ways than one. Sioux Falls is home
to many large corporation businesses because there is no corporate tax in this
state. It is interesting to note that more and more companies are moving here
from other states to take advantage of this tax break. With an increase in big
business, little businesses can only benefit. Construction of new homes and
new factories is driving the premium cost of land in Sioux Falls up very
quickly. Even though Sioux Falls is a city of about 100,000, it has been noted
that it is one of the top three cities of that size that are showing a high
rate of growth while keeping unemployment at an all time low of only 2.9%.
Rural living is a majority in South Dakota but Sioux Falls, Rapid City, and
Aberdeen are all relatively large towns that offer the many things that
individuals enjoy about big cities.
The right to keep and bear arms is a big issue for a considerable amount of
people involved in this project. Even though Alaska ranks as number one for
their gun laws, South Dakota hasn't ever had a law that made carrying a pistol
a financial burden. It is VERY economical and convenient to apply and receive
a concealed carry permit in South Dakota. If it were any more economical, it
would be a mimic of Alaska and be no cost at all. It is important to note that
South Dakota believes that the owner of a firearm is responsible for that
firearm and NOT the manufacturers or sellers of such items.
This porridge is not too hot nor too cold, but just right. Because of this
middle of the road outlook and position, South Dakota is best placed at the top
of the FSP list simply because once South Dakota is picked and changes for the
betterment of the living conditions and political outlook is made, North Dakota
won't be far behind in making the same changes. This factor is very important
in the choice of which state should be THE Free State. Within months, North
Dakota would join the trend of South Dakota's success as it has done so many
times before. Not too cold, not too hot, but just right.