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