Voting Methods Report for the Free State Project
by Jason Sorens in Consultation with Steve Cobb
The Failings of Cumulative Count
For months now, people have been arguing that cumulative count is not the ideal voting system for the Free State Project. The problem proved to be worse than we had thought: cumulative count turns out to be one of the worst possible voting systems for our purposes.
The reason for this is simple: it turns out that the best way to cast your cumulative count ballot (technically, "the utility-maximizing way") is to give all your points to your favorite candidate (of those that are perceived as having a chance at winning).
This is a problem because it means that people have an incentive to misrepresent their preferences. Even if you think there are several good candidates, you should give all your points to just one of them if you want to maximize your expected satisfaction from the result. As a result, it is difficult for good compromise candidates to do well in a cumulative count vote. Also, people can develop prejudices against states they don't think have a chance of winning. This is the familiar "wasted vote" problem that plagues third parties in the U.S.
For several months we ran a "cumulative count practice poll" on the
State Data page. The results of this poll were enlightening. By pulling up the individual vote figures we saw that 42% of voters had given all 10 of their points to a single state. If you included people who gave 8 or 9 points to a single state, the figure was over 50%. Most of the people voting in this poll therefore were misrepresenting their preferences. The dangerous thing is that they may not have realized on a conscious level that they were voting "strategically," but they did it anyway. Moreover, we saw that these "strategic votes" went disproportionately to one state. Therefore, these strategic voters were able to take advantage of the honest voters and to manipulate the result in their favor.
Thus, we have empirical confirmation of theory: cumulative count promotes strategic voting on a massive scale. The mathematical proof of the proposition that one should give all points to one's favorite state in a cumulative count election follows. Those who are not interested in reading through the proof will want to skip to the next section of the report.
Assume that there are 4 candidates on the ballot, A, B, C, and D. Our hypothetical voter has the following preferences over these candidates should each win election:
The voter has 10 points to distribute. If voting sincerely, the voter would give 0.0 points to D, 2.0 points to C, 3.5 points to B, and 4.5 points to A.
Assume that each candidate has an equal chance of winning, p=.25. Assume that each point 1.0 given to a candidate increases that candidate's chance of winning by x and decreases every other candidate's chance of winning by (1/3)x or 0.33x, where x>0. Then:
Thus, EU(A=10)>EU(A=9,B=1)>EU(A=4.5,B=3.5,C=2.0). The expected utility of giving all his points to his favorite candidate is larger than the expected utility of the other two options presented (and indeed any possible option).
The Alternatives to Cumulative Count
In the search for an alternative to cumulative count, we wanted a voting system that would: 1) encourage voters to express their true preferences, 2) allow "compromise states" a good shot at winning, 3) not allow for paradoxes in which a state wins even though an absolute majority of people would prefer another state, 4) be easy to explain and understand, 5) allow easy tabulation of ballots and presentation of results, 6) be inexpensive to execute.
Simple plurality voting (each voter gets to vote for one state, the state with the most votes wins) was rejected on grounds 1, 2, and 3. All voting systems involving multiple rounds of voting were thrown out, chiefly on ground 6.
The alternatives seriously considered were: Rating, Approval Vote, Instant Runoff Voting, (Serial) Borda Count, and Condorcet's Method.
Rating works by allowing each voter to "rate" each candidate on a scale (0-10 or 0-100 or whatever). Then you just add all the points up, and the candidate with the most wins. This is the system used in the Olympics. When a judge gives a high score to one performer, that doesn't mean she can't also give a high score to the next performer. This system is appropriate for the Olympics because of the sequential, graded nature of performances. In a large vote like the one we will have, however, Rating breaks down into Approval Vote: you'll want to give the highest possible score to all states you like and the lowest possible score to all states you don't like. In essence, it's just like giving 1s and 0s to all the candidates.
Approval Vote is the system in which you just give a 1 (for approval) or 0 (for disapproval) to each candidate. You can approve of as many or as few candidates as you like. The "1" scores are added up, and the candidate with the highest score wins. This system is a good method for picking the "least bad" candidate, or a candidate that everyone thinks is adequate. However, it limits voters from expressing their full range of preferences. It doesn't adequately distinguish among excellent, very good, good, adequate, inadequate, and terrible choices.
Instant Runoff Voting allows voters to rank all the candidates, from favorite to least favorite. The candidate with the least number of first-preference votes is eliminated, and then those ballots listing the eliminated candidate as first preference are checked for their second preferences. Those second preferences are then distributed among the remaining candidates as if they were first preferences. Then you repeat the process, until just two candidates are left, and one wins a majority against the other. For example, if you have three candidates, Harry, Dick, and Moe, and Harry and Dick are considered the only ones with a chance of winning, you can still vote for Moe and put Dick in 2nd place. When Moe gets eliminated because he gets the fewest first-preference votes, those who voted for him have their second preferences counted. So by putting Dick in 2nd place you get to express your liking of Moe and still help tilt the election in favor of Dick against Harry. Instant Runoff Voting thus discourages the strategic voting we have in simple plurality rule. Instant Runoff Voting is just what it sounds like: a way of doing multiple rounds of voting all at once. It's a simple system to understand, and it encourages voters to express their full range of preferences, but it does allow for paradoxes and is slightly less easy to tabulate than other methods. IRV is used in the national elections of Australia and Ireland and is generally considered a "pretty good" voting system, but not the best possible.
Borda Count also allows voters to rank all the candidates. To aggregate the votes, it assigns points to each candidate based on its ranking. For our purposes, a first-preference vote would be worth 9 points, a second-preference vote would be worth 8 points, and so on, until a last-preference vote would be worth zero. You just add all the points up to get a winner. This system is used in college sports polls and to determine winners of sports awards (Most Valuable Player and so on). It is notoriously subject to strategic voting, however. You want to rank states that you don't think have a chance of winning over states that do have a chance of winning but are not your first choice, even if you really prefer these states that do have a chance of winning to the states that don't have a chance of winning. Doing this allows your first choice a better shot at winning, because you hurt your favorite's credible opposition. An example of this would be if you are an Astros fan and you rank your MVP ballot with Astros player Jeff Bagwell at the top, and you leave Barry Bonds of the Giants in last place, because you know a lot of other people will be voting for him. If enough people do this, Bagwell might beat Bonds, even though if people were voting honestly, they would have ranked Bonds higher, and Bonds would have won. To avoid this, well-known game theorist Dr. Donald Saari advised us to do "serial" or "sequential" Borda Count if we did not use Condorcet's Method (described next). He advised eliminating all candidates that did not receive the average number of points and then doing a new Borda Count poll, using the same ballots, with the eliminated states removed from the rankings. However, this method is difficult to tabulate: it probably would require going through and checking each individual ballot, unless we could devise a fancy program to do it for us. But then the aggregation system would not be transparent to everyone, and perhaps some people would be suspicious of the result. Also, this method does not guarantee that we will avoid paradoxes.
Condorcet's Method is the voting method favored by almost all game theorists and mathematicians, and it is the method that Steve and I propose adopting. The Election Methods website explains Condorcet voting in some detail, but we explain it here as well.
The way it works is that you again allow voters to rank all the candidates. They can indicate "ties" in their rankings if they wish; it doesn't matter. Then you compare each candidate to every other candidate: candidates score wins over other candidates that are lower in the rankings and losses to other candidates that are higher in the rankings (if candidates are tied on a ballot, a tie is scored). If a majority of voters prefer one candidate above each other candidate in "pairwise" (one-on-one) comparisons, that candidate wins. Simple! This method guarantees that you won't have paradoxes of the kind described above, unless voters have cyclical preferences. It is also easy to tabulate; Steve has created a spreadsheet demonstrating how all the vote counters need to do is to put down each voter's ranking, and it spits out a table comparing each state to every other state.
Does Condorcet's Method encourage sincere voting? Yes. Let's say you have the following preferences among 10 candidates: 1. A 2. B 3. C 4-10. D, E, F, G, H, I, J. Under cumulative count, you would want to give all your points to A and zero to everything else. Under Condorcet's Method, you want to rank your preferences sincerely: A first, B second, C third, and D-J tied for last. Why? Because if you ranked C as tied with D-J for last, that does not in any way benefit A or B. A and B still beat C no matter whether you rank it tied for last or in third place ahead of the others. But if you rank C sincerely, in third place ahead of D-J, then C beats D-J. So if A and B don't win the election, then C has a chance of winning. There's no reason to misrepresent your preferences.
Sometimes voters' preferences are cyclical, and there is no clear winner. (Here is an example of cyclical voting: There are three voters and three candidates. Voter 1 ranks the candidates as follows: 1. A 2. B 3. C. Voter 2 ranks the candidates this way: 1. B 2. C. 3. A. Voter 3 ranks them: 1. C 2. A. 3. B. In this situation A beats B 2-1, B beats C 2-1, and C beats A 2-1. A beats B, which beats C, which beats A, which beats B, which beats C, which beats A... It's a cycle! There's no clear winner here. Of course, cyclical preferences become less of a problem with more candidates and more voters. I doubt it will happen in our state vote, but we need to be prepared for the possibility.) There are actually several different "Condorcet methods" differing in how they deal with cyclical preferences. The simplest method, the one I prefer, is simply to eliminate the smallest-magnitude defeat - that is, the defeat with the fewest total votes against - until one candidate is unbeaten. So let's say for example that state A wins over all 9 of the other states, except for one, state D. However, state D receives only a few votes against state A. This could mean either a small margin of victory of D over A, or it could mean that a lot of voters are indifferent between A and D and have given them ties. So if A has a greater number of votes in all its contests against other candidates than D has in its contest over A, D's victory will be eliminated, and A emerges the winner.
The results of a Condorcet election are presented in a table. I've used the table from ElectionMethods.org as an example.
This table may appear confusing at first glance, but it's quite simple if you follow this explanation very slowly and carefully while looking at the above table. A, B, C, and D are the candidates here. To see how many votes a candidate got against another candidate, you find the candidate's name in the vertical list and follow the row over to where it intersects with the column representing the name of the opposing candidate in the horizontal list. So to see how many votes A got against B, you follow the A row over to the B column and see that A got 63 votes against B. If you look diagonally down and to the left, you see how many votes B got against A: 87. So B wins that contest. By the same token, A gets 89 votes against C, while C gets 69 votes against A. A wins that one. A then loses to D: 67-57. B, however, beats C (78-72) and D (73-51). So B is the winner, because it beats every other candidate. What follows is a table in which no candidate beats every other candidate - there isn't a "Condorcet winner," so we have to use a method to figure out which candidate should win.
In this one, A beats B, 40-37, A loses to C, 30-22, and A loses to D, 20-13. B loses to A, beats C, 50-35, and loses to D, 60-50. C beats A, loses to B, and beats D, 25-20. D beats A and B but loses to C. So both C and D have two wins and one loss, while A and B have one win and two losses. How do we figure out a winner? According to the method I just suggested, we eliminate the smallest-magnitude defeat first. That is the victory of D over A: D gets just 20 votes over A. If that contest is eliminated, then A has one victory and one defeat, and so does D. C still has two victories and one defeat. We have to continue until one candidate is unbeaten, however. So the next weakest defeat is C's victory over D. If that is eliminated, then D has one victory and no defeats, and it wins.
Of course, there are other ways of doing this. One criterion might be that the candidate with the most wins and fewest losses should win, but if two candidates are tied for most wins and fewest losses, then the winner of the head-to-head contest between the two should prevail. If that criterion were used, then C would instead prevail in the example above. Another way to do it is to eliminate smallest margins of defeat first, but game theorists generally agree this is the wrong way to go about it, because it doesn't take into account the number of ties, and it also opens things up to strategic voting. If we eliminated smallest margins of defeat, we would eliminate A over B first, then C over D. D would be the winner. In our state vote, I doubt many people will be giving ties, so the "margin of defeat" and "magnitude of defeat" criteria should reach about the same result, as they have here. In fact, it is highly unlikely in the first place that there will be no Condorcet winner: in most elections, one candidate does beat all the others in pairwise contests, and our limited experimental data with FSP members suggests that this will also be the case in our state vote.
The most complex method of resolving ambiguities when there is no Condorcet winner is called "Schwartz Sequential Dropping." This is the method favored by game theorists for its overall fairness (both Election Methods and Rob LeGrand, a friend of the FSP whom we contacted during our investigation, support this method). I will not describe it here but encourage those interested to check out these websites. I would argue that we not adopt Schwartz and instead stick with simple Condorcet, simply because several people have argued that they want a vote-aggregation method that is very simple and transparent. Simple Condorcet is certainly that - and it has the advantages of being difficult to manipulate, easy to understand and explain, easy to calculate, and amenable to the whole range of possible voter preferences. For our purposes, simple Condorcet is as close to ideal as we'll get.
6507 Jester Blvd. Suite 511
Austin, Texas 78726 USA
Free State Project Vote Count, Certification Process, and Results
Alan R. Weiss, Chairman and CEO of Synchromesh Computing and ECL, LLC
Free State Project Vote Count , Certification Process, and Results
Its actually an interesting problem: how do you assure that a healthy, contentious, very public vote of a private organization dedicated to liberty and freedom goes smoothly? How do you make sure that all the votes are counted according to a publicly-available process, that the votes are counted fairly and honestly, and that the entire process can be certifiable (that is to say, repeatable and trustworthy)? Can you establish the creation of free-market solutions to what was previously the purview of Government (often-times poorly), counting votes?
When ECL volunteered to create a "certifiable process" for counting The Free State Project's votes, Free State President and Founder Jason Sorens asked the Author, innocently enough, if we'd also be willing to count the ballots. We agreed, and together we decided to make history.
ECL, the EEMBC Certification Laboratories, has had over 5 years of experience creating and executing benchmark certifications for microprocessors, digital signal processors, and micrcontrollers as well as a operating systems and software tools. As the certification company for an industry-standard consortium of almost 60 semiconductor and software companies, all ardent competitors to each other, we have the sort of background you need to be able to create certifiable processes. With a rigorous background in engineering, a charter and mission explicitly stating fairness and honesty, trustworthiness and equality of treatment, ECL has successfully certified hundreds of benchmark scores. In the semiconductor industry, the results of benchmarking can, at times, be worth literally hundreds of millions of dollars in sales, so a lack of guile is considered necessary, to say the least. Companies, and individuals, trust ECL, and for our part we have never had our fairness questioned or in dispute.
The first step, obviously, would be to establish a Certifiable Process. If you want to know who won, however, you can jump to Page 5 and find out.
Creating the Certifiable Process - and the Results of the Process
The key would be to write up a process that included the following attributes, and publish that on the Free State Project website. The membership would have to "buy in" and trust it.
The Vote Count and Tally must be repeatable to a level of only 2 defects in the entire vote count. Furthermore, the actual ballots will be preserved for the future so that a vote count can be done at any time.
During ECL's Quality Assurance procedures, we sampled over 600 ballots and found only one, very minor error (which was immediately corrected). We estimated that there might be as many as five errors in the vote count, which we knew would not affect the outcome (but each defect would, of course, have to be corrected immediately).
In fact, our defect count showed that, after completing voting, there were essentially no defects in the vote count. After posting the double-checked database to the FSP website (to allow individuals to verify their own vote count once they entered in their FSP member number and their last name), not a single person contact ECL or the FSP, and reported that their vote was counted incorrectly.
ECL will make copies of all votes, and also scan them, providing a permanent record. Copies will be stored both on-site and off-site. ECL's physical security system is very secure, and has passed scrutiny of companies that have billions of dollars at stake.
In practice, we tried very hard to quantify the amount of work required to:
a.) open the envelope or retrieve the fax, or email.
b.) input the vote itself
c.) input the demographic information
d.) calculate and process any money donated (in fact, ECL processed over $13,000 and turned every federal reserve note, check, money order, silver and gold warehouse receipt, and other form of currency to the Free State Project).
We found that we could process a ballot at a rate of 1 per 2 1/2 minutes, but that scanning each and every ballot would add at least 5 minutes to the process. We decided, in consultation with the FSP Board of Directors, to instead do the following:
a.) Make a physical photocopy of each ballot, and store them off-site.
b.) Commit the spreadsheet database where votes were recorded to a Concurrent Version System (CVS) often used in software engineering, so that versions of the spreadsheet could be retrieved at any time.
c.) Back up the data every day to a second machine (a server), and burn a CD-ROM as well every two days.
If anyone questioned their vote, we'd have at least five copies (two paper, three electronic) and could always scan and send via email their ballot at the time of challenge. In practice, this was never required.
Checkpoints of the vote count showed a complete absence of defects as well, and we could retrieve any arbitrary set of ballots, double-check them, and calculate any defects. There were none, which we attribute both to good processes as well as the diligence of our ECL Free State Project Coordinator Erin Decatur Silkenson, a dedicated worker with a Bachelors Degree in Economics from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. Erin was used to dealing with large amounts of data. Background checks on Erin showed she was reliable, dedicated, and amazingly tolerant of people's curious penchant for wanting to convey their opinions to the Free State Project itself by somehow forwarding it, along with their votes and occasionally money, to ECL.
At any time, the FSP Directors (or invited guests) can statistically sample the vote count themselves, and at any time the FSP can request a list of who has voted. A statistical sample should yield at most 1 error in 2500 votes. In addition, we will send all of the ballots to the FSP. ECL will do a cross-check after they have audited and compare our results. The results must match 100%. ECL will employ technology to make sure the ballots we have sent to the FSP are the same as the ones we counted.
ECL only received one request to come audit the vote count, and that person (also located in Central Texas) decided that she was too busy to actually come watch us open envelopes and enter text into the spreadsheet. The best way to audit is to have each member be able to double-check their own votes online after voting was completed, and FSP Information Services expert Matt Cheselka put the database online with alacrity after ECL finished the final vote tally and quality assurance procedure, certifying the vote.
Fair and Honest
Each ECL staff member having access to the votes (and it will only be two people) will sign affidavits and have them notarized of our vote count, honesty, and that we followed this CP.
Only two people actually had access to the votes, the spreadsheets, and the money that came in: Erin, and ECL / Synchromesh Computing Chairman and CEO Alan R. Weiss. Neither Erin, who is not a member of the FSP, nor myself (who joined rather late in the Project's history) had any axes to grind, and by profession both of us were intensely interested in what could only be described as "the truth." Economics is a profession that rests on hard data, and Benchmarking Certification by definition is designed to ward off corruption and report "the real results." Erin's family was from Ohio and New York, and Alan, born in NYC but raised in California, moved to Austin Texas 11 years ago. None of those states were on the selection list, and as Alan put it in a message to the Free State Project membership, "all y'all look alike - all cold weather states!"
ECL/Synchromesh Computing hereby certifies the results of the Free State Project balloting and voting process as fairly conducted, results honestly polled, providing fair access to FSP members, and repeatable under all circumstances.
By This Seal, ECL Certifies the Vote Count as Accurate
Balloting Process, Timetables, and Turnout
If there was a flaw in the process, it was that ballots were mailed late to many members (being sent via US Postal Service Third Class instead of First Class from Henderson, Nevada). Combined with other delays, it truncated the voting time period by a couple of weeks, which in theory should not have mattered a great deal since the voting interval was still over a month. In practice, it caused some confusion, and furthermore the announcement schedule was fixed as a hard and fast end-date for Press relations reasons.
ECL was concerned that if a lot of members waited till the very last minute, the incoming flood would have proved to be uncertifiable given a "hard stop" date. In actuality, this was avoided because about half the members voted (reducing the incoming flow considerably) and members reacted with (mostly) timely responses.
Ballots were mailed out, and could be returned via US Mail Postal Express, Federal Express, Airborne Express, UPS, or other common carrier. The number of ballots returned by these means, costing each member a few dollars each, was staggering - well over 200 came in that way, almost 1/10th of the received vote. This showed, clearly, that of those that voted, they really cared about making sure their vote came in on time, and was counted. Because of the initial ballot dissemination snafu's, ECL decided to accept a fax of the ballot, or an Adobe Acrobat (tm) .PDF file. Later, ECL agreed to accept a JPEG file as well. In practice, about 1/10th of the ballots came in using these electronic methods (and towards the end, a higher percentage.
5000 ballots were ultimately mailed to FSP members, and ECL's final count of 2388 constitutes a return of 47.7%. While its tempting to be depressed about that, we believe the following factors are important to keep in mind, observationally:
· A government-sponsored vote (for example, an election or propositions) that saw almost a 50% turnout would be considered extremely newsworthy and be deemed a "very successful election."
· The Free State Project has been in existence for awhile, and doubtlessly a number of people had moved, didn't leave a forwarding address, or otherwise lost contact with the FSP.
· A certain percentage of people, realizing that signing up is fairly easy (although they had to make a Pledge), voting was quite another matter and might constitute even more of "a contract." This fear of really committing is to be expected in any movement that asks its members to sell their home, quit their jobs, pick up their lives, and move them to a state that may be quite alien or foreign to them and then "get to work" setting their lives back up as well as working for liberty and freedom and democracy. Given the magnitude of the basic decision, it is utterly astonishing that almost 50% even returned their ballots at all.
· The average dollar figure donated to the FSP was over $5 per voter, and would have been much higher had the FSP not encouraged people to fax or email in their vote (of course, the primary purpose of the vote was not fundraising, but rather to vote. ECL fully concurred that was most important). Further, the number of people calling and sending email to ECL to verify that their votes were cast and recorded was impressive, as were the number of votes returned by expensive common carrier rather than simply the US Postal Service regular first class mail. Those that voted, were very serious about their voting and it can be said with clarity that no one took it lightly.
The answer to "which state is the Free State" is New Hampshire.
New Hampshire not only beat 2nd place Wyoming by over 250 votes using the Condorcet Method, it also won if you just weighed "the number of first place votes granted to a state."
As Jason Sorens commented, "One interesting factoid is that preferences are very stable and
"well-behaved": not only is there a Condorcet winner over the entire 10 candidates, but if you eliminate the Condorcet winner sequentially, there is a Condorcet winner at each iteration, yielding the final ranking:
- New Hampshire
- South Dakota
- North Dakota
As the following table shows, New Hampshire received 251 more first place votes, and 15 more 2nd place votes, than runner-up Wyoming.
# of 1st's
# of 2nd's
Table 1: Total Number of First and Second Place Votes by State
The total number of first and second place votes is greater than the total vote count because the FSP allowed people to vote for more than one first or second (or any place) entry. Many people, for example, gave a particular state a "one" and gave two or more states a "two", and sometimes gave many states a "ten" (indicating no interest at all in selecting that state).
Interestingly, it appears that the so-called "western Libertarians" divided their votes between Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Alaska, leaving the so-called "eastern Libertarians", who were much more unified in their first selection, clear access to win with their favorite, New Hampshire. If you combine, for example, the first place votes of Montana and Wyoming, you get 242 + 498 = 740, which would not have been enough to topple New Hampshire. But if you notice the spread between Idaho, Montana, and Alaska, it is much closer than the spread between New Hampshire and the next most popular eastern state, Maine. Montana seemed to be a very popular 2nd place choice, beating even New Hampshire as the second-favorite state. Clearly the industriousness, organization, and marketing of New Hampshire had some effect, though, because it won, and it was also a popular second place choice, even amongst so-called "western Libertarians."
The Members of the Free State Project have spoken, and rather clearly at that, in their selection of New Hampshire as The Free State. It may be the case that this particular project spawns a second effort to select a western state (or even a western province of Canada) as a relocation settlement.
If this occurs, it will not be due to any fraud or abuse of the process during voting, but rather because some liberty-minded individuals decide, quite simply, they prefer a western environment to establish a new libertarian society. If so, Synchromesh Analysts would be honored to again conduct the vote (if there is one) and certify the results.
Liberty expanding across the land ... who could argue against that? Those that would argue against it, would do themselves a favor in questioning why one would.
For more statistics, refer to the Statistical Analysis White Paper. We removed that from this Paper because some people were having difficulties downloading a very large file.
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