Living in Montana means taking responsibility for yourself
by Susan Duncan, Country lifestyles
A popular perception among newcomers to Montana is that we have no rules here.
No county building permits. No hassles. Ahh, and all that open space. No
limits. No boundaries.
When you come from a place with so many people who don't talk to each other, I
guess regulations for everything are necessary. Montana is different. We assume
people have common sense and respect their neighbors. So, not every detail has
to be codified in law. As a result: You have to accept responsibility if you
live in Montana.
Unfortunately, American culture is going in the opposite direction. Lawsuits
show that more and more Americans are refusing to take responsibility for their
own actions. No wonder newcomers are in culture shock and need a copy of
Gallatin County's "Code of the West" to adjust. Despite what newcomers think,
we do have rules here, but they are not written down. The rules are in the
climate, in the open space and in the culture.
Climate rules here. It's more arid than it looks and prone to serious
wildfires. Growing seasons are 60 to 90 days. Frost can occur anytime.
Microclimates challenge even the best gardeners.
Newcomers find this out the hard way. "All I want is a ripe tomato!" "Why
don't I get any corn?"
A visitor from back east contributed his back-east wisdom: "Put wood ashes on
your garden," he said. (My garden soil is already alkaline. Wood ashes would
make it more alkaline.) That's good advice back east where heavy rainfall
leaches out the bases and makes the soil more acidic. It's bad advice in
"Why do they burn the grain fields? All that pollution!" Because it's not wet
enough, warm enough, long enough for stubble to rot over winter.
A man from Maryland moved into his dream home a log house in a dense pine
forest with a frosting of dry pine needles on the shake roof. Ahh paradise. The
fires of 2000 made him realize his paradise was a firetrap and he set to work
Everybody loves open space, but open space means you are on your own. You have
to take responsibility for your own welfare if you live in Montana. If you
are on a well and septic tank, you are your own sewer and water company. You
need to learn to fix things for yourself. If the clothes washer breaks, the
nearest repairman is at least five miles away and probably 15 to 20. Service
calls will break your budget.
Who grades the road? Who plows the snow? Who controls the weeds? Chances are
you do, or you and your neighbors, through a homeowner's association.
Don't expect the fire department, police or EMTs to arrive at your door in five
minutes. They have a lot of territory to cover. What can you do in the
meantime with first-aid training or a garden hose?
You may want to be left alone, but in Montana, neighbors are still important to
fill the gaps in all that open space. You can't afford to threaten to sue your
neighbors for trespassing on your property. Who will help you if you have a
medical emergency, if your car is stuck in your driveway or your well goes dry?
One former resident passed on this bit of advice to a new homeowner: "One thing
I can say: The neighbors will help you even if they don't like you." Montana
law doesn't require you to be a considerate neighbor. But you have to accept
responsibility for the welfare of your neighbors if you live in Montana.
Call it enlightened self-interest.
The rules are in the culture. Newcomers choose to move to this scenic area for
its low population density, its rural lifestyle, its rural culture. The reality
of a rural lifestyle is dusty roads, machinery and animal noise, pesticide and
fertilizer application, and odors like manure and fermented ag-bagged hay. The
rule is: Accept the reality of rural life rather than trying to force others to
conform to your vision of rural Eden.
Never rat on your neighbor to the cops. If the neighbors do something that
offends you (ATVs going up and down the road or an underfed horse), give them
the courtesy of talking to them privately about it first.
Never pretend to be someone you are not. Montana was settled right after the
Civil War. Northerners and southerners traveled west in the same wagon trains
to become neighbors. For the sake of harmony, no one asked about a person's
past. Then and now, we accept people at face value. We give you the chance to
be who you say you are. You will be judged only on how you treat each
individual since they have known you. Even today, those who try to transfer
former accomplishments (done elsewhere) into prestige in the present time
(here) are unsuccessful. Often, they give up and return to the site of their
Those with a past do have a chance to start over in Montana, but they have to
leave their past behind. If they represent themselves as honest and it comes to
light that they did not settle their past debts, did not serve their time, or
continue to take advantage of their neighbors for personal gain, they will find
no sympathy and no second chance. You have to accept responsibility for your
behavior if you live in Montana.
Montana still has a rural culture. The rules come from internal controls
imposed by adaptations to climate and open spaces and by social controls
(neighborliness and honesty). You have to accept responsibility if you want to
live in Montana with fewer government controls.
by Anita L. Joule
Nevada can be a fun place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. It
offers ample opportunities to indulge in guns, gambling, and girls. One would
think that a state with legalized gambling and prostitution would be extremely
liberty oriented. This however is not the case in many areas that FSP members
would be interested in.
One area of concern is the hostile homeschooling regulations. For a child to
be legally exempted from compulsory attendance in a government (public) school,
the parent may seek a waiver of attendance by submitting a "Notification of
Intent to Provide Home Instruction" form. This form must be accompanied by
"evidence to the local school district that their child will be receiving
appropriate instruction at home." The following criteria are considered
evidence of qualification for providing "appropriate instruction."
- A teacher, other than the parent, who possesses a NV teaching license OR;
- The parent, when a parent qualifies for a teaching license for the grade
level to be taught OR;
- The parent, in consultation with a person who possesses a teaching license
or who has provided instruction in the home for the grade level to be taught
for at least three years OR;
- The parent, when the child is enrolled in an approved (licensed by the
state board) correspondence program.
Another area of concern for many is the fairly strict marijuana regulations.
It has been said that you can get falling down drunk, frequent the whore
houses, and lose all you money in the casinos, but let them find a single
marijuana seed in your ashtray and its off to jail you go.
Fortunately there has been some progress in this area. According to NORML,
the decriminalization of marijuana in Nevada has begun. "The state has
decriminalized marijuana to some degree. Typically, decriminalization means no
prison time or criminal record for first-time possession of a small amount for
personal consumption. The conduct is treated like a minor traffic violation."
There has also been progress in medical marijuana legislation in Nevada. For
Nevadans, "the law removes state-level criminal penalties on the use,
possession and cultivation of marijuana by patients who have 'written
documentation' from their physician that marijuana may alleviate his or her
Even so, the fines for misdemeanor marijuana violation are fairly high and
subsequent violations result in increasingly harsh fines and eventual
incarceration. This however, applies only to adults, age 21 and older. Those
who are under 21 years and possess less than 1 oz on their first or second
offense, will be found guilty of a felony, punishable by one to four years of
incarceration. Additionally, anyone found in possession of paraphernalia is
guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine and 6 months in jail and
paraphernalia sale is a felony punishable by a fine of $5,000 and 1-4 years in
Nevada State Demographer estimates the state population at 2,066,831
indicating that Nevada's population has passed the limit originally set for our
target states. Nevada's population growth over the past decade makes it the
fastest growing state in the nation. Population increase estimates for 2010
would place the total statewide population at approximately 2,710,000 far
exceeding our population limits for the project.
This leads to another obvious concern, employment in Nevada. As reported by
the U.S. Department of Labor, Nevada ranks 33rd among the states with a jobless
rate of 5.5 percent. The 1.1 percent annual job growth pitted against the
projected average population growth of 2.6%. An influx of 20,000 unexpected and
unforeseen new residents flooding into the state could spell disaster for
Nevada as well as the FSP.
In 1981, Nevada switched from a property-tax based system, to one based on
gaming and sales taxes. But those tax revenues are highly susceptible to
economic downturns -- a problem some classify as a structural defect that will
result in a $1.2 billion deficit in coming years.
The Nevada Task Force on Tax Policy, created by the Legislature when the
2001 session ended without any major proposals to address the state's economic
shortfall that currently sits at $270 million, is readying a recommendation
that is expected to propose:
- Creating a broad-based business tax.
- Increasing the current cap on how much property tax a local government
- Expanding what's covered under the sales tax.
- Increasing "sin taxes" such as those on cigarettes and alcohol.
- Increasing certain fees businesses pay and possibly ask voters
to approve a lottery.
However, the Legislature and Gov. Guinn worry that increased taxes will ruin
what makes Nevada attractive to so many newcomers.
Pro-business Nevada has a constitutional prohibition on income taxes. The
state does not tax the income of its corporations or its state's citizens. A
Nevada corporation is also not subject to any other hidden taxes such as
franchise taxes, capital stock taxes, or inventory taxes. Sales tax applies
only to products sold within the state.
Selected Taxes Common to Many of the 50 States But Not Nevada
|Type of Tax ||Number of States Using
|Corporate Income ||46
|Personal Income ||44
|Special Intangible ||10
|Capital Stock ||2
Because Nevada has no state income tax, and because Nevada does not keep
much information on their own residents or their corporations, it has
steadfastly refused IRS requests for reciprocity. Most other states freely
exchange all of the information they have on every resident and corporation.
Nevada has developed a corporate structure that is unique. Nevada began with
corporate statutes based on Delaware's and then went further, establishing a
corporate structure that allows investors and owners of Nevada corporations to
remain completely private. Since these changes in Nevada's statutes came into
effect in 1991 the number of new incorporations in Nevada has exploded.
To ensure privacy, Nevada is the only state that allows its corporations to
use bearer stock certificates. It is virtually impossible to prove the
ownership of a Nevada corporation handled in this manner. Since the state does
not require a corporation to list with it the corporation's vice-president(s),
a vice-president utilizing bearer shares can have complete control and
ownership while remaining anonymous.
Currently Nevada is experiencing a medical crisis caused by the withdrawal
of the largest medical malpractice carrier from the Nevada malpractice
insurance market. The company, which had covered 60 percent of the state's
doctors, cited large malpractice awards. Nevada's only top-level trauma center
closed for 10 days earlier this month in Las Vegas after 58 orthopedic doctors
temporarily quit. Legislators are considering a number of proposals.
President Bush formally approved Nevada's Yucca Mountain as the nation's
high-level nuclear waste dump on 7/24/02, ending a 20-year political fight and
shifting the battle to the courts. "Our best chance in defeating Yucca Mountain
is in the federal courts, where impartial judges will hear the factual and
scientific arguments as to why Yucca Mountain is not a safe place to store this
nation's high-level nuclear waste," said Nevada's Republican governor. Bush
hopes the move will pave the way for more nuclear energy production. Government
planners have set a 2010 opening date, but the General Accounting Office has
said the target cannot be met.
All in all, I would not rank Nevada very high as a choice for the Free State
Project. There are a number of huge problems that would need to be addressed
and frankly given the large percent of federal land, the projected population
increases, the unemployment rate, and the nuclear waste project, not to mention
the lack of water, poor soil, and extreme heat I do not believe we should waste
our time with further consideration of this state.
July 28, 2002
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those
of the Free State Project, its Officers, or Directors.
New Hampshire Report
by Amy Day
(See also New Hampshire Report #2 and the
New Hampshire Libertarians' Welcome
to the Granite State Committee.)
My parents moved to New Hampshire from Massachusetts when I was 10, so I've
lived here all my adult life (I'm 27). Coincidentally 2 other families in our
Massachusetts neighborhood also moved to New Hampshire around the same time,
but my family and these 2 others moved to northern New Hampshire. Currently
Massachusetts immigrants are moving into the southern region, while continuing
to work in Massachusetts. My husband currently works in Massachusetts because
he can get paid more working there than in New Hampshire. Thus we pay
Massachusetts income tax, plus the high New Hampshire property tax so we get
the worst of both worlds. But the reason people are doing this is that housing
in the Boston area is so high as to make the high prices in New Hampshire
affordable. The housing market has been pushed out of the reach of many low
income New Hampshire residents. They are exasperated by town zoning and
building rules that are keeping the number of new houses down and keeping the
cost of new housing high.
New Hampshire is a beautiful state. Our 18 miles of seacoast are enough
room for beaches (public and private), harbors, and the Portsmouth Naval
Shipyard, though the PNS has been claimed by Maine and the powers that be
have said it is Maine's. This is unsurprising given the tax issue. If it were
in New Hampshire, the New Hampshire residents who work there wouldn't be paying
the income tax Maine currently collects.
A couple of hours drive from the seacoast and you are in the White
Mountains. They are not as high as the Rocky Mountains but they are beautiful.
You can camp, hike, and hunt in them, and in the winter you can ski them. We
have Mount Washington, the
highest peak in the northeast.
The climate in NH includes a lot more precipitation than many western states.
Average precipitation is around 40 inches, depending on the area. In the
southern part of the state the average temperature in July is 70 and in Jan it
is 22. In the northern part of the state the summer temperature is a few
degrees less, and the winter temperature is 7-12 degrees less.
In the northern counties, temperature is not the only thing that is lower.
The income of the average person is less. In Coos County, the northernmost
county, the HUD Median Income Estimate for 2001 was $39,200. In Hillsborough
County, one of the southern counties that border the state of Massachusetts,
the HUD Median Income Estimate for 2001 was $58,000. The national HUD Median
Income Estimate for 2001 was $52,500.
Our state has been pushing recently for the government to buy land and
conservation easements on land. Currently Senator Gregg is working on
getting the state $8 million in federal money to purchase a conservation
easement on 171,500 acres, this would be 1/3 of the total cost. My town of
Exeter has been purchasing conservation easements on land in town. Part of the
money comes from the state and part from the town budget. This is happening
The government in our state has different ways to control development. On
the state level there is current use taxing. An
undeveloped piece of land is taxed at a lesser rate. When it is developed, one
must pay a tax of 10% of the value. My own town has an impact fee. This is a fee one
must pay to the town when you get the permit to build a housing unit. The
amount is based on the impact a new residence will have on the town-provided
Towns also have restrictive zoning. They make lot requirements of 1 or more
acres. With the limited product and high demand, prices are very high. Current
prices in my town are: for a 1.25-2 acre building lot, it is from
$125,000-$150,000. They also are very restrictive on building multi-unit
houses. An example would be an 11-acre piece of land we looked at. Due to
zoning restrictions we would only be allowed to build one single-family house
on the land (definitely no multi-units), and we could not subdivide it. It is
almost impossible to find a piece of land that allows multi-unit homes.
Nationwide in 2001, 25% of housing permits were for multi-unit housing. In New
Hampshire in 2001, only 9% of permits were for multi-unit housing. This has
helped cause apartment rents to increase. In two southern counties,
median rents for a 2 bedroom apartment (not including utilities) are $880 in
Rockingham county and $860 in Hillsborough county.
In the city of Manchester, rental property is inspected every 3 years. You
are required to give the inspector access to the entire house. This process is
fraught with bribery and corruption. We had bought a building less than a year
before its next inspection date. The inspection showed thousands of dollars in
repairs were needed. Granted the building was old and we had planned on doing
some updating, but most of the things that needed repairs had been that way for
years. There were two long-term tenants, and they told us these problems had
existed since they started renting there, and there had been an inspector in
that building 3 years ago and he didn't cite the previous owner. In talking to
other landlords and tenants in the city I have come to believe that if you get
the right inspector and you give him some money, he won't find anything wrong
with your apartment. In another building, a tenant had taken batteries out of a
smoke detector, so since it wasn't working we were not grandfathered in, so we
had to meet the new standard that there had to be built in smoke detectors.
That was a few years ago, I believe that all must meet the new standard now.
There is an education-funding
problem going on in our state right now. In 1997 the New Hampshire Supreme
Court declared that the traditional method of using local property taxes to pay
for schooling was unconstitutional. Not that it was unconstitutional for the
towns to steal from its property owners. But that it was the state's
responsibility to provide an adequate education. They based this decision on
article 83 of our constitution which says "Knowledge and learning, generally
diffused through a community, being essential to the preservation of a free
government; and spreading the opportunities and advantages of education through
the various parts of the country, being highly conducive to promote this end;
it shall be the duty of the legislators and magistrates, in all future periods
of this government, to cherish the interest of literature and the sciences, and
all seminaries and public schools, to encourage private and public
institutions, rewards, and immunities for the promotion of agriculture, arts,
sciences, commerce, trades, manufactures, and natural history of the country;
to countenance and inculcate the principles of humanity and general
benevolence, public and private charity, industry and economy, honesty and
punctuality, sincerity, sobriety, and all social affections, and generous
sentiments, among the people. . . ." Now did you get the part where it says
the state has to pay for education? I didn't. The New Hampshire Supreme Court
has learned from the federal Supreme Court how to twist the constitution to say
what they want it to say.
This decision by the court has caused educational funding unrest that
continues to today. The state instituted a statewide property tax, but the
court doesn't like it, so the state needs to come up with another way. I
believe the goal of the courts is to force the legislature (which is cowering
before the power of the court) to enact an income tax.
The current method of a statewide property tax consists of the state
imposing a $5.80 per $1000 of assessed value. This is collected by the state
and distributed to the towns based on the number of students. The result is
that some towns send in more than they receive and other towns receive more
than they pay in (just like all government wealth distribution methods). So
the state has been divided into donor towns and receiver towns. The different
towns have banded together to enhance their voice in Concord. The donor towns
to abolish this mess, and the receiver towns, to make sure they keep getting
money. And as usually happens, the receiver towns out number the donor towns,
and since this is a democracy the majority rules.
Another point in all these shenanigans is that the poorer towns were
complaining that they needed more money to provide a better education. But when
they received the extra money, they used it to offset their education spending
thus reducing the amount the town needed to raise, allowing the town to spend
more of its own money on other things, and not increasing their education
spending. This education funding mess has the whole state in turmoil and I
believe it doesn't bode well for our freedoms.
August 6, 2002
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those
of the Free State Project, its Officers, or Directors.
The Jobs Question
There has been much talk about jobs and employment in the Free State
Project Forum. Members and potential members have concerns about their
futures. They want to know if the candidate states have jobs, will they be
able to feed their families, can they retire in comfort and other questions.
These are valid concerns. We all want to be able to find a job, support our
family, and give to our favorite charities. We are all in the same boat.
There has been much discourse on this issue but some of the fundamental parts
of the equation are being left out. In the report, I hope to discuss the
issues and take a closer look at each individual state for future
The first part of this report deals with the jobs question as a whole, and the
second part looks at the individual candidate states.
Part 1 About Jobs
The goal of the Free State Project is to move 20,000 or so people to a
low-populated state that leans libertarian and has inexpensive elections. Once
the 20,000 or so people move to the selected state they will work to slowly
reduce the size and scope of government by around 2/3. The first priority of
the FSP membership should be to pick which state is easiest to turn into a Free
This is a noble goal and while the three factors that were mentioned in the
first sentence of the previous paragraph might appear to be the most important
factors, some people consider other factors to be very important. One factor
that is often looked at and considered very important is the potential to find
employment. This is an important concern but the employment factor needs to be
broken down so that a greater understanding of it may be found.
Let us say that there will be 20,000 FSP members. (We do not know that there
will be 20,000 there may be fewer, there may be more but this is
the goal of the FSP). Roughly 20% of our membership is retired. Thus only
about 16,000 members will need jobs (80% of 20,000). Some of our members are
not yet retired but will be in less than ten years. Let us say that this group
of members makes up roughly 5% of our total membership. That means another
1,000 members will not need to find employment in the selected state. Thus,
15,000 of our members will need to find jobs in the selected state.
Additionally, the FSP has many single members. Chances are high, that if these
single members marry, they will marry other FSP members or citizens of the
selected state. If the single members marry other FSP members, the only
possible job-related side-effect is that some of these married couples will
decide to become one-income families. This means that fewer jobs will be
needed for the FSP, as a whole. If the single FSP members marry current
citizens of the selected state, this can only help us, also. Either nothing
will change or some of these newly married people will decide to become
single-family households and this will again help the FSP out. To determine
the exact numbers for these possibilities is very difficult so I will use a
conservative estimate and say that this will reduce the amount of jobs needed
for FSP members by 500 to 1,500. This means FSP members will only need around
14,000 jobs (15,000 1,000) in the selected state.
A large chunk of the FSP membership is married. The married members may be
broken down into two groups. One group consists of married members where the
spouses are also FSP members. The other group consists of married members
where the spouses are not FSP members. The latter group may be broken down
into double-income families and single-income families. Overall, the married
members with FSP members as spouses and married members with single-income
families should counteract the married members without FSP members as spouses
and produce a wash, as far as extra needed jobs are concerned.
After spending several months on the FSP Forum and Yahoo state discussion
groups, it has become apparent to me that a great deal of FSP members are
self-employed. Another group of members work through the internet, as
writers, through radio or the mail, for trucking companies, and other such ways
so that they can live in any of the candidate states and keep their current
job, or find one similar to it. Around 10% of the eventual 20,000 members fit
into this group. That means a state will only need around 12,000 extra jobs
(14,000 2,000) to accommodate every single FSP member.
There is another obvious factor that may easily be overlooked. Moving 20,000
people to a state will create many new jobs. New houses will need to be
opened, new medical staff will be needed, new stores and restaurants will be
needed, and more utility and transportation jobs will be needed. The levels of
employment for just about every service industry will go up. By the time the
move to the selected state is being completed, 1,000 to 3,000 jobs will have
been created simply because of our moving to the selected state. Let us just
say that we take half of these additional jobs. That means around 1,000 jobs
will go to FSP members, and we will only need 11,000 total jobs (12,000
Let us be honest though, and I am not trying to brag, but libertarians tend to
be more highly educated and better motivated than the average America. Lots of
the current American workforce do not put as much effort into their jobs as
they could. We know this. Employees and employers also know this. Because
unemployment rates are so low in much of the country and this problem is so
widespread, most employers understand that some of their employees are not
going to be motivated or hard working. This is the reality in America. Some
employers have gotten very aggressive and started to seek out and recruit
potential employees from Mexico and Latin American counties. I know this is
happening all over my region of the county (the South), and I have heard
reports of it happening in the Mountain-west, East coast, and all across the
country. If our 11,000 members in need of jobs act and dress professional,
work hard and honestly, and stay motivated, they will acquire jobs that are not
even advertised. In other words, employers will seek to replace the parts of
their workforce that are unproductive, with FSP members. In theory, we could
move to a state with only a few thousand projected new jobs and find work. All
we would need to do is replace some of the below-average workers with our,
above-average workers. If this is the reality (and it is in any state I have
ever visited), we should be able to find work in any of the states, regardless
of the projected job growth.
In some states, like Delaware, Wyoming, and New Hampshire, there are well over
100,000 additional projected jobs within less than one hour of the state line.
While the states around Delaware and New Hampshire have high income taxes, the
states around Wyoming mostly do not. FSP members will not need to travel to
neighboring states to find jobs, but it is nice to know that they are there, if
people think making very high salaries is worth the extra drive. The cities
nearby all three of these states offer lots of high tech jobs and jobs where
telecommuting is possible. For example, someone could live in Wyoming but make
$80,000 a year in Denver (or Salt Lake City) while only traveling to Denver (or
Salt Lake City) three days a week. There are also progressive shifts and jobs
where there is no work during the summer. A doctor can live in New Hampshire
but drive to Massachusetts three times per week for 16-hour shifts. For three
and a half months a year, a teacher that lives in Delaware but works in
Pennsylvania would not need to go to work. Of course, even if a member decided
to do this, it would only be for a few years. After a few years of reforming
the laws and promoting a very strong business climate in the selected state,
these same jobs will move to the selected state.
While most people that live in Mountain-western and Mid-western states prefer
to drive very short distances to work, many of the people from the Northeast
drive long distances everyday. For them, driving out-of-state for a very high
paying job, compared to an average job just down the street, might be a good
idea. For example, in South Dakota the average drive time, each way, is 16.6
minutes and it is 17.8 minutes in Wyoming. On the other hand, in Eastern
states it is longer. Maine is 22.7 minutes, New Hampshire is 25.3 minutes, and
Delaware is 24 minutes. These Eastern and California members are the ones that
currently drive long distances to work. There is no reason to think that these
members, if they want to make $80,000 per year, will not be willing to continue
driving long distances to work. However, if they are OK with making only
$35,000 or so, they will only have to drive around 16.6 minutes, each way, to
work in a state like South Dakota.
There has even been some talk that more projected new jobs is not necessarily a
good thing. We should at least consider this argument. We can make a list of
advantages and disadvantages of a high-growth state and a low-growth state:
High job-growth state:
- More jobs might mean the choice in places to live would be wider, although
jobs do tend to be concentrated in larger cities.
- More jobs might mean easier access to occupations for FSP members who are
- More jobs might mean the state is probably already experiencing heavy
immigration, which may lead to hostility towards newcomers. Add to that a
political agenda, and we may have a difficult time in the area of acceptance.
- More jobs might mean the economy in the state is already healthy. This
means FSP influence will be harder to prove in "turning things around", thus
making the Free State model less attractive to other states. FSP may thus be a
- More jobs, above the needs of FSP and Friends-of-FSP, will draw economic
refugees from other states. These will dilute FSP efforts to free the states,
particularly if the refugees are from nearby statist states that are exporting
jobs due to poor economic policies.
- More jobs means a fast-increasing population, so FSP may have difficulty
staying on top of things, and may find itself more in a defensive role, rather
than making progress in increasing freedom.
Low job-growth state:
- Fewer jobs, especially at the lowest levels, will slow down statist
immigration for the period that FSP members are immigrating to the state. This
will give us time to get up-to-speed politically, and start influencing things
particularly in the area of providing other disincentives for statists
to move to the state, which will be needed as FSP policies gradually improve
the economic picture.
- Fewer jobs might mean the economy is flat. Thus, we should be able to
subsequently make a convincing demonstration of the benefits of freedom to the
economy. This demonstration will help spread freedom to neighboring states,
particularly those that are languishing.
- Fewer jobs might mean more difficult access to occupations for FSP members
who are not retired. It will take more years for all our member-population to
move to the state.
- Fewer jobs might mean that more FSP members will have to go to tech or
vocation school to learn a new skill.
- Fewer jobs might mean that some FSP members might want to travel out of
state to find the very high-paying jobs that big cities offer.
To conclude this section: Much of the worrying about job is unfounded and
overblown. All of the candidate states have enough jobs for us if we are
productive and proactive. Remember, all we need is around 11,000 new jobs.
Given all of the above, even if we had 25,000 members, all of our members would
still find jobs in any of the candidate states. We are libertarians, we are
motivated (otherwise we would not be activists), and we are professional. We
will have 7-8 years to find a job in the selected state. All of us will be
able to find jobs in the selected state. We will find jobs, we will be
activists, and the project will succeed. Remember, freedom creates jobs.
Part 2 Individual State Data
- The Current Job Health of the States
This factor looks at unemployment rates to compare the health of each state's
current job climate. Remember that unemployment rates are subject to quick and
radical change so this factor is of very limited importance. It is of
importance only when the state has a long-term trend of having a high
unemployment rate. In those cases, I make a special note. Anything under 4.5%
is generally considered good. Percentages are current as of May 2003.
1 Idaho has been 4.6% or higher since 1978 and above 5.1%
for most of that time. However, considering that Idaho is near the Northwest,
it is not doing too poorly. Historically (and currently), Washington and
Oregon have had higher unemployment rates than Idaho.
2 Alaska has been 5.6% or higher since 1978 and above 8.0%
for most of that time.
- Future Job Health Level of the States
This factor is somewhat important, but not written in stone. This number is
figured by using two different government figured projections and is subject to
change. It is figured by dividing the 2012 projected population by the number
of new jobs expected in each state by 2010. The 2012 projected population
numbers are figured by extrapolating the growth from 2000 to 2002 in each
state. This factor tells how many people it will take in each state by 2012 to
produce the need for one new job. The lower the number, the healthier a
state's job levels are. In other words, the lower the number, the better.
If you were to compare the states by region, the Mountain-west is best,
followed by a tie between the Mid-west and Alaska, and the Northeast is last.
Interestingly enough, the best big state is Montana, the best mid-sized stated
is South Dakota, and the best small state is Wyoming. Idaho also does really
well. All four of these states border each other. If these government
projections hold up, this north Mountain-west/western plains region has a very
good future job health level. All four of these states seem to be on the same
page. On the other hand, in the north Northeast, Vermont and Maine are on the
same downward spiral, while New Hampshire is a bright spot. At least in this
one category, the northern Northeast region is not one united region.
Future State Health Level
||19.0 || 24.5|
- Projected new jobs in the next ten years
This is the number of new jobs projected in each state over the next ten years
by the government of each state. See the first part of this report for a long
list of reasons why this factor is not very important. Additionally, the
government data does not figure in the under the counter businesses. For
example, many house cleaning, yard work, house repair, auto repair, farm/ranch
hand, and sales jobs tend to be under the counter. So, for the states with
under 700,000 people, another 5,000 new jobs can likely be added to their
totals (and 10,000 new jobs for the states with over 1,200,000 people).
Generally, the way this number works is that the higher population states have
more projected new jobs. So, if you want tons of projected new jobs (even
though we do not need them) you are asking for a highly populated state.
Instead, if you want the best chance for the success of the project (likely in
the lowest population states), then not as many extra jobs will be available.
After you figure in projected new out-of-state jobs that are within an hour's
drive the ranks change somewhat. The reason why the ranking changes so much is
because some states like Delaware and Wyoming might have less than 100,000
projected new jobs but the areas within an hour's drive, have more than 100,000
projected new jobs. Here are some of the out-of-state cities:
Philadelphia, PA |
|NH || St.
Johnsbury, VT Lowell, MA Lawrence, MA |
|ID || Spokane,
Scottsbluff, NE Ft. Collins, CO Loveland, CO |
|ME || Lawrence,
|ND || Moorhead,
|SD || Sioux
City, IA |
- State median household income (scaled for cost of living)
Delaware and Wyoming are the highest. Delaware and New Hampshire have higher
than average cost of livings and higher than average median household incomes.
Wyoming has a lower than average household income and a lower than average cost
of living. New Hampshire and South Dakota also do well. Maine, Idaho, and
Montana score very low.
|Out of 10
- Number of Activists needed to reach the 1 to 62 ratio for a population
There is another interesting way to look at this equation. If we were to go by
just activists per state resident, the numbers of activists we need per state
are very different. The candidate states have been chosen based on one main
factor, population. Lots of Jason's original research dealt with the Parti
Quebecois of Quebec, Canada. Jason, the founder and President of the Free State
Project, described how the PQ had 100,000 paying members in a Canadian province
with around 6,200,000 residents when it gained a parliamentary majority in
1976. This makes one PQ activist for every 62 Quebec residents. The FSP would
need 20,000 activists in a state with fewer than 1,200,000 residents to attempt
to duplicate the PQ's success. If you never read Jason's article or want to
read it again, you can find it
here. We cannot go
by the 1,200,000 population number because the FSP leaders decided to include
states with up to 1,500,000 people.
This calculation is figured by dividing the 2001 Census Bureau populations by
20,000. Idaho is on pace to surpass the 1.5 million threshold by 2007. The
current time frame set by the FSP is 2010.
This factor shows how many activists will be need, as a minimum, in each state
to have a major impact on the electorate. If we only need 7,000 activists in
Wyoming and only 8,000 activists in Vermont, there should be no job problem in
those states. Remember, as demonstrated in the first half of this report,
20,000 activists only need 11,000 new jobs. If that is true, how many jobs
would 8,000 Vermont activists need? 7,000? 6,000? Surely there are more than
6,000 new projected jobs in Vermont (34,000+ is the official estimate). If you
notice, the more populated states require more activists and need more jobs.
While the less populated states need less activists and provide less new jobs.
However, the less populated states are able to handle all 20,000 activists.
Based on these numbers alone, we would be about 200% as effective in Alaska
when compared to Idaho. The same 200% is true for a Wyoming vs. New Hampshire
or a Vermont vs. Maine comparison.
For more information and some sources, please check these links:
FSP Forum link 1
FSP Forum link 2
State Initiative and Referendum Report
by Glen Hubbell
The initiative and referendum process
The initiative and referendum process is how the citizens of a state areable to bypass a state legislature that will not or cannot act in the citizens'interests.
Leveraging the Spirit of the West in New Hampshire
by James Maynard
The people of the western states have a great spirit. The wide open lands
seem to inspire a "Don't tread on me" fervor in many people west of the
Mississippi, and east of California. Many western people tend to think of the
east as being "back east", as if they moved from the Atlantic coast themselves
just a while before landing in Wyoming, Montana or Idaho.
The western spirit has kept those states from adopting any wide-spread planning
and zoning laws, or other regulations which stifles the freedom to ride the
lands, reveling in a "don't fence me in" attitude which is greatly admired by
many in the east.
As the Free State Project chooses our state, we realize that no state is
perfect, and every state needs work to bring greater freedom and liberty to the
people of our chosen state.
But we need to look at what battles we will have to fight in each state, and
what kind of access we will have as we work together in the trenches of the
political machinery of our chosen state.
If any continental western state is chosen, we will need to repeal either a
sales or income tax. That would mean making changes at the state level, which
would require FSP members to either gain control or influence in the state
legislature and governor's office. We would be able to do it eventually, but
there would be many fights and elections to get through before we have the
power to change such a deeply entrenched state law. Meanwhile, the porcupines
would be fought tooth and nail by big government activists (which exist in
every state), who would give everyone they could the impression that we were
out to hurt the elderly, children and the disabled. They would have an issue
almost custom made for big government activists. And since it would take us
years to get enough people or influence in the statehouse to repeal such a
broad-based tax, the big-government activists would get to strike first.
But New Hampshire is the last state in the continental US without a general
sales or income tax. The issues we would need to work on early in the Granite
State would be eliminating planning and zoning (P&Z) laws, and reducing
home schooling regulations. Exactly what the "spirit of the west" is so good at
keeping at bay.
Most New Hampshire P&Z laws are regulated at the local level, where we can
have the greatest influence in the shortest amount of time. In New Hampshire
cities, people are allowed to sit in at committee and City Council meetings,
and can speak and suggest ideas which are taken seriously just by
raising their hands. Also, New Hampshire offers elections in the towns, and
warrant articles in the cities every spring. With only 30 votes in Keene, for
instance, one can place an issue on the ballot, which the whole city then votes
New Hampshire towns still use the old fashioned New England town meeting, where
the citizens themselves work on what the town should be doing or not doing, and
on details of the town's budget for the next year. The citizen participation
and influence at these meetings is the closest thing to true democracy which
exists in the country today.
Governor Benson, in a June meeting with Free State Project members, told the
group that increasing school choice will be one of the next things he begins
work on. For people wishing to decrease home-schooling regulations in the
state, they will find an ally in New Hampshire's Governor's office.
Every time anyone tries to make a change in the political system, there will be
those who will oppose them; and the changes the FSP proposes will be no
exception, no matter what state we choose. But the potential supporter base for
supporting P&Z laws and home schooling regulations will be much smaller
than those people who will be scared by the thought of their state government
losing a significant portion of its revenue. Unfriendly media will get much
more mileage out of "Libertarian activists wish to slice government revenue by
30%" than they will with "Libertarian activists wish to end zoning laws".
And given the easy access for citizens in towns compared to states, we will be
the ones who get to "strike first" in our P&Z fight.
And in the other issue which needs to be changed first at the state level in
New Hampshire (home schooling regulations), we will have the most powerful
person in the state on our side.
The Libertarian Party of New Hampshire has done an admirable job at helping to
keep a general sales or income tax from taking root in New Hampshire. But part
of the cost of that has been a slow creeping of zoning laws and home schooling
regulations, although 10% of New Hampshire municipalities have no such laws.
This is where New Hampshire needs people who believe in the "spirit of the
With people who have lived with the "spirit of the west", who believe in the
phrase "Don't fence me in", the current P&Z laws in New Hampshire cities
and towns do not have long left to exist on the books. With help from above and
below, home schooling regulations in the state will quickly be squeezed in the
No matter which state we choose, we will have a fight ahead of us. But working
for greater liberty in the areas of zoning and home schooling will prove easier
than a fight against a broad-based tax, and will allow us an instant say in how
changes are made, without having to win office first. The issues which
big-government forces will have to use against will also prove much weaker in
the case of New Hampshire than in a western state.
New Hampshire Where the fight is easier, faster and leaves our opponents
the least effective tools to use against us. In New Hampshire, we can leverage
the western strengths to tremendous advantage. But we need the "spirit of the
west" to help us win.
This report is presented in two parts. Part One offers the items of general
interest, the demographics and an overview of the vitality and variety of life
in Maine. In Part One there are many links to pertinent websites. I hope you
will enjoy these as much as I did. Feel free to linger awhile. Part Two is more
directly focused on concerns of the Free State Project and is a comparison of
the four eastern states.
Maine was at one time part of Massachusetts. It became its own state in
1820, becoming the 23rd state admitted to the United States of America,
although its northern borders were not finalized until 1842. Below is a link to
a brief but easily readable historical review: http://www.state.me.us/sos/kids/allabout/historydetail.htm.
This is a link to an untold number of facts about Maine: http://www.maine.gov/portal/facts_history/facts.html.
Meanwhile, here is a brief overview:
Population of Maine in 2000: 1,274,923
Land Area: 33,215 square miles
Length of Coastline: 3,500 miles
Lakes and Ponds: 6,000
Forest: 17 million acres
Persons per Square Mile: 41.3
Largest City: Portland
State Capitol: Augusta
Statehood: Became the 23rd State on March 15, 1820
There is another way to discover interesting facts about Maine ... through
BOOKS ABOUT MAINE.
The Maine State Constitution created Maine's government system, with three
co-equal branches - the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches.
The State of Maine also has three Constitutional Officers (the Secretary of
State, the State Treasurer, and the State Attorney General) and one Statutory
Officer (the State Auditor). For more information see http://www.maine.gov/portal/government/index.html.
Governor Angus King (Independent)
The Executive Branch is responsible for execution of the laws created by the
legislature and is headed by the Governor. The Governor is elected every four
years, and no individual may serve more than two consecutive terms in this
The Judicial Branch is responsible for interpreting the laws and is headed
by the Supreme Judicial Court. All judicial officers are appointed by the
Governor and serve a term of 7 years.
The Legislative Branch is responsible for making the laws and is made up of
the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senate has 35 members who are
elected every 2 years, and the House has 151 members who are also elected every
This is one of the most beautiful and impressive sites I found. It
demonstrates the enormous diversity of geologic elements. Check this one out
There are nine public universities; two state training academies, a
criminal justice and marine maritime; eight technical colleges; and seventeen
private colleges, including Andover, Bates, Bowdoin, Colby and Maine
This link will take you to a beautiful color map of the counties.
Number of Counties: 16
Smallest county: Knox (366 sq miles)
Largest county: Aroostook: (6672 sq miles)
Counties: Androscoggin, Aroostook, Cumberland, Franklin, Hancock, Kennebec,
Knox, Lincoln, Oxford, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Sagadahoc, Somerset, Waldo,
Climate & Weather
| Month || Ave. high || Ave. low || Warmest ever
|| Coldest ever || Ave. dew pt. || Ave. precip.
| JAN || 31 || 12 || 64 || -26 || 13 || 3.7
| FEB || 33 || 14 || 64 || -39 || 14 || 3.3
| MARCH || 41 || 24 || 88 || -21 || 22 || 4.0
| APRIL || 53 || 34 || 85 || 8 || 32 || 3.9
| MAY || 63 || 43 || 94 || 23 || 43 || 3.6
| JUNE || 73 || 52 || 98 || 33 || 53 || 3.1
| JULY || 79 || 58 || 99 || 40 || 59 || 2.9
| AUG || 78 || 56 || 103 || 33 || 58 || 2.9
| SEPT || 69 || 48 || 95 || 23 || 51 || 3.2
| OCT || 59 || 38 || 88 || 15 || 40 || 3.6
| NOV || 47 || 30 || 74 || 3 || 31 || 5.0
| DEC || 36 || 18 || 71 || -21 || 18 || 4.3
In addition to supporting traditional industries such as agriculture, paper,
commercial fishing, and shipbuilding, and many small businesses that represent
Mainers' independent spirit, Maine has attracted some large new companies in
the last decade. MBNA, the world's largest issuer of the Gold MasterCard and
the second-largest lender through bank credit cards, selected Camden as the
site for its northern regional headquarters and has opened several additional
facilities in Maine. National Semiconductor, a multinational semiconductor
manufacturer, selected South Portland over 25 other sites worldwide for an
eight-inch wafer fabrication plant. ICT Group, one of the world's largest call
center teleservice companies, opened its first call center operation in Maine
during 1997, and has since opened three additional facilities in the state.
Comprehensive list of all FAA-registered airports in Maine.
- Augusta State Airport (AUG), located 1 mile from downtown Augusta.
- Bangor International Airport (BGR), located 2 miles from downtown Bangor
- Houlton International Airport (HUL)
- Knox County Regional Airport, located in Owl's Head, Rockland.
- Northern Maine Regional Airport at Presque Isle
- Portland International Jetport (PWM), located 2 miles from downtown Portland
Property taxes are the primary source of revenue for Maine's cities and
towns and are used to provide local government services. The only other sources
of local revenue for municipalities come from excise taxes on motor vehicles
and boats and some user fees, such as parking, recreation and license fees.
Maine law from using any other form of taxation to raise revenues to fund local
services bars municipalities. Property taxes also fund county government, which
adds about $50 million to municipal budgets statewide.
While it is true that property taxes no longer reflect on a person's ability
to pay, it is nonetheless also true that property taxes in Maine are a bargain
when you look at the quantity and quality of the services that the state's
local governments provide.
Local government is the level of government "closest to the people." It is
the level of government which citizens have the greatest access to and the most
control over. It is as close as we come to self-government. However, with this
right to self-govern comes the responsibility to be informed and to make
thoughtful decisions that are in the best interest of all the citizens
in your community. Being an active participant in municipal affairs is the
responsible way to exercise this right of self-government.
Part Two: Comparison of 4 Eastern States
At this point in the FreeStateProject efforts to select a state, it is, in
my view, appropriate to compare and contrast only eastern states and
only western states. At another juncture we will move to comparison of
eastern and western states. In other words, for now, lets compare "apples to
apples" and later "apples to oranges."
The four eastern states are: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Delaware. In
an attempt to make a fair comparison I devised a chart using fifteen categories
and the stats from the state comparison charts on the FSP website but comparing
only the eastern states to each other. None of these categories was weighted
because we have no valid basis for doing so. Without true statistical
research, weighting is simply a matter of personal opinion. In each category,
first place received a value of 4, second place a value of 3, third place a
value of 2 and fourth place a value of 1.
The categories are as follows: 1) Economic Freedom Index; 2) Highest Per
Capita Income; 3) Low Violent Crimes; 4) Low Federal Land Ownership; 5) Fewest
Gun Controls; 6) Livability Index; 7) Population Density per Sq. Miles; 8) Jobs
Forecast; 9) Highest Votes for Conservative/Libertarian Presidential Candidate;
10) Legislative Party Balance; 11) Lowest State/Local Taxes; 12) Small Total
Govt. Sect; 13) Small State/Local Govt. Sector; 14) Coastal State; 15) Foreign
Border. In addition I added two categories: 16) Initiative and Referendum
Process and 17) Term Limits for Legislators.
I did not add voter population or % of population voters because I strongly
disagree that this is a relevant factor. In my mind there is zero degree of
certainty or even probability that a smaller population is easier to influence.
I feel it is much more relevant for whom the votes were cast than the number of
votes cast. Had I added that category, the outcome would have varied little.
And the envelope, please: With a sub-total of the first 15 categories, New
Hampshire finished first with 45 points; Maine was second with 38 points;
Delaware was third with 36 points and Vermont fourth with 31 points. However,
adding the final two categories listed above changed the results remarkably.
Maine is the only state that has initiative and referendum process and the only
one with term limits, thus receiving a 4 in each category while the others did
not score. Adding these scores pushed Maine into first place ahead of New
Hampshire leaving the other two in the same places. Since these categories were
not truly "comparative," I decided not to officially count them, but I think
they are extremely important and certainly worth mentioning.
In summary, may I say that I think Maine has many things to recommend it as
a strong choice, even a first choice, among the eastern states. Let me review
the positive aspects in two categories: the immutable or unchangeable and the
mutable or "fixable."
In the immutable category, Maine has 3500 miles of coastline; at least 20
times that of Delaware and almost 200 times that of New Hampshire ... Vermont
having none, of course. No other state in the contiguous U.S. can approach this
benefit in terms of financial and aesthetic opportunities. It is unparalleled.
In addition, Maine has in excess of 500 miles of border with Canada. It
seems widely accepted among this group how important this aspect is, since
overall, seven states have been selected with this characteristic.
Finally, Maine has the largest land mass. Some have said that a smaller
number of square miles will be advantageous and easier for us to conquer. I
challenge that notion. I feel we will be very, very glad for all that territory
when people from every place on the globe start flocking to our state.
When all the unjust laws have been discarded and we have set Maine free, we
will be left with these three enviable characteristics and a free
state in which to live. Consider this carefully.
The second category of positives, which are taken from the comparisons on
the charts at the FSP website, are those that fall within the mutable category.
Another way to say that is these are the aspects of the current society in
Maine that have been wrought by human effort. When we choose Maine from among
the four eastern states, we choose a state, which has:
- Least gun controls
- Lowest federal land ownership
- Lowest population density
- Second highest livability factor
- Second lowest violent crime rates (112 vs. Delaware's734, for example)
- Highest number votes Libertarian presidential candidate (3094)
- Second highest number votes for conservative or libertarian presidential candidate
- The only one of the four states with Initiative/Referendum process
- The only one of the four states with term limits on legislators
- The only one of the four states with 2 Republican senators and an Independent Party governor
- 5 elected Libertarians in office
Still in the mutable or "fixable" category I offer you what I consider the
shortcomings we would initially encounter:
- Higher state and federal income taxes
- Sales tax
- High federal, state and local government spending
- Lower economic freedom index
- Larger government sector
These economic factors would demand our immediate attention and remediation.
I have no doubt we FreeStaters would have a challenge to face in the
political and economic arena in Maine. But, did someone say this would be easy?
Has "easy" ever been a consideration for people of passion and devotion to a
cause? I urge you to look at the unequaled qualities of Maine's geography and
the excellent attributes of Maine's livability factors as you decide among the
four eastern states.
August 28, 2002
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those
of the Free State Project, its Officers, or Directors.
by Ben Irvin
A few days ago on one of the FSP discussion groups I mentioned that in 56
years (almost 57 years) I have lived (for sixty days or more) in 89 communities
in every state between the Hundredth Meridian and the Sierra Nevada Mountains
(except Nebraska and North Dakota). As a teenager I was interested in freedom
and in seeking a place and way for achieving it. As early as 1962 I researched
the advantages of secession. Thus, my interest in things relating to the
primary goal of the Free State Project is long-standing. I have given, over the
past forty years, considerable thought to the subject.
My years of contemplation and research have led me to a conclusion about
which state is most amenable to the Jeffersonian concepts of independence,
limited government, and liberty. That state would be Montana. Indeed, if
freedom alone is the primary objective, no other state comes close.
My choice of Montana is not based so much on collected statistical data as
on subjective reality (Transcendentalism Lives!). Since my childhood I have
been in and out of Montana many times (living in other states). I currently
- for the past two years - have lived in Idaho. One thing that I and freedom
loving Montanans notice when forced to live away from Montana is the much
higher level of statism, coercion (governmental and social), regulation, etc.
that exists in other states. In some states the heavy hand of government is
more pronounced (WA, OR, TX, KS, CA). In other states not so much (NV, ID, and
WY). However, in all states the degree of liberty seems much less than in
Montana. Most Montanans that move away mention this reduction of liberty ("We
have to behave here; for, we're not in Montana any more, etc.). I've noticed
that even my use of language seems restricted outside of Montana.
- Small Police Force
One thing that visitors notice when visiting is the unusually low number of
visible police cars. Indeed it is possible to drive completely through the
state (all 800+ miles) and never see a policeman. In fact, Montana does not
have a state police force, but rather a highway patrol. Ten years ago I was a
good friend of one of the state's few highway patrol officers. I asked him how
many officers were on duty at any time. He responded that at maximum there are
108 officers and at minimum 42 officers on duty at any time. Remember, Montana
is larger in square miles than Germany. County and city law enforcement
numbers are also low. In Ravalli County (seventh largest in population) there
are at times only three sheriff's deputies on duty. Montana Highway Patrol
officers are trained to serve and protect the public and little else.
- Socio-Cultural Background
About 10% of Montana's population is American Indian. The primary tribes
(those with national homelands) are: Atsina (Gros Ventre), Chippewa, Blackfeet,
Crow, Cree, Dakota, Assiniboine, Northern Cheyenne, Salish, and Kutenai. All of
the states tribes have declared sovereignty from Montana and are fiercely
independent (they acknowledge no Montana laws and few federal). Many
non-Indians prefer to live on Indian land (12% of Montana) because of this
almost total lack of restrictive rules, taxes, regulation,etc. Montana also has
a very large French and Metis (French-Indian) population. Most of the French
population are the descendents of mountain men and fur traders from the early
19th Century. They also tend to be independent in behavior. Probably Montana's
single largest ethnic group is the Irish. They first came to the state to pan
for gold and later to work in the copper mines of Butte. Little needs to be
said about the frontier Irish and an independent nature. All three primary
ethnic groups are enculturated to individualism and liberty ... all are free
About thirty years ago there was a popular book (in Montana at least)
entitled Montana: A Two Lane Highway in a Four Lane World." Many thought the
book amusing in the way that it portrayed the so-called backward and country
ways/manners of Montana and Montanans. What was most illuminating about the
book were the ways Montanans did most things differently than the rest of
America (more about that later): no speed limits or anti-prostitution law
enforcement, little liquor or gambling control, active gun culture, no sales
tax, no pornography regulation, no "open container" laws or anti-nudity
ordinances (seldom enforced), etc. The book made the case that because of
Montana's isolation, the frontier values of 1889 and before had become part and
parcel of Montana's political and cultural climate. In other words, the raw
individualism and spirit of liberty of the men and women that settled and tamed
Montana (somewhat) are still a living entity in the Montana of 1972 (and
Montana's isolation has caused the state to be more self-sufficient than
most. The state has its own private television network (The Montana Television
Network-MTN), canning factories (Redlodge Brands, etc.), railroads (Montana
Rail Link, + Butte, Anaconda and Pacific, etc.), truck farming regions,
independent telephone companies (about 50), refineries and steel factories,
etc. The state is set up to survive with or without the rest of America.
- Other Freedom Indicators
There are numerous other freedom indicators. One should remember that
libertarian philosophy is not always an exact match with freedom as experienced
by an individual. One such freedom is Montana's constitutional mandate that the
state owns all water within the borders of Montana (up to the high water mark).
This constitutional law is unique. In effect it allows anyone to hunt, fish,
camp, target practice, live, hike, explode fire-crackers, etc. on any river,
stream, creek, or brook in the state below the high water mark. Anyone that has
tried to fish, hunt, etc. in say Colorado knows the value of such a law.
Montana's 1972 Constitution allows counties and local government to be
creative. Both counties and cities may be easily altered or abolished. About
twenty years ago, all the towns and cities in Silver Bowl County (Butte)
eradicated (unincorporated) themselves. All city governments, police forces,
fire departments, etc. were abolished in the county. A new Silver Bowl County
government was established that saves the taxpayers millions of dollars each
year. Montana makes it very difficult for rural areas to be annexed by
incorporated cities/towns, for a majority of the citizens must agree to be
annexed . The state makes incorporating (cities and towns) very unrewarding.
Once incorporated you do not get any money from the state or county ... a town
is on its own. As recently as 1992, the fourth largest urban community in the
state (Billings Heights) was unincorporated. Anyone that has ever driven
through either rural or urban Montana can sense the almost total lack of zoning
ordinances. People build what they want, where they want, on their own
Members of the Free State Project should notice how the state treats it 57
Hutterite communities. Hutterites are a communal ethnic group that has frozen
its social and religious culture in the rural 16th Century German-Tyrolean
culture of its origin. Hutterites are a pure communist society that has a
unique religion and speaks in an archaic German dialect. The culture refuses to
acknowledge the state or to vote or serve in the military in any capacity.
Traditionally they have refused to send any of their children to public
schools. Each Hutterite community buys large land tracks and expands every
20-25 years (they have a very high birth rate). Although their social culture
is frozen in time, their technical culture demands the most modern equipment
available. Many consider them the most efficient farmers in the world. Because
of their unusual culture and life-style, most states and provinces have
legislated against them. They have been "outlawed" in North Dakota, and severe
restrictions have been placed on them in South Dakota, Alberta, and elsewhere.
Only Montana has made a successful accommodation with them ("The Hutterite Act"
of 1956). Under the compromise, Hutterites may buy all the land they want, live
communally, and live their own culture without any interference from Montana.
Their only compromise was in education. All Hutterite children (from age 7-14)
must attend Montana public schools. However, all schools may be at the
principle church building (in a colony), and all the children (100%) may be
Hutterite. In addition, the school board was allowed be all Hutterite and a
third of the instruction could be whatever the Hutterite desire. The agreement
allowed the colonies to select the teacher (who is not permitted to reside in
the colony). The Hutterite are also exempted from serving in the Militia of
Montana. Because of this agreement, almost all new colonies started since 1960
are in Montana. Because of their high birth rate, archaic Tyrolean-German has
become the third most common language used by Montanans (Crow is second) under
eighteen years of age.
For many years a few large corporations owned most of the private land in
the state. Because of this the state has placed severe restrictions on giant
corporations and has designed legislation that helps small businesses. An
example of this would be the gambling laws. To keep large Las Vegas type
corporations away from the state, Montana puts a limit of 25 gambling machines
per private company (usually Keno or poker machines). Anyone that has a beer,
wine, or hard liquor permit may establish a casino. Anyone with $250.00 can get
a beer permit (no limits). A gambling permit also costs $250.00. The cost of
the permit is used to pay private machine inspectors that check every thirty
days to make sure the machines are paying off at the listed rate (80%). Because
service stations like Conoco are individually owned, they (Conoco) have become
the largest casino name in the state. At least half of all gasoline stations
are casinos. It should be noted that an individual might own an unlimited
amount of (limited to 25 machines per location) casinos.
The Constitution of Montana is stronger than the interpreted U.S.
Constitution in regards to privacy rights. A man's home is his castle. The
State Supreme Court has ruled (on several occasions) that a person's vehicle is
considered one's home. Thus, probable cause or a search warrant must be used to
search an automobile. A few years ago the Missoula city police thought that a
new "cash cow" would be to check for drunk drivers exiting from "tail-gate
parties" at University of Montana football games. This lasted for only one
weekend before a state judge ruled that such police actions were in violation
of the Montana Constitution. The state has no "open container" laws. Indeed,
many Montanans build elaborate bars on the dash area of their vehicles.
Restrictions on freedom are not limited to government. Social-cultural
limitations on lived freedom are often as severe as anything that government
might impose. On paper, Utah has a high level of liberty; however, in practice,
Utah is very restrictive on personal freedom. An example would be the recent
news story about a suburban Utah lady who worked in her garden every day clad
only in a very revealing Bikini. Local socio-cultural traditions forced the
local city government to prohibit her from dressing in a Bikini.
This would never happen in Montana. Many former out-of-state people (now
long-time residence of Montana) mention this freedom from conservative values
that exists in Montana. Try wearing your Colt .45's when entering a saloon in
Colorado (or Kansas, etc.). This is common in Montana; for, the spirit of the
old West (closely related to the spirit of 1776) still lives in the "Big Sky."
Try taking your children with you to a casino in Nevada. In Montana, not only
are children welcomed in casinos, they can bring you your whiskey ditch to
drink. Before July 1, 1993 it was legal for a ten year old to enter a hard
liquor bar/casino and order and smoke a pack of cigarettes. The law was only
changed because of Federal pressure (Montana was the 50th state to establish an
age limit on the purchase of tobacco products). Montana law also makes it
illegal for police to arrest a publicly intoxicated person unless that person's
health is in immediate danger or the person is breaking the law. A famous
business in Missoula (Montana's second largest city) is called "The Joint
Effort." Last year the FBI and DEA tried to get the city of Missoula to deny
the business a business license and close it down. The city told the Feds to
back off and stop interfering with private businesses and with regulations that
are solely the concern of state or local governments (thus far, the feds have
done what they were told).
The state constitution is very strong in free speech/press rights. I have
read several times that Montana is one of only four states (I don't know the
other three) that has total freedom of speech and press. The state also
prohibits local governments from interfering with freedom of speech and press.
Out-of-staters that enter an adult bookstore are always shocked. Any and all
sexual acts imaginable with man or beast are for purchase. A decade ago I was
the head administrator for a school in northern Idaho (a much different
cultural realm than Montana). The high school 4-H club had a conference to
attend in southeastern Idaho. It was easiest to get to the conference by
driving through western Montana. At Missoula, Montana the bus broke down and
all the students had to spend a night in a local motel that just happened to be
across the street from a typical Montana Adult bookstore and recreation center.
Some of the students managed to sneak away from the chaperons and get into the
adult center. They are still talking about this in that small community in
northern Idaho. It seems, that some students saw a whole new world that was and
is unimaginable in Idaho (or most of America). There were two special school
board meetings called to discus the "sin" Idaho teenagers had been exposed to.
However, I did notice, as time moved on, that a higher than average number of
our students decided to attend colleges in Montana.
Montana is the place of choice for anti-socials to retreat. The Unabomber,
the Freemen, Peter Fonda, etc. all selected the state to become hidden. Because
of Montana's reputation and laws the feds usually treat Montana and Montanans
with knit gloves (compared to other states). In 1996 a group of "Freemen" were
surrounded in a remote area of eastern Montana. The feds, apparently either
fearful of Montana's laws (it is illegal under the state constitution for any
armed band of people to enter the state without the permission of the
legislature or governor) or people, the FBI requested that the Montana Highway
Patrol and the Governor be in charge of surrounding and arresting the Freeman.
Governor Raicott agreed, but later billed the FBI 4.8 million dollars. During
the siege (that went on for weeks) a federal agent was never seen on TV. Of
course, the Montana Highway Patrol arrested all 24 people without a shot being
fired. Compare this with Waco and the way the FBI treated Texans, Texas law,
and Texas law enforcement officials. The "Gestapo" behaves in Montana.
In summary, experienced or real freedom is higher in Montana than any other
state. Not only is the heavy hand of government noticed less in Montana, the
heavy hand of conservative social morality is at a lower level than any other
state. One can dump a broken down 1958 Studebaker in the front yard and sit on
it everyday in one's underwear drinking beer, wearing a holstered .45 auto, and
make obscene gestures at traffic passing by in the largest city in Montana and
not get arrested (unless, of course, one throws beer bottles or shoots at the
passing vehicles). If freedom is the primary objective of the Free State
Project, then Montana is the best place to locate. It is the place Thomas
Jefferson would live in if he were alive.
July 24, 2002
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those
of the Free State Project, its Officers, or Directors.
State Home and Land Ownership Report
by Joe Littlejohn
It has been speculated that a higher rate of homeownership, indicates a
higher rate of citizenry well disposed to property rights issues, since they
would have a vested interest in protecting their own property. For example, a
higher rate of people within cities rent, which correlates with things like
rent control laws, subsidized housing, etc.
However, if you look at the U.S. Census figures, the percentage of
homeownership is fairly even across the nation. All of the FSP candidate states
are above the national average except for Alaska which trailed by only 2.5%.
The highest were Maine and Delaware being more than 7% over the U.S. average.
This doesn't appear to be a very critical factor since most of our states
under consideration are above average anyway, and the spread isn't very
significant (less than 10% from top to bottom).
So I looked for other factors, such as number of small businesses, the self
employed, property taxes, farm land, the percentage of government owned land
per state, and rent control and zoning laws.
This short paper was primarily meant to present raw data relating to
personal property issues, rather than an full analysis. The following are a
few statistically significant facts which seemed to stand out:
- largest amount and percentage of gov. land - Alaska
- smallest amount of farm land and farms - Alaska
- smallest percentage of home owners - Alaska
- smallest number employed by small business - Alaska
- least land zoning, according to Sierra Club - Alaska
- Smallest actual amount of government land - Delaware
- only state with no USFW, NPS, BLM land - Delaware
- largest per capita rate of property tax - Delaware
- smallest percent employed by small business - Delaware
- smallest number and percent of self employed - Delaware
- largest percentage of home owners - Maine,Delaware
- Smallest percentage of government land - Maine
- largest actual amount of property tax collected Maine
- largest amount of farm land - South Dakota
- smallest total property tax collected - South Dakota
- smallest per capita property tax rate - South Dakota
- largest total small business income - Idaho
- largest number of employer businesses - Idaho
- largest number employed by small business - Montana
- largest number self employed - Montana
- most land zoning, according to Sierra Club - Montana
- largest percent state revenue from property tax New Hampshire
- largest workforce - New Hampshire
- smallest amount of small business income - North Dakota
- smallest workforce - Wyoming
U.S. Census figures, Homeownership Rates by State: 1997 to
| ||1997 ||1998 ||1999 ||2000
|United States ||65.7 ||66.3 ||66.8
||67.4 ||67.8 |
|Alaska ||67.2 ||66.3 ||66.4 ||66.4
|Delaware ||69.2 ||71.0 ||71.6 ||72.0
|Idaho ||72.3 ||72.6 ||70.3 ||70.5
|Maine ||74.9 ||74.6 ||77.4 ||76.5
|Montana ||67.5 ||68.6 ||70.6 ||70.2
|New Hampshire ||66.8 ||69.6 ||70.2
||69.2 ||68.4 |
|North Dakota ||68.1 ||68.0 ||70.1
||70.7 ||71.0 |
|South Dakota ||67.6 ||67.3 ||70.7
||71.2 ||71.5 |
|Vermont ||69.1 ||69.1 ||69.1 ||68.7
|Wyoming ||67.6 ||70.0 ||69.8 ||71.0
States Ranked by Total Property Taxes and Per Capita, 2001 (revised July 2002)
Total Property Tax Revenue by State (in millions of dollars)
- 40 Maine 2,669 m
- 41 Idaho 2.558 m
- 43 Delaware 2,174 m
- 44 New Hampshire 1,776 m
- 45 Vermont 1,553 m
- 46 Montana 1,496 m
- 47 Alaska 1,429 m
- 48 North Dakota 1,231 m
- 49 Wyoming 1,124 m
- 50 South Dakota 977 m
Note: Higher population states of necessity have higher total property tax
revenue, so these figures do not mean much.
Property Tax Per Capita (in dollars)
- 3 Delaware 2,731.14
- 7 Vermont 2,532.64
- 9 Wyoming 2,273.96
- 11 Alaska 2,250.30
- 17 Maine 2,074.30
- 19 North Dakota 1,940.35
- 20 Idaho 1,936.48
- 40 Montana 1,653.86
- 47 New Hampshire 1,410.29
- 50 South Dakota 1,291.92
Caveat: states with higher per capita income will have higher per capita
taxes even if taxes as a percentage rate are lower.
Property Taxes, Percentage of State Total Taxes:
- New Hampshire 25.8
- Vermont 23.7
- Montana 13.7
- Wyoming 9.8
- Alaska 3.2
- Maine 1.8
- North Dakota 0.2
- South Dakota ***
- Delaware ***
- Idaho ***
- U.S. average 1.9
( *** local taxes, fees, not collected at state level )
Caveat: states with higher figures in this table have lower sales and income
taxes than states with lower figures in this table.
Farm Land (ranked by percentage of farm land)
|state||number of farms||total square miles of land||total acres||percent of total state land|
SOURCE: Calculations by Northeast-Midwest Institute staff based on data
from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics
Service, "Farms and Land in Farms Final Estimates, 1993-97," (Statistical
Bulletin 955, January 1999), and U.S. Bureau of the Census for state land area.
(Note: not all farm land is necessarily owned by the farmer- some is leased
from other land owners, or the BLM for example )
Land Owned by State and Federal Government, by percentage of total
|state||US ranking||Federal %||State %||Both %||Gov't Acreage|
Small Business and Self-Employed, 2001-2002 (Small Business Administration data)
|state||total small businesses||total small business
income||persons employed by small business||self-employed
persons||total work force|
|AK||16,400||$ 1.8 B||123,200 (62%)||27,400
|DE||25,200||$1.4 B||166,000 (46%)||19,400
|NH||39,500||$3.6 B||293,800 (56%)||50,700
|VT||21,200||$1.5 B||158,900 (65%)||31,900
|ME||38,900||$2.7 B||288,800 (61%)||70,400
|WY||19,100||$1.4 B||114,800 (68%)||29,900
|MT||32,600||$2.0 B||203,400 (71%)||59,000
|ND||18,500||$1.3 B||163,500 (65%)||40,400
|SD||22,800||$2.4 B||180,600 (62%)||52,600
"Small businesses" are defined here as those with fewer than 500 employees;
employment figures count only non-farm jobs.
States lacking but not preempting rent control laws: Alaska, Delaware,
States that explicitly preempt rent control: Idaho, New Hampshire, North
Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Wyoming (thus, none of the states under
consideration actually have rent control)
Land Zoning Laws of Various States as ranked by the Sierra Club; "Open Space
- OSP state open space protection
- APD agricultural protection districts
- APZ agricultural protection zoning
- ACE purchase of agricultural conservation easements
- TDR transfer of development rights
- PPF percentage of prime farmland destroyed 82-92
- FPS flood plain sprawl
- FEI field expert input
Rating: 1 = effective, 2 = moderately effective, 3 = not effective, X =
Note: the Sierra Club can be generally considered hostile to both property
rights and private enterprise, thus their "effective" rating (1) should
probably be construed as a negative in regards to individual rights. In this
case, read the state rankings as, "the higher the number (the lower on the
list), the better."
September 24, 2002
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those
of the Free State Project, its Officers, or Directors.
by Phyllis Schatz
With an area of 83,557 square miles, Idaho is in many ways three states.
Northern Idaho, extending to the Canadian border, is heavily forested and
heavily dependent on the lumber industry. The residents are fiercely
independent and view even Southwestern Idaho residents with suspicion. For big
city amenities, residents look to Spokane, Washington. Southwestern Idaho
contains the state capitol, agriculture and electronics. Southeastern Idaho is
largely agricultural, with a growing electronics industry.
It may well be, as some have suggested, that Idaho would be a good
compromise between wide open spaces and city life. As an 18-yr. resident of
Idaho, I hesitate to recommend for or against it as the free state. I did not
know the term libertarian until 1996, but I would say it adequately describes
the majority of people in Idaho (although most of them either do not know the
term or equate it with anarchy and lawlessness). Idahoans are friendly, and
enjoy a casual life style. The general mood of the people in Idaho - as I see
it - is divided between "Just leave me alone and let me run my life and raise
my children as I see fit"(the majority) and "We have to pass laws to get Idaho
back to good Christian morals" (a very noisy minority).
In my part of the state (Boise), it seems that cops are everywhere, but I
have found them to be friendly and helpful (although my friends in the 18-25
age bracket have a different impression). When I was in an accident with no
personal injury but total destruction of my car, the investigating officer
drove me home. It is their policy that you are not stopped for speeding unless
going at least 10 miles over the speed limit (yes, even where the limit is
20mph). The police also seem reluctant to enforce the seat belt law. Official
policy is to not stop for seat belt violation unless there is another traffic
violation. In my personal experience, they don't even ticket then. Recently,
the officer investigating a minor accident for which he gave me a ticket, when
asking me if I was wearing my seat belt, was nodding his head, to indicate that
I should say yes.
I know that each of us is primarily interested in the prognosis for success
of the FSP. Unfortunately, statistical analysis cannot answer this complex
question for us. One very important element in the project is - what will it
take to inspire 20,000 freedom-loving people not only to move to one state, but
also to persevere when the going gets tough. This can often depend on things
like climate and entertainment opportunities.
For those of you who are interested in the weather, I would describe the
climate as moderate, although it varies from one part of the state to another
and from year to year. Here in the Treasure Valley (the largest population
center - Boise, Nampa, Caldwell, Meridian, Eagle, Star & Kuna) we enjoy
summertime temperatures in the 80s and 90s during the day, cooling off to the
40s - 60s at night. Winter temperatures are normally above freezing in the
daytime, although subzero is not unknown. If you like snow, you will have to go
to the higher elevations. When we do get snow in the valley (which doesn't
happen every year), it usually disappears by noon. If you are looking for more
rugged weather, there is plenty of that at the higher elevations of the north,
central and southeast parts of the state.
Idaho is not subject to hurricanes or tornadoes. Earthquakes are rare and
mild. Our major natural disasters are thunderstorms and forest fires
For summer recreation in the Boise area, there is the Greenbelt - a path
along the Boise River, maintained by the park department heavily used by
walkers, bicyclists and roller skaters. In July it is traditional to float the
Boise River on inner tubes (a good way to have fun without spending money). For
the more daring, there are white-water commercial raft trips on the Snake
River. In the winter, you can ski at nearby Bogus Basin, or drive a little
further to the famous Sun Valley ski resort. Did I mention we also have some
of the finest hunting and fishing in the country?
There are many gun enthusiasts in the state, and their rights are guaranteed
by the State Constitution: "No law shall impose licensure, registration or
special taxation on the ownership or possession of firearms or ammunition. Nor
shall any law permit the confiscation of firearms, except those actually used
in the commission of a felony." [ID state constitution, Article I, sec. 11]
For the less athletically inclined, summer brings "Alive after Five" every
Wednesday evening, and "First Thursday", both featuring (free) live musical
entertainment and a variety of food, in downtown Boise. First Thursday is, of
course, the first Thursday evening of each month during agreeable weather, and
features a stroll through the art galleries. The last week of June, we have the
"Boise River Festival" sponsored by local merchants and free to the public -
with several features especially for children. There is also Jazz at the winery
and Shakespeare under the Stars, as the usual array of performances found in
any metropolitan area of any size.
I hesitate to describe the political climate because it is currently in a
state of turmoil. The state legislature, composed of a Senate and House of
Representatives is dominated by Republicans. This is somewhat deceptive,
however, since politicians have learned that if they want to win an election,
they need to call themselves Republican regardless of their political
philosophy. A candidate does not need the endorsement of the party in order to
file under that banner. Voters do not state a party affiliation upon
registering. Primary elections are open to all registered voters, who then vote
in whichever single primary they choose for that election. Under present
circumstances, most voters vote the Republican Primary, regardless of party
affiliation. In May 2002, for the first time in Idaho history, there were three
parties in the primary: Republican, Democrat, and Libertarian. Many
Libertarians voted Republican, since most Libertarian candidates ran unopposed
in the primary.
Anything can happen in this fall's elections, including Libertarian
victories. The Libertarian Party of Idaho has shown a 29% increase in
membership since May of this year (from 117 to 151). The bad news is - there is
serious dissension within the party at this point. The good news is - there is
also serious dissension within the state Republican Party. Voters are fuming at
the action of the Republican majority in repealing a term limits law that was
passed by initiative and was approved by the voters on three occasions. A
minority of the Republicans are with the voters on the issue of arrogance of
A Party can gain ballot status by obtaining signatures equal to 2% of the
votes cast for presidential electors at the last general election. Thereafter
status can be maintained by one of two methods: 1) having three or more
candidates for state or national office listed on the ballot at the last
general election; 2) polling for one of it's candidates at least 3% of the
aggregate vote for governor or presidential electors. The Libertarian Party
has been on the ballot since 1976.
One very real disadvantage of Idaho as the free state is that the state
constitution speaks against secession: "SECTION 3. STATE INSEPARABLE PART OF
UNION. The state of Idaho is an inseparable part of the American Union, and
the Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the land." This is
not a fatal flaw, since Constitutions can be amended.
In summary: I believe the prognosis for Idaho as the free state cannot be
clearly seen at this time. The present political climate is turbulent and can
see dramatic changes for better or for worse in the elections of 2002. I will
issue updates on the health of the IDLP as they become available.
August 5, 2002
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent
those of the Free State Project, its Officers, or Directors.