Thursday, June 16, 2011

State of the States: Thereby Hangs Many a Moving Tale

The Mercatus Center has published another study on the state of the states in the U.S. Looking at it, one might be inclined to say things could be worse… I mean “could be worse” unless you already live in a state near the bottom, i.e., Massachusetts, Hawaii, California, New Jersey, or New York.

Of those last five on the list, Hawaii and California surely have the best climates, but is that paradise enough? And some folks need New York City’s chewing-gummed sidewalks in order to ‘feel’ free, so their dissatisfaction could be muted, perhaps. Joisy has its fans: a friend just returned to his roots there from the Republic of Charlottesville; moving from one blue zone to another means he probably didn’t feel the repressive pinch. But I’ll bet he misses his chickens; a parakeet just ain’t the same.

We Americans are the movingest bunch of people in the world. We’ll tear up our roots and move two thousand miles for a job, for a change, for the heck of it. Please note this proclivity doesn’t apply to all of us. The Baron is still coming to terms with the move his family made when he was, oh six years old or so…

There are some surprises on the list. Most of us in the continentals think of Alaska as being full of that pioneer, enterprising spirit. Not so, says The Mercatus Center, which puts our very own “Land of the Midnight Sun” as the 7th least-free state. Who’da thunk? (see chart below the fold or go to the URL above to find the live links for each state).

The main page on the study explains that the rankings serve to index individual states by “public policies that affect individual freedoms in the economic, social, and personal spheres… ”

… Specifically, it examines state and local government intervention across a wide range of public policies, from income taxation to gun control, from homeschooling regulation to drug policy.

I have some sympathy for whomever was given the task of data entry for this project. Whoo boy.

Since they have a previous study from 2009, they’re able to track changes for better or worse in any given state. For a ‘random’ example, take Virginia:

… by our count, the freest state in the South. However, like the other states below the Mason-Dixon line, it fares better in terms of economic freedom (#5) than personal freedom (#22). The tax burden, government spending, and debt are all well below national averages. However, state and local government employment is essentially at the national average. Gun laws are decent, with much room for improvement. However, open carry is allowed. Marijuana laws are largely unreformed…

According to their numbers we’re losing freedoms but gaining population… and we have an onerously high tax on “spirits”. It doesn’t mention our governor’s so-far-unfulfilled promise to privatize the booze stores. If there is one area government needs to be shed of it’s selling alcohol. Keeping other variables the same but selling off those ABC stores (that’s the Alcoholic Beverage Commission), we’d have some serious money with which to meet our fiscal problems. However, there are lots of vested interests digging in their heels on this one.

As usual, I’ll speak up for the Baron and say that Virginia is really two states: the one we live in, due south of the one he calls that “wretched hive of scum and villainy”, Northern Virginia. I will have to say that life inside that bubble is not at all like the rest of the state. In their defense, however, we have some readers there who donate to the cause. And even some across the border, in Maryland’s part of the “hive”.

Another random Southern state, Texas, is surprisingly hamstrung. It’s startling to see it below Virginia and losing ground:

Texas prides itself on being a freedom-loving state, and our rankings bear out that it is freer than most other states. However, its policies are sometimes not as consistent with individual liberty as the rhetoric of its officials and citizens would suggest. Indeed, Texas has slipped in the rankings and has much room for improvement… Low-level marijuana cultivation is a misdemeanor, but otherwise marijuana laws are very harsh. Its lifetime maximum possible sentence for a single marijuana offense is draconian.

So Texas is harsh about marijuana? That may be the reason dopers are happier in California, but the doctors are leaving and heading for the Lone Star State in droves. Population is up by 4%.

New Hampshire is Number One, a ranking you wouldn’t have to tell the rest of New England since the contiguous states go there to shop (we used to do that on occasion when we lived in Taxachusetts). “Live Free or Die” is still operational in New Hampshire, though it could be “Live Free AND Die” given their lack of seat belt laws. Oh well, Darwin still rules in the Granite State:

Taxes, spending, and fiscal decentralization remain more than a standard deviation better than average, and government debt actually went down slightly. Gun laws are among the most liberal in the country, but carrying a firearm in a car requires a concealed carry permit… New Hampshire is the only state in the country with no seatbelt law for adults. It lacks a motorcycle helmet law but does have a bicycle-helmet law and authorizes sobriety checkpoints. State approval is required to open a private school. Homeschool laws are slightly worse than average…

So you can walk around with your gun but don’t drive anywhere. Sounds good to me.

However, throughout the study I don’t understand the emphasis in each state on the status of their marijuana laws. But then I never did understand the appeal of a drug that puts you to sleep but not before it compels you to eat everything in the house. [Come to think of it, that would make it a good adjunct drug for cancer. Never mind… ]

I hate to single out New York; it’s bad enough for our fellow citizens who live there and are looking for the door out of the cellar of a once-proud but now brutally socialized state. However, they’re voting with their feet, with almost 9% leaving. The Mercatus rankings for personal and economic freedoms (48th and 50th, respectively) are as dismal as its overall score of 50th, smack dab on the bottom. Maybe that’s what happens when the state representatives stand at forty-eight Republicans vs. one hundred Democrats (their state senate is more evenly divided). Anyone want to bet a New York Republican makes any RINO seem positively reactionary in comparison?

By the way, there are no breakdowns on the socioeconomic demographics of these state-to-state migrations. With 8.9% headed out of New York state, how many were taxpayers and how many were welfare recipients? In other words, what is the net economic loss to New York or California? What is the net gain economically to Virginia when probably a great many of those incoming are either government workers in Washington or retirees?

Thus the real question becomes: which state is gathering in the largest families, the wealthiest and most productive (read “creative”) folks? It is precisely these tax-paying, law-abiding, child-producing middle class citizens that are a state’s real wealth. But how to measure those factors?

And where are the statistics on job creation in the private sector?

Anyone know?

Feel free to chime in about your experiences in any of the 57 50 states* – where you’ve lived and why you moved would be interesting tales. One of our readers told me of moving from Michigan to Texas and “never looking back”. Now there’s a jump into a whole ’nother universe.

* [for our European readers, in his presidential campaign in 2008 Obama referred more than once to the 57 states in our union. Many noticed that he must’ve gotten confused between us and the OIC , which claims to have that many member states. The wayback machine is still operating so you can find our President repeating that line on Youtube.]

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Below the fold are the rankings for all fifty states. You can also go to the linked map, above, to get the particulars on your state’s rankings. The map is pretty cool.

State Freedom Rankings

1. New Hampshire      26. South Carolina
2. South Dakota      27. Michigan
3. Indiana      28. Arkansas
4. Idaho      29. Montana
5. Missouri      30. Vermont
6. Nevada      31. Pennsylvania
7. Colorado      32. Kentucky
8. Oregon      33. Maine
9. Virginia      34. Minnesota
10. North Dakota      35. Louisiana
11. Florida      36. West Virginia
12. Oklahoma      37. New Mexico
13. Iowa      38. Connecticut
14. Texas      39. Delaware
15. Georgia      40. Washington
16. Tennessee      41. Illinois
17. Kansas      42. Ohio
18. North Carolina      43. Maryland
19. Alabama      44. Alaska
20. Utah      45. Rhode Island
21. Wyoming      46. Massachusetts
22. Arizona      47. Hawaii
23. Nebraska      48. California
24. Mississippi      49. New Jersey
25. Wisconsin      50. New York


Cyrus said...

As a Canadian, I have limited experience in the US. I did like Wisconsin, but wasn't there long enough to compare it to NYC or Washington state. I wonder to what degree Oregon's freedom score accounts for it's influx of Californians as opposed to Mexicanization?

Dymphna said...

Californians are fleeing Mexicanization by going to the contiguous -- and not so contiguous states. Thereby making them bluer in both senses of that word -- leftist and unhappy.

I'll bet the poor folks are staying. California has great benefits.

PatriotUSA said...

POORegon in no way deserves to be that 'high' up on the list unless one is counting all the high folks from the state's policy on pot. Having lived here since 1978, IT IS A VERY PROGRESSIVE, REGRESSIVE STATE.

If I could afford to uproot my family, I would move back to Northern Arizona, Northeastern Nevada or Texas, where I was born.

All the kalifornians have done to POORegon is try to remake it into southern Falikornia, and they are doing a fine job of screwing up what was once a pretty nice state.
Not all is their fault. years and years of libtarded politics and policies are why POOregon is now in the shape it is in. Bad, very bad.

Anonymous said...

One of the things I don't like about Mercatus' study is that strict immigration laws get you a severe downgrade. For example, Arizona's Bill 1070, and stricter employer verification of legal-resident status, are big reasons why Arizona got a downgrade from its previous #8 overall ranking to its current #22.

philip.zhao said...

Is it still true that in NY people are close but nasty;in LA people are friendly but distant ?

Dymphna said...


Good point. This essay at Reason, which they cite, had a lot to do with their ranking. But to use it as a metric for the state is unwise. And to fail to take into account Arizona's huge costs due to the flood of illegals also calls their "personal freedoms" rating into question:

Sheriff & County Attorney

What's of interest, though, is that these fellows are elected so there is obviously public support for their unconstitutional behavior. And I think it all flows from the exigencies of illegals.

The two problems confronting us across the board are illegal immigration (and the concomitant lack of self-respect vis-a-vis enforcing sovereignty), and the incursions of Sharia into mainstream culture.

The Mercatus Report touches neither when it discusses policies that are threats to personal liberty.

heroyalwhyness said...

philip.zhao, from personal experience, I can agree with that assessment but would change the term 'nasty' to 'less friendly' or 'less chatty'. Having lived in several states over the last 50+ years, my experiences w/ temperment of locals varied. Folks in California and the southern states are a bit more laid back.

For instance, in the southern states(VA, FL, GA) a question asking for directions would begin, 'come, sit a spell, let me show you . ..'. Not only would I have the answer I sought, but I would probably know the individual's name and some family &/or local history too.

In Silicon Valley, California, (temp. @70F / 21C year round) such a question would 'eventually' be answered, by one or more people who freely join the conversation. Despite the local map resembling a grid, 'directions' become related to landmarks which expand the conversation by the number of people answering you. It's not unusual to find yourself strolling (sidewalks throughout most towns) into a corner coffee shoppe with a new acquaintance to continue the conversation.

Here in NY or northern NJ, you would simply get a brief, albeit 'direct' answer to your question, that is, assuming the respondent understood english and gave you the answer you were seeking.

I find folks here in upstate NY (sidewalks are rare, mostly in larger cities), it's more rural - requiring a car to get around - people are on a tight schedule and too busy for expanded conversation. You will get your answer, with a smile, but blink, and the person is gone.

I don't live in NYC and rarely indulge with city life - except to pass through to get to the major airports. During airport excursions, language frequently becomes a barrier, but people do try to point you to someone who can assist. I wouldn't characterize that as 'nasty', perhaps 'less friendly'.

According to the posted list, the states I've resided in the longest are the 'least free'.

Having also resided in a more free state #11, Florida for eight years, I'd note we left that state once our oldest children approached school age. Both my spouse and I worked for a computer company (Systems Engineering Labs) in those days. Throughout those entire eight years, neither of us met a single co-worker whose child actually graduated high school. The drop out rate at that time was over 50%. For full disclosure, that particular location was in a 'vacation paradise' known for college "Spring Break" --> Fort Lauderdale (back in the 1980's).

Dymphna said...

@ philip.zhao

Depends on personal experience, no?

NYC is a place you can walk in and like all crowded situations, ppl protect their personal space.

LA is humungous and you'd better have a car.

IOW, I don't think they can be compared in that respect.

Anonymous said...

I have some problems with this study myself. They seem to be far out Libertarians but for the most part are right on target. Born and raised in NYC (but now elsewhere in NY State) and spent 4 years in San Francisco. Nothing, and I mean nothing tops SF and the Bay area in weirdness and hardcore leftism. A town and state in perpetual adolescence. I think the perfect example was an Anarchist bookshop in the Haight- Ashbury who only opened when they felt like it. That says almost all you need to know about most of Northern CA.

New York City a town that is always changing has really changed drastically since the 90s. And King Bloomberg has truly made it one of the least free places on the East Coast. A Disneyland for tourists with about as much character now as a travel brochure. That being said. South Dakota and New Hampshire are two very desirable locations I have visited. Especially the former. Black Hills area is magnificent.

English Pensioner said...

It would be nice if they would also make some comparisons with some other countries, say UK, France, Germany, Canada and Australia.
Certainly I believe that most States would offer greater freedom than we now have in the UK. Although our government denies it, our freedom of speech is severely limited, particularly on racial and immigration issues, and it is very difficult for the honest person to own a gun, with hand guns being totally banned. I also believe that you have greater freedom in politics and of course greater "localism".
Yes, I'd love to see where we would stand in the list.

In Hoc Signo Vinces† said...

In the U.K. it is not so much laws that create the climate of oppression, conditioning and demonisation are the tools of the British totalitarian trade everyone is his own oppressor and his neighbours.

What She Said - an anchorette makes a vague witty linkage about Mecca and it is flashed around the World, what an absurdity.

philip.zhao said...

In Tokyo, when you ask street directions,remember to pick one at the age of 60 plus.

Dymphna said...

@ spackle--

Oh, Lordy...I hate to be the one to tell you to stay in New York and avoid the Plains...or avoid Tennessee, or Maine...

I had this link sitting on my desktop to write about but simply didn't have the heart to make it into a post. Or guts. Or whatever it takes to break the bad news to our readers who want "OUT" from beneath the burden of living in an urbanized, unionized, socialist-ized blue state.

Read and weep, Spackle:

Is Sioux Falls a Tuula?

The subheader I chose for my link alt from that April 2011 page has other equally sad subheadings and stories, as in ...

So, how did so many Somalis come to populate these towns in the Great Plains?

Soros building a more “welcoming” America and Tennessee is a target

It’s Tennessee today, your state tomorrow…

Grand Island, NE: More refugees on the way

And here's a snip from that page (without the embedded links you'll find there):

Here is another article on Sioux Falls and its refugee program. 400 refugees with health issues arrive there annually.

A 2009 article in The World calls Sioux Falls the Ellis Island of the Great Plains! The interview posted here helps us see this is all about re-populating the Dakotas with cheap labor (they don’t say cheap, I do) for the food processing (ie. meatpacking) giants. Once again a reminder of what drives the refugee program—money—hidden beneath the veneer of humanitarianism.

Those are all from the brave and indefatigable Ann Corcoran's long-running saga, "Refugee Resettlement Watch"

You can get an email subscription at her site and keep up with the latest stories about the whole spectrum of death-thru-diversity pogroms being foisted off on us by our government, non-profits, and Christian mainstream churches -- e.g., the Lutheran and Catholic Charities making a bundle from these "resettlement schemes" from Maine to Georgia to the Midwest to Washington state...

Ann, unlike moi, is made of sterner stuff. She's been unflinchingly looking at this stuff since...well, probably at least as long as we've been around.

I don't know if there's any escape anywhere, spackle. But if anyone knows, it would be Ann C. IIRC her email is on the sidebar and I'm sure she'd tell you...

jane said...

Interesting recount of people's experiences in various states. I've lived in several myself, east coast, Alabama, Canada, California. The Bay Area and SF, before the sixties was paradise in my mind. Outdoor sports of every kind, perfect climate, quiet and elegant and packed with culture. Too bad the leftards took it over. I found it impossible to be poor there. A change in circumstances brought economic torment and the Bay Area was the worst place ever to face that. Social programs were completely overrun, could not get food bank assistance, nor food stamps (technicalities, the friend of bureaucrats), the cost of living was outrageous and the penalties for failures,like renewing your tabs PRECISELY on time were draconian. I've been poor many many times, and flush as well, but never have I experienced the crushing weight of it as I did in CA. I found a refuge alright, but not telling. It won't remain one should the word get out.

philip.zhao said...

The population in Bay Area now has 25.9% of Asians with drugs and thugs from all parts. But comparatively, it's still better than being Dearbornized !!

Dymphna said...

@English Pensioner:

That comparative analysis would be difficult. Even the Anglosphere countries are so very different from one another. Even the US and Canada, sitting next to one another, are so very different. We share a language, but not much else. I mean just compare Harper and Obama, or look at the fact that Canada and Oz are going to escape much of the worst damage from the real estate bubble fall-out. Neither has to contend with the likes of Brown, et al and neither has a Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac jacking up prices in benefit of cronies.

@philip.zao --

Gosh, choosing between San Fran and Dearborn...ugh. I'll take my cottage with its lack of amenities and 'culture' any day. The new laws in SF get stranger all the time. Outlawing circumcision? Micromanaging MacDonald's Happy Meals? Letting the aggressive homeless (that's deliberately homeless middle class) kids kill small businesses by living on the sidewalks in front of them?

And then it's in California, that poor broken state. The guvnor vetoed the latest so-called budget.

I'm sure some of our California readers could tell of the pockets of sanity in CA, places where you can still hide.

As for Michigan, besides the Islamified Dearborn and the sinkhole of Deetroit, there is Hillsdale College, another universe. A small blob of sanity is a unionized thugocracy.

Michigan has other gems like Hillsdale.

Here's a vote for sanity: read or subscribe to "First Principles", the college magazine. It looks like Rush Limbaugh will pay for your subscription, based on this page:

Free Subscription

You can fill out a form or call them. [Now that I know it's free, I'll get on the list]

Here's an essay to get you started:

Banana Republic, USA

Many people donate there in place of giving to their alma mater.

For one thing, Hillsdale is very un-p.c and has been so long before the p.c. concept arrived. It's been admitting women and blacks since its beginning. But they had to be able to compete. Imagine.

It voted in the 70s to eliminate ALL federal funding in order to avoid the stupidities of affirmative action.

The only tutoring available is non-remedial;

No booze (therefore the mortality rate for its students isn't an issue -- booze & college has jacked up homicide, suicides, and accidental deaths);

No padding for bureaucratic jobs;

85% of students CHOOSE to live on campus;

outstanding retention of students who graduate with their class -- somewhere around 80%;

it is dedicated to the inculcation of TRUE conservative principles. Here's a short course available to everyone, American Conservative Thought


AFAIK, No tuulas
in Hillsdale.

Anonymous said...


Very interesting. Although the Black Hills are on the opposite side of the State of SD bordering WY. I just cant see Somalis making many inroads around Deadwood, Mount Rushmore and Sturgis where the biker population is quite high. A Somali croupier would be something to behold in the casinos of Deadwood. Wild Bill Hickock would spin in his grave. Although Rapid City is close by and cities seem to be the primary refugee dumping ground no matter what state you are in. Either way it is very sad to see people actively trying to dismantle what is/was the traditional American heartland.

X said...

I wonder how the UK would compare on a list like this? I imagine we'd be rock bottom, even with our relatively lax marijuana laws. I can't quite work out the obsession with that drug either. These days it seems to be a pretty good indicator of a repressive government - the more free the drug, the more likely you are to live in a statist nightmare?

It's funny, very little to do with the post (for which I apologise) but the idea you mentioned regarding marijuana might be worth some study. My aunt is recovering from treatment for bowl cancer right now and the one real issue she has is eating. She almost can't bring herself to do it. Maybe a little MJ would help...

Zenster said...

heroyalwhyness: In Silicon Valley, California, (temp. @70F / 21C year round) such a question would 'eventually' be answered, by one or more people who freely join the conversation. Despite the local map resembling a grid, 'directions' become related to landmarks which expand the conversation by the number of people answering you. It's not unusual to find yourself strolling (sidewalks throughout most towns) into a corner coffee shoppe with a new acquaintance to continue the conversation.

I am so glad that someone of your own intelligence managed to carry away such an accurate impression of my home turf. As a SF Bay Area native, I encourage people to look past California's mutant alien politics and take the time to familiarize themselves with the real people of this incredible state.

California has an embarrassment of riches ― scenic, technological, academic, agricultural, oenological and aquatic ― which it shares, perhaps all-too-readily, with anyone who just happens along. Our superb Mediterranean climate is just icing on the already over-yolked cake.

Tuan Jim said...

I'm a little surprised to see how low WA ranks compared to other states. Currently stationed there with the military - just in the process of changing my residency from NC (for the first time). Don't mind paying higher sales taxes, but not if I'm getting hit for massive state income tax from NC at the same time.

Now I have no state income tax, somewhat higher sales taxes, very friendly gun laws, and much more military-friendly overall....which is just so weird coming from NC with FT Bragg, etc.