Forgive me for falling behind on my posting on certain things. It’s time to play catchup. So a while back, Mercatus came up with a rather problematic list of the most and least free states. It rightly got a lot of pushback due to the criteria and weighting that it used. Namely, choosing sides on tort but leaving abortion alone, while also giving 2/3 weighting towards economic freedom over civil liberty freedom. And, of course, everyone is going to weigh these things differently. To their credit, Mercatus gave you some tools to that end.
In response, though, The American Prospect wrote a truly snotty piece critiquing it:
After North Dakota, on their list comes South Dakota, Tennessee, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma. As it happens, a lot of people are moving to North Dakota, but that isn’t because you can be so free there, it’s because the state is experiencing a fossil fuel boom, so there are a lot of good-paying jobs in and around the oil and gas fields. I feel like I’ve read a half-dozen overly long “Letter from North Dakota” magazine articles in the last couple of months, and the picture that gets painted from all of them is that the people flocking there plan to work for a few years, save as much money as they can, and then get the hell back to civilization.
The piece is entitled “Not Fun to Visit, and You Wouldn’t Want to Live There. But the Taxes Are Low!”
North Dakota, what a hellhole. Except not, really. North Dakota is, on most lists, one of the happiest states in the country. And as convenient as it might be to say “People are only moving there because of the jobs, but they hate it there,” there is really little indication that it is true other than the fact that the author of the piece would hate it there. There’s no shortage of people moving to Fargo, on the other end of the state. Nor is there a shortage of people moving to the other listed states, including and especially internal migration.
Now, is this because of the low taxes and disregard for some of the freedoms that liberals care about? I’m certainly not making that claim. Anyone from the south is familiar with the migrant from someplace else who comes in and does nothing but complain about how this place is nothing like the awesome place that they left. It’s tied to jobs, as much as anything. Whether this is tied to low taxes and low regulation is an open question. Mercatus argues that it’s causal. I’m not sure it is, but there does seem to be a relationship, even if it is imperfect and with exceptions.
Waldman closes with the following:
During the 2012 primaries, I wrote about Rick Perry’s love of his tiny home town of Paint Creek, Texas, where he supposedly learned so many valuable lessons about life and America. The most important lesson he learned, however, was I’ve got to get out of Paint Creek, which he did at the first opportunity.
Well, speaking as someone who is looking forward to getting the heck out of Callie, Arapaho, I can relate to this. And if you look at a lot of these states, there is a huge drain of people in the more rural places. Whether this is because these are terrible places or merely places where it’s difficult to find work, it’s hard to say. But the status of Paint Creek actually tells us very little about the status of Texas. The boonies aren’t growing. Now, to that you can say “Ah-ha! It’s really the blue parts of Tennessee that are attracting people so it doesn’t count!” Except that a whole lot of that growth as occurred in the red parts (suburbs) of the blue parts (metro areas) of the red states. And beyond which, no matter how blue Nashville is, it’s still under the state laws of an electorate that is red, which is what we’re looking at.
I’m not trying to pump up North Dakota and South Dakota too much here. A lot of folks – particularly at The League, and many at Hit Coffee – would absolutely hate it there. And there’s nothing wrong with that, says the guy looking forward to leaving Callie. But the depiction of a hellhole that everybody is looking to get out of is not only snotty, but doesn’t particularly match up with reality. Taking a dump on North Dakota doesn’t make the point that the author seems to think it does. Even if neither North Dakota is not without its downsides and Mercatus is not without its faults.