Taking A Dump On North Dakota

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.

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.


  1. Unsurprisingly I appreciated Waldman’s piece because it called the Mercatus Center study bullshit for all the reasons that it is bullshit.

    North Dakota has a good economy because for the moment they have one very valuable substance that everyone needs. Maybe this will last a while, maybe it will not. But they are hardly a diversified economy.

    I also recall an NPR Planet Money episode about how North Dakota is trying and sort of failing at turning the oil workers into permanent residents.

    North Dakota might be happy for a very specific kind of person. Just like NYC is happy for a very specific kind of person.

    • I have no problem with taking Mercatus to task for their flawed list. But their criticisms are inaccurate. North Dakota has a population boom in the west because of mineral exploration, but that’s not the only place where expansion is occurring. The article focuses on North Dakota because it’s #1 and because it’s an easier place to hand-wave away the population growth.

      South Dakota’s population is growing (at a faster rate than North Dakota’s). Tennessee’s population is growing. Oklahoma City. Texas’ population is growing. Eventually they’re going to sprain their wrists with all of this handwaving. The notion that these places are so terrible and unsuccessful that Mercatus should change their criteria is pretty flawed.

      Mercatus should change their criteria, but not because the leaders are icky states where nobody wants to live.

      • Tennessee’s population is growing. Oklahoma City. Texas’ population is growing.

        This. According to the Census Bureau figures, from April 2010 to July 2012, all but two states had population increases (Rhode Island lost about 2,300 and Michigan lost about 300). California, bane of conservatives everywhere, grew by almost 790,000 in that period, significantly more than the entire 2012 population of North Dakota. Playing around with the interactive map that you linked to (cool, that) suggests to me that overall, there’s a large amount of migration going on within regions in the periphery of the country (West Coast, Arizona, Texas, across the South, up the East Coast, then across the coast of the Great Lakes as far as Chicago), but little between those areas and the upper Great Plains. Looking at Fargo suggests to me that much more of the growth there is people from relatively nearby rural areas migrating to the city. The Poppers are winning — the Great Plains is emptying out, with a couple of exceptions where oil/gas has shown up.

        I expect the ND Bakken oil/gas to have a run rather like the UK’s North Sea experience — about 30 years of good times, and then the decline sets in. The UK is once again a net importer of oil and gas. The North Dakota state government seems to agree. In a presentation to the ND House Appropriations Committee, the executive branch forecasts suggest that by the early 2040s at the latest, every place worth drilling in the Bakken and Three Forks plays in ND will have been drilled, and the drilling and construction jobs will evaporate.

        • California, bane of conservatives everywhere, grew by almost 790,000 in that period,

          A whole lot of that is from abroad, though. Look at the migration map and you get people moving from the east coast to Cali, but from Cali to everywhere else (including Fargo!).

          The fact that Fargo is picking up North Dakota population despite all the jobs being in the west doesn’t strike me as insignificant. And they’re moving to Fargo, not Minneapolis or Chicago. Though, you’re right, that their migration numbers don’t look like Boise’s, for instance. Much less Texas’. But I think the model for Fargo will be Boise. The investment in higher ed I think will help a lot. (That’s more than Idaho did.)

          Could be that it turns out like Montana, where people get educated, get a degree, and then leave. Could be that it turns out like Idaho (or Fargo like Boise, more specifically). But as it stands, people leave Montana in good part for jobs and not because it’s hell-on-earth with all their freedoms at the expense of civilization. Same for North Dakota, there isn’t much indication that people are really itching to get out of the state. Which is Waldman’s indications about it being a bad place to live.

          But even if we count North Dakota as a wash, South Dakota doesn’t have the same resource rationale, but is growing. And the other states with reasonable climates (and some with unreasonable ones). If North Dakota falters for a lack of jobs, I don’t think that actually does a whole lot to support Waldman’s point since he is dismissive of people moving there because there are jobs.

          The Dakotas aren’t for everyone. Absent economic factors, I don’t think they would be for me. And we probably won’t end up there. I just took significant issue with the premise of Waldman’s piece even if one of his central points (that not everyone evaluates freedom the way Mercatus does, and that other factors determine where people live) is valid.

          • And they’re moving to Fargo, not Minneapolis or Chicago.

            At least as I read the interactive map, Fargo had large in-migration from rural counties in North Dakota and Minnesota, and the biggest single group of out-migration went across the border into the neighboring county in Minnesota. Minneapolis had a much wider geographic distribution of sources/destinations. The Fargo metro area population grew by 34,410 from 2000 to 2010, while the Minneapolis metro area grew by 261,072 — 90% of the combined growth was around Minneapolis. I don’t see where you can get “They’re moving to Fargo, not Minneapolis” out of those. Or let me put it this way — in my lifetime, in absolute numbers, I expect the Fargo metro area to fall farther and farther behind Minneapolis in population, rather than catching up.

          • What I mean is, you’re discounting Fargo’s growth because it is coming at the expense of rural Dakota, but my point is that Fargo is getting those people. (And they’re pulling people in from Minneapolis, and Chicago.) I don’t really see a reason to believe that their population growth won’t continue, and in good part on the basis of internal migration. That Minneapolis may grow more (though they have an internal migration loss, for the most part) doesn’t really affect that one way or the other.

            (It’s interesting the number of places with growing populations but internal migration loss.)

          • Probably because I’ve been watching it for too long — “it” being cities along the edges of the Great Plains growing population in part, and sometimes in large part, by absorbing migrating rural folks, and “too long” being most of my life. Nebraska has reached the point where a majority of the unicameral is elected from three counties — Douglas (Omaha), Sarpy (Omaha’s southern suburbs) and Lancaster (Lincoln). South Dakota is clearly headed in the same direction, where the legislature will do what the Sioux Falls and Rapid City areas want. The western third of Kansas is collapsing back to Hays and Dodge City (one of which has a state college, the other a state community college). Kansas has a number of small towns in the western marches who will give you a piece of land with the house on it, free and clear, if you’ll just pay the property taxes in the future — the delinquent past taxes are forgiven. They’re getting few takers. People who live on the eastern Colorado plains move to the Front Range, or to a very small number of towns that have a sizable state facility (prison, community college, etc). Wind farm owners in the Oklahoma panhandle are — I guess disappointed is the word — to discover that a starting salary of $18/hr isn’t enough to attract enough people to tend the turbines. The population in the eastern half of Montana — the dividing line is drawn on a diagonal, to match the mountains — is collapsing towards Billings. It means something that the largest source for the population growth of the area around Williston, ND is southwest Wyoming — migration from a slowing oil boom to the hot new one.

            Aside from the limited number of cities, the Great Plains have reached the point of positive feedback. The service infrastructure is collapsing because of the shrinking population, which forces more people to leave. One of the eastern Colorado counties was ecstatic a few years ago — the Denver Post ran a fairly lavish piece about it — when they got a health-care provider in the county. A nurse practitioner, who had spent two years at the nearest community college, a hundred or so miles away, getting her associate degree, and then moved home.

            Look, I love an awful lot about the Great Plains. Heck, I love the variety of terrain and ecology that exists just in the Nebraska part of the plains — from semi-arid short-grass prairie to the US’s largest contiguous wetlands ecology in the Sandhills to a world-class white-water river to a thousand migrating cranes taking flight at dawn… But the Poppers are right. Give it back to the buffalo. It ain’t suited for agriculture. We can run power lines to collect power from the wind farms in from the edges. Get rid of the interstate highways and run freight from the Rockies and west on rail.

          • We may not actually be as far apart as we think. I think that, after the oil dries up, West Dakota will be largely unpopulated. The difference, I guess, is that I just don’t see Fargo in the category that you describe. I see the vast majority of Dakota’s growth as being urban (of a sort). Fargo, Sioux Falls, and Rapid City. That’s where I think the population will sustain and grow.

    • Mr. Waldman is not notably snotty in his piece, but you are. The chaps at Mercatus include this disclaimer:

      We happily concede that different people value aspects of freedom differently. You can personalize the ranking and pick and choose which aspects of freedom you value and see how the states stack up.

  2. I’ve spent two days in ND while we were driving from NJ to Ak many years ago. The first day was during some major flooding they had in Fargo. It looked like a terrible place mostly because of the flooding and dreary plains. The second day was sunny and we were on a side road. We met some nice people and the land was pleasant high plains farm land; much nicer. It wouldn’t surprise me if people in ND were happy because to live there you really really must want to live there. The weather is brutal and farm life is hard. If it wasn’t for oil it isn’t likely people would be moving there As a side note that holds for a lot of people in AK and this is a beautiful place. I’m not sure i have much of a point here.

    The Mercatus study was poor and clearly aimed at just finding a way to support what they already believe. I think there is some part in the study where they talk about not wanting to upset any alliance between libertarians and SoCons.

    • My first thought was to agree that they didn’t want to step on SoCon toes. Yet they included gay marriage in there, which I found really interesting. I’m not sure what the deal with the abortion exclusion is, but I think it’s mostly “We define freedom economically and almost entirely economically.”

      If it wasn’t for oil it isn’t likely people would be moving there

      Except that people are moving to Fargo, in addition to Williston. And is South Dakota that much different? They’re not experiencing the same mineral boom, but their population is climbing at a solid rate.

      There honestly isn’t much I look at with regard to those states and think “Man, I want to live there!” Except that taxes are low, cost of living is low, open space (relatively speaking), and they hire family med docs for great salaries. Which is, I suspect, how a lot of people land in Fargo or Sioux Falls (except the doc-specific part).

      • Not having looked at it, the Mercatus weighting feels flawed because it’s an imposed weighting, not drawn from the people who are actually doing the migrating.

        But as far as not including abortion, I would guess it’s because there’s controversy among libertarian types on that issue. Those libertarianish folks who see the nascent baby as a human life naturally allot it the same fundamental right to life as those of us who are already born. Those of us who don’t, don’t, but emphasize the liberty of the pregnant person. It’s an issue on which libertarianish folks have divergent pro-liberty positions. So perhaps the study authors are on the other side from me or perhaps they’re setting it aside because it’s not an agreed upon value.

  3. Is part of Mercatus’ project correlating “freedom” with ostensible indicators of success or quality of life of some kind or other (like happiness or growth or etc.), or has someone else in the pro-“freedom” camp taken it upon themselves to undertake that extension, or is that a step that The Prospect took that doesn’t actually address claims that actually relate to the point of Mercatus’ project, or someone else’s point that used the project?

    • …Reading the article, it looks to me like it’s the latter. And the does up the snottiness quotient quite a bit. And this passage:

      Or let’s take the the single most important element of freedom according to Mercatus, the tax burden. If that was what separated a great state from a terrible state, then we’d all want to live in one of the lowest tax states. The top five are: South Dakota, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Alabama. These are all, not surprisingly, states controlled by Republicans who keep the taxes low. And what’s the effect? Is your average Washington think-tank conservative telling himself, “Man, I just have to put in a couple more years here, and then I am totally moving to Rapid City. It is going to be awesome there!” I don’t mean any insult to the good people of Rapid City; I’ve never been there, and maybe it’s great. My point is just that there’s a lot more to life than low taxes.

      …is really frickin’ snotty. The only problem is, it also seems really quite fair and not easily dismissed for all its snottiness. There is a lot more to what most people want out of a place to live than freedom, and people of all ideological stripes demonstrate that by their revealed preferences. And The Prospect is right that Mercatus’ study really does make that jump out at you in a way that perhaps it hadn’t before, and that it seems like that should maybe prompt people who emphasize freedom beyond all else in their rhetoric to consider whether their rhetoric actually matches their real personal values.

      The Prospect makes the point snottily as hell, and with an incomplete consideration of everything that goes into considering why people live where they do. But I don’t think the point being made in the quoted passage is one without some considerable merit nevertheless.

      • As I open my post with, the criticisms of the Mercatus study are valid. I’m not really disputing that. Except that I would say that “a lot of people wouldn’t want to live there” instead of “those places suck.” It’s the latter I focus on, because I agree with the criticisms as they relate to the former.

        In fact, prior to reading the Prospect, I was going to write a post making many of the same points. Naturally, after reading the Prospect, I found a new thing to write about.

        • I can’t quite tell what you mean by saying that you would criticize the Mercatus ranking itself. I think The Prospect would agree as far as it goes, but I think they’re also saying that, however we define freedom (and in any case, it’s clear that Mercatus’ interest is in ranking states according to freedom, whether they’re doing that well or poorly, not in addressing directly what people value in choosing places to live), we’re still going to find out that it’s not all that people care about – even people who act like it is. And that criticism is not really directed at Mercatus, but rather at those who talk about freedom more than their own preferences actually demonstrate that they value it.

          So are you saying that that passage, where there’s no overt dumping on the states in question, just the point that a lot of people who talk a bog game about freedom choose to nevertheless choose to live in low-freedom states, is valid? I.e, that your problem with The Prospect piece is really just the disproportionate and unfair dig at North Dakota (or other incomplete assessments of states as overall places to live)?

          • a lot of people who talk a bog game about freedom choose to nevertheless choose to live in low-freedom states, is valid?

            When it comes to certain talking heads, like Sean Hannity, I think he’s right and have long thought so. But that’s not a particularly strong argument because neither Waldman nor myself actually know. And even if Hannity is discredited, what is being said is not necessarily so.

            As a practical matter, I do agree with them that “there’s more to life than freedom”… but the way it’s framed either you move to North Dakota come hell or high water or it obviously doesn’t matter to you. Like it’s invalid to want Illinois to be more North Dakota, oe to think that Illinois might be better if it moved in a direction more like North Dakota, unless you are actually willing to move to North Dakota.

            Freedom isn’t the only issue on the table. We choose to live where we do for a lot of reasons. That applies to everybody (a lot of people who want a strong safety net move to Texas). How much does that invalidate their preferences for more freedom (however defined), more security (ditto), or whatever? Not a whole lot, I don’t think.

          • …I don’t think the conclusion is that freedom doesn’t matter to them if they live in a low-freedom state. The conclusion is that, for all their talk about valuing freedom, there’s no accounting made in their rhetoric for the choices they actually make in their lives.

          • “we’re still going to find out that it’s not all that people care about – even people who act like it is. And that criticism is not really directed at Mercatus, but rather at those who talk about freedom more than their own preferences actually demonstrate that they value it.”

            I would still dispute the notion that “Low Taxes + Tort Reform=FREEDOM!!” and I bit if you pounded the people at the Mercatus center long-enough with the Socratic method they would agree.

        • IOW, I guess my view is that Mercatus per se doesn’t actually bear that much criticism here. They can rank states by level of freedom, and do so according to how they understand freedom. We can differ with that understanding of freedom, but ultimately, I don’t think that can really be criticism, unless we think they go off the deep end somehow. Those differences are going to exist.

          The issue is really what we conclude and and say and do in respect to such a ranking. I think The Prospect would differ with Mercatus like you do about how to understand freedom, but ultimately, I think their point is more directed at people who put freedom above all else in their value orderings, at least as indicated in rhetoric. I think The Prospect more or less takes Mercatus’ rankings as, if not perfectly in line with its own understanding of freedom, not wildly out of step with that of people who put freedom in such a primary place in their rhetoric. They’re really more critical of that rhetoric and the way Mercatus’ project reveals inconsistencies between rhetoric and choices.

          So I’m wondering if you agree with that criticism or not.

      • It’s actually a pretty weak point. Big cities are big mostly for path-dependent reasons. Once a city becomes big, it becomes a Schelling point, and then it’s unlikely to stop being big unless, like Detroit, its primary industry collapses before the economy is diverse enough to survive it.

        It’s not like New York was a one-horse town until they jacked the taxes up to eleven. It got big first, and then jacked up the taxes because it had enough to offer that it could do so without driving too many people away. Conversely, places that don’t have much else to offer have to keep taxes low.

        What you’d really want to look at is how cities with different tax/spending policies that were comparable in other ways twenty years ago have diverged since then.

        • If the rhetoric always reflected that they’re stuck living in a place whose freedom level they don’t like because they have to in order to do a particular preferred job (and live a resulting particular lifestyle), that would be an improvement. But it would also complicate the rhetoric. The rhetoric would be constantly having to account for the fact that, despite what they say about the value of freedom, they personally still value the opportunity to do this job more than living and working in a state that’s, say, not one of the five least free (or, in the case of New York-based media figures, the least free) states.

          • You answered my next question from above here, so I’ll reply down here.

            Ultimately I don’t really buy it in the manner presented (even leaving aside the snottiness). I don’t think to make liberal points that Morat20 has to explain why he lives in Texas. I don’t think it undermines him that he does because of course there are other considerations (job, family, licensure, etc.). I can imagine specific arguments against specific people where it is being heavily implied that freedom is all that matters or that everybody should vote with their feet, but nota general argument against people who would prefer North Dakota policies but live in New York.

          • Indeed!

            David Koch resides in 740 Park Avenue. This is one of the biggest concentrations of wealth in the world. I’m sure these Captains of Industry prefer what NYC has to offer over the low-taxes of North Dakota.

            Guess who largely funds the Mercatus Center?

  4. I have to admit that towards the end of my sojourn in Tennessee I became the guy who moved to the south and complained that it wasn’t California. Except I proceeded to return to California so I put my money where my mouth was.

    The relatively hands-off attitude of Tennessee’s “free” government was something I found I disliked. It seemed that Tennesseans were less careful with their environment and more interested in forming tribes. (All matters of degree with wide variations between individuals, of course.) And Knoxville turned out to be a place where an introduction was needed to get a good job and those sorts of introductions were rare and reserved for tribesmen.

    Will this be North Dakota’s story? I doubt it. It’s a boom economy now, partly but not completely because of fossil fuel. Texas and California are examples of boom economies that matured and diversified. North Dakota will look more like one of them than Tennessee.

    • Yeah, the tribe thing you have described sounds quite agitating. I think it was better back in my home town, if only because there were so many people passing through. Or maybe it happened more back home than I realized.

      I honestly have no idea what things will look like for North Dakota. That the press’s coverage of the boom out there almost relentlessly highlights the negative growing pains, a lot is being overlooked. North Dakota is revamping their higher education system and putting a lot of resources into that. They’ve also set up a business-friendly environment that I think is being overlooked. South Dakota doesn’t have the oil boom, but they have banks. It’s hard to say where North Dakota will end up, but “It’s just oil” is a pretty significant oversimplification that ignores a lot else going on with the state (Fargo’s consistent growth, one of the most business-friendly environments in the country, an increasingly urban population but with a rural cost of living, and so on).

      • “Business-friendly” environment = low taxes on businesses and employers, light regulation with transparency for requirements that do exist, low minimums on extent of workers’ compensation coverage, maybe tax credits for hiring preferred sorts of workers?

        • Comparing Texas and California on that version of “business friendly” is interesting.

          Rick Perry’s been trolling CA trying (supposedly) to attract businesses. But other than extraction, the bulk of business growth in Texas has been the more regulated ‘blueing’ cities (Houston, SA, and Austin) — the only places in Texas getting the type of jobs Perry was trolling CA about are more regulated Austin and San Antonio….

          Apparently, while I’m sure every business loves low taxes and little regulation, there’s other elements involved…

          • As I mention elsewhere, though, even people in the cities in the red states are still under the red state tax and regulatory regime at the important state level. You are quite right that regulation is only one factor and taxes another but neither nor both being all-important. The question is what Texas’ job growth would look like with more taxes and regulation, or California with less. No one really knows those counterfactuals, though of course we all speculate.

          • will,
            Does PA count as red state tax regime? It’s a hell of a lot easier than either CA or NY/NJ.

          • Be kinda hard to sort out — although you can start by axing farming or any sort of extractive business from the list. One mines coal where it is, so to speak, and farmland doesn’t move because of regulatory structures. (Although it might do better or worse over the long term, I suppose).

            I suspect high tax/high regulatory structures go hand in hand with dense infrastructure and well-educated populations — so you’d see more dangerous, lower skilled jobs flocking to the low-tax, low-regulation states and higher-skilled jobs to the more regulated ones.

            On top of all that, of course, we’ve got a federal system of regulations and taxes which provides a certain floor as well.

          • Morat, I agree it’s hard to parse out. It’s like I said below, most of these things don’t happen in a vacuum. State politics are determined by circumstances as much as the other way around.

            The only reservation I have with regard to excluding extraction is that some states let extraction occur while other states block it. So that is affected by policies. Then again, extraction or prevention of extraction is significantly related to a place’s settlement patterns (urban vs rural) and economic needs (how much do we need the people/jobs/money?).

    • To be fair, a good deal of Tennesseans “less careful with their environment” is because the news and government assures them that pollution is absolutely safe, when it really doesn’t take a scientist to know otherwise.

    • “I have to admit that towards the end of my sojourn in Tennessee I became the guy who moved to the south and complained that it wasn’t California. Except I proceeded to return to California so I put my money where my mouth was.”

      Don’t most Californians complain that every other place is not California? 😉

      I am growing more fond of San Francisco but my thoughts of it not being the Northeast or Brooklyn still are present.

      • Haha. A friend of a friend just moved from SF to Pittsburgh. He was warned about the hills. He said, “Man, I’ve been dealing with hills all my life.”

        This week: His first encounter with “hills + humidity”.

        We’re looking forward to his encounter with “Hills+Snow” (shortly followed by “Hills+Ice”)

        … he doesn’t own a car.

  5. Actually the Black Hills area of SD is really nice. I haven’t looked at the pop figures so if you say they are growing then that is good for them. They are low pop areas so a small number of people can lead to a good rate. But it’s still a small amount. There are all sorts of reasons people move places and good jobs are always one of them. Are people moving to Fargo because they can’t stand living three hours out on the ND plains? That might be some of it.

    Lots of people have said how the conservative govs in the South must be popular since so many people move there. Of course lots of those people moved there from the north because they are to wimpy to deal with snow. Was is it love of Dixie or Repub gov that has led many many thousands of jews from NJ/NY to move to Fla when they got old and the kids were out of the house.

    • I tend to minimize the extent to which I would associate a state’s policies with its success. There are so many factors. Just as I don’t think that Louisiana could be a donor state like New Jersey if only it had New Jersey’s politics, I don’t think that New York could become a lot more like North Dakota if only it had North Dakota’s policies.

      Politics are so often a reflection of circumstance. I think that a lot of these states are doing right with their business-friendly and development-friendly policies because that’s what they have to sell. But then it reaches a certain point where expansion is less of a goal and other things start to matter more.

      Which is not to say that I don’t have my criticisms and my biases, but a lot of people seem to think of a single set of policies as being The Right Approach when I think it is widely, widely variable.

      • In general i agree although i know we would disagree on some specifics.

      • da. there are often many game theories that make sense.
        I just wish one of them wasn’t “become a whore for the corporations”…
        or “actively steal off everyone else”

        • note: for that last one: i’m not condemning every poor little corner of America!!!

  6. North Dakota has to be one of the most backward states in the Union. They seem intent on making abortions illegal, playing the ol’ Hospital Admitting Privileges game we see in other Red Neck States.

    What a mudhole is North Dakota. For a state of such wide-open spaces, its culture would induce claustrophobia in a coal miner. To get a proper sense of the place, try Chuck Klosterman’s Downtown Owl. There sits Julia the imported history teacher in her car, trapped in a blizzard, slowly dying of carbon monoxide poisoning:

    “Maybe I don’t need a relationship after all, she thought. Maybe thinking about these conversations was just as good as having them. She could sit in her Honda in the dark and experience whatever kind of life she wanted. Sometimes you think, Hey, maybe there’s something else out there. But there really isn’t. This is what being alive feels like, you know? The place doesn’t matter. You just live.”

      • Because letting women die is so much better than child abandonment.

        • “Letting women die”?

          Where did you acquire that fantasy? You have, 1.3 million abortions in the United States in a typical year. The number of ectopic pregnancies pregnancies among them is about 30,000. The annual death toll from illegal abortions during the period running from 1945 to 1970 was a two or three digit figure depending on the year.

          • Ectopic pregnancies are naturally not the only risks involved. You’ve got hypertension, some stuff with different blood types, not to mention post partum depression.

            A pregnancy is more dangerous than an abortion.

            Would you be okay with allowing coathanger abortions in your ideal world? or must women turn to tansy and other abortifacients? How about if they’re using radium? 😉

      • Of a sort, I suppose we could call it Civilization. If you must, I could also call the Taliban a civilization, too. North Dakota is an empty, afflicted, un-fruited plain, where the west wind could blow forever over that haven of backwardness and not disturb a hair on ten intelligent heads.

          • Civilization, historically, has been all about child regulation.
            You had too many kids, your society died out.

          • Civilized societies kill their young all the time. A mighty crop of granite tombstones has sprouted up in graveyards all across this nation like so many stone dandelions as a direct result of this society sending its young off to die in needless wars. Likewise, this nation still has capital punishment.

            While some folks hold to the sanctity of life for the unborn and not for the already-born, let us have none of this parsimonious translation of your morals into national ethics.

          • No, civilized societies have intramural conflicts, some of which are violent, and few of which are ‘needless’ for all parties to them. What they do not do is soak the innocent in caustic brine. Not a difficult distinction to understand, for someone whose sensibilities are not a ruin.

          • I just finished writing an obituary for a very wise man, Kenneth Waltz, who observed the nation states exist in a state of anarchy amongst themselves. They differ only in how they’re composed, these nation states.

            In this nation, as is the case in every other civilised nation, abortion remains legal. You may wish for a return to a theocracy, where Sacredness trumps the law of the land, where some bearded mullah type can get between a doctor and his patient and shove an ultrasound into her hoo-hoo. Move to North Dakota, where life is sacred and the mullahs roam as free as the pronghorn. The pronghorn are declining about as fast as the mullahs are increasing. There might be some correlation there.

          • I am familiar with Dr. Waltz. He was a capable formulator of theoretical texts – as was Hans Morgenthau, as was Raymond Aron, and as was Robert W. Tucker. What they wrote about is irrelevant here.

            The occidental world has embraced decadence. There are corners which have not, such as Malta and Ireland. You wish to be an advocate for indecency (dressed up with humbug about ‘the Taliban’ and ‘theocracy’). Too bad.

          • Art,
            How innocent is a baby who is killing its mother through hypertension?

          • Art,
            no, but I am interested in how innocent you think those particular babies are.

  7. If you want a hellhole, look at Cleveland.
    (believe it’s worse than Detroit, and people are leaving there in droves).

    • Metropolitan Detroit extends over three counties and over 80% of its population lives outside the Detroit municipality. When you say ‘worse than Detroit’, to which part of Detroit are you referring?

  8. As someone who grew up in the rural west, of course you are going to leave.

    You have to leave for college-assuming you go-anyway.
    The rural world is rural. Where I grew up you either ranched, farmed, or worked in one large industry. There were a few gov’t types-LEO, teachers, but there were small vs the overall population.

    Anyone who didn’t want to continue ranching, farming, or working in the one industry-which was eventually shut down due to economic reasons-left the area. It had nothing to do with tax rates, freedom, etc.

    BTW, when you’re out in the boonies, regardless of the laws, you can pretty much do what the hell you want as long as you don’t mess with other folks. How do you measure that freedom?

    • Just to point out that in Upstate New York, ca 1986, you had about 40,000 farm households – dairy and truck farming mostly, some grain. At the time, you had over 900,000 households to be found in country homesteads and hamlets (and that does not include the small town and service village population). I think the number of farmers has continued to decline in the succeeding 27 years. About 15 years ago I had a conversation with the director of Co-operative Extension in one non-metropolitan county. That particular county has about 14,000 country households. She told me there were around about 680 farmers in the county at that time. Its not in or around any of the state parks. Plenty of arable land there.

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