Federalism

Shopping Around for a Better Life

It's good that we have places like Texas and New Hampshire to which fed-up citizens can escape.

|

Thanks, California! Thanks for your monstrous spending and absurd regulatory overreach! America needs you. We need Connecticut and Illinois, too! We need you the way we needed the Soviet Union, as models of failure, to warn us what happens if we believe those who say, "Government can."

Moving to California was once the dream for many Americans. Its population grew at almost triple the national average—until 1990. Then big government, in the form of endless regulation and taxes, killed much of the dream. In the last decade, 2 million people left California.

Many of them moved to Alaska, Florida, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington or Wyoming. More on what makes those states special in a moment.

When the USSR died, overthrown by its own citizens' hatred of central planning, I assumed the world would acknowledge that big government is a nightmare. But people don't. As I write in No, They Can't, our brains are programmed to believe that "next time, central planning will help." So, many people forget the lesson of the USSR.

Fortunately, they can still watch what's happening right now in California, Illinois and Connecticut. OK, those states are not totalitarian dictatorships, but they tax and micromanage so much that they will soon approach bankruptcy, cut services and stagnate.

And Americans have an advantage Soviet citizens never had: 50 states. If we live in a big-government state, we can move. I did.

I grew up in Illinois. It was nice enough (except in winter). But gradually its politicians gave away its future.

I moved to New York City, no political paradise, but where the big TV news jobs are. And maybe New York's promises to unions won't bankrupt us too soon.

I could always move again. I would still be smothered by federal rules, but at least I can move to a place with fewer onerous state rules.

A group called the Free State Project invites us to move to New Hampshire to help create "liberty in our lifetime." It's too early to see how that will work out, but that state now has a booming population of libertarians and anarchists. One even got elected to the state legislature after running against his own roommate, also a libertarian, whom he accused of not being anti-government enough.

Americans who want to escape state income taxes and live near better job prospects can move to one of those nine states that I mentioned above.

It's no surprise they produce more jobs. Without an income tax, those states were forced to limit the growth of their governments, so they did. Every state has schools, social service programs, prisons, etc., but those states find a way to fund those things for less. Then they reap benefits.

Last decade, those nine states gained population and increased jobs by 4.9 percent; jobs in the rest of the states declined by 2.6 percent.

It's good that we have places like Texas and New Hampshire to which fed-up citizens can escape. In Europe, you'd have to leave your country to escape its worst laws.

French actor Gerard Depardieu just moved to Belgium to escape France's proposed 75 percent tax on the rich. Years ago, high taxes in Britain drove Rod Stewart to move to Los Angeles. But by 2010, California's taxes had risen, and Stewart moved back to England. (He doesn't claim the reason was taxes; he said his child could get a better education in England.)

Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute summed up California's situation for me. "The politicians want to get re-elected, and the state government workers want to get as much as they can before the whole house of cards comes tumbling down. California is Greece—the Greece of America."

I hope all Americans watch and learn from states like California. But if we don't, and if people keep electing big-government politicians, at least Americans, unlike the Greeks, can hop around between 50 states, trying to stay one step ahead of bad laws and ruin.

NEXT: Rand Paul vs. Hillary Clinton on Benghazi: Campaign 2016 Begins?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I’m a misterogynist [i.e. I admit my bias toward woman].

    I hope we can continue to say ‘Live Free Or Die’ after the terrible trifecta that NH elected in Nov.

    Hassan, Shea-Porter and Kuster are Stalinista’s?

  2. from the great masshole migration of the 80’s and 90’s…I suggest you close the border

  3. What’s so special about New Hamphire? Why should we all move there to live? It has like 4 electoral votes and is surrounded by deep blue states.

    1. live free or die mf! also not MA…of course that holds for N. Korea as well

  4. I want out of New York so fucking badly, but I’ve literally been taxed into financial submission. ;__;

  5. Phil Mickelson showed promise, but then he bitched out and apologized to the left after they excoriated him in the media for not surrendering to the Borg. Mickelson would be a hero if he had simply said, “I am not your property, fuck you” and then pulled out a phase rifle and said “Assimilate this” to the leftwing collectivist brainwashing satellite tv device in the sky.

  6. I moved out of California last year, and moved to near Seattle, Washington and enjoyed an instant 10% pay bump due to no state income tax, less license fees, less traffic, less crime, etc.

    I think going Galt is the way to go.
    1. Move out of high extortion states.
    2. Keep your dayjob if it’s working for you, but on the side, be an entrepreneur and create a business that makes goods/services that hold value, a commodity… and trade as much as possible on the black and barter markets with trusted people.
    3. If you have a business, keep it at subsistence level on paper, but run income underground.

    This is what most do in countries with overbearing state controls…evade the beast. It’s not a moral problem for a libertarian to retaliate against aggression with subversion, so as a matter of survival, fack the regime, and work around the piece of historical shat that it is becoming, and shun those who believe it represents human salvation. The govt is the enemy. Never forget that. All it knows is force. Get too close to it and it will first kill your entrepreneurial spirit, then it will kill YOU.

  7. my state of colorado has become inundated with california refugees, who flee the negative impact of state policies only to arrive and say, ‘this is how we do it where i come from,’ much like locusts

    1. That’s when you punch them in the junk and say, “This is how we say Fuck off here.”

    2. I blame the schools, I once had social studies teacher tell me the GOP did not stand for the Grand Old Party, but rather Government Of the People….

  8. I live in Montana where we do have an income tax, but no State sales tax. Here, the left resists (sometimes half-heartedly) a sales tax because they perceive it to be regressive. Fiscal conservatives here frequently argue for an end to the income tax, replaced by a sales tax, but the left won’t give up the income tax which they adore for its supposed punitive affect on the rich. On the other hand, our property taxes are not too bad.

    1. There’s hope at the state level. Jindel in LA is trying to limit corporate and income tax replacing it with a higher sales tax. NC, KS, OK are all trying to move to lower income/higher sales tax. The red states will out complete the blues, probably. The energy state have lower unemployment and will likely grow – like Montana – at a more robust rate. Time will tell, but what’s lost at the fed level might be recoverable at the state level.

      1. Thats “compete” not complete.

  9. In Europe, you’d have to leave your country to escape its worst laws.

    Which the EU made much easier. Considerably freer movement of labor may be the only benefit of that union, but it certainly helps lots of East Europeans.

  10. Too bad Stossel doesn’t realize the USSR’s central planners did not die, they just moved over to the USA.

  11. so true. i chose WA and am damn glad i did. no income tax

    no income tax

    no income tax

    shall issue concealed carry and no permit required open carry

    and a state constitution that SEVERELY limits police power when compared to states like california. we have no search incident to arrest in motor vehicles, we outlaw pretext stops, we have strict curtilage privacy compared to cali, etc. etc. etc. simply put, far less police power = more freedom.

    oh, and we just legalized marijuana.

    our pension systems are also financially healthy comparatively speaking

    viva WA

  12. I’m not getting something. I follow New England politics fairly closely. From what I hear, New Hampshire is being invaded by people escaping Massachusetts, who in turn, are turning that state into a liberal cesspool repeating the mistakes that Mass. a joke.

    The state voted for Obama for crying out loud.

  13. Hate to be a downer, but the old saying “as California goes, so goes the nation” is probably a better bet than us ever becoming a genuinely free people. It’s a spreading cancer that survives because people’s baser instinct is to get what’s easy first. And in a democracy the wise get outnumbered by the less wise who think in growing percentages that “yes, they can”.
    I live in NM and this state was long a free place with a western libertarian bent. But no more. Libs from across the nation slither here and slowly swell the ranks of college loving blank-slates until the place is a bastion of liberal socialist douche-baggery.
    Better prepare for the eventual Californication of the whole US of A!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.