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On many occasions, people have
asked me how much government is ideal. For those who believe in classical
liberal, limited government, a more specific question might be, at what point
have government officials departed from their legitimate role?
Pro-liberty people, myself
included, are likely to respond with natural rights theory and the distinction
between negative and positive liberties. Before your eyes glaze over, though, there
is an alternative answer I suspect is more compelling to a broader audience: what people want.
While you might assume that
means direct democracy, I'm referring to migration. Where open migration exists
-- such as between the states -- people tend to choose the jurisdiction and
form of government that best suits their preferences. And migration is what
economists call a revealed
preference, stemming from the notion that the best way to measure consumer
preferences is to observe their purchasing behavior. This contrasts with stated
preferences, where people simply say what they prefer, akin to voting.
In the case of migration, the
evidence from the states is compelling: migration affirms the hunger for
freedom. A comprehensive
ranking of freedom from the Mercatus Center provides one such example. (North Carolina came
in at 18th.)
Over the 2000 to 2009 period, the difference between a state ranked in
the bottom third, such as Connecticut at 38th, and a state in the top third,
such as Iowa at 13th, translated to higher positive migration equal to 5.9
percent of population. In other words, over-governed states tend to have lost 3
percent of their population through domestic migration, while freer states tend
to have added 3 percent to their population.
In so far as federalism remains
in the United States, people are voting with their feet, and they're willing to
uproot themselves for less state government. The least free states, New York,
New Jersey, and California, all lost sizeable portions of their populations
during the last decade -- 9 percent in the case
of New York.
Regarding the degree of
freedom, no state in the union appears to have gone too far, so as to dissuade
people from going there. In fact, New Hampshire, the freest state according to
the ranking, has attracted an organized movement of
liberty-minded individuals, along with an overall trend of inwards
There is a test on the horizon
for how much freedom will bring prosperity and attract immigrants and
investment. Last week, I
published on the Special Development
Regions of Honduras.
The idea is to wipe the slate clean of
governmental failure and allow for a fresh start in specific parts of the
country. These largely autonomous regions will take proven approaches from
around the world to write their own laws, have their own courts, and even
handle their own immigration policies. The leaders of each region will also
compete with the others to attract constituents and investors.
I will continue to watch that
development. Back here in the United States, though, the migrant departure is a form of disapproval that should
be met with concern. On the national level, net migration with Mexico is now at
zero, along with plummeting apprehensions
on the border -- an indication that the United States no longer offers the land
of opportunity for many.
Elmer Ups the Stakes in Treasurer's Race
week I noted the underperformance of the sitting state treasurer, Janet
Cowell. Her primary competitor, Ron
Elmer, has been quick
to point out the waste in the department, including $337 million to
investment fund managers. Now he has put his money where his mouth is:
"If I haven't eliminated
$50 Million of investment management fees from the State Pension after one year
in office, I will work for free until I do."
- At the John Locke Foundation's recent candidate
briefing, I gave the fiscal presentation. Click here
to watch the video (10 minutes).
- There will be a Constitutional Candidate Forum,
hosted by Founders' Truth and Constitutionalist Gathering Place, on April
28, from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Lighthouse Convention Center, Raleigh.
Go here for
Click here for the Fiscal