Shopping Around for a Better Life

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.

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Shopping Around for a Better Life

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