Sometimes smaller is better

Bruce, over at Mass Backwards, has discovered another reason to flee the Bay State and come north to Cow Hampshire. I answered him in the comments there, but I think it could stand a bit of expansion and elaboration.

Bruce pointed out that recently, the New Hampshire legislature just killed three bills: authorizing traffic cameras, mandating seat belts, and studying (merely studying!) a luxury tax. All three plans went down in flames.

(A brief aside: New Hampshire does require seat belts for occupants under the age of 18. Once you’re a legal adult, though, you can be as stupid as you want to. We don’t even have a mandatory motorcycle helmet law for adults, either.)

He compared that to Massachusetts, the land of mandatory seat belt laws. Massachusetts, the land of taxing everything. Massachusetts, where nearly everything is considered a “luxury.”

One of the more subtle differences between New Hampshire and Massachusetts, and I think it’s one that is deeply profound.

In Massachusetts, lawmakers just voted themselves another pay raise. They now make, I think, around $50,000 a year. Nearly all of them list “legislator” on their tax returns. Their full-time job is being a lawmaker.

In New Hampshire, our legislators make $100 a year. That’s no typo. They earn one hundred dollars a year.

In Massachusetts, the legislators are lawmakers, year round. Therefore, to justify their continued pay, they need to keep making laws. Passing new laws. Revising old laws. And to support their positions that we need all this regulation, they need an ever-expanding state bureaucracy to administer these laws. And to support that bureaucracy, they need more and more money. And to raise that money, they need more and higher taxes.

In New Hampshire, lawmakers tend to be either independently wealthy or retired. Legislating is purely a part-time duty for most of them. And they tend to be very unsympathetic to people asking for more money, when they have to make five Benjamins last 365 days themselves.

Another consequence is that Massachusetts legislators spend a lot of time on Beacon Hill (the location of the Capitol). They live fairly insular lives, and only spend a lot of time with their constituents when it’s time for re-election. In New Hampshire, legislators either have real jobs or real lives away from Concord, and have to face the people who have to live with the laws they pass on a regular basis.

A third difference is in sheer size of the legislatures. Massachusetts has 160 Representatives and 40 Senators, serving a population of just under 6.5 million people. New Hampshire has 400 Representatives and 24 Senators, serving about 1.25 million people. (In fact, they boast about being the third-largest legislative body in the world, yielding only to the United States Congress and Great Britain’s Parliament.) A Massachusetts State Senator has about 162,500 constituents, while a New Hampshire Senator has 52,100. It’s even more extreme in the Houses: there, a Massachusetts representative has, on average, 40,000 constituents; his New Hampshire colleague has less than 3,500. And with those smaller constituencies, the representatives tend to be more responsive to their concerns.

Now, I’m not saying that a smaller legislature is a panacea, but it certainly seems to be working around here.

One last comment I made over at Bruce’s site is a theme I’ve touched upon before, but it certainly bears repeating. Massachusetts boasts of itself as the “cradle of liberty,” but as has been noted before, no one should remain in the cradle forever. We all have to eventually grow up and move out of the cradle and stand on our own. Remember that the government that is big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything you have.

But if you really feel the need for the ultimate in the Mommy State, for someone to take care of you forever, to worry about everything for you and free you of all personal responsibility, move to Massachusetts.

And since they’re the only state that actually lost population in the last census, there’s certainly plenty of room.


(Note: I rounded up the above population figures for simplicity’s sake. Therefore, the derived numbers are therefore also not precise, but they certainly are close enough to illustrate my point.)

A hearty welcome
Mae Magouirk Update


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