Yesterday, I cheerfully linked to a study that rated New Hampshire as the “freest” state. I also promised to follow up on that with my theories on why… well, why we’re so much more awesomer than the lesser 49 states.
(Warning: gross stereotyping and exaggerations ahead.)
First up, we’re kinda stubborn and self-reliant, generally. We don’t treat whiners and professional victims with a great deal of sympathy. Our response when we hear a sob story isn’t usually “oh, that’s so terrible, what can we do for you?” but “OK, that sucks. How you wanna fix that?”
Next, our system of state government seems engineered to keep it in check. Our founding fathers saw to that when they set up our Bill of Rights. For one, it isn’t a set of amendments, but the first Part of the Constitution. For another, I dearly love quoting Section I, Article 10:
[Art.] 10. [Right of Revolution.] Government being
instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security, of the
whole community, and not for the private interest or emolument of any
one man, family, or class of men; therefore, whenever the ends of
government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and
all other means of redress are ineffectual, the people may, and of right
ought to reform the old, or establish a new government. The doctrine of
nonresistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd,
slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.
Ain’t that just awesome? We not only CAN revolt against the government, we OUGHT TO.
But that’s a pretty abstract threat. I don’t think it’s never been seriously invoked. Oh, a few cranks have tried to use it in court a few times, but they’ve been smacked down.
Secondly, we have a large legislature. In fact, we have the fourth-largest legislature in the English-speaking world, behind only India’s Parliament, the United Kingdom’s Parliament, and the United States Congress. In a state of roughly 1.2 million people, we have 24 State Senators and 400 Representatives.
That might seem a bit paradoxical — how the hell can such a big legislature result in small government? — but it works out. With 400 Representatives, you need to get a lot of people to agree with any legislation. It’s a given that the smaller the group, the more efficient it is. Conversely, the bigger the group, the less efficient it is. And we kinda like that.
Further, with those numbers, that means that each Representative has a constituency of about 3,000 people, give or take. That means that there’s a pretty decent chance that you personally know your Representative — or, at least, can find them and get to them fairly readily. Personally, my representatives (being in a city, I have four) are 0.5 miles, 0.6 miles, 2.7 miles, and 3.9 miles from my home. That’s fairly typical.
And that means that if one of my reps is ticking me off, I can walk over to their house, knock on their door, and tell them to knock it off or I’ll get Joe or Susan next door to run against them next time. And they know I’ll mean it.
Third, our state isn’t run by “career legislators.” No one is there to make a living and support their family. We truly have a “citizen legislature.”
Because they don’t get paid a living wage.
Annual pay for a New Hampshire legislator? $100.00. Period. Oh, plus mileage and expenses. But ain’t no one living off their work in the General Court.
So we end up with a legislature of housewives. Of retirees. Of independently wealthy folks. Of professionals. Basically, people who generally aren’t inclined to spend a lot of time passing new laws and taxes, or not inclined to pass laws and taxes that’ll hit them first.
And our governors? The current guy’s a Democrat, and naturally he has some tendencies that I don’t particularly like. But he was better than the chowderheads the Republicans put up against him a couple of times, and now he has a solidly Republican legislature, so he’s kind of in check right now. Plus, he’s a doctor, so he’s no career pol. I’m fairly sure he took a pay cut when he took office.
And that’s how you end up with a state that has several distinctions that I hold with a great deal of pride. Distinctions that make us unique and set us apart from those other, lesser 49 states.
We have no mandatory seat belt or motorcycle helmet laws for adults. Our policy is that only a flaming idiot won’t use these critical pieces of safety equipment — but we ain’t in the business of stopping you from being an idiot. I’m a seat belt militant, for one. But those who support such laws don’t like it when I ask them if they’re saying that they’re so stupid or self-destructive that they won’t wear those without being made to by the government.
For another, we’re the only state with absolutely no sales or income taxes. None. It kinda throws newcomers when they make their first purchases in the Granite State, and actually pay the price on the price tag. And it’s nice to keep more of your own money. Money is the lifeblood of government — and we keep ours just this side of anemic.
And then there’s the final reason, the one that doesn’t get much attention, but one that I think plays a bigger role than anyone likes to admit. And that’s geography.
We’ve got Massachusetts right up against our southern border.
My mother used to say that everyone has a purpose in life, even if it’s to serve as a bad example. And the Bay State does that in spades. It’s a textbook case of just how badly you can screw up a state. And since it’s so much more populous than we are, we get a LOT of their media coverage up here.
We also end up taking in a lot of people moving out of the Bay State. Ex-Massholes tend to fall into two categories. The first is those sick of Massachusetts, and will bend any ear they can find about the specifics of the latest Mass. Insanity — especially the final straws that drove them out.
The second type are essentially Massholes who want to recreate the Bay State up here. They move in and immediately want to start remaking our state into New Mass. They tend to quickly irritate and alienate their neighbors, who are quickly reminded of just how important that southern border is — and, perhaps, if it ought to be fortified.
So there’s a whole host of reasons why I think New Hampshire is at the top of the list. But the important question isn’t why we are so much freer than the other states.
No, the critical question is, why aren’t more states crowding us up at the top? It ain’t rocket science, people.