Economic Liberty Means Prosperity

Two stories from the newspapers today suggest something interesting about the attractiveness of economic liberty.

The Denver Post reports:

Rollie Heath, a Boulder Democrat elected to the [State] Senate, said that as lawmakers grapple in the coming session with cutting as much as $600 million from the budget because of declining revenues, they should also look at TABOR [the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights], a revenue-capping provision of the state’s constitution.

The state is in a timeout from TABOR’s tax-revenue limits, but that timeout expires in 2010, when Colorado will have to begin refunding to taxpayers any revenue it collects over TABOR’s prescribed limit. …

Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, who also is a member of the Committee on Job Creation and Economic Growth, shuddered at the idea.

“When did job creation become about maximizing the government’s budget?” Mitchell said, “TABOR isn’t constricting state revenues at all right now. When TABOR resumes, it won’t cut anything…. If someone thinks that’s a chokehold, they have emphysema.”

It’s good to see that some Republicans continue to take seriously the virtues of economic liberty.

The second story comes from the Rocky Mountain News:

Colorado may not be booming these days, but it remains among the fastest-growing states in the nation, placing third, along with Texas and North Carolina, with population growth of 2 percent.

Utah outstripped Colorado for the No. 1 spot nationwide, growing at 2.5 percent, while Arizona came in second, with growth of 2.3 percent between July 2007 and July 2008.

Still, Colorado gained 96,686 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, with total population reaching 4.9 million, up from 4.8 million in July 2007.

Unlike Utah, where much of the growth comes from natural births, Colorado’s surge in head count is due largely to an influx of 52,398 migrants from other states and countries, according to Robert Bernstein, a spokesman for the U.S. Census in Washington, D.C.

Is it merely coincidence that people like to move toward economic liberty? No. True, Colorado is attractive for a variety of other reasons, particularly the mountains. Yet, accounting for other variables, people tend to move toward economic liberty and away from economic political controls.

The U.S. Economic Freedom Index: 2008 Report explains the connection. The summary states:

The net migration rate for the 20 freest states was 27.36 people per 1,000, while it was a low 1.17 people per 1,000 for the 20 most economically oppressed states. “People are moving to the freest states and fleeing the least free states as our market-based migration metric of economic freedom predicts,” said Lawrence J. McQuillan, Ph.D., director of Business and Economic Studies at PRI and director of the project. “By measuring economic freedom and studying its effects, people will gain a fuller appreciation of the important imprint it makes on the economic and political fabric of America and will encourage new state legislation that advances economic liberty.” …

South Dakota, Idaho, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Nevada, and Oklahoma rank among the top 10 most economically free states in the nation.

Unfortunately, none of the states is very free, and all suffer from a bloated federal government. So Colorado is freer only on a relative scale. But liberty ought not be graded on a curve. Individual rights deserve respect all of the time, not merely sometimes. What Colorado needs is more economic liberty and less political control of the economy.