Progressive America is losing out to conservative states

By Mississippi Center for Public Policy
March 27, 2022

Enterprising young people are abandoning decaying Democrat cities in search of a better life

Sunday Telegraph, March 27th, 2022

America is on the move. A rapid demographic change is under way, reshaping the nation’s economic, political and cultural contours. For as long as anyone can remember, America’s big business clusters were in the northeast, the midwest and California. New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles were the kinds of places where enterprising young Americans would go to make their way in the world.

Not anymore. In just 12 months between July 2020 and July 2021, these four cities lost over 700,000 people. A very different phenomenon is playing out in conservative states, especially in the south. Almost 80 per cent of the population growth in 2021 happened in a mere 10 counties. Five of the fastest growing counties were in Texas and two in Florida. The fastest of all was Maricopa county in Arizona, which is rapidly filling up with large numbers of Californian emigres.

What do the growth states have in common? They favour freedom. From snow-capped Utah to swampy Florida, geography and climate are not the decisive factor; state politics is. As free states thrive, radical progressives drive businesses away from their traditional hubs. Last year, Elon Musk relocated Tesla’s headquarters from California to Texas. Thousands of lower-profile businesses have made the same move.

While California combines European level taxation with third-world level public services, free states such as Texas, Tennessee and Florida do not have a state income tax at all. In New York and Silicon Valley, permits are needed for almost anything, yet Arizona and Utah have imposed radical red-tape reduction plans.

Contemporary America remains bitterly divided between these two tribes. Conservative America drives pick-up trucks, prefers its taxes low and its government small. Here, the Oath of Allegiance is pledged daily, and American exceptionalism accepted as self-evident. Progressive America, on the other hand, drives a Prius rather than a pick-up and is far more likely to worry about climate change. This tribe has a fundamentally different conception of what America is, was and ought to be, and prefers to focus on intersectional identity above any kind of exceptionalism.

Opinion formers in Britain, citing Biden’s win over Trump, often assume that America is moving inexorably towards a more progressive future. Yet a rather different picture is emerging.

States aren’t just depopulating due to an exodus of enterprising people. Progressive America is literally dying; deaths in Democrat cities and states have started to exceed births. Though birth rates have fallen across the board in the past decade, it has been most pronounced in places where folk have gone woke, perhaps losing interest in raising a family in the process. Women in conservative America on average marry significantly younger than they do in progressive states.

As Chicagoans and Californians flood into Texas, Arizona and Tennessee in search of a better life, many conservatives fear that they will bring their progressive voting habits with them. A more optimistic scenario is that as the most entrepreneurial abandon progressive controlled areas in favour of free ones, they will merely reinforce the intensely individualistic mindset that already exists there.

What is certain is that two models of American identity are engaged in a fierce battle at a federal level. Because the US system allows interstate competition, here in Mississippi we are leading a campaign to abolish the state income tax. We have written a new law on universal occupational licensing to make it easier for outsiders to come and work here.

What if this kind of localism were normal in Britain? What sort of innovation could be unleashed? You would not have to kill time hoping for Boris Johnson to fix things anymore than we are waiting on Joe Biden.

Douglas Carswell is the president and CEO of the Mississippi Centre for Public Policy.

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