Texas triumphant

How is the great state of Texas faring in the 21st century?

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The Republican party holds a 'Hands Off Texas' rally at the state capital following a fundraising visit to Austin by President Obama, Aug. 09 in Austin. As Americans 'vote with their feet,' who is moving to Texas and who is leaving the Lone Star State?

Actually what is triumphant is the economic model of low taxes, light regulation and economic liberty. As Michael Barone clarifies in today’s (Weekend) Wall Street Journal (p. A13) no state has implemented these policies better than Texas. In “The Great Lone Star Migration,” Barone details the winners and losers by population since 1930. He breaks the period into two sub-periods: 1930-70 and 1970-2010.

He presents much data, and one statistic stands out: “Today one out of 12 Americans live in Texas – the same proportion that lived in New York City in 1930.” Other gainers by region are the Southeast and the Rocky Mountain states. The Plains and the interior South have also made gains. Regions that rose in the 1930-70 timeframe are now in relative decline due to bad policies in the states. The Pacific states are one example. The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic are two others.

No single measure measures the policy mix better than migration. People vote with their feet within and across nations. No one is going to Texas, or many of the other regional gainers, for the weather. They are going for the balance of economic opportunity, amenities and politics. Houston has an execrable climate, but is one of the most livable cities in the US.

As one who moved to Texas in the 1980s, none of this was obvious. Politics was still populist at the state level. Tort law was terrible. Then the state experienced the oil bust, a real-estate bust and a banking crisis. The Feds response was maladroit. It was by no means obvious that Texas would recover, much less prosper. But it did both. Throughout it kept low taxes and light regulation. One election, voters turned out all Democrat judges and replaced them with reforming Republicans. Two legislative reforms later, Texas Tort Law is a model. The state may move to a modified version of British law: loser pays.

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