04/10/2013 04:43 pm ET | Updated Jun 10, 2013

Libertarians: Live Free or Die of Frostbite

Some weeks ago, a study by the libertarian Mercatus Center found that the freest state in the United Ss Of A is... envelope, please... North Dakota! Shocker! (Next year, Mississippi.) Especially considering that North Dakota just passed a probably unconstitutional bill to outlaw its last hanging-by-its-fingernails abortion clinic. But if you're looking for a low-tax no-regulations gun-slinging secondhand-smoke-inhaling straight-white-male wonderland, North Dakota's your kind of town.

North Dakota Office Of North Dakota: North Dakota!
Institute Of Libertarianology*: Hi. We'd like to ask you about your fine free state.
North Dakota: Shoot! Hee! It's funny, because we have no gun restrictions.
Institute Of Libertarianology: We were just going to ask you about that! I'll just put a check here under "Freedom Of Guns".
North Dakota: You can also make out with a fish here.
Institute Of Libertarianology: I'm totally keeping that in mind. Tell us more about your many freedoms.
North Dakota: We have all the freedoms. Unless you're a woman and want the freedom to control your own body. Because, as we say here in North Dakota, screw them.
Institute Of Libertarianology: Hey, we say that in DC too! If we're libertarians. So, how about freedom of gayness?
North Dakota: Absolutely. Unless you're gay and want to get married. Or adopt a kid. Or not be gay-bashed. Because, as we say here in North Dakota, screw them.
Institute Of Libertarianology: Cool. We don't care about that, because we're not gay. Okay, so now here's the big question -- think about this one before answering --
North Dakota: How about I just say the first thing that pops into my head? I've got a smoke/shooting break coming up. I might go make out with a fish too.
Institute Of Libertarianology: Sure! We knew all the answers before we ever started our research anyway. Well, "research". So... how's North Dakota on taxes and regulation?
North Dakota: Hate 'em! Apparently they make your bridges not fall down and your poor people not die. Like that's a thing. Because, as we say here in North Dakota, screw them.
Institute Of Libertarianology: Wow, can I move to your state?
North Dakota: Dunno. Nobody's ever wanted to before.

Now, I can't deny that people have moved to North Dakota over the past few years; I just can't for the life of me imagine why. The authors think they have a point to make about this so-called migration from "non-free" to "free" states, which I believe we can summarize as follows: Freedom yay! Non-freedom boo! Americans are voting with their feet! (Makes sense; thanks to all those restrictive GOP voter ID laws, that's the only way most Americans can vote now.) Americans are supposedly moving away from the least-free states, including New York, California, Hawaii, New Jersey and Rhode Island, to the most-free: North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Oklahoma and oh let's say Somalia. (Actually, New Hampshire; to a former Mainer like me, there's little difference.) Freedom! we theoretically cry as we load up our rusted-out '97 Infinitis and head to Oklahoma City to become dust-ranchers.

This shows why libertarian academics should not be allowed near statistics, any more than I should be allowed near fireworks (my apologies to the entire 800 block of N. State Street) and why they ought to have "Correlation Does Not Imply Causation" tattooed all over their bodies, à la Memento. People have moved to North Dakota because of an oil boom there -- and as Alex Pareene points out in Salon, that's super-stable and could never vanish; long-term, the population of North Dakota has actually declined. That the "freest" states in the Union have experienced recent minor upticks in population does not show that low taxes and no regulation make people want to live there. Populations fluctuate from year to year. Being a shithole is forever.

Quick thought experiment to illustrate this point: between Honolulu or the Dust Bowl hell-dimension of Tulsa (a characterization based purely on my time at the Tulsa airport and The Grapes Of Wrath), where would you rather live? How about San Francisco v. Fargo? Sure, you might have to gay-marry someone every now and then in San Francisco, but you won't wind up in a wood-chipper -- the leading cause of death in any Dakota, including a Dodge Dakota. And Tennessee? Other than Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere singing awesome duets and bitching each other out in Nashville, what's the point? (I have a hard time separating real life from TV. Ask my BFF Tyrion Lannister.) Freedom's just another word for the best restaurant in town is Olive Garden.

Do even libertarians prefer the "free" states? Of the two authors of the study, one teaches in Buffalo, New York and the other at Texas State, just outside the People's Republic of Austin. Now, Buffalo resembles no one's idea of paradise (unless you're into wings or Ani Difranco or possibly winged Ani Difrancos), but note: one of the authors of this study would rather teach in Soviet Buffalo than the University Of F'rinstance South Dakota. The Mercatus Center is housed at George Mason University, a public (!) school near DC. I look forward to hearing of the authors' and the Institute's relocation to the windswept steppes of North Dakota. Live free or die, guys. And don't forget to make out with a fish.

*Really the Mercatus Center, but my name's better. Don't cage my soul, man!