L. Neil Smith's
Number 297, November 14, 2004

"Where can we go from here?"

One of the "Last Best Places" for Freedom?
by Ben F. Irvin and Robert Hawes

Special to TLE

Like many libertarians across this country, you were likely disappointed with the returns for Michael Badnarik and your state and local LP candidates on November 2nd; and you may be wondering if libertarian ideals will ever find true expression in the process. Indeed, it appears that if libertarians ever want to see their ideals in operation, they're going to have to make it happen by combining their efforts in liberty-friendly places where their message may be better received, and where their enhanced numbers can make a real difference.

If you agree, we would like to suggest that you consider the advantages of working for freedom in Montana.

Montana is a state blessed with riches, both in its land and its legacy. Some of the most individualistic, self-reliant people in the world live under the Big Sky; and they have largely preserved those elements in their way of life. Here are some reasons why libertarians who are thinking a change of address might be in order for them should consider a move to Montana:

1. Montana's constitution guarantees that its people have the right to govern themselves as a "free, sovereign, and independent state"; a fact which may be important to the future of liberty should the rest of the country continue to slide deeper into statism. Also, it should be noted that the Montana Constitution was approved by a vote of all the people in 1972, and thus reflects current thinking. Indeed, most of the contributors are still alive.

2. Montana provides access to its political system by providing both the citizen initiative, recall and referendum. Montanans can even use the initiative process to amend their constitution or call a constitutional convention. A candidate for Montana House or Senate need be only 18 years old and have resided in Montana for one year. The legislature meets for 90 days every two years, meaning that state legislators aren't spending the majority of their time in the capital and away from their constituents. Also, for those who might be interested in easy access to county governments, Montana currently has several counties with under 1,000 people. There are already libertarians elected to the Montana legislature, although they currently serve as Republicans. In fact, in Flathead County this year, the GOP establishment was actually planning to vote Democrat because libertarians and constitutionalists effectively took control of the county GOP.

3. Montana has banned future federal land purchases, indicating a desire to keep Washington out of its affairs.

4. Montana has few land-use planning ordinances, zoning laws, and building codes, giving you more potential freedom to manage your property as you see fit.

5. Montana has a very strong, politically successful gun-culture. The gun ownership rate in Montana is estimated at 90%. As a result, it's not really surprising that Montana celebrates "Keep and Bear Arms Week" annually (by 77%). Open carry is legal in most places, and you can carry a concealed firearm without a permit in the vast majority of the state. It is also legal to carry a loaded, concealed firearm in your vehicle in Montana, whether you have a concealed carry permit or not. A concealed weapon (without a permit) may be carried on state lands, or while fishing, hunting, or bird watching. State lands include the banks of all rivers and streams to the high water mark. On November 2nd, Montanans voted to make the right to hunt part of their state constitution.

6. Montana has no state sales tax.

7. Montana has low property taxes and an overall low cost of living.

8. Montana does not require vehicle safety or emissions inspections. It also has reciprocity with other states for driver licenses and teacher certificates.

9. Montana has an extremely tolerant culture. The state has no obscenity laws, no open container laws, does not require motorcycle helmets for adults, does not require a social security number to obtain a driver's license, and respects homeschooling in that it does not require state testing and imposes no parental education level requirements. All sodomy laws ever passed by the state government were declared unconstitutional by the Montana Supreme Court in 1999. Also, as of November 2nd, Montana voters approved the possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes.

10. Montana is far from the country's major statist enclaves, such as New York and Washington, both in physical distance and mentality. It borders the more liberty-friendly Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan; in fact, some Albertan libertarians have already moved to Montana. Montana is also insulated to the south and west by Wyoming and Idaho. If future troubles should arise in the form of major terrorist attacks or some type of civil unrest, Montana and its neighbors are unlikely to be as greatly affected as the rest of the country.

11. Montana has something for almost everyone: mountains and prairie, endless outdoor recreational possibilities, vast empty rural areas and urban centers of varied and appreciable size (Billings is a city of 100,000, Missoula has 80,000, Great Falls has 56,000, Helena has 34,000, Butte has 26,000, Kalispell has 37,000, and Bozeman has 35,000).

12. On the issue of civil liberties and terrorism, Montana's legislature recently passed Joint Resolution 12, which provided that "individual citizens...acting together with law enforcement agencies and emergency personnel and in support of our military forces, are the sole effective means of thwarting terrorism..." and "that freedom of individuals will not be preserved by the transfer of power from individuals to government in the name of fighting terrorism..." Concerning the PATRIOT ACT, the city of Missoula has passed a resolution refusing cooperation with portions of the act that would compromise civil liberties. Many other communities, including rural Beaverhead County, have also passed similar resolutions.

There you have it. Twelve very good reasons why you as a libertarian might feel more at home in Montana than where you currently live. If you're interested and would like to know more, feel free to write us at fwa@clicksouth.net; or visit with other Montana (and western) enthusiasts at the Free West Alliance: http://freewest.org, and on the WAL mailing list: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/W-A-L/. A number of libertarians have recently let us know that they've moved to Montana or will be doing so soon; and libertarians already in Montana are in the process of organizing their efforts for greater success.

We invite you to join us in fighting for freedom together under the Big Sky.

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