The Freedom to Leave

Human beings prefer freedom to collectivism and tyranny. Only those in complete denial disregard the negative consequences of policies that suppress liberty. Consider North Korea versus South Korea. And recall that in Berlin during the Cold War era, people weren’t shot trying to go from West to East – not that anyone tried anyway. Finally, in the course of the last 55 years of the Castro regime, very few people jumped on rickety boats in Miami seeking a better life in Havana.

For those who follow what is happening in the United States – both in politics and with the economy – we can be grateful that even in the most oppressive economic environment – think your typical liberal city such as San Francisco or Portland – people remain remarkably free compared to citizens in many other parts of the world.

One of the freedoms that we Americans enjoy is the freedom to travel. A citizen’s ability to travel from state to state has been deemed by the United States Supreme Court to be a fundamental right that can only be restricted in the narrowest of circumstances. Part of this right is more than just going to another state or country and then returning. It means the freedom to leave. Permanently.

In California, we all know people who have bailed out for places where the taxes are low, regulations are light and the cost of living reasonable. But the evidence here is not just anecdotal.

In a recent piece in the Washington Times, economist Stephen Moore presents an amazing statistic: “Of the 10 blue states that Hillary Clinton won by the largest percentage margins — California, Massachusetts, Vermont, Hawaii, Maryland, New York, Illinois, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Connecticut — every single one of them lost domestic migration (excluding immigration) over the last 10 years (2004-14).”

But here’s the kicker: The exact opposite is true in those states that supported Donald Trump by the largest margin. Those states – including Wyoming, West Virginia, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Dakota, and Idaho — saw net domestic in-migration.

So what are the characteristics of those Hillary-supporting states that are bleeding productive citizens? Here, Moore doesn’t mince words: “They are the loser states. They are all progressive. High tax rates. High welfare benefits. Heavy regulation. Environmental extremism. Super minimum wages. Most outlaw energy drilling. The whole left-wing playbook is on display in the Hillary states. And people are leaving in droves.”

For those of us who follow these often wonkish statistics, let’s be clear. We’re not gloating – we’re unhappy. California is a great state with virtually unlimited potential. But the demographic trends are not pretty and when one considers the crushing debt load that looms like a fatal disease, it’s hard not to be deeply concerned.

Is there anything that can save the Golden State? In a very weird way, it is Trump himself who might save California by revitalizing the national economy. That would be ironic indeed. But if that doesn’t happen and the great “California Exodus” continues, the economic death spiral will accelerate. And unlike East Berlin, when productive California citizens decide to leave, there is nothing the Progressives can do to stop them.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.