Arnold Kling

Vermont and Secession

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Today's Washington Post contains an op-ed by Ian Baldwin and Frank Bryan on Vermonters' desire to secede from the union.


We secessionists believe that the 350-year swing of history's pendulum toward large, centralized imperial states is once again reversing itself.

Why? First, the cost of oil and gas. According to urban planner James Howard Kunstler, "Anything organized on a gigantic scale . . . will probably falter in the energy-scarce future." Second, third-wave technology is as inherently democratic and decentralist as second-wave technology was authoritarian and centralist. Gov. Jim Douglas wants Vermont to be the first "e-state," making broadband Internet access available to every household and business in the state by 2010. Vermont will soon be fully wired into the global social commons.


Meanwhile, a letter-writer in the Burlington Free Press says that the Vermont is in "aging demographic free fall." Indeed, the Statistical Abstract table on population by age and state shows that Vermont's median age is 40.2 years, four years higher than the national average and the second-highest in the country, just behind Maine. The Republic of Vermont sounds like a good idea. But not the People's Republic of Vermont, from which young people appear to be doing the seceding.


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CATEGORIES: Revealed Preference



COMMENTS (13 to date)
TGGP writes:

Kunstler is a loon. He was predicting the exact same things about Y2K. When he turned out to be fantastically wrong he kept saying the same stuff, only about peak oil instead. The great thing about peak oil is that, unlike y2k, it doesn't have a year attached to it so you can keep yammering about impending doom and when the world goes in a more Julian Simon direction you can keep saying that it's just around the corner. Kunstler should put his money where his mouth is at longbets.org

Tom S. writes:

Vermonter Thomas Naylor spoke at the American Institute of Economic Research last summer and I don't think their position is well-thought. Especially if they are pressed to explain why a smaller, but entirely independent government, wouldn't become corrupt just like other small countries.

In the end, a lot of their argument reduces down to: "big (geographically) is bad."

cljo writes:

It IS April 1. I wonder how many people think this is a joke. Well, it might be a joke but these people are serious.

Al T writes:

They might be able to fix their demographic problems if they lowered the drinking age back to 18, like they fought earlier to do. "Come for the booze, stay for the jobs."

Vincent Clement writes:

It's bad enough that there are thousands of real urban planner willing to give James Howard Kunstler his 15 minutes of fame, but to call him an urban planner is the last straw. He is not and has never been an urban planner. That alone makes this op-ed piece worthless.

morganja writes:

Is the 40.2 median age due to at outflux of young people or due to an influx of older retired people? It makes a huge difference in your argument.

As a state, according to the US Census Bureau, Vermont has expanded its population 2.4% from 2000 to 2006, above the 2.1% growth of the Northeast as a whole. Minority population has gone up over 20%.

Vermont is a known retirement spot.

So where are the numbers to support what seems to be a baseless supposition, that young people are fleeing the state due to economic regulation?

I'm not disputing this might be the case. But the presented argument is exactly the sort of weak cherry-picking of data to fit political dogma that an economist needs to avoid.

Are we interested in the truth or not? That is what seems to seperate a good economist from the state-fed herds kept in university captivity.

Matt writes:

It's due to an outflow of young people. There are towns that have hardly any young people. Most New England states have lost more than 30% of they young demographic bracket. There's even a new term for the region: Old and Cold.

morganja writes:

According to the 2000 census, admittedly 6 years old, Vermont actually has a lower than average percentage of children 14 and under, 21.4% for the US, only 19.9% for Vermont. The 35-54 crowd is higher in Vermont than the nation as a whole, 32.2% for Vermont, 29.7% US. It is the 20-34 group that is a little unrepresented, 20.9% for the US and 18.5% for Vermont. The prime working years spectrum 20-54 is 50.6% for the US and 50.7% for Vermont.

There might be more recent reliable data that I haven't found in my quick search, but it hardly seems like a Children of Man crises on their hands there.

Some young people no doubt are leaving to explore the world and maybe find better careers in large cities. Is it a function of the economic policies of the state governemnt, or just a function of the fact that Vermont lacks a large city?

The data that I have uncovered after a minimal search indicates that there isn't a mass exodus of the youth never to return. In fact, a breakdown of the numbers of children indicate that people with older children, 10-14, are moving to the state, perhaps an indication of the young returning when its time to raise their families in a safer, more community-based environment.

Scott Peterson writes:

If we wait long enough the state of Vermont may simply disappear. The land will be there, but there won't be any people:)...

Matt writes:

The entire Massachusetts population has dwindled over the past 14 years, but young adults between the ages of 25 and 34 are disappearing the fastest, according to a study out of the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire.

And they are not just leaving the Bay State. All six New England states rank in the top 10 in the country when it comes to losing members of Generation Y.

“It really affects the economic and social character of the region. Businesses that are growing fast, such as technology fields, need the energy of entry-level workers, and if there’s a decline in this group, they may look to settle elsewhere,” Ross Gittell, author of the study, said.

Most counties lose youth

Each of the 67 counties across New England has lost young adults since 1990 except Nantucket, Gittell found. Berkshire County lost 34 percent, Worcester County lost 20 percent, and Windham County in Vermont lost a whopping 41 percent.
=-------------------------------------------------
That article is in the archives, but there is another here.

People are leaving because of the high taxes and regulation, in addition to the weather. Simply put, young people cannot afford to live here.

morganja writes:

Thanks for the additional data. Is this not also the case across the Western US?

Matt writes:

It could be happening to California, because Colorado has seen a huge influx of young people. But I don't know for sure since I live where it's old and cold.

Jason writes:

Some anecdotal information. My parents raised 6 children in Vermont (we were far from the norm). Of the 6 (all adults with one still attending college) a grand total of 0 are living in Vermont now. Vermont was a phenomenal place to grow up, but given the tax rates, housing costs, and small job market it makes a lousy place to start out and raise one's own kids. Poverty with a view is great if you came up from Conneticut to attend college and have a trust fund to backstop you while you wait tables and ski. If you have student loans from graduate school two kids and a wife and would like to own a house Minnesota, Idaho, or Montana are better options.

I knew Frank Bryan when I was a kid in the early '80s. He was a very nice guy who used to let me fish in his pond. Back then the secession thing was always tongue in cheek. Vermonters are fond and proud of their independent period in much the same way that Texans are - it's something unique that sets them apart and confirms their view of themselves as independent can iconoclastic. It's too bad he has seemingly started taking the idea of returning to a Republic of Vermont seriously.

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