Many small towns across the country have yet to recover from the 2007 financial crisis, which lingered and became worse thanks to the Federal Reserve’s easy-money policies.
However, a small town tucked in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley managed to see an economic boost in the past few years, with entrepreneurs and even government-backed companies reaping the benefits of joining the rural community. Shortly after they moved in, the newfound prosperity translated into the growth of small businesses, wooing retirees who started purchasing land en mass, giving the local economy an even greater boost.
Now, Hamilton’s population grew more than 10 percent since 2010, when only 4,728 residents called the town their home. And thanks to the snow-frosted mountains and crystal-clear streams, the Bitterroot Valley town became a hot spot for travelers hoping to explore scenic locations.
This growth, which made Hamilton the poster-child for what a relatively free environment can foster, isn’t without its limitations thanks to state and federal regulations. Still, it is a clear example that decentralization is the solution to the economic problems created by the central government.
Decentralization and Economic Growth
With a tax burden below the national average, Montana is welcoming to individuals seeking to see less of their earnings being taken by bureaucrats. In addition, the Big Sky State also offers great personal freedom to its residents, despite the high minimum wage laws and somewhat heavy regulatory policies, which may be keeping the local economy from prospering further.
Still, Montana might be one of the freer states in the Western part of the country, giving residents of neighboring states even more reasons to move in. Just imagine what could happen there if state policies were to change, boosting freedoms in the labor market and others, instead of trapping locals into succumbing to an overly restricted economy?
Despite the potential benefits, many Hamilton residents are already pressuring local officials to keep the growth contained. As a result, large companies such as Walmart are being told to hold up and not come to town just yet. This protectionism may not work in the long run, but perhaps, it will now as it may serve as yet another one of the town’s selling points, as many people migrating to Bitterroot Valley may not be interested in living a particularly urban lifestyle.
Still, things remain somewhat free, and it’s precisely this environment that will help make the town even more famous among retirees and entrepreneurs.
Unfortunately, the overly-powerful federal government keeps small towns such as Hamilton from truly dictating their own policies, as many industries are held hostage by federal bureaucrats. If they were, indeed, free, these towns would benefit from learning from their own mistakes, as the result of policies enacted locally would quickly serve as examples of what works and what doesn’t locally.
Much like in a fully private city, a small jurisdiction that is nearly sovereign would flourish in an economically free environment, even if it were to somewhat restrict its population growth. As a matter of fact, the very economic freedom present within the “walls” of the city would eventually require a more flexible migration system, allowing for local employers to grow their businesses and local land owners the freedom to sell and rent to whomever they wish.
Decentralization, therefore, is what could give people both on the left and right the freedom to experience communities that make them feel at home. Unfortunately, making this case isn’t enough, as political groups seem hell-bent on forcing their will on their neighbors through government action.
How long will it take for them to finally learn their lesson?