Republican policy initiatives such as guarding school children, respecting due process, lowering taxes, respecting private sector autonomy and advocating for secure and legal immigration are often criticized by some as backward ideas. Ideologically driven pundits argue annoying Republicans are scaring talent away from North Dakota. Could this be true?
Let’s take a look around the country, seven of the 10 states with the fastest growing populations have little to no state-level employment protections for the LGBTQ community. Deep-red conservative Utah and Idaho rank second and third, respectively, in population growth. Some would even argue that the ultra-conservative Mormon Church serves as a catalyst to growth. The church’s mission requirements and discipline provide the state with a steady stream of young, talented pro-family adherents. This doesn’t mean Utah is perfect, or that North Dakota should or shouldn’t have LGBTQ protections. It just implies that such protections have very negligible effects on population and labor force growth. North Dakota doesn’t (and shouldn’t) prevent private firms from hiring people who identify as LGBTQ, but it is bizarre to imply that employers want the government to regulate their hiring methods.
In regards to gun policy, the story is similar, eight out of the 10 fastest growing states in the country have very low marks concerning existing gun-control legislation, as graded by Giffords Law Center (a gun control lobbying group). There’s little reason to believe North Dakotans need to sacrifice Second-Amendment freedoms to attract talent. The aforementioned shouldn’t be viewed as a defense or promotion of any legislative acts. It’s meant to provide vital context for those who believe North Dakota needs to change to become more attractive to outsiders.
According to U.S. News, North Dakota has the highest quality of life in the nation. However, there is more to North Dakota than nice communities. North Dakota is also a high-income state. Utilizing per capita income and regional price parties from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, North Dakotans enjoyed the fourth highest income in the nation in 2016 and 2017 when adjusted for cost of living. These measures place North Dakota well ahead of most the country, including progressive giants like California, New York and Washington State.
North Dakota’s workforce shortage is a problem of plenty. It’s important to note, too many jobs and not enough people is far better than the inverse. North Dakota probably isn’t going to be the next Silicon Valley regardless of any liberal or conservative policy tilt. Regional economies develop in clusters; it would take an extraordinarily aggressive policy push to get the big banks to leave Wall Street or to get movie directors to ditch Los Angeles. However, that’s okay. North Dakotans shouldn’t have an inferiority complex. We should all be proud of the life we’ve built on this vast open plain.
Williams is the policy director for the North Dakota Young Republicans. He’s an active economist who has worked for numerous liberty-based academic research centers and think-tanks. He earned a bachelor's degree in economics at Florida International University and his master's in financial economics from the University of Detroit Mercy. He originally relocated from Florida to Fargo with his wife in 2017. This column was submitted for consideration in The Forum's search for "the next great columnist."