In 1973, Time magazine famously praised Minnesota as “the state that works.” Its cover photo of Governor Wendell Anderson holding a Northern made Minnesota politicians, especially Democrats, delirious with joy.

The Time article praised Minnesota’s political leadership for, among other things, having the courage to enact substantial tax increases. Unfortunately, in succeeding years our politicians have rarely lacked for “courage,” and things have not turned out as Time foretold in the early ’70s.

If you ask what states are working today, there are several obvious answers: Texas, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, Utah. But don’t forget South Dakota, my home state. Yesterday Governor Kristi Noem posted a series of graphics on Instagram touting South Dakota’s economic successes. They are impressive; here are some of them:

In her Instagram post, Noem wrote:

Two years ago, when the pandemic made its way to America, states across this country shut their doors out of fear. All but one. South Dakota built opportunity out of that difficulty, and the result is a booming economy — the strongest in the nation.

The states that acted least hysterically during the covid epidemic–Florida, Texas, South Dakota–are naturally doing the best coming out of that era. But of course that isn’t the whole story. Those states were already doing well, and the most oppressive states–for example California, New York, Illinois and Minnesota–were already in relative decline before the epidemic began.

It is no coincidence that some of our most prosperous states, like Texas, Florida, Tennessee and South Dakota, have no personal income tax. They accomplish this in part through spending restraint. When I heard Ron DeSantis talk to a group in Naples in February, he said that Florida’s state budget is half that of New York, despite having three million more people. I thought, that can’t possibly be right. But I looked it up; it is. In the 21st century, too much government is the great destroyer of social and economic progress. Not to mention liberty.

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