Why You Should Consider Moving to Montana
Basil Fishbone

The freedom migration to Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming is under way. I live in Montana, and I would like to see some reinforcements coming in to transform an already independent and freedom oriented state into a stronghold for the maintenance and recovery of freedom. Montana is fertile ground for freedom activism.

Many people already living here are in tune with the traditional Western ethos of self-reliance, non-interference in their neighbor's affairs, and limited government. This migration has as its inspiration the original Free State Project: thanks to Jason Sorens, who conceived it. New Hampshire, the original winner of the Free State Project vote was chosen by election as the destination to which libertarians and other freedom-minded individuals would be encouraged to migrate, and hopefully create a political critical mass.

New Hampshire won the FSP vote. Controversy has arisen over the very existence of the Western movement, and I'm sorry to see that, but the Western migration is going to happen anyway. Those individuals who signed up to move to the winner of the FSP voting should proceed to move to New Hampshire. But there were many who "opted out" of New Hampshire, because they did not wish to live in the East, and many others (including myself) who did not sign up in the first place. In my case, I was already living where I wanted to be (Montana) and had no intention of moving.

Happily, Montana is now among those states which will be the location of the Western free state movement. (I'll leave it to others to make the case for Wyoming and Idaho.) There is no compelling reason why those who are not specifically obligated to New Hampshire and the Free State Project to decline making use of a very good idea, with direct and immediate relevance to their own struggle for freedom.

Options and choice are a very good thing, and we are strong enough to make all of them work in this context. There are millions of us! For that matter, will this migration be to the detriment of freedom organizations in the other 46 states? Not really. I would guess there are perhaps 10 million people who are basically libertarian or fellow travelers (or more: as I remember some polls indicated that something like 20 percent of the population is broadly libertarian in basic sentiment, or about 40 million), from which we might draw for this, and if only 100,000 eventually move to each of the states, they would have an enormous impact. Twenty thousand or 50,000 would be significant as well. If people have interesting and encouraging things going on where they live, or are tied down, they will not move anyway. Some people just like where they are living for lots of personal reasons, and will not want to leave. Which is good. Libertarians need a nationwide presence. But some places are just awful, and if good, ethical, honest libertarians would like to leave, I'd like to encourage them to come to Montana. I think once it becomes the thing to do, momentum will build. In the end, will it serve to preserve our freedom? Who knows: but in the great chess game we are playing with Power and the threatening dictatorship, it is our best move. (As it were, sorry.)

With reinforcements, we ought to be able to implement innovative challenges to overreaching federal power, and reduce the state government to where it is a minimal presence in people's lives. Montana is a very gun-friendly state, with a strong pro-gun activist organization keeping watch over our rights (Montana Shooting Sports Association, There are quite a few freedom-oriented Republicans already serving in the state legislature. Reinforcements are needed, however, and it would also be good to energize the Libertarian Party with new residents. In the 1980s, the Libertarian Party's most successful candidates were getting nearly 30,000 votes (for relatively minor statewide offices such as Secretary of State), so we've got a good base to begin with, and statewide LP candidates still get about 10,000. How many have just dropped out and don't vote, or vote Republican? In 2002, a total of about 325,000 people voted. A quick examination of past ballot initiatives indicate that the pro-freedom vote in Montana is quite strong, if not always, or even usually, a majority. In 1998, CI (Constitutional Initiative) 75, specifying the right of citizens to vote on new taxes or tax increases passed with 51% of the vote (8K margin). The corrupt Supreme Court threw it out. A similar initiative failed with 46% of the vote in 1994, by 23K votes (CI 66), as did a provision placing restrictions on government finance (CI-67) with 49% (8K short) in favor. In 1990, I-115 would have increased the sales tax on tobacco products. It failed with 59% against. The anti-tax forces won by 59K votes. In 1988 a measure to repeal the seat belt use act failed with 42% of the vote (56K short). In 1986, a milk price decontrol effort failed with 49% in favor (8K short). A few thousand immigrants would go a long way.

Many people will be intrigued by this idea, but will have questions regarding practicalities, or may need to convince a spouse.

One major question will involve employment opportunities. Montana's economy is to some extent evolving away from a colonial resource-based extractive economy to one which emphasizes the amenities which make Montana an enjoyable place to live. This is attracting high tech businesses whose owners and employees like the environmental amenities, recreational opportunities, and the generally high quality of the available workforce. Workers and business owners also like the relative lack of crime, and the cultural amenities of Montana urban areas. Many private partnerships have been formed between researchers at Montana State University and high tech industries. There are several high tech industrial parks. The owner of a major employment service owned by one of the state's leading advocates of freedom has pledged support for the freedom migration, to the benefit of both job seekers and relocating businesses. Contact information will be posted. See also the employment forum at

Jobs donšt pay as much here as in cities, but living expenses are lower. Land and housing prices are very affordable if you are able to live beyond commuting distance of the urban areas. Yes, we have electricity, paved roads, internet connections (high speed in the urban areas), flush toilets, and everything you have come to expect. Of course, if you wish, you can live off-grid in extremely remote areas as well. Bozeman and Missoula in particular, and also Helena, Kalispell, Butte, Great Falls, Livingston, Hamilton, Big Fork, and Billings (and several of the ski areas -- Big Sky, Red Lodge, Big Mountain) have urban amenities far in excess of what residents of large cities might imagine are here. Bozeman has a symphony, a ballet troup and a hockey team, live opera, live theater, an amazing variety of popular live music, including many national acts which make a stop on their tours. Bozeman's main street has some very nice shops and art galleries, catering to the tastes of wealthy residents who live here part of the year. The university (11,000 students) brings cultural diversity and intellectual resources. Fine (gourmet) restaurants are fairly common throughout Montana. You can find restaurants serving French, American contemporary gourmet, Thai, Chinese, Korean, Indian, Mexican, Japanese/ sushi, Italian, Cajun, Middle Eastern, barbeque, vegetarian, health food delis, and some mighty fine steakhouses.

The public schools are not bad as public schools go, and there are quite a few private schools in the Bozeman area (and across the state as well). and homeschooling is hassle-free and very popular in Montana, with local and statewide support groups in place. The Department of Economics at MSU has a lot of libertarians in it, and so do some other departments. There are also two notable free market think tanks, FREE (Foundation for Research on the Economy and the Environment, ) and PERC (Property and Environment Research Center, ). Montana is also home to the Fully Informed Jury Association ( )

What about the winter weather? There are vast stretches of eastern Montana (and eastern Wyoming) prairies and badlands that are exposed to the full blast of Canadian arctic cold fronts. They suffer through high winds, blizzards and bitter cold weather. Watch the national weather maps. A common pattern is for a Canadian arctic front to come down centered on the upper midwest, and often it will reach well into eastern Montana, but is blocked by the Rocky Mountains.

Most Montanans live in the western mountain valleys, and for a reason. Western Montana winters are actually something I was trying to keep secret before the advent of this freedom migration movement. Winters here are actually fairly mellow for a northern tier state. Most Montanans only want their friends to be moving in (it's getting a mite crowded, over 900,000 now), so we don't point out that our winters feature generally low humidity, which is better than high humidity when it's cold because it is not bone-chilling cold. The mountain valleys have shelter from much of the wind that sweeps across the prairies. And yes, even in the mountain valleys, it does occasionally get really cold (dry cold). Also, the mountain valleys are semi-arid. The middle of the Gallatin valley gets 14.7 inches of precipitation per year. Bozeman, near the mountains on the eastern edge of the Gallatin valley, gets about 19 inches. On the west, Three Forks probably gets even less than 14". So the valleys don't as a rule get a whole lot of snow.

The mountains do get a lot of snow, to the delight of the skiers and snowmobilers and everyone who uses water, because that's where most of it comes from. If you contemplate building or buying a house in the mountains and living in it year round, give some thought to what access will be like in the winter. People fall in love with a place in the summer (it can be idyllic, at least until the wildfire comes), make an impulsive buy, and are in for a rude shock when winter arrives. I've lived in such a location. It can get real interesting.

Give me western Montana weather over the upper midwest or the northeast anytime!

Recreational opportunities abound, and offer employment in serving the needs of recreationists. Big game hunting, bird hunting, recreational shooting, fishing (especially flyfishing), horseback riding, skiing, snowboarding, mountain climbing, ice climbing, backpacking, hiking, mountain biking, bicycle touring, kayaking, rafting, canoeing, four-wheeling, ORV travel, birdwatching, photography, running, hang gliding, etc., all are pursued passionately. This is a big part of why people choose to live here.

Admit it. Some of you have always wanted to move to Montana. Now you have an excuse. For those of you for whom Montana has been off the radar screen, I urge you to check it out. Montana is an exceedingly attractive place to live. The Western freedom migration has spawned several web sites and discussion boards. Several are listed below.

A conference on the free West migration is planned for April 23, 24, and 25 at the Sacajawea Inn in Three Forks, Montana. The Grand Western Conference II Free West Now! Attendance is limited to 125, so make reservations early. Details will be posted on the web sites listed above.