Friday, August 29, 2003

The WSJ: Making Apples from Oranges

Daniel Henniger is funny. His WSJ column today, "Wonder Land: Blue-State Pols Are Emptying Their Own States," focuses on Census reports of net migration flows within the U.S. So, for instance, California lost over 3/4 of a million residents in the internal migration game during the latter half of the 1990s. A similar state of affairs presents itself in many other "blue" states. "Red" states were net winners in the internal migration game.

Henniger approaches this as evidence in favor of the growing dominance of "red" America. In Henniger's world, these out migraters represent the, "most industrious, motivated citizens," in fact, even the recent international immigrants leaving the "blue" states, "Almost certainly these are the most motivated, successful new arrivers, who know a lot about maximizing their gains."

Now, truly, Henniger does have a valid point: Life in blue America is expensive, particularly as compared to red America. But he elides a few important points. First, as Micheal Lind pointed out in The Atlantic this past winter, red America is empty. Basically, the net migration tables could work out no other way. Yes, Californians could head for New York and vice versa, but there are many other destination points as well. California lost more population, net, than live in either North Dakota, South Dakota, or Wyoming (among other states). And let's not forget we're talking about a loss of 755,000 on a total population in excess of 34 million.

If I were leaving my blue state, I'd almost certainly head for a red one. And that's not a good thing for red America. And this is what makes Henniger funny. He treats the migration tables as a repudiation of blue America rather than the creeping threat to red America that it just might be. Don't think for one moment that I'll become a red stater simplying by moving. Me, and all the rest of my blue state brethren can turn a red state blue without blue America evening noticing we're gone. Call it a sane version of the Free State Project. Or did he not consider this turn of events?

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