It has become an article of faith among some that a large government is necessary to run a modern and prosperous society. New Hampshire should give pause to those who believe that argument.
Consider this anecdote: In 1995, my family and I were buying tickets for the summer cable car ride up Cannon Mountain in New Hampshire. I was surprised to see that the cashier was using a vintage Kaypro, circa 1984, computer. I was curious why the park was using such an “antique.” The cashier explained that they were basically using the machine to keep track of the number of tickets sold, and they didn’t need anything more.
With that spirit of putting the taxpayer first, New Hampshire’s government functions quite well without a state income tax or sales tax. New Hampshire’s residents have the second lowest tax burden as a percentage of income in the United States.
If you are a big government advocate, you may be thinking that surely New Hampshire citizens are poor, receive little in the way of services, and their children suffer with poor schools.
On the contrary, consider these facts. New Hampshire has the seventh highest per capita income in the United States. As for schools, according to a federal government study released this fall, “New Hampshire’s students outpace the national average in both math and reading, ranking near the top of the country across the board.”
Part of New Hampshire’s uniqueness stems from its true grassroots representative democracy. Even though New Hampshire is a small state (it ranks 41st in population), New Hampshire’s House of Representatives is the third-largest parliamentary body in the English speaking world. Only the U.S. Congress and Britain’s Parliament are larger.
Astonishingly, the annual salary for a N.H. representative is $200. As to perks, each member basically receives a seat and a coat hanger rather than a large staff and office. Serving in the N.H. state house is not a career move toward power and wealth.
As a consequence, a representative cross-section of men and women serves in the state house: “businesspeople, homemakers, educators, engineers, doctors, lawyers, students and retirees.” In this atmosphere, the taxpayer comes before special interest legislation and taxes remain low.
Where does your state rank on tax burden and per capita income? The complete numbers for all states are at http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2007/pf/0704/gallery.tax_friendliest/8.html