As the battered economy continues to stagnate, the number one issue in Washington is jobs. The dueling talking points of Democrats and Republicans have been repeated ad nauseam, but who really has the better plan to get America working again? In the United States, we are lucky to have fifty laboratories in which to test the question—namely, the states. The results have been clear.
In terms of employment, states with Republican-controlled governments—that is, with a Republican governor and a Republican state legislature—outperform states with Democratic-controlled governments and states with split governments (governor and one or both legislative chambers of different parties). Here are the numbers:
As of June 2011. Source: U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics
Without resorting to a single talking point, it’s clear that Republicans have the better record on jobs. So what accounts for the difference?
It would be impossible to completely rule out dumb luck, as any serious student of the economy understands that a variety of factors beyond government policy affect employment levels at a given time. The proposition that Republicans fell in soft, however, is incredibly unlikely.
A better explanation is the simplest: that the governing philosophy shared by most Republicans is more conducive to economic growth than the governing philosophy shared by most Democrats.
In support of this conclusion, let me offer the following evidence.
A recent study by Jason Sorens and William Ruger of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University ranked the fifty states according to the levels of personal and economic freedom afforded their citizens. In terms of economic freedom, Mercatus defined the freest states as those that least restricted the operations of the market and the activities of market actors—in essence, those that most embraced the free market philosophy most Republicans lean toward. Compare unemployment rates in the ten freest states with unemployment rates in the ten least free states, and you are left with an inescapable conclusion.
States that favor the free market do much better on the jobs front than states that burden and restrict it—around 20% better. Notice also that Republicans control the governments of six of ten of the better-performing, economically freest states, while the remaining four have split governments. Of the underperforming, least economically free states, Democrats control five out of ten governments, Republicans control only one, and the remaining four have split governments.
It is important to remember, of course, that the national economy is still stagnant, in large part due to the policies coming out of Washington, D.C., and that the economic buffoonery of the federal government affects unemployment rates in all states. My point here is not that we, as a nation, are doing well economically, but that the data suggest states with Republican governments are doing better economically.
In response to the question posed at the beginning of this piece, the record speaks for itself. Because they tend to favor more aspects of economic freedom, Republicans have the better plan to get America working again.
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