State Focus

Just before Thanksgiving, the Montana Policy Institute held its annual conference for state legislators and other interested citizens in the state capital of Helena.

MPI is one of the state-based, free-market oriented think tanks that has sprung up in the past few years, and it and its fellows are now more relevant than ever. Many conservatives, depressed over the condition of Washington, DC,  are shifting their attention to states and localities in the hope that these can be islands of sanity in a political world that is increasingly disconnected from reality, and the state organizations are an excellent resource.

The State Policy Network has a list of useful organizations, including at least one in each state.

Steve Moore of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, who gave the keynote at the MPI conference, expressed a common reaction to the election, as quoted in an MPI news story on the event:

“One of the things that makes me furious about this election is that five hundred million dollars was spent by Super PACs and organizations like that, that spent the money incredibly inefficiently, ” spoke Moore. “I make the case that they flushed the money down the toilet. A lot of this money that was spent, I’m not going to name names, but these Super PACs that raised hundreds of millions of dollars, they had almost no impact what so ever.”

Moore suggested that instead of throwing money at advertisements, conservative leaders should have better used the money in organizations like MPI, which look to achieve real change in their states.

Recent studies from MPI include:

The Montana Supreme Court vs. The Rule of Law

There is a consensus among researchers that adherence to the rule of law is crucial to vigorous economic growth. Montana’s economy has lagged the economy of most of the United States since the 1980s, and this MPI Study explains one reason why: The Montana Supreme Court, the final authority in the state on most legal questions, has not honored the rule of law. Its failure to do so has harmed wealth and job creation in Montana.

2012 Montana Pig Tales

Pig Tales highlights Big Government and Big Spending in the Treasure State and provides a one-stop shopping guide to state government issues, including pensions, taxation, public employee compensation, and much more.

 Montana’s Education Funding Study

This study endeavors to help parents and policymakers better understand a complex education funding system in order to more effectively evaluate education policy in the future. Our hope is that Montana’s primary and secondary education system is not only the best in the nation in terms of academic performance, but also the most efficiently managed and administered in terms of dollars and cents. Our children and taxpayers deserve no less.

Public vs. Private Compensation Study

This new analysis from the Montana Policy Institute compares employees of similar personal and professional characteristics in both the public and private sectors of Montana. . . .  It also analyzes total compensation (which the state fails to do), including take-home pay as well as fringe benefits. . . . This report details the methodology and finds that public employees in Montana actually earn over 15 percent more than comparable employees in the state’s private sector.


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Author: "Ending 'Big SIS' (The Special Interest State) and Renewing the American Republic" (2012) [] and "Property Matters--How Property Rights Are Under Assault and Why You Should Care" (1997). Some former jobs: Assistant Director of Consumer Protection in FTC; member of the Program Analysis Staff of the US Bureau of the Budget; Research Director of the Administrative Conference of the United States; Director of IPCentral at the Progress & Freedom Foundation; VP & GC of the National Legal Center for the Public Interest. Graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, former Book Review Editor of the Harvard Law Review.

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