Why Florida Is My Favorite State
By Bryan Caplan
Greg Mankiw wonders why Florida is my favorite state. I’m happy to answer, but must begin with a methodological preamble.
In a revealed preference sense, everyone’s “favorite state” almost has to be wherever he resides. If I really preferred Florida to Virginia, I’d move there, right?
To wiggle free from this tautology, you have to somehow distinguish between state’s deeply-rooted features and coincidental advantages. This sounds arbitrary, but isn’t hard in practice. Weather? Deeply rooted. Proximity of your best friends? Coincidental advantage. High real estate prices? Deeply rooted. Favorite restaurant five minutes away? Coincidental advantage.
Virginia has massive coincidental advantages for me: I have a dream job for life at George Mason, most of my friends live nearby, and my wife has an excellent job in the area. Since I never want to retire, I’ll probably never leave Virginia. But in terms of deeply-rooted features, Florida has the best overall package in the fifty states. The top five points in Florida’s favor:
1. Weather. I used to care little about the weather, but once you have kids, you really start to appreciate pleasant days for outdoor fun. And for me, Florida has the best weather in the country. Most of the state has year-round warmth and sunshine. Many observers complain about Floridian humidity, but I prefer it. While I grew up in California, I now find California painfully dry. Florida beaches are also much more inviting than California’s; even in San Diego, the water is freezing.
2. Real estate. Florida has the best quality-price combination in the country. It has ubiquitous cheap housing in idyllic locations, plus tons of reasonably-priced luxury estates. Growing up in California gives you the idea that only rich people can afford to walk to the beach. If I had Mankiw money, I’d buy one of the many mansions that stretch from lake to beach, with a personal tunnel under the road, and I’d walk barefoot on the beach every night.
3. Politics. As a libertarian, I value freedom for myself and others. At the same time, though, I realize that policy differences between U.S. states are
modest. In the Mercatus Center’s latest overall freedom rankings, Florida comes in 23rd – not bad, but not great. However, Florida is perfect on one measure that personally matters a lot
me: it has no income tax – and its sales tax is only 1 percentage-point higher than Virginia’s. In any case, the political feature that personally matters most to me is whether I can easily forget about the existence of state government. I can do so in Virginia, and I’m confident I could do the same in Florida. I cannot do this in California, where the state government invents new problems and rams dubious solutions down your throat day after day.
4. Attitude. I prefer to be around people who are cheerful, or at least content. And as far as I can tell, Floridians are near the top. Who isn’t? Californians, for starters. Where else do the checkers at the supermarket lecture you on your duty to recycle? (This actually happened to me).
5. Immigrants. I prefer to live in areas with lots of immigrants, and Florida has tons. What’s so great about being around immigrants? I highly value cosmopolitan tolerance, and resent patriotic solidarity. I like being around people who know the difference between real problems and First World problems. And I like being places where nativists don’t assume I share their concerns.
P.S. Mankiw also asked about my favorite Floridian locations. To live: the Gold Coast. To visit: Miami, Orlando, and Key West.