North Dakota Ranked “Best Run State” Because Of What Our State Leaders Didn’t Do


According to rankings by 24/7 Wall Street, North Dakota is the “best run state” in the nation. Here’s their reasoning:

For the first time, North Dakota ranks as the best run state in the country. In recent years, North Dakota’s oil boom has transformed its economy. Last year, crude oil production rose 35%. As of August, 2012, it was the second-largest oil producer in the country. This was due to the use of hydraulic fracturing in the state’s Bakken shale formation. The oil and gas boom brought jobs to North Dakota, which had the nation’s lowest unemployment rate in 2011 at 3.5%, and economic growth. Between 2010 and 2011, North Dakota’s GDP jumped 7.6%, by far the largest increase in the nation. This growth has also increased home values, which rose a nation-leading 29% between 2006 and 2011. North Dakota and Montana are the only two states that have not reported a budget shortfall since fiscal 2009.

Notice that nowhere in there is any actual government policy credited with North Dakota’s success. There’s no credit for government-run economic development projects. Nothing like that. It’s all oil boom.

I don’t necessarily mean that as a slight for North Dakota’s leaders. I have my gripes about growth in spending in the state, and the preoccupation many of the state’s leaders have with government economic development schemes, and we should be careful about handing out too much credit when an energy boom pumping billions of dollars into the state treasury can cover up a lot of bad policy. But they do deserve some credit for the oil boom. Not because of anything they’ve done – they certainly didn’t put the oil under the ground or develop the processes to drill it, pump it and distribute it – but they had the wisdom to largely stay out of the way of the oil industry.

When it comes to energy, North Dakota’s leaders regulate reluctantly. That’s been key to the state’s success because, as we see with states like California which are sitting on oceans of untapped energy, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.

Sometimes, or perhaps most of the time, what government doesn’t do is more important than what the government does.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • kevindf

    If it’s run so well, why does it have such a chaotic tax policy?

  • Harold

    Love them or hate them republicans who run our state govt don’t spend money like democrats do and thats why we’ve always been pretty fiscally sound.

    • Lynn Bergman

      Disagree… our “Republicrats” are in control by 2:1 in the party. They ARE spending money like Democrats.

  • sbark

    Wouldnt have a “well run” state Govt at least have started to address the Public Employee retirement fund already, property tax discontent, insulate its citizens from Fed unfunded mandates, runaway pulblic education costs?
    “Well Run” means in typical business terms pro-active, with foresight, fiscal responsible.

    • matthew_bosch

      But holding Gov’t to the standards of the private sector/personal financials, makes us racist bigots, who wage war on women, want to see teachers homeless, while pushing the elderly off a cliff and advocating for a distopia where there are no police, firemen, and public services. Oh… and we want to give blue collar workers cancer. So, I guess we should move on.

    • kevindf

      In the last session, the legislature guaranteed the day-to-day value of their retirement accounts. Where is my guarantee?

    • Rob

      Wouldnt have a “well run” state Govt at least have started to address the Public Employee retirement fund already

      A fair point.

  • Lynn Bergman

    It’s time that a significant amount of North Dakota taxpayers’ money is left in their pockets. Elimination of the personal income tax is an obvious first priority…then corporate income tax, because it is just passed through to consumers. The reduction in tax department expenditures would be significant as well.

    Alaskan homeowners 65 and older are exempt from municipal taxes on the first $150,000 of the assessed value of their home. North Dakota can provide that same exemption to ALL of its citizens AND businesses… that would be “across the board” fair.
    And lastly, the oil taxes should be reduced from a total of 11.5% to 9.5% to keep our “Golden Goose” in its North Dakota “pen”.

    • kevindf

      All the over taxation will wind up in the bloated pockets of state pay rollers.

  • Tim Heise

    Its run so well COMPARED to the other 49 states. We could be doing a lot better.

    • Rob

      There is no doubt about that.