Mississippi, Beacon of Progress

Why did one of Britain’s leading advocates for Brexit leave the U.K. to head up a policy organization in Mississippi? Douglas Carswell explains in the Telegraph:

You might be surprised to learn that Mississippi, the poorest state in the US, is now wealthier than Britain.

Mississippi’s GDP per capita last year was $47,190, slightly above the UK’s approximately $45,000, though still well below the overall American average of $70,000. While the UK’s per capita GDP has stagnated for the past 15 years, Mississippi’s has been rising rapidly to the point that it has just overtaken us.

Until quite recently, Carswell points out, Mississippi was “the poster child for US deprivation.” But times have changed, due to conservative state-level policies:

Over the past 40 years, those southern US states that have embraced free-market reforms, such as Texas, Tennessee and Florida, have done remarkably well. Helping Mississippi adopt similar reforms would almost guarantee something similar. Frustrated by the inability of those who run Britain to change much for the better, I was attracted to America.

In the US there is an appetite for improvement, and those you vote for — especially at the state level — have the power to deliver it. That is why Mississippi is now overtaking Britain. In recent years the state has used its freedom to make bold free-market reforms. Last year it introduced the largest tax cut in its history, slashing income tax to a flat 4 per cent from 2026. Only a dozen or so US states have a lower personal tax burden.

Lower taxes lead to economic growth. Why does anyone still try to deny this?


In 2021, Mississippi deregulated the local labour market, passing a universal occupational licensing law. …

… Now, in Mississippi, politicians compete to reduce the size of the public payroll. Ten years ago there were 649 public employees for every 10,000 people in the state. Today it’s down to 606 per 10,000. Thanks to these and other reforms, Mississippi is starting to prosper, with per capita income up 25 per cent over the past five years. In Britain, real wages and living standards have not grown since 2007.

Schools have gotten much better in Mississippi, too. My own state, Minnesota, once had good public schools, but that is no longer true. Now, Mississippi’s black and Hispanic students outperform their Minnesota peers in both reading and math. And Mississippi’s scores are going up, while Minnesota’s are going down.

America’s states have long been labeled “laboratories of democracy,” and that concept may be more relevant now than ever. Left and right are in a pitched battle for America’s soul, and the right’s strongest argument, perhaps, is the obvious success of states that have pursued conservative policies, compared with the abject failure of the states whose policies have been liberal.

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