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We’re No. 17.5! We’re No. 17.5!

The latest research from the American Legislative Exchange Council offers more cause for optimism.

This may come as a surprise to non-wonks, but there is no generally accepted methodology to demarcate the regions of the United States. As Insider put it, there are “so many ways” to perform the task, “different government agencies all seem to have different ways of doing it.”

The Institute defines the American Southwest as eight states: Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and California. Here’s how we delineate the rest of the nation: Northwest (Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington), Midwest (North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan), Southeast (Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, and Delaware), and Northeast (New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine). To keep things simple — and due to their radically unique cultures and economies — we usually exclude Alaska and Hawaii.

What’s the point of this geography lesson? Well, the American Legislative Exchange Council released its annual report “Rich States, Poor States” last week. And our region came out on top.

ALEC’s “Economic Performance Ranking” takes a look backward, measuring “State Gross Domestic Product, Absolute Domestic Migration and Non-Farm Payroll Employment.” But its “Economic Outlook Ranking” digs deeply into taxes, regulations, and spending, tracking “a state‚Äôs current standing in 15 … policy variables.”

When it comes to fostering opportunity, protecting taxpayers, and keeping the “public” sector in its proper place, the average for the American Southwest’s eight states is 17.5. Four — that’s half! — of our states fall within the top ten — Utah is No. 1, Arizona is No. 3, Oklahoma is No. 5, and Nevada is No. 10. (Texas landed at a quite respectable No. 13, with Colorado a somewhat disappointing No. 25.)

Here are the other regions’ averages: Southeast (20.4), Northwest (24.0), Midwest (25.4), and Northeast (36.7).

The American Southwest is a superstar. It’s got a decent lead over the Southeast, strongly outpaces the Northwest and Midwest, and smokes the Northeast. Just imagine where we’d be if New Mexico (No. 38) and California (No. 45) weren’t so suicidally committed to the deep-blue policy model.

From Houston’s job-creation engine to Phoenix’s “semiconductor desert,” Utah’s realistic bid for a Major League Baseball team to the comeback of the Las Vegas Strip, the American Southwest is the envy of the nation. The challenge before us is to preserve and expand our region’s wise policy choices, while waging a principled effort to roll back the mistakes of Big Government.

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