Readers know that the Barton family is based in the Black Hills, and operates frequently in the Four Corners and sometimes on the Front Range of Colorado, with work stretching across eight states on a regular basis.
Freedom of the road is important to us. The Fifty States is (or WAS) the world’s biggest free-trade zone. (Almost REAL free-trade, not the sort of garbage that NAFTA and TPP pretended was free-trade.) Why do I say “was?” Because of the Lockdown and the Pandemic Panic.
One symbol of that, and the spirit of entrepreneurship for 80 years has been the Sturgis, or Black Hills, Motorcycle Rally. THE EIGHTIETH RALLY STARTS TODAY!
South Dakota, as one of the States in the Axis of Evil (those which refused to make their governor a dictator and totally lockdown their State’s society and economy), HAS BEEN OPEN FOR BUSINESS. And continues to be so.
About 250,000 people are expected to visit the Black Hills to attend the Rally. The Rally stretches far beyond the City of Sturgis (normally a town of about 8,000 people). Every city and town and community in the Black Hills hosts the Rally and multiple events. (Both on the Wyoming and the South Dakota sides of the mountains.) And towns for 200 miles and more around Sturgis benefit from the largess of people traveling to and from the Rally. It is a big deal, for our economy and society – and even for our governments.
In the past, the average Rally visitor was in the Black Hills for five days. (The Rally actually lasts 9 days.) And each day, spends about $200. Do the math: 250,000 x 5 x 200. That is $250,000,000 spent directly. That is a lot for an area with a normal (non-Rally) population of only 150,000 people in 10,000 square miles. (Actually, this is still disappointingly low, compared to the usual numbers: pre-Pandemic, we were expecting 1 million visitors for this Rally: 4 times as much – and a cool billion dollars. A billion may be a DC rounding error these days, but it pretty hefty for the Hills. So the Pandemic Panic is hurting us anyway.)
South Dakota is blessed by a leader who recognizes and defends the God-given rights of people to make their own choices: about running their businesses, staying at home, maintaining social distancing, wearing masks and all the rest. Kristi Noem is NOT perfect: she IS a politician, an official in a coercive and involuntary government. But compared to a Whitmer, a Newsom, an Insley? A breath of fresh air. So condemned by both “conservatives” and “liberals” for doing so. Including too many local and tribal governments of South Dakota. Condemned, hated, and worse. But she stuck to her guns. And so have most businesses in South Dakota.
The Rally is an important event for more than just economics. It is an example of how liberty works. While there are scores and scores of the blue gang (cops) roaming the streets of Sturgis and the highways around it, compared to the total Rally population, they are few. Because bikers – even members of notorious biker gangs like the 81 (Hell’s Angels) and Banditos – recognize the everyone;s right to live and let live. There is crime, of course, and there are fights and once in a while someone gets knifed or shot and killed. But a very small, small percentage of what any of America’s cities of comparable size.) People take responsibility for their own actions, and seek to be at peace with each other. And voluntarily obey the laws that make sense. (And tend to ignore those that don’t – and the cops are too busy to do the sort of stupidity we find in so many places.)
Still, it was a close-run things. The idiots which Sturgis continues to elect to their city council refused to make a decision on whether or not to have the Rally in Sturgis until mid-June. (They have no control over the rest of the 140,000 people and towns and suburbs and rural areas.) As a result, they probably cost the businesses of Sturgis and the vendors that come to Sturgis for two weeks millions and millions. And the pressure on the governor, the legislature, and the various state agencies has been intense. As have the threats and warnings from authoritarian, regressive states like Minnesota and Wisconsin and Michigan. (And even, sadly, Montana.) And too many nanny-statists and Mrs. Grundy’s daughters (and sons) infest South Dakota and even the Black Hills. “We’re all gonna die if we don’t 100% wear masks.” Teachers and medical personnel have been especially fearful and vocal in expressing their Chicken-Little-style warnings.
But once again, the sound of freedom is reverberating through the Pahasapa. The roar of motorcycles, the bustle of traffic, the sounds of country and rock and the roars of the crowds. Not crowds protesting and looting and burning and vandalizing property. Not crowds attacking people for daring to drive or ride on public streets, or providing goods and services voluntarily in fair exchanges. Crowds enjoying themselves, buying things that they want, sharing with friends new and old, and much more.
I don’t drink or smoke, I don’t fight for fun, I don’t encourage my wife and daughters to strip down in all or part, or any other things we believe are wrong to do. And I don’t even ride anymore. But I fight for the right of people to do those things if they wish to, and don’t force others to do so.
Live and let live. And live free and prosper. That is ultimately what the Rally is about. The bikes, the camps, the concerts, the vendors – even the hunks and the babes – those are neat (to some more than others), but it what they mean that is in the heart of the Sturgis Rally in the beautiful Black Hills, the Papasapa. Where freedom still flickers and will be – WILL BE – fully reborn.