Introducing Frontier History

Tanner Avery

Director of The Center for New Frontiers

Tanner Avery
/ Blog
February 3, 2022

Introducing Frontier History

"This one sided narrative leaves out many of the compelling stories of Montana’s historical trail blazers that bucked that notion and sought out ways to improve Montana without relying on the government's favor or their purse."

“While some national observers consider Montana a part of America’s ‘cultural outback,’ many Montanans pride themselves on their strong spirit of community, their close contact with the environment, and their fundamental ‘sense of place.’” – Brief History of Montana

Montana’s history is rich with stories of innovators, entrepreneurs, and ground breakers, but for far too long our history has been primarily told by those who believe more government is the solution to all of our problems and that free market endeavors are a corrupt notion.

This one sided narrative leaves out many of the compelling stories of Montana’s historical trail blazers that bucked that notion and sought out ways to improve Montana without relying on the government’s favor or their purse.

That is why we are proud to announce a new monthly series entitled Frontier History. This new monthly column is authored by renowned writer and Frontier board member Larry Reed.

In the inaugural column, Larry brings to light how James J. Hill built the Great Northern Railroad all on his own dime. 

At a time when “the lure of subsidies created powerful incentives for the other railroads to throw down tracks just to get the government goodies,” Hill never used political connections to lobby Montana legislators into banning competition. 

“Hill was happy to compete without political favors because he knew he could. He offered incentives to people to move west and help him develop the area in exchange for hauling their goods.”

James J. Hill’s belief in free enterprise is a powerful reminder that a business can improve the lives of their employees and communities without having to resort to government handouts.

Be sure to read the entire article, and stay tuned as this series continues.

For Liberty,

Tanner Avery

The Latest

One of Montana’s most pressing issues is the shortage of housing and skyrocketing housing costs which accompany it. We’ve spent the last few months discussing how strict local zoning rules have effectively penalized affordable homes in many Montana towns.

The current barriers to affordable housing can at times seem quite strange and often difficult to wrap your head around unless you have spent most of your life working in land planning. 

In his most recent op-ed, Frontier Institutes President and CEO Kendall Cotton, explains minimum lot sizes, one of the most common barriers to new affordable housing. 

“Local regulations may allow a developer to build a variety of home types on a plot of land but require a minimum 2,700 square feet of lot space for each dwelling unit built. This means a single-family home could be built on a lot as small as 2,700 square feet, while a duplex would need a minimum of 5,400, a triplex 8,100, and so on.”

The implications of this are dwellings which would typically be less expensive such as duplexes may become more expensive or may not be built at all.

“Land doesn’t come cheap, so requiring larger lots over the standard minimum effectively penalizes multi-family homes by making them more costly to build compared to traditional single-family homes. Since multi-family homes are typically built to be more affordable options for renters and young families, minimum lot area penalties can have an outsized impact on affordability.”

There is no single solution for skyrocketing housing costs, but if leaders in Montana want to address this issue then they will need to include eliminating minimum lot sizes.

You can learn more about minimum lot sizes by reading the full article here.

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