Revisiting “The Good Life in Minnesota”


Many readers would recognize the iconic 1973 Time magazine cover of Governor Wendell Anderson, in his flannel shirt, proudly holding a northern pike. 

The inside article, Minnesota: A State that Works, highlights reasons and statistics for the state’s exceptional prosperity. The flattering article goes so far to say, “It is a state where a residual American secret still seems to operate. Some of the nation’s more agreeable qualities are evident there: courtesy and fairness, honesty, a capacity for innovation, hard work, intellectual adventure and responsibility.” Nearly 40 years later, how is the state stacking up against its former self?

Using similar metrics as used in the original article gives us mixed results. Drop-out rates, crime rates, deer population and civic engagement levels are some of the measurements used to support the author’s original argument. Minnesota remains near the top in many categories such as civic engagement and wildlife prosperity, but has slipped in critical areas such as crime and education, causing reason for concern.

The article’s author also gives anecdotal evidence from successful Minnesotans (doctors, lawyers, politicians and businessmen) about why they choose to live here. The courteous and hard-working culture is mentioned by these men and women multiple times. Other factors such as the lakes, sports teams, and robust art scene were also referenced.

Despite the statistical slide, Minnesota still possesses the dynamic culture that made it once “a state that works.” The people are still great, the lakes remain, and entertainment from sports and art are tough to beat. A diverse collection of Fortune 500 companies who are headquartered here such as Best Buy, Cargill, and 3M make our economy strong and create a promising future.

Our state legislature needs to recognize the dire consequences of significant budget cuts to education and other important programs. Keeping focus on the greater good and not the next election cycle is imperative if we wish to increase the quality of life in the state. In the face of tremendous fiscal challenges, there is no doubt Minnesota has the potential to be described, once again, as Chuck Ruhr did in 1973 when he said, “California is the flashy blonde you like to take out once or twice. Minnesota is the girl you want to marry.”