Part I: Whither the Free State Project…and Why We Should Care

by Tim Condon

The Free State Project (FSP) puts on two gatherings per year in New Hampshire. Both are meant to showcase our beautiful state as well as the FSP’s foundations of individual liberty, free enterprise, small government, low taxes, reduced spending, and personal responsibility that underlie the movement. One of them, the "Porcupine Freedom Festival"—popularly known as the "PorcFest"—is held during one of the summer months, while the other, the FSP "Liberty Forum" is held in the winter.

Varrin Swearingen, the President of the FSP, has just announced that the 2011 Liberty Forum which was to be held in February is being cancelled. Why should we care? Read on….

The Free State Project movement was born on July 23, 2001 when Prof. Jason Sorens—then a Ph.D. candidate in political science at Yale University—penned an article that was published in the online magazine known as The Libertarian Enterprise. With a naughty and provocative sub-heading of "Let’s Secede!" it had a very simple title: "Announcement:The Free State Project" (the article is still there today). It proposed creating a "liberty migration" of people to one small-population state. (In 2004 Sorens added an author’s note that said in part, "The present-day Free State Project differs from the proposals of this article in some respects. In particular, the article overemphasizes the possibility of secession. Nevertheless, I think it’s still of historical interest.")

Among liberty-loving political activists—myself included—the article was electrifying, and an action group quickly coalesced around Sorens via the then-still-emerging Internet. More importantly, the article turned out to be prescient: It foretold the rise of the Tea Party movement. Sorens stated the aim of the movement very simply: "What I propose is a Free State Project, in which freedom-minded people of all stripes…libertarians, anarcho-capitalists, pacifists, even people who just call themselves liberals or conservatives—the only requirement is that you pledge that you will work to reducing government to the minimal functions of protecting life, liberty, and property.

Since the U.S. Constitution lays out a structure—long since broken out of by the political/government/ruling classes—in which the role of government is essentially "the minimal functions of protecting life, liberty, and property," Sorens’ description of the aim of the Free State Project sounded an awful lot like "let’s move to a state where we can make the government get back to obeying the Constitution!" Which several years later became the cry and the aim of the newly born Tea Party movement on the national stage.

Fast-forward to the present: Hundreds of people—probably well over 1,000—have moved to New Hampshire, which emerged as the choice of the Free State when the movement held a vote after 5,000 people had joined. Many of them are active in our state’s Tea Party movement. Many of them are active within the NH Republican Party, and some have run—and been elected—as Democrats. Many more are active at all levels of state and local government in all sorts of positions. In short, once they move to New Hampshire, they are no longer "Freestaters," but have become, like all migrations of the past—the English, the French, the Italians, the Greeks, and many others—good citizens of the Granite State of New Hamsphire. I’m one of them.

But there’s a problem, and it has a direct impact on the ongoing efforts of the Free State Project. It is this: Within the ranks of the FSP, the best, the smartest, the most energetic, and the most committed immediately "make the move" to New Hampshire. They have immeasurably enhanced the political power of We the People in our state. They have helped propel the historic overthrow of the last four years of Democrat-majority rule which has wreaked havoc on the state’s finances, spending, and tax structure. The yearly Liberty Forum which has just been cancelled is meant to showcase the state and the people who have already "made the move" and are now working within the system to enhance the economic and social well-being of the state.

(One little note here: I’m talking about "the better half" of the Free State Project, not those who have collected plenty of newspaper stories and disruptive notoriety. They are the "evil twin" half of the Free State Prtoject, and they tend to engage in little more than political and social disruption. It is possible that some of those types of antics might be helpful at some point in the future…but I can’t see how, when their main goal appears to be harassing the police and challenging the court system…and in the process giving the good Free State Project migrants a bad name. But more about that later. I’ll write about the problem later at some length. Oh yeah….)

So with the cancellation of the 2011 Free State Project Liberty Forum, many interested people will be deprived of the chance to see the beaufy of New Hampshire in the winter; nor will they get to meet and mingle with the people who have made the move and are helping defend our state’s historical culture of individuality and small government. So…whither the Free State Project? As mentioned above, the influx of responsible Freestaters has helped the people of New Hampshire drive the destructive Democrats from power. (One well-known Republican political figure in the state likened the arrival of the Free State migration to the U.S. Cavalry riding to the rescue!) Those working within the political system—including me—will now help repair the damage the Democrats have done to New Hampshire over the last four years. But if the Free State Project can’t showcase the Free State in the wintertime at the Liberty Forum—as it has for the past several years—how can it keep its beneficial momentum going, drawing ever more liberty-loving citizens into New Hamsphire who in turn reinforce the indigenous political freedom-fighters already here?

Good question, and one that bears some consideration. To be continued….

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Leave a Comment

  • http://www.freestateproject.org nope

    Canceling one event is not the demise of the FSP.

  • http://www.conservativecave.com Randy

    Nope–but it is one more nail in the coffin. Or one more signature on the petition. Your choice.

  • Philip Boncer

    Do note, though, that the Free State Project differs a good deal from the Tea Party movement, in that the Free State Project is in favor of liberty on all fronts, while the Tea Partiers (in general) hold quite a few anti-liberty positions. Similarly, the above article implies that the Free State Project is there to oppose Democrats and align with Republicans, whereas a genuine liberty movement must oppose BOTH parties — the anti-liberty positions and policies of the right conservatives as well as those of the left liberals.

  • Robert Boyle

    I am one of the early mover FSP participants. I moved to NH with my family two years ago to help ensure that my children grow up in a place with the most freedom possible. The new legislators in Concord seem to be doing a pretty decent job so far. The real problem is in DC. The Democrats AND Republicans are equally responsible for the over reaching colossus of a government which we currently live under and which has almost unlimited totalitarian control over our lives. The federal government today as empowered by bad legislation and even worse supreme court decisions has the power to regulate and control what we eat, what we can do for a living, how we educate our children, which contracts we can make with each other, how we spend our money, where we can travel, who we can associate with, what we can say, what we can write, where we can live, and what type of cars we can drive, and even what type of lightbulbs we can buy. There is something very wrong with this picture. We need another revolution since the new Republicans elected in November don’t seem to be acting or voting differently than the politicians they replaced. The FSP and the 10th amendment combined are one of our best opportunities to restore freedom by massively reducing the size and scope of the federal government!

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