The Free State Project Grows Up

Libertarians are changing the face of New Hampshire.

(Page 2 of 3)

On the lighter side, in 2012 state Rep. Seth Cohn (R), in response to the attempted repeal of the 2009 New Hampshire law recognizing same-sex marriage, submitted legislation that would have banned marriages between two left-handed people. In previous years the jokester had submitted bills outlawing all marriages and replacing them with civil unions.

The merrymaking isn’t limited to the legislature. In Keene there’s a vogue for Robin Hooding, a form of activism where people monitor routes of parking enforcement officers and place coins in on-street parking meters nearing expiration. The practice is driving local officials nuts but winning praise from residents. The Free Keeners have seen a steady stream of small donations to the cause of rescuing unlucky car owners via their website.

“It’s come a long way and it’s gaining more traction and more steam,” says Free State Foundation Board President Carla Gericke. “Part of [our] success is we chose the right state. There is that rugged individualism here. It’s almost like we’re awakening the natives who might have been totally disengaged and they’re reawakening to these ideas of liberty.”

Statist Squabbling

The Free State Project has not been all smooth sailing. During a 2012 campaign for the state legislature two Free Staters faced off, hurling the insult “statist” at one another. But internal Free State squabbles have been minor compared to the growing hostility they have drawn from local political interests. 

In December 2012, state Rep. Cynthia Chase (D) called Free Staters “the single biggest threat the state is facing today.” Chase, writing on the liberal blog Blue Hampshire, called on Free State opponents to be as unwelcoming as possible, the better to discourage the coming influx of libertarians. Victoria Parmele, a member of the Strafford County Regional Planning Commission, told New Hampshire Magazine in 2013 that she found Free Staters to be very aggressive, calling the movement “libertarianism on steroids.” 

Rep. Warden’s Democratic opponent in 2012, Aaron Gill, alleged that Free Staters threatened New Hampshire’s ideals. “Imagine what happens when 20,000 Free Staters move here, get elected and vote,” he said in a letter to the Concord Monitor. In an irony that has not escaped the Free Staters, neither Chase nor Gill is a New Hampshire native: Chase moved from Rhode Island in 2006, and Gill moved from Massachusetts in 2002.

The Movement Matures

The Free State Project’s momentum is palpable at Liberty Forum, an annual winter gathering in Nashua featuring speeches, seminars, and trade show booths. At the 2013 Liberty Forum in February, Gericke beams with excitement and energy from the podium. “We are going to make history!” she enthuses. “We are pioneers. We are changing the world in such a fundamental way, with a bunch of smart, a bunch of brilliant people. We can make this change!” 

A native of South Africa, Gericke, a corporate lawyer, moved to frigid New Hampshire from California in 2008 after working as in-house counsel for several Fortune 500 firms. She now splits time between Free State activism and the New Hampshire Writers Project. She traces her activist roots back to growing up in the police state of apartheid South Africa. “I guess I’ve always been a rebel,” she says. 

When she lost her job after the tech bubble burst in the early 2000s, Gericke became increasingly fascinated with how markets work. She dove into every economics book she could find during this stressful period, and eventually concluded that she was a libertarian. 

Gericke’s mission is to accelerate the final phase of recruitment. The project is on track to reach its goal of 20,000 Free Staters (or porcupines, as they are affectionately known—a creature dangerous only when attacked) by 2018, but she wants to speed it up to 2015. What they need now, she says, is money. “I think the Free State Project has matured,” Gericke tells the audience, “and hopefully we’ll continue to mature, and one of those things about maturing is ‘Hey guys, we’ve got to get down to business.’ ” She launches into a brief fundraising pitch, explaining why the Free State Project needs to raise the once-unthinkable sum of $270,000 to get over the 20,000 finish line. 

One key factor in accelerating progress toward the recruitment goal has been the two presidential campaigns of Ron Paul. Since New Hampshire is an early-primary state, Paul made a series of visits from 2007 to 2012, drawing libertarian loners out of the woodwork and into various Internet fora. Paul repeatedly endorsed the Free State Project, spoke at some of its events, and benefited (especially in 2012) from the porcupines’ on-the-ground organizational knowledge. “We ran on his coattails. A lot of people started opening their eyes, young people in particular,” says Jody Underwood, a Free State Project board member and owner of Bardo Farm.

The people who filtered in from the Paul movement were younger and more female than the people who had previously enlisted in the Free State cause, helping to expand the group’s demographic base.

The Incrementalist Approach

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  • Pro Libertate||

    Like I said, forget New Hampshire. Nunavut.

  • Gordilocks||

    Too bad the only places in Canada with small enough populations to pull this off are either north of 60 (Of note, The Yukon and NWT Territorial governments are heavy on the NDP) or in the Maritimes (Doubtful that we would get 20,000 people to move to PEI or NFLD).

    I am marrying an American later this year; dunno if she wants to move to NH, or if I want to be compelled to pay federal income tax to Tax Farm USA.

    Great Idea though.

  • ||

    It scales, though. 20,000 in American population is, like, 74 Canadian.

  • Reard1978||

    Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job Ive had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this - 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringin home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, www.Mojo50.com

  • Pro Libertate||

    Nunavut. No roads. No government to speak of. It's half-Libertopia already.

    Freedom. It's a dish best served cold.

  • Gordilocks||

    There is a road, in the winter, that comes up from Yellowknife. I'm one of the few who has ever driven it.

    Warty would love Nunavut. Large women who love seal meat.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Is it a public road, or a private one?

  • Gordilocks||

    Kinda sorta both. It serves the diamond mines in NWT, as well as an old gold mine, and recently mothballed diamond mine in Nunavut. Privately run, kinda privately administered, but the territory (NWT) issues the permit for the operators.

  • Gordilocks||

    Also, there are roads in and around Nunavut's capital town, Iqaluit. Just sayin.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I hereby deem those private roads. Freedom has a name: Nunavut.

    I'm going to buy me a mile of Arctic Sea beachfront.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Nunavut makes Greenland look crowded.

    Also, as an AGW heretic, I'm not sure it's going to be the best place to be when the inevitable next glacial period comes around.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I don't get how some libertarians talk about seasteading or lunar bases but think that living in the free, albeit cold, paradise of the Great Great White North is too hard. You know what? Freedom is hard.

  • Gordilocks||

    +1

  • CE||

    And the Moon and Mars are even colder than Canada.

  • Robert||

    It's "a road, in the winter"? Oh, I get it: In the summer it's a river.

  • ||

    Oh, speaking of lack of ROADZ, we should investigate Tuva for Libertopia.

    There are three roads leading to Tuva, a dirt track over the mountains from Khakassia to Ak Dovurak, and an asphalt road over the passes between Khakassia (Abakan) and Kyzyl: both of these are cut off by snowfall and avalanches from time to time in winter. The third road goes south, turning into a track before entering Mongolia.
  • Pro Libertate||

    Yes, but I can take a dog sled to Nunavut.

  • Gordilocks||

    Yaks not fast enough for you?

  • ||

    Plus there's no yurts in Nunavut. How can we be truly free without yurts?

  • Gordilocks||

    Why do you hate igloos?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Well, I suppose my hovercraft would work, though it's full of eels at the moment.

  • deified||

    Some redditors want to take over Ocean Falls, BC, Canada. Here is their board.

    All the statists normal people have abandoned it so there's beautiful real estate for cheap. Look.

    I'm fond of having seasons.

  • Gordilocks||

    Judging by that location, you must really like rain.

  • deified||

    Seattle and Vancouver are both beautiful. I've seen pictures.

  • Paul.||

    Seattle and Vancouver are both beautiful. I've seen pictures.

    Absolutely gorgeous... but cold and rainy nine ten months a year.

    I remember an August about two years ago where it was 55 degrees and raining sideways.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I thought Seattle was very nice when I was there for an August (plus a couple of weeks) in 2001. But I've seen what it's like in other months. Most of the other months. Really, all of the other months. It's like living on a planet that has one face locked towards the sun. Living on the side not facing the sun. With a light mist that never goes entirely away.

  • Ted S.||

    Tuva also has a Richard Feynman connection.

  • Zeb||

    A rather sad one.

  • ||

    And six months of darkness.

  • CE||

    Nunavut sounds like a good marketing slogan.

    Don't want roads, cops, traffic, zoning regulations or government services? We've got "none of it" in Nunavut.

  • Cytotoxic||

    We already have Alberta. Just move there.

  • Gordilocks||

    Spent the last two winters there. One of these days ...

  • Duke||

    I know a very smart guy who’s from NH. I mentioned this project to him. He said those people up there were crazy.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Sanity is rare, so not a big problem.

  • sarcasmic||

    Ah yes. New Hampshire. No income tax. No sales tax.
    Yet I pity the fool who owns property because property taxes in NH, being the government's main source of revenue, are insane.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Property taxes should be replaced with sales tax.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    The real way to do it is live just across the border in Vermont and then just spend all your time buying and working in NH.

  • ||

    Except then you can't actually vote in NH, or the localities that you work/shop in.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    As if libertarians voted.

  • sarcasmic||

    I vote. It's kinda fun because I can accurately predict the outcome of an election by taking the inverse of my ballot. Whatever I vote against will pass, and whoever I vote for will lose. Every time.

    Shit. Why do I bother?

  • Paul.||

    So you know who'll win.

  • John Galt||

    Ha! Sad but true.

  • Tim||

    Can't? What are you talking about?

  • ||

    If you live in Vermont you're not allowed to vote in NH and this includes whatever city/town/county you work and shop in.

  • ||

    Yeah, I'm only early into researching buying land in Vermont but I've found land where property taxes are peanuts - like $200. They don't force you to pay school tax I think and most residents take care of their own water supply which saves a bundle on taxes.

  • 16th amendment||

    As a resident of VT you pay tax on your worldwide income, no matter where you earned that income.

  • ||

    Yeah, I'd say that qualifies as insane.

    http://www.joeshimkus.com/NH-Tax-Rates.aspx

  • sarcasmic||

    They also have a view tax. So if your property has a nice view, they charge you for it.
    I remember a story several years back where a blind guy living in a cabin in the middle of bumfuck challenged a huge property tax bill for a view he could not see. Don't remember how it was resolved.

  • Zeb||

    Well, not exactly a view tax any more than there is a conveniently located tax, or a desirable community with good schools tax. Just that a good view adds to the market value of a property, and is reflected in the assessed value of the property. I'm not sure what to think of it myself. Assuming there is going to be a property tax, what is the alternative to taxing based on market value?

  • robc||

    Single Land Tax.

    Which is still based on market value, but not of the improvements.

  • John Galt||

    Are you a New Hampshirite?

  • CE||

    Taxing based on per-capita. One person pays X, family of four pays 4X. Makes more sense.

  • Joshua Wise||

    I don't understand the premise of taxing someone repeatedly for property they already own. If I buy a TV, I don't have to pay tax on the TV every year. If it's true that we have a right to buy and own land, then to continually tax it is a criminal act by the government. They are effectively turning your property into a rental, for as soon as you refuse, they can seize it.

    If you have a society with taxes, then tax a property based on a percentage of whatever the property is purchased for. Once. And should it be sold again, tax that purchase as well. Otherwise no tax at all. Not even if it's transferred for free.

  • dukelubas||

    Get rid of income and property tax altogether and increase the sales tax to cover it all. A fair tax.

  • New Hampshire||

    It was resolved thanks to CNHT.org

    He got an abatement and now the 'view' tax is not allowed.

  • Zeb||

    Yeah, that's the biggest drawback. Check out Connecticut rates, though. Higher than NH and they have sales and income tax too. And higher cost of living. Holy shit, why does anyone live in that appalling cack hole?

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    Cheaper than Manhattan?

  • deified||

    I have paid property tax in Northern NJ. You can't scare me. The USSR itself can't scare me.

  • dukelubas||

    +1

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ... nearly 14,000 liberty lovers had pledged to move to New Hampshire once the Free State Project reaches its goal of 20,000 signatories.

    A pledge is not much of a contract. I will see it when I believe it.

  • John Galt||

    Considering how expensive and what a hassle moving is, the 14,000 will have to be very dedicated to the cause.

  • Juice||

    You didn't bring up the anarchist that won a seat as a Democrat.

  • Paul.||

    anarchist that won a seat as a Democrat.

    Does not compute.

  • dave b.||

    For every one person that gets recruited to the FSP, 10 Massholes jump the border.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I have considered it, but I would count in both columns.

  • Mainer2||

    "a bill that repealed all of New Hampshire’s knife laws "

    Automatic knives (switchblades) = totally legal in my new home of NH.

    How cool is that ?

  • LTC(ret) John||

    How about harpoon guns?!

  • Gordilocks||

    The Nunavut Territorial government issues those to every citizen.

  • John Galt||

    Nunavut? Isn't that where KNNX reporter Toki Fong lives?

  • Zeb||

    I don't know about the guns, but harpoons are probably OK. They repealed all restrictions on bladed weapons. You could walk around with a sword if you weren't being threatening.

  • John Galt||

    It's not very encouraging reading that New Hampshire may have had restrictions on bladed weapons.

  • John Galt||

    You've made the move?

  • ||

    All I can say is good luck to NH. I hope it grows more. Maybe it can expand regionally one day.

  • ||

    "Victoria Parmele, a member of the Strafford County Regional Planning Commission, told New Hampshire Magazine in 2013 that she found Free Staters to be very aggressive, calling the movement “libertarianism on steroids.”

    As opposed to passive-aggressive liberals? Liberals have access to power so they can afford to come off as peaceful. Sometimes you have to scratch and claw your way to power. Once in, it moderates.

  • New Hampshire||

    Ignore her... she is a useful idiot implementing UN regionalism which all FSPers should fight!

  • CE||

    It's a little known fact. Democrats love democracy, until they are outnumbered.

  • ||

    Here's an article in the Quebecois Libre that may interest you guys about Houston's zoning laws; or lack thereof:

    http://www.quebecoislibre.org/13/130415-2.html

    "As Staley explains, that all changed with the ascendancy of the Progressive movement in the early years of the last century. Progressives argued that the common-law approach to nuisance was too expensive, time-consuming, and complicated, making it a difficult avenue for the less fortunate members of society to use. Zoning would be more efficient and fair, they claimed. Yet whatever the good intentions behind it, its effect, writes Staley, “was to fully politicize land-use decisions,” often in favour of the politically powerful."

  • lukescott610||

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  • A Mathematician||

    They need to move the border north about 8 miles.

  • A Mathematician||

    As in move the southern border

  • Zeb||

    Yeah, but mostly in the eastern part of the state. Heck, why not move the northern boarder up a bit too?

  • John Galt||

    As in USA-Mexico border? New Hampshire-Massachusetts? Somewhere-somewhere else?

  • 16th amendment||

    NH taxes interest and dividend income, not wage income. Hopefully the free staters can put an end even to this, and hopefully they can ban public unions.

  • Hoofddorp Haarlemmermeer||

    Interest and dividends are taxed only if you make more than $2400 individual and $4800 joint. It's not the worst problem we have. I agree about unions though; why do we need a state employee's union again?

    The biggest problem is keeping the liberal spenders out of the Statehouse. Gov. Hassan put a lot of additional taxes in place when she was in the Legislature (I thank her every time I pay the extra $200 or so in reg taxes on my cars every year), so she needs to go after one term.

    Luckily governors are only elected for 2 year terms in NH, so we can get them out quickly as necessary.

    (I've lived in NH for 35 years now.)

  • CE||

    That's a pretty bad problem if you're retired.

  • Harvard||

    I'm disappointed. I had hoped some state in the south would have proved take-over suitable. Jaysus I loathe snow. This Michigan U.P./summer and Florida/winter thing is easy to get used to.

    Then again N.H./summer Cuba/winter would be ideal if we could get the commie fucks out of Cayo Largo.

  • Thomas O.||

    I hear ya. The politicians here all have to answer to Big Church. Thus, gay marriage - or even just getting government out of marriage - and decriminalized pot are unreachable.

  • ||

    Communista and Castro goo-for Cooba, man!

    Alliterative poetry.

  • John Galt||

    Belinda's big brown bellicose breasts sure beat anything available at Bill's Burger Barn.

  • StackOfCoins||

    I'm trying to imagine warlike breasts and, frankly, I'm lost.

  • John Galt||

    By the time the tree finally bears fruit I'll have died of old age.

  • LifeStrategies||

    Wonderful article, delighted to see such progress for freedom!

  • theheat||

    I'm a free-stater! I jumped the border from MA a little over a year ago (and no, I'm not a liberal Masshole in disguise) and couldn't be happier w/ the decision. Yes, property taxes are high but I just couldn't handle being in MA anymore (sadly, I still work in MA and still have to pay MA state income tax).
    On another note, for anyone wanting to learn more about FSP or simply to gather w/ fellow freedom-minded folks, consider going to Porcfest (porcfest.com/) in June!

  • Thomas O.||

    I drove through NH a few years ago, in the thick of the colorful fall season. I do wish I could join the Free Staters up here, but I already have a family going in Texas, and I seriously doubt they'd want to leave friends and family here to go to NH where they'd know absolutely nobody.

    I do wish a Free State Project was doable in my part of the country. States are too damn big, though. And there is that issue of the good-ol-boy network being deeply entrenched in some offices. But I would love to break the religious nuts of their grip on power in one of these southern states... maybe Louisiana or Mississippi would make a good target.

  • Thomas O.||

    My top choice for city of residence in NH would probably be Laconia. Because Funspot. :)

  • dukelubas||

    It can. Think smaller. You're not going to get the whole state of Texas to buy into it. But if you started with a small community and it grew...

  • Marc St. Stephen||

    If this project reaches it goal and manages to take control of the state government, I'll consider it a success if they manage to repeal the state's smoking ban and preempt local dictators from fucking with that legal activity on private property. It doesn't matter if you like or hate smoking - what matters is that they have the balls to tell the behemoth anti-smoking nanny state conglomerate, "fuck you and your righteous indignation - our citizens, our property and business owners will have a choice". This, apart from the more popular subjects of freedom, will demonstrate a true commitment to liberty.

  • Iris56||

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  • Gary T||

    Jason Sorens is too modest; in libertarian circles he IS a name. However young, he is the grandfather of the Free State Project, and it will something of a hoseanna when he moves to NH this year.

    Sorens recently addressed the NYS Libertarian Convention in April, and in an information packed review, he covered the history, the current state of the state, and the near future of the FSP.

    Jason Sorens' speech is posted on Youtube at: http://youtu.be/rPgTnjfz_aM?t=6m5s

  • New Hampshire||

    Other than the fact you forgot Dawn Lincoln who helped pass laws to repeal home schooling regulations, good article.

    I just wish more FSPers would help the grassroots... liberty isn't free and we need to work on it. There are many ways you can do this without joining political parties.

    Just find and issue and work with others already working on it.

  • johnranta||

    Ironic, no? A political movement that has supposedly "grown up" is fighting for better access to knives, beer and pot. Thomas Jefferson would be so proud. I live in New Hampshire, and have been watching the Free Staters for a few years. I can assure you that long before the Free Staters arrived we had no problems buying knives or home brewing beer. These are meaningless battles. The Free Staters are mostly a bunch of 20-30 something young men whose motto is "you're not the boss of me". They drive on tax-payer funded roads, plug into public utilities, use public hospitals and facilities, all while raging against "the government". It's a very adolescent movement, far from "grown up".

  • megamucho||

    You feel that overturning laws which restrict self defense and personal consumption are meaningless and adolescent? I would see these as significant steps in the right direction, and a good way to test the waters.

    If the populace pushes back on something as simple as knives and pot legalization, what do you think happens when privatization of roads is proposed?

  • CE||

    But you're not the boss of me. And I'm in my 40s.

  • Joshua Wise||

    The accusation that someone is somehow a hypocrite, or not adhering to their ideology because they play ball in the process is dishonest and irrational. Let's take your argument to its conclusion. I believe the government should spend less money. But you've surrounded the polls and places of business with tax funded items like roads.

    How am I supposed to go anywhere or do anything without using these facilities? It's not possible. You are a liar. This would be like putting someone in a cage and then mocking them for not being able to feed themselves "See, you need the government to feed you!" No, you have artificially created a circumstance which forces the government upon a person.

    But even if there were an alternative, if you had forced me to pay for the roads to begin with, I'll certainly use them AND try to stop you from taking MORE money. What you ignorantly think is a flaw in their behavior (not casting aside roads and somehow flying everywhere), is actually how this government works, and was based upon, people agreeing to abide by the present, but agreeing that they could do thing to also try to change the present.

    In your twisted world, every time a Democratic candidate loses to a Republican, all the Democratics should leave. That's just stupid. As are you.

  • LifeStrategies||

    Very encouraging! :-)

  • Joshua Wise||

    The Free State Project will ultimately fail because a large percentage of "libertarians" are veiled anarchists who only want to destroy all government. If ever were achieved a minarchist libertarian paradise, the anarchists would continue subverting and attacking. Provoking a backlash that would destabilize the system.

    But this problem is only the fail safe that ensures an ultimate success impossible. What makes the road inordinately bumpy in the mean time, as revealed briefly here, is that "libertarians" can't stand each other. They hate anyone who even slightly disagrees with their ultimate fantasy.

    Libertarians often split over minor issues that are presently irrelevant. One might believe in immigration laws, others calling him a statist. They may believe that police shouldn't be privatized, and others will call them statists. The anarchists just bide their time, exploiting the irrational expectations of those who can't seem to grasp that no two humans on Earth want exactly the same out of their government, and to truly succeed politically you must be able to separate your ultimate desires from your immediate expectations. They too often jump the gun and act like we are in their ideal world, end up looking like radicals and going to jail frequently while never actually making any changes.

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