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None of this seemed remotely possible in 2001, even to Free State Project originator Jason Sorens. “Unfortunately, I am neither an ‘organizer’ type nor a well-known libertarian ‘personality,’ ” he wrote in his initial call to arms. “I’m an aspiring political scientist, a thinker; I don’t know the first thing about leading, and my name doesn’t have cachet.” Now Sorens, who lives and teaches in Buffalo but has visited New Hampshire and the Free Staters several times, might finally make the move himself.
“When I started it,” Sorens says, “I thought it could work, and I thought there was a real possibility people would move, but I had no idea what it would look like. A thousand people moving and taking over a community? That’s amazing.”
Sorens thinks the project’s success stems partly from its modest approach. “The whole point behind the FSP was to avoid utopianism,” he says. Rather than trying to “build this new society,” he says, Free Staters “opted instead for incrementalism, making small but noticeable, meaningful changes.” Building an entire new world requires a massive investment before anybody sees results, big or small. The Free State Project already has won victories without spending much money or ripping up social architecture.
Will all of the 20,000 volunteers move to New Hampshire once the signature threshold is crossed? Probably not, but it may not matter. “If we had 2,000 solid, committed people that made it their business to get involved,” says Cohn, “we might be at least as powerful as either party, quite possibly both.” Even a fraction of the total would be OK with Sorens too. “Look at the change they’ve made with just 1,000,” he says. “Even 5,000 would be mind-boggling. I think our goal right now is to attract as many people as possible. It doesn’t matter what the precise number is. We’re just trying to make New Hampshire a beacon of liberty.”