Attn, DC Reasonoids: Discuss the Free State Project with Its Maximum Leader, Friday, May 11, at 10.30AM

Please come out to Reason's smashing new DC offices on Friday, May 11, at 10.30 A.M. to hear the head of The Free State Project, Varrin Swearingen, talk about his group's effort to secure "liberty in our lifetime."

The FSP is a radical experiment in political activism that aims to reduce the size of government--and to increase the scope of individual freedom. From the group's mission statement:

The Free State Project is an effort to recruit 20,000 liberty-loving people to move to New Hampshire. We are looking for neighborly, productive, tolerant folks from all walks of life, of all ages, creeds, and colors who agree to the political philosophy expressed in our Statement of Intent, that government exists at most to protect people's rights, and should neither provide for people nor punish them for activities that interfere with no one else.

More on that here.

In December 2004, Reason Senior Editor Brian Doherty traveled to The Granite State and reported, "Whether or not the FSP ever hits its target membership goal, much less turns New Hampshire into a libertarian paradise, it retains real significance as a thought experiment. It forces people to confront the reality of how much they are willing to sacrifice for their notions about political liberty--and how much people with different grievances against government might have in common." Read his whole account here.

And come out on Friday to learn the latest from the FSP's leader. Details:

What: Q&A with Varrin Swearingen of The Free State Project

When: Friday, May 11, 10.30 A.M. to 11.30 A.M.

Where: Reason, 1747 Connecticut Avenue, NW

RSVP: events@reason.com

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    He totally stole that name from Deadwood, right?

    Swidjin! Swidjin!

  • ||

    "COCK-SCUKAAAA!"

    I love that show.

  • lunchstealer||

    The Christian Exodus project nicely illustrates why the FSP is a bad idea and will ultimately not succeed. These guys want to turn my childhood home into a theocracy. I can't say that I take too kindly to that. I can't imagine the people of New Hampshire feeling too comfortable with the idea of a bunch of libertarians coming in to tell them what to do.

  • ||

    ChristianExodus.org is moving thousands of Christians to South Carolina...

    Aren't there thousands of Christians in South Carolina already?

  • lunchstealer||

    Well, yeah, and they're already doing their best to turn it into a theocracy. But I don't appreciate carpetbagging Christians coming in and making things worse. I still know people who haven't gotten out.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    I can't imagine the people of New Hampshire feeling too comfortable with the idea of a bunch of libertarians coming in to tell them what to do.

    Lunch. Don't you mean NOT telling them what to do? :-)

  • Thornton||

    As a New Hampshire native, I welcome you all! The former Governor of New Hampshire, Craig Benson, invited Free Staters to come and make the Granite State their home.

    And Wine is right, we don't tell people what to do, we just live our lives!

  • ||

    lunchstealer, not having met the folks from either project, I guess I can't be too sure.

    That said, the Christian Exodus project's stated values are vastly different from what the TSP's are. The TSP is specifically about not telling you how to run your life. They're so different that I'm wondering if you were kidding.

  • lunchstealer||

    I recognize that the FSP is not going to tell people what to do day-to-day the way the Exodus theocrats are, but the idea of creating a voting majority, or even a significant voting block that would affect state politics, seems like it would at least on some level be telling New Hampshirioles how to organize their government, even if you'd actually not be telling them what to do.

    Again, if I was to have one or the other moving into my state, I'd sure as hell rather have the FSP folks. But I can't help but think that any concerted effort by an outside organization to 'take over' state or local politics would be seen by those living there as an invasion, no matter how benign.

    And this may be residual conditioning from having grown up around people who had very real, very active, very large chips on their shoulders about 'damn yankees' coming down and making them treat upwards of 30% of their population like human beings. There was a great deal of cultural resentment of 'outsiders' coming in to change things. Perhaps the Free State's long history of not having institutional slavery and discrimination forcibly ended by the more civilized parts of the country would prevent such an attitude from taking root.

  • ||

    Considering the last election turned everything in NH blue and the "bans that" legislation has been inching forward ever since, we could use a little help holding the line. Do it for the children... or at least their potential future options.

  • Bee||

    I would rather have people physically move to my region to effect policy change, than have remote people or organizations dump $$ in an attempt to influence my area.

  • ||

    lunchstealer - as a NH native, I'll say the FSP is not a bad idea, and nowhere near the "Christian exodus" thing you linked to. From my relatives still in NH, I can verify what Eddy said - all the Masshole lefties are moving north to avoid the taxes and policies they've inflicted on their home state so they can fuck up a new one. Getting some freedom friendly people to help balance it would be a good thing.

  • ed||

    "the maximum role of civil government is the protection of life, liberty, and property"

    I think you could probably get both righties and lefties to agree to that, though their methods and results would be quite different. For instance, a statist could justify smoking bans with the "protection of life" part. Likewise a conservative who opposes abortion. Their Statement of Intent is so vague as to be nearly meaningless.

  • ||

    "...all the Masshole lefties are moving north to avoid the taxes and policies they've inflicted on their home state so they can fuck up a new one."

    That's a common misconception. In fact, the southeastern counties that are home to the vast majority of Masschusetts transplants are also the only areas of the state that voted for Bush in 2004. Everywhere else, even way up in Coos County, has turned Democratic.

    The Massholes moving to New Hampshire are much more conservative and Republican than Massachusetts as a whole. Think of them as political refugees.

  • Vermont Gun Owner||

    Awww, why can't the FSP come to Vermont instead? We've got a smaller population, so 20,000 would be a larger percentage. Additionally, the Northeast Kingdom would love them. Oh, and we're still bitter about all the socialists moving in and taking over.

  • ||

    Please come out to Reason's smashing new DC offices

    Once again, it's odd how Reason talks small government but when the rubber hits the road they prefer the benefits of being in the mean, oppressive, liberal city.

  • ||

    I can't see, beyond any strech of the imaginatin, the FSP working. I doubt that the number of people who are willing to pick up their life, abandoning current jobs, friends, and family, and move away to a completely new state just for political purposes is large enough to make any political diffrence.

    It's a lot of effort for something that wouldn't make that much of a diffrence. ("Woo-hoo! We're a liberterian state now! Now nobody is telling me not to wear my fucking seatbelt.")

  • ||

    Once again, it's odd how Reason talks small government but when the rubber hits the road they prefer the benefits of being in the mean, oppressive, liberal city.
    Yeah, proximity to the ploltical hub of the country has nothing to do with it!

  • ||

    We are looking for neighborly, productive, tolerant folks

    Some libertarian state; they've already started issuing requirements.

  • ||

    Some libertarian state; they've already started issuing requirements.

    So if you orginized a mass migration to a state you WOULDN'T put requirements in place in order to prevent black people from coming?

  • Porcupine||

    If you want to see with your own eyes what New Hampshire is like and what the FSP is doing, one of the best times to do it is the FSP's annual Porcupine Freedom Festival (www.PorcFest.com).

  • ed||

    No Irish.

  • ||

    Them either; only blonde-eyed blonde haired men in our utopian future.

  • ||

    They picked the wrong state. It's too late for NH. If it wasn't for my wife, I would've never moved back and be stuck watching it slowly calcify into the next great bastion of statism.

  • ||

    Lunchstealer says, "...but the idea of creating a voting majority, or even a significant voting block that would affect state politics, seems like it would at least on some level be telling New Hampshirioles how to organize their government, even if you'd actually not be telling them what to do."

    And yet, the ability of people to move to places where the government WAS organized according to their liking, or where they COULD reorganize it to their liking, is central to our federal system. The states are the laboratories of democracy, are they not? If one state raises its taxes or increases its level of regulation, its citizens are able to vote with their feet. Similarly, if people live in a state that doesn't offer enough protection or social services to suit them, they can move to states that do.

    The only difference in the case of the FSP seems to be that the migration is organized and purposeful: a peaceful invasion, in fact. And yet, other organized and purposeful migrations occur when big companies erect new offices or build new factories in various regions. They often import many of the new facility's workers, and those workers bring with them their incomes and often shared values (inculcated through the hiring process and corpoorate culture), too. This kind of thing can have as profound an effect on the local culture as a "political" invasion might. But towns actively COURT this kind of invasion, because they reason that some locals will get good jobs, and the participation of all the well-paid "transplants" will improve the local economy to benefit all.

    So, given that NH residents do say they appreciate freedom, and nearly everyone likes a good economy, why would the arrival of FSP libertarians be of any more concern to the locals than the arrival of a fortune 500 company factory or office complex? Not to say that people DON'T have problems with such things, but I'm just wondering why anyone might be less kindly disposed to consider the FSP in comparison with corporate facility relocations, which happen all the time.

  • ||

    I can't imagine the people of New Hampshire feeling too comfortable with the idea of a bunch of libertarians coming in to [not] tell them what to do.

    Not much they can do about it, is there?

    seems like it would at least on some level be telling New Hampshirioles how to organize their government, even if you'd actually not be telling them what to do.

    This kind of assumes that the FSPers wouldn't be New Hamsters, when actually they would be, having moved there and all. So it would be more like New Hamsters, old and new, deciding for themselves how to organize their own damn government.

  • Michael Hampton||

    I'm an FSP member and I moved about two months ago.

    Among other things so far, I've stood out in the rain and booed John McCain; politely asked the IRS to go the hell away; and a few other interesting things.

    I also had a nice conversation with Varrin last week after the GOP debate. I think if you love liberty, you'll like him.

  • Denis Goddard||

    I can't imagine the people of New Hampshire feeling too comfortable with the idea of a bunch of libertarians coming in to [not] tell them what to do.

    I have not conducted any scientific survey, but I can share my own personal experience.

    I moved to NH a few years ago as part of the Free State Project. One of the first interactions I had with my new neighbors was while I was shoveling the snow off my driveway. My neighbor's truck pulled up to the driveway, and the window rolled down. My new neighbor stuck his head out the window and yelled, "Are you one of those Free-Staters?"

    Not knowing what to say, I simply walked over to the truck and said, "yes"

    His answer?
    "Well about god-damn time! We need you folks up here... how many of you are there, again?"

  • ||

    No offense, but if Florida had been selected, we'd already be libertarian. Sure, it's a big state, but 35% of us will be dead in a few years, anyway, and Florida is a nice place. With beaches, hot women (not that I notice that anymore, being recently wedded), no income tax, and other forms of indigenous entertainment.

  • ||

    > The Free State Project is an effort to recruit > 20,000 liberty-loving people to move to New
    > Hampshire.

    Funny. A one-time shot of 20,000 people (maybe...) vs. 20,000+ every year who come here from other places (especially Mass.) and are determined that their new home be reasonable -- i.e. nothing like what NH once was and nothing like what the FSPers think it should be. The FSPers are seriously out-numbered, and NH is turning more and more blue ever year. Just look at recent elections. This is a good thing. The FSPers made a seriously bad choice.

    Jeff Q.
    Tilton, NH

  • ||

    No offense, but if Florida had been selected, we'd already be libertarian. Sure, it's a big state, but 35% of us will be dead in a few years, anyway, and Florida is a nice place. With beaches, hot women (not that I notice that anymore, being recently wedded), no income tax, and other forms of indigenous entertainment.

    I'll kill your argument using just four words...are you ready? Here it comes...The Pig Sty Amendment

  • ||

    To be fair, in 2006 we voted in that admendment to stop people from turning our consitution into a direct democracy.

  • highnumber||

    Jeff Q (If that is your real first name and last initial),

    Feeling threatened?

  • ||

    Yes, we've had some doozies. But there's a constitutional review coming up, where we can mess with the constitution. Too bad the libertarians missed that opportunity. Alas.

  • ||

    joe,
    To be sure it isn't only the Massholes, there are plenty (about 20%, not that it would be considered unusual or investigated, unless it were the other way) of knee jerk reactionaries who checked the "all blue" column without concern for reality. Now the blues are pulling the national red stunt in thinking it was a "mandate" with their few point swing and I hope they get their asses handed to them next time around. My only fear is the young and reckless at UNH and Dartmouth will win the day again. What do they care, they won't be here in a few years and they don't have to live with the consequences of their actions.

    Until then, we get to deal with legislation banning trans fat and worry about interesterified fats instead and back to political favoritism of ccw permits.

  • Stephen Cobb||

    I'll address a few of the many fallacies above:

    "I can't imagine the people of New Hampshire feeling too comfortable with the idea of a bunch of libertarians coming in to tell them what to do."

    This is actually three fallacies in one sentence, quite an accomplishment. First, if the FSP just meets its target of 20K, it will amount to no more than 5% of the voting population. While that will be a significant block, we will have to rely on *persuasion* (you can forget about any notions of secession). Second, libertarians believe in an objective standard of justice (e.g. The Liberal Conception of Justice as formulated by Randy Barnett), and, while we might debate the details, we agree on its broad outlines. Third, libertarians realize that it is individuals who have opinions, not groups, and we understand the meaning "tyranny of the majority". In every state there are people who benefit from the unjust status quo, but they do not have an inherent right to continue. I am from California, and I resent its invasion by socialists, but I am willing to trade its unmatched geography, climate, and cultural opportunities for NH. Let any disaffected NH socialists move to CA.

    "20,000+ every year who come here from other places...The FSPers are seriously out-numbered, and NH is turning more and more blue ever year."

    Amusingly, this is the opposite of the previous fallacy, underestimating the FSP's potential influence instead of exaggerating it. The population of all states is growing. We can debate the nature of the NH immigrants, especially those from MA, whether they are political or economic refugees, but let's assume that the mix reflects NH's current population. In any event, they are voter-sheep. The FSP strategy relies on moving in *activists*. One activist is worth 100 sheep, though in the end the sheep get their vote. Furthermore, FSP movers can concentrate in certain NH communities, achieving even greater influence (or at least comradery) there.

    "Their Statement of Intent is so vague as to be nearly meaningless."

    So what is your proposed alternative, the NAP/ZAP? Too restrictive--we need a lower common denominator. The FSP's SoI was word-smithed at length to be easily understood and non-contentious. We are interested in results, not debate. The FSP's motto is "Liberty in Our Lifetime", which many other libertarian organizations seem not to share.

    "I doubt that the number of people who are willing to pick up their life, abandoning current jobs, friends, and family, and move away to a completely new state just for political purposes is large enough to make any political diffrence."

    Coming at this stage, after FSP early-movers have already made a significant difference, including one getting elected to the NH legislature, this statement is particularly silly. But from a purely theoretical viewpoint, every passionate libertarian will benefit by moving to a place where the libertarian concentration is marginally higher, especially given an expectation that others will continue to do the same, resulting in a snowball. The decision to move will be based on a personal comparison of costs and benefits. Americans are an extremely mobile lot. If someone will change states (or even countries in my case) for a marginally better job, why would he not move for other reasons, some of them with similar economic impact?

    "It's a lot of effort for something that wouldn't make that much of a diffrence. ('Woo-hoo! We're a liberterian state now! Now nobody is telling me not to wear my fucking seatbelt.')"

    Despite continuing centralization of power in DC, much if not most authority still remains at the state level. Sales tax, for example, ranges from 0% in NH to over 7% in CA; state income tax in NH is also 0%. Vice (prostitution, gambling) laws are set at the state level, and the struggles for educational freedom, the right to bear arms, and medical marijuana are occurring in various states. These are core libertarian issues, not trivialities like seatbelt laws.

    FSP detractors are invited to suggest alternatives. ;)

  • ||

    Well spake Stephen. Getting ridiculed by outsiders is exasperating, but when self-professed libertarians do it, it's downright infuriating. Seems like the LP or the FSP or any other libertarian movement/project can only be a joke. No need to actually get involved and actually do something. I guess the fact that we haven't achieved all our goals yet, means that it must be futile to try. Screw the naysayers says I. If you're not fighting the good fight, whats the fricking point?

  • Guy Montag||

    So, how did it go?

  • ||

    That anyone would call the FSP "a thought experiment" demonstrates why it hasn't yet reached the goal of 20,000. It was meant to replace the sitting around and talking part with the political action part.

    The "which state" debate was very entertaining, if a little too divisive. An organized Free State Wyoming movement started afterward, but I haven't heard much about it lately. An even less organized group was pushing Montana.

    It's too bad that WY didn't win -- 7,000 there would have been the same percentage as 20,000 in NH, and could have kicked off the official migration already. (Even some of the early organizers were pushing WY as a backup plan, if the FSP didn't reach 20K by 2006.)

    Still, NH is a decent choice, and I respect those who have already made the move, and wish them luck. I would have been there myself by now, if my wife hadn't vetoed the idea.

  • James Maynard||

    I am a native of New Hampshire and have been a member of the FSP since 2002.

    What is amazing to me is the degree to which the people of NH accept the movement of FSP members here. Even the people who are most certain they don't want us are willing to conceed they need and want our members from time to time. :O) NH is a very live-and-let-live state and that is very much in line with libertarian principles.

    As for the last election, NH didn't go blue, that election showed that we have truely been purple for a long time. There are more independent voters in NH than Rs or Ds. The Dems didn't win (and haven't won) NH, the Rs (read: George Bush) lost it. The Ds need to remember they can lose it again, and they will, if they flub up too badly.

    In an independent, freedom-loving state such as NH, the FSP doesn't need many activists to swing the pendulum towards greater freedom.

    JM

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