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The Free State Project, which aims to move en masse to a single state and agitate there for libertarianism, has picked New Hampshire.

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  1. I suspect they will have difficult attracting the initial 20,000 b/c all serious libertarians are (not by definition – but in fact) incredibly self-interested individuals. The original 20k will absorb serious costs (finding new jobs, organizing, working for change, & the risk that the movement fails) which could be avoided by arriving later. If a spike of 20,000 new residents are shopping for homes & jobs at once, costs will rise (at least a little). But, asuming that the project succeeds, the cost of land is likely to decrease with the elimiation of restrictive use laws, etc. If the project is a success, there will certainly be more N.H. jobs available after the inital 20k have settled then are available now – meaning the cost of moving to NH will decrease with time. Won’t rational, self-interested libertarians wait and see and then move to NH (as free riders) only after things improve?

  2. I actually don’t think that’s a terribly accurate characterization of libertarians. A whole bunch of my ex-colleagues at Cato were folks with law degres who were capable of (and sometimes had been) making mondo bucks in private practice, but preferred to take a pay cut and work on something they believed in.

  3. WOOHOO!!!

    NH, it is!!! I’m only about 10 miles south!

    C’mon, guys…a little positive thinkin’, huh? Maybe we can get Fat Teddy to beach himself at Hampton!

  4. Maybe they are, maybe not. FYI, I dont consider it an insult to call someone someone very self-interested. Or very rational.

  5. TG,

    Very interesting — a kind of ‘tragedy of the commons’ mentality…….

  6. Jason-

    I completely agree that 20,000 activists could bring about a substantial reduction in the size and scope of government, even if they failed to achieve Libertopia. But accepting partial steps in the right direction is called “compromise” and that word doesn’t always seem to be in the vocabulary of hard core libertarian activists.

    And I suspect that 20,000 libertarian activists willing to move across the country for The Cause will include a fair number of hard core types who scorn compromise. They’ll have a hard time even compromising amongst themselves on obscure issues (i.e. how many philosophical tracts can dance on the head of a pin?), let alone with outsiders (i.e. the electorate) on more significant issues.

    Then again, maybe I’m wrong. I hope so. Because it would be fun to see 20,000 libertarian activists influence the 2008 New Hampshire Presidential primaries. Or see 2 Libertarian Senators act as power brokers in a chamber divided 49-49. Or see 3 Libertarian Presidential electors act as power brokers if we ever again have a Presidential race that comes down to a margin of just a few electoral votes. (If NH had been the pivotal state instead of Florida, the tallies would have been Gore 267, Bush 268, with NH deciding all.)

  7. Oops, make that 4 Libertarian electors, and if NH had been the pivotal state in 2000 the breakdown would have been Gore 267, Bush 267, with NH still deciding all. Might as well have my numbers straight.

  8. The two main criticisms of this plan seem to be 1) hard-core libertarians won’t go for this at first, opting to play the wisest self-interest card and only follow when the risk is low, and 2) hard-core libertarians doing this will find so much internal petty disagreement, that no progress will be made.

    Considering both of these, perhaps the 5400 currently and 20,000 potentially aren’t hard-core libertarians who are unwilling to give an inch, but are actually more flexible. If the numbers are indeed reached, then this could be somewhat effective in the mid-run. It will take some time to develop, so not in the short-run, and the long-run is a little more tricky (what sort of folks may follow if significant increases in liberty are acheived).

    From my vantage point, I am cautiously hopeful that the numbers are reached and that the majority are not zealots or nutjobs, but more along the lines of practical libertarians. Over the next year, the woman and I will be giving consideration to adding our names.

  9. When thoreau moves to NH, I’ll move too. That’s someone I want as my senator.

  10. I see where North Dakota came in dead last in the voting; maybe they didn’t like the weather here?

  11. I prefer Anarcho-Fascism –

    “Live free or die: choose one.”

  12. Why don’t they try one county first, or maybe even one town?

  13. Thank, Mike!

    I’d like to unveil my libertarian platform:

    Vote for me, and I promise a legalized ferret in every home!

    Vote for me, and I will defend the right of Druids to dye their skin blue without interference from public health laws!

    But seriously, being the Senator from New Hampshire would be fun. I could chair the committee on covert military operations and fund a mission for Special Agent Jack Bauer to take out Serbian warlords. (If you don’t watch 24 on Fox you won’t get that one.) And I could give the folks at Cato government jobs that they might actually like: They’d get to write all my legislation, although my wife would have veto power. Except the bills authorizing Jack Bauer to do bad-ass secret missions. Those are mine! 😉

    (Lest anyone think I’m straying off the libertarian reservation by endorsing secret missions to take out Serbian warlords, it’s just a joke paying tribute to Kiefer Sutherland’s character on 24.)

    My campaign slogan? Not convicted of tax evasion since 1846!

  14. Bravo, well said James!

    🙂

  15. On a positive note, perhaps this would also bring out of the woodwork a lot of people who are basically libertarian but don’t see the point in working on a movement that has no chance of success. If they can start electing people, others will get involved.

    I suppose that if a movement has no chance of success, only a “crazy” person would join it, so you’ll get candidates who dye their skin blue, confront the police at knife-point to defend their ferrets (I’m not joking!), proclaim their druid faith in the candidate statements section of the sample ballot, and attend city council meetings in an Uncle Sam costume (rumored, not confirmed).

    As to James’ comment on taxation, I’ve long thought that replacing the current income tax with a sales tax or flat tax would be an improvement, even if it was revenue neutral. By making the tax code simpler you reduce the cost of compliance for both the private sector (we spend less on accountants) and the public sector (we “need” fewer IRS auditors). And a flat income tax with no exemptions, deductions, penalties, etc. removes the market-distorting mechanisms that politicians use to reward or punish certain behaviors. It isn’t ideal, but it deprives the politicians of at least a few of the tools they use to try and regulate our lives. Every time we take a tool from them we gain some more freedom.

    Likewise, a sales tax that is applied across-the-board doesn’t favor one product or activity over another. It still takes money from us, but it removes at least one tool from the politicians’ kit. Indeed, since most states already have sales taxes the added administrative burden would be minimal, and probably less than the administrative burden of the current income tax.

    And if either of these reforms were accompanied by substantial spending and tax cuts it would be an unmitigated good!

  16. Anyone who is trying to bring about a free society has my support, but I think it is more important to promote freedom in your own community.
    Having said that, the Free State Project has generated interest in libertarianism, and the Governor of New Hampshire has actually said he would welcome the Free State Project.
    Hopefully the Free State Project will not disillusion the many libertarians who have looked to it as a step toward a free society.

  17. Too cold.

    :-

  18. New Hampshire has a population of 1.3 million, more than twice that of Wyoming or Alaska, both of which have libertarian streaks in their political climates (especially Alaska). Montana, with a population of 900,000, would also be an easier state to shake up. I wonder if this decision had more to do with the unwillingness of East Coast project supporters to move far away from their current homes than with New Hampshire’s suitability for political transformation.

  19. More Massachusetts liberals relocate to New Hampshire every 6 months than the entire Free State Project will bring in.

  20. Eric,

    Alaska is about to extract billions from the federal government to build an overly expensive natural gas pipeline. Its one of the worst pork-barrel politics states in the US.

  21. One thought that just came to my mind is that New Hampshire might have been chosen for its size (or lack thereof). Clearly, in states as large as Alaska, Wyoming, and Montana, it would be pretty hard for all but the most seasoned of road warriors to meet up on a routine basis to discuss plans, organize events, stage protests, etc. A place as small as New Hampshire is much more amenable to such grassroots activity. The only other low-population states that can fit this bill are Rhode Island and Vermont, both of which lean too far to the left to bother with.

  22. Here’s their web site, though the info on NH isn’t up there yet.

  23. The Free State Project is doomed to fail.

    First there will be schisms over a variety of issues. But they’ll somehow elect a libertarian state legislator. When he introduces a bill that calls for a 5% tax on something instead of the current 10%, he’ll be exiled for keeping any amount of tax in place.

    Not to mention that a rival project will probably be started by people who refuse to go live among “all those damn east coast liberals on welfare.”

    And the libertarians will discredit themselves when some people start trying to refight the Civil War, while others campaign in costume or claim that you can’t truly be free unless you accept Ayn Rand as your lord and savior.

    Still, it was a nice idea. Too bad that libertarians are so wacky. 🙁

  24. I think the real constraints were jobs, or lack thereof. Not a formal participant, I followed their discussions for a while anyway.

    The feeling I got was that there was a lot of support for Wyoming based on the criteria used (pretty well thought out overall, I thought), but it kept coming back to the fear of no jobs.

    Mass vs. NH is going to be an interesting problem, as joe points out.

  25. thoreau is spot on. the problem with this gimmick is the fallacy in believing libertarian nirvana will be attained by moving people instead of moving minds.

    liberty is memetic, not genetic.

  26. thoreau and mike,

    I think such criticisms are valid, but it all depends on what one’s idea of success is.

    Do you think that 20,000 people can exert pressure to, in net, increase liberty in a given state? Disagreement on specific issues and name calling may all be there, but they are there with any group of sufficient size.

    We’ll see.

  27. Better to move all 20,000 offshore — you and me included — to one of the larger Caribbean islands. They have great harbors & airports, much better weather, and the indigenous folk would be more readily persuaded. Best of all, there would be no stifling bureaucracy to contend with, no political back-stabbing, and most of all no IRS!

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