Libertarian History/Philosophy

Halfway to Freedom in New Hampshire


The Free State Project, an interesting experiment to get 20,000 libertarians to all relocate to New Hampshire to reshape local and state politics in a place where those numbers are politically powerful, hits 10,000 committed to the goal. (In order to avoid the "you go first" problem, the commitment is structured so that no one is obligated to go through with it until 20K have signed up. Of course, all that is at stake is your ol' sacred honor.)

From the group's press release, on what it's all about, what the Project might accomplish, and what it already has:

Participants come from many backgrounds but all agree to move to New Hampshire, where they will "exert the fullest practical effort toward the creation of a society in which the maximum role of government is the protection of life, liberty, and property." The agreement avoids political labels and allows individual participants to set their own course to reach their goal.

"The Free State Project has no political platform or membership dues", Sorens stated. "We have participants who identify as conservative, classical liberal, libertarian, anarchist, voluntaryist, you name it. The things we care about are: Do you want more liberty and less government? Are you willing to work toward it? Are you going to be a good, neighborly person in your community? If so, the Free State Project may be just what you're looking for."

While no one is obligated to move until 20,000 people have joined, 800 participants are already in New Hampshire. Four have been elected to the state house and dozens more to local offices. Members have founded or supported organizations around issues such as lowering taxes, gun rights, drug law reform, spending caps, homeschooling, marriage freedom, privacy protection, and state sovereignty. They have also started media outlets such as nationally syndicated radio show Free Talk Live, YouTube sensations like The Ridley Report, and print publications like the New Hampshire Free Press.

As linked here on Hit and Run earlier today, even the New York Times has noted that state's rights are a-brewing all across the land again, a nice trend for the Free State Project to slot into.

I wrote a Reason magazine feature on the Free State Project back in its early days, in our December 2004 issue. It still strikes me as one of the more interesting and promising action choices for those for whom political action of some sort is a libertarian imperative.

NEXT: Don't Mess With the Texas Curriculum

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  1. Didn’t Rachel Maddow describe the FST as an armed insurrection? Or something like that?

    I can’t remember exactly, but it’s somewhere in that ballpark.

    1. If so, I’m liking it even more now.

    2. To Maddow, two kids with sharpened popsicle sticks is an armed insurrection.

      1. If they’re homeschooled kids… you’d be right. Liberals hate homeschooled kids, because every one of their parents did it solely for religious reasons. No exceptions.


      2. It’s funny how Maddow, an openly gay commentator with a national audience, who supposedly represents tolerance and liberalism, is so illiberal and intolerant when it comes to opposing political viewpoints.

        1. that basically goes for any liberal who claims to be tolerant… you ever heard a college professor?

        2. Much as I despise Ann Coulter, the way she was treated at college events was disgusting.

          Same goes for the Minute Men rep who was bum-rushed by tolerant college thugs. Not defending him, except for how he was treated. And the Code Pink thugettes at the Senate hearings a couple of years ago.

          Yup, them tolerant students. So well-behaved.

  2. I’m not sure what the point is given that New Hampshire would still be firmly under the control of the U.S. government, even if it were 100% populated by libertarians.

    A better approach would be to take over a small country – Iceland maybe?

    1. Secession.

      1. A small country makes more sense. If New Hampshire tries to succeed — they WILL come after you.

        But Iceland? Only two things going for it:

        1) Small population (think “easy to conquer”)

        2) Remote location (think “hard to invade”)

        Come to think of it, the only two things going for Iceland are contradictory.

        Screw it. I just don’t like Iceland.

        Pick somewhere a bit warmer and I’ll be a lot more interested.

        1. Pick somewhere a bit warmer and I’ll be a lot more interested.

          The Turks and Caicos, maybe?

        2. Dominica? Its population is around 70,000, the land is cheap, they offer tax-free status to businesses relocating there, and they say it’s trending away from collectivism and toward individualism.

    2. For one thing, it has access to trade in case the U.S. embargoes it.

    3. 2 libertarian senators could wreak all kinds of havoc.

  3. New Hampshire does seem to have a much more libertarian bent than the rest of New England, especially compared to neighboring Vermont.

    Whether this is due to the Free Staters moving in — dunno.

    1. I never thought I’d see an open-carry state denigrated on the pages of H&R. Say thirty Hail Murrays as your penance.

      1. You’re fucking defending Vermont on H&R, because they’re open carry, and ignoring all the other rubbish that goes in there?

      2. Try living here.

    2. New Hampshire was picked because of their libertarian bent.

      As I understand it, because it already had a fairly liberatarian bent, moving 20,000 libertarians would fully shift politics in that direction. And, like someone said above, can you imagine the havoc two libertarian senators could cause?

      Now THAT would be an awesome site to behold!

      1. site = sight

        It’s to damn early to be typing on the internet. sheesh!

    3. [q]Whether this is due to the Free Staters moving in — dunno.[/q]]

      No, it’s the *reason* that Free Staters move here. Unfortunately. NH also attracts socialists and liberals from MA.

  4. FSP is interesting, but I can’t move to NH because there’s a limit to the amount of snow I can handle. Which is zero.

    1. Yeah they should have chose Florida or California, then i could get behind that.

      1. They should have chosen Alaska or Wyoming. But that state motto is such a charmer they couldn’t resist.

        1. Not if you think NH has too much snow.

      2. Good luck influencing the political process of California or Flordia.

        1. Then why not Alabama, New Mexico, or South Carolina?

          1. South Carolina is always the best choice for “Sesesh”.

            1. Here are some Federals to start with if you want a new Fort Sumter.

            2. If you’re looking for fairly warm and thinly populated and already somewhat libertarian-inclined, Nevada or Utah would be a better bet.

              If you’re just looking for warm and thinly populated, Hawaii would do, but it’s WAY fucking statist here. You’d need a hundred thousand plus libertarians to make a dent here.

              1. Nevada doesn’t work: Vegas got too big. Utah doesn’t work, the Brethren are still too strong, in fact, so strong that they ironically assert Harry Reid’s viability. Strange that. But true.

                Try Idaho.

                1. New Hampshire also has the advantage of voting first in national elections, so it gets undeserved attention (like Iowa).

  5. It’s a pretty free State already. I think they have some motto about what you’d rather do than live without freedom.

    1. Right — they were chanting “live free or die” as they marched into the polls to vote for John McCain and Hillary Clinton in ’08, and John Kerry in ’04.

      Newsflash: because a state legislature voted on a motto 50 years ago doesn’t mean anyone there still believes in what it says. Hell, our national motto is “in God we trust” and we all know how much of a joke that has become.

      1. no it isn’t. Our national motto is “e plubibus unum.” “In God we Trust” is just on the currency in the hopes that peoples’ religiosity will prevent them from all running from the dollar at once in the realization that its value is based on nothing but other peoples’ expectations.

        1. e pluribus unum. sorry

          1. bzzt, sorry!

            National motto is IGwT. Codified in 1956 and based upon a line in the final stanza of “The Star Spangled Banner”

            … Hobbit

            1. Well hey man, who cares. I’m a libertarian and I don’t even trust God. So there.

            2. Well that sucks. What a shitty motto.

            3. You forgot the second half of the motto:

              “…all others pay cash.”

        2. And running to which currency, exactly, that is backed by something real?

    2. Live Free or Die… except with regards to smoking laws. Second hand smoke is too scary to leave restaurant owners with the freedom to choose.

  6. 10,000 people in 15 years. Great job.

    That’s got to be at least 10% of the number of center-left people who have moved into the state from MA. Good luck with that whole outpost of liberty thing.

    PS: the FSP was absolutely stupid for choosing NH as the destination. A sixth-grader with a pocket calculator and 2000 census data could have figured out they’d need waaaaay more than 20,000 to make a difference.

    1. I think you’re taking a mountain of support in favor of NH, ahem, for granite.

      101 Reasons to Move to New Hampshire (pdf)

      1. Fairly convincing for the taxes (or lack thereof) and gun rights alone. I live in New York so I feel suffocated at every level.

    2. Well, I agree they aren’t making a difference, but the truth is they couldn’t make a difference anywhere. They should have mass-emigrated to one of those tiny Caribbean Islands like US Virgin Islands. Then they could vote for independence.

    3. Really? What have you been doing to advance the cause of liberty in the last 15 years, and what have you accomplished?

      Before you give up entirely on the concept, check out the show Free Talk Live – (also available as a podcast via iTunes). These guys picked up and moved from Florida to NH.

      The free staters are a dedicated bunch, and will drop what they are doing to come to your aid (esp. if it involves government aggression) –

      Also, keep in mind that 20,000 is the minimum. It is an effort worth looking into rather than berating it as a waste of time (you know, like being the lone voice in a sea of statist shit where you, and most of the rest of us, are stuck in).

      1. The Free Staters are hopeless, because they’ve chosen a state where they can be nothing but a small voice in a sea of statist shit.

        Twenty thousand voters in Wyoming? A whole 7% of registered voters. Further, the state is already weighted 2-1 in favor of Republicans in declared party affiliation. So those numbers are actually capable of taking over the Democratic Party in the state, if you can get a moderate degree of coordinated political action out of them. Include already-in-state ideological allies, and you might manage to create a two-party dynamic where libertarians actually control one of the two institutional parties, and thus wield significant actual influence in politics.

        In New Hampshire? It’s 2.8% percent, which is enough to put together an effective special-interest lobby, but not enough to fundamentally shift either party, or make a third viable. Without institutional influence, libertarian policy will sink without a trace. That’s before counting the counter-effect of Massachusetts emigration.

        When the FSP chose New Hampshire, it committed suicide. And since it doesn’t have the grace to clear its own corpse out of the way, it prevents any attempt to pursue a viable version of the plan.

        1. You are thinking too small. Think big, like 100,000, 1/2 million, 1 million… I’m sure there are that many libertarians and anarcho-capitalist types across the nation.

          Of course it will be a failure if libertarians do nothing but boo and hiss on the sidelines instead of getting in the game and doing something.

          Wyoming, Montana, Idaho would be great. Unfortunately they are landlocked with only two of them sharing an international border. NH has access to both the Atlantic, and an international border. That would come in handy if NH ever secedes.

          Guys, I’m not wearing rose coloured glasses. I’ve been promoting libertarian ideas for 15+ years, and know how frustrating it is to be that lone voice. I’m also well aware that it is an uphill battle. But I can’t stop. I have children whose futures are being ripped out from underneath their very feet by the DC/Wall Street cartel (I’m sure many posting here have the same concerns). I can’t stand around and do nothing like my parents and grand parents did. As you are all aware, we are at a critical point. I say reaching critical mass even. It is time for libertarians to put up or shut up.

          1. Think big, like 100,000, 1/2 million, 1 million… I’m sure there are that many libertarians and anarcho-capitalist types across the nation.

            There are not a million libertarians in this country, unless you water down the definition beyond belief. And keep in mind you have to find people who are willing to uproot their lives and families, quit their jobs in most cases, and move to an unfamiliar place with no social support around them. There’s a reason they’ve only managed 10,000 in all this time.

            What NH had going for it was the fact that it already had a decently well-developed economy, while Alaska and Wyoming don’t have the economic infrastructure to support a mass immigration.

            1. OK, maybe not 1 million…yet.

              Either way, in this screwed economy, there are many without employment (including me) with no real prospect of finding something in our neck of the woods. I’m actively looking for work in NH and close to packing my bags (we’re a family of five) for better opportunity away from this socialist shithole I live in.

              Here is some more intersting stuff from the FSP –

              They have an impressive group of speakers lined up. Not bad for a group some here designate to be about as influential as a fart in the desert

  7. If I recall, the idea was to have a rather unpopulated state that already has leanings toward liberty. This way a small number of people (20k) could have a measureable effect on politics.
    It came down to NH and Wyoming. As a Westerner I would have preferred the latter but I do have family in New England and NH is a possibility when I retire.

    … Hobbit

    1. But first you have to convince me that libertarians are actually capable to taking over anything. Like show me that they’ve taken over a phone booth, for example. Or even a can of soup.

      I’d be impressed enough to read the headline that libertarians have taken over a can of soup. It would put hope in my heart.

  8. It’a obviously a plot cooked up by New Hampshire realtors.

    1. Obviously. I mean you can see it a mile off, right?

      Actually I think it’s a plot by our Progressive Overlords, who I’m convinced must believe in some kind of neo-eugenics theory where of course, they’re the top of the food chain.

      They’re going to draw all the libertarians to NH and then arrest all their asses at once and put them in jail forever and ever. Amen.

      1. But only after the immigrants first drive up house prices. The real estate cabal must have their profit first.

  9. It has been said that every philosophy ever invented has its own internal contradictions. Which is a polite way of saying that nobody really knows what the fuck they’re doing.

    Not that I want to rain on the parade or anything, when the taking of a can of soup is finally within our grasp after all these years of suffering. I for one have always been a member of the Free The Soup group, and also The Free At Least One Phone Booth Somewhere, Anywhere project.

    But I’ve always smelled this odd little contradiction lurking around in the shadows. It’s this whole thing that libertarians have with waiting for everybody to agree with them. Which for all practical purposes, makes Libertopia a hostage of its enemies. Who want to arrest all our asses.

    Libertarians don’t want to initiate force against others. Or at least they don’t want to feel like they did. Fine and good. So instead, they’re going to jam 20,000 of themselves into a phone booth which hypothetically contains, at most, one highly dedicated socialist. And the libertarians will then take over — not by the simple and obvious expedient of suffocating the poor bastard, but by voting him down.

    Rather than dispensing the mercy of killing the socialist outright, we’re going to vote to effectively put him in hell. Which we can only presume Libertopia would be to a highly dedicated socialist.

    So we aren’t going to initiate force. Instead we’re going to force — wait I mean vote — Libertopia into existence, here in our newly conquered phone booth, and effectively force it upon our hapless socialist.

    The Zen Master says: it is best to use force without using force.

    Somewhere, somehow, there is always going to be an element of force involved in the imposition of any order. Because there will always be a minority that would prefer something else.

    But hey, I’m probably just drinking too much tonight. So let me know when the phone booth is taken, I’ll bring the beer.

    And if anybody farts, I swear I’m going to kill them.

    1. The real problem is that libertarians in general may like other individuals, but they hate people… And it takes people to make things happen in a democracy.

      1. So the fact that liberal Democrats, er I mean “progressives”, are doing so well is because they’re just the ideal picture of brotherly love and kindness.

        Wait, I have to go barf.

        ‘k, I’m back now.

        Our Progressive Overlords are doing so well because there’s just a whole lotta lot more of them around.

        Is this because they are more rabbit-like creatures than libertarians are? Which does not mean that they are, in fact, actual rabbits. We all know that looks can be deceiving.

        I don’t think the root of the problem is that Democrats are nicer. Have you listened to Pelosi? Or Hillary Clinton? Tell me they “love” anything but themselves and their own power.

        Oddly, if there’s any true sense of charity to be found anywhere on the playing field, it’s with the Christian Right. But their charity comes with lots and lots of strings.

        Also perhaps oddly, the libertarians and Democrats talk about sex more openly, but I recall seeing studies that say, the Right is making babies faster than the Left, and the Left consists much more of converts from the Right.

        So who’s screwing who here? I can’t even tell anymore. Just remember that a rabbit-like creature, though it smell and look and feel like a rabbit, does not mean that a rabbit it is.

        I return now to freeing my soup.

      2. My tirade has long been that, one reason I’m a greedy capitalist pig is because I do care about poor people.

        Studies show that poor people have always existed everywhere. But studies also show that poor people are generally better off in richer countries, than in poorer countries. And the richest countries in recent centuries have been capitalist pig countries. Excuse me, capitalist pig pens.

        As you may possibly have noticed, my tirade has not yet changed the tide of American politics. And I always say it nicely, thank you.

        I wish pig pens and freed and thoroughly liberated soup for everyone (though you’ll have to pay for it), and I wish that anarchism reigned in every phone booth on the planet.

        Apparently, I need to come up with a better line if I’m going to convince anyone else of the wisdom of my pronouncements.

        1. What if those capitalist pig countries got rich in part by exploiting poor countries (regions)? There’s never a black and white answer. This world is too complicated.

          Capitalism creates wealth, but does it ensure equality of opportunity? Do we value equality?

          1. Capitalism at least creates opportunity by growing the pie – no system can ensure pure and total equality of opportunity.

            But I’ll take liberty and free markets any day over statism that, by squashing individual choice and liberty in the name of equality, limits “opportunity” to those connected with the state.

            1. Capitalism creates wealth, but does it ensure equality of opportunity? Do we value equality?

              It is impossible to ensure equality of outcome, which is what Democrats have been trying to do for decades.

              I’d say it’s impossible to totally ensure equality of opportunity. Can a quadriplegic be ensured the opportunity to become a firefighter?

    2. Rather than dispensing the mercy of killing the socialist outright, we’re going to vote to effectively put him in hell. Which we can only presume Libertopia would be to a highly dedicated socialist.

      That’s a pretty warped definition of coercion. His hell would be in his head. There is no right to have the political system under which you live respect your political beliefs, especially when such beliefs involve micromanaging others’ lives.

      1. When Obamacare passes, they’re going to be saying that exact same thing to you.

  10. Wouldn’t it just be a lot easier to get those 10,000 people and open up a small city in Alaska or Montana? You’re not going to have nosy Massholes come in and bitch about what you’re doing and you could pretty much set up the local departments however you want. Even if the project was successful, New Hampshire would be like a vacuum in the statist NE, quickly sucking up all the refugees from neighboring areas. This shit is happening with Californians moving to Arizona and quickly instituting stupid shit like tobacco laws and taxes.

  11. Took me time to read all the comments, but I really enjoyed the article. It proved to be very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here! It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained! I’m sure you had joy writing this article.

  12. Interesting experiment is an interesting way to describe a failed experiment.

  13. The Free State Project has been a failure. It has changed NH from tax free libertarian leaning and localist GOP to moonbat Democrat. I hope every FSP is ready to pay the new state income taxes that are headed their way. Look at who the NH folk elected to Congress. Hoades and Shea-Porter and taxer Jean Shaheen who will support obamacare. That’s because all of the FSP had a hissy fit over IRaq. Screw them. Change comes within the GOP.

    1. How do you figure that? I have lived in NH my whole life and I think that change started happening before anyone heard of the Free State project. Its all the fucking people from Mass. who are the problem. We need to just give the south eastern corner of the state to Mass and have done with it.

      NH still has a relatively very small state government and there is still strong public sentiment against an income tax.

      1. I think it is actually people from other states that are causing the problems. An article from 2004 claims that the refugees from Massachusetts, living in the southern part of the state, are more conservative than the rest of the state.

      2. From what I understand, you can open, and conceal carry in the capital building. Is this true?

        1. yes it is – there is no security checkpoint BS in the New Hampshire state house. You can walk right in, go in to every office, hang out during session and talk to/give literature and vote guides to legislators on their way in to votes. Check out the The New Hampshire Liberty Alliance to see the kind of things we’re up to.

      3. Zeb
        it isn’t the people from Massachusetts. It’s the morons from New York and New Jersey who have moved there with the growth of health care industry in NH. Take a look at Hanover Dartmouth area. MA tax refugees are fairly conservative. YOU WILL GET AN INCOME TAX not a sales TAX for a variety of reasons. And you will get TOLLs not for efficiency rationales but for revenue for bigger government brought on by New Yorkers.

  14. Um, I’m trying to come up with a maple syrup joke here, but I think Vermont would be funnier. How about if all libertarians move to Vermont instead?

    1. Would raise the average IQ there to at least room temperature.

  15. Recap of all the anti-FSP comments here so far: “They haven’t yet made “For a New Liberty” a reality in every corner of the earth. Therefore they’ve failed completely.”

    I know a fair number of Free Staters, and on balance I think the FSP is a good thing. To say that they’ve had no impact politically isn’t quite accurate; it’s fairer to say that it’s not an explicitly political organization, and that it’s a big tent filled with independent-minded people. The real benefit of it has been to provide an occasion for libertarian folks to network and find community together.

    And NH really is a pretty nice place to live. Beautiful state (especially in summer and fall), lots of history, low crime, decent job market, low taxes, etc. As far as the winter and the snow . . . you just have to man up about it. Put on a coat; problem solved. I lived in the upper Midwest and can say their winters are far worse than New England.

    1. I would just like to add that several of the anti-FSP comments regard the numbers of the group compared to the population of the state. 20k may not sound like a significant percentage of voters, but you have to consider the selection bias occuring here. 20k people who voluntarily sign such an agreement are not equivalent to 20k picked at random. They will probably be much more involved in politics than the average voter. Without a way to measure the strength of this bias you can only guess at the true impact they might have.

  16. Playing the numbers game was a fool’s errand to begin with – what matters is that the FSP has motivated a handful of really effective activists to get involved in the political process. NH’s political system is uniquely accessible – anyone can testify on any bill, all bills are voted on, and the legislature isn’t a bunch of career politicians – it’s hard to build a career on a job that pays 100 bucks a year and offers no pension/benefits. The state has shifted to the left over the past few years, much like the rest of the country. It’s not an irreparable situation, and we’re actually making great progress in implementing liberty-oriented legislation and putting more and better libertarians in state government.

    Scoff if you want, but I think libertarians are much more palatable to the general public when they get involved in the political process and offer freedom-based pragmatic solutions to real problems rather than sniping from the sidelines.

  17. Hummm … how many commentators here with all their reasons of why the FSP/NH idea is naught have left the comfort of their armchairs to forward the idea of self ownership or even investigate NH activists? I am one of the 800 Early Movers because I first went, met and saw what liberty activists were doing in NH and in good heart, had to give them my support. Unlike many people who claim to want liberty and freedom but find multiple reasons (excuses) not to even go and see first hand what 800 movers with NH natives are doing. I found this post…..0/#respond
    of someone else who visited NH. Succeed or fail I will be in NH for liberty and not in an armchair discussing reasons why to “roll over” or be “sheared”.
    Come visit, meet and then decide your role of support or denouncement. They were out numbered at Lexington and Concord also.

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