Exploring the Borderland of Libertarianism and Cool Tech with the Free State Project
Forbes tech writer Kashmir Hill hangs out with members of the libertarian diaspora of the Free State Project (FSP) in New Hampshire and finds—no surprise to regular readers of Reason—that many of them are early adopters and innovators with cutting edge state-defying technologies.
I discovered that this isolated group has fully adopted Bitcoin, and that it's extremely enthusiastic about other "freedom-enhancing" technologies such as 3D-printers and encryption. Everyone I met in the Project owned Bitcoin and was willing to accept it for goods and services. Of the couple thousand people living there, at least seven own 3D-printers. Though the idea originally was to get a critical mass to influence the political process, many in the movement now feel that the freedoms they want may be better realized through technology that routes around the government rather than engaging it directly…..
The Free Staters are into Bitcoin:
Erik Voorhees, a Bitcoin entrepreneur who recently made headlines for settling a suit with the SEC over selling shares in Bitcoin businesses for Bitcoin, moved to New Hampshire in May 2011 to join the Free State Project. It was there that he first heard about Bitcoin after someone posted about it in the Free State Facebook group. "Very few Free Staters knew about about it at that point. They don't like using government money, but they were more into gold and silver than virtual currency," he says. "I went down the rabbit hole and couldn't stop talking about it, and then warmed other Free Staters up to it." Voorhees notes that Roger Ver, a Bitcoin entrepreneur who lives in Tokyo, was also an early signer of the Free State petition, and bought Bitcoin ads on Free Talk Live, a libertarian radio station associated with the project.
They are into 3D printing:
I also saw my first 3D-printed gun that weekend. A member of the Free State movement, Bill Domenico, printed the second-ever Liberator after Defense Distributed's Cody Wilson first made it a reality in Texas last year. Domenico, an electrical engineer, has lived in New Hampshire for 30 years, and joined the Free State Project in 2008. He has a 3D printer that he built himself as well as a commercial one. He has printed two guns with it so far, but only for himself. "It would be illegal for me to print guns for other people," he says. "I haven't used it heavily beyond that. Lately, I've been making memorabilia for PorcFest: Liberator earrings and porcupine trinkets."
And lasers as a means to communicate with fellow citizens:
Bill Domenico says another popular technology within the movement is the "Green Beam," a laser projector he built for campaigning for Ron Paul that now gets used to warn people about police checkpoints or to stage public protests, as when "Bearcat Equals Tyranny" and " City Council Sucks" were projected on a building in Concord.
Indeed, if a cool tech is opposed by the state and helps route around its restrictions, libertarians are natural early adopters.
See our December 2013 issue, our most recent exploration of the libertarian implications of cool tech, and the state's often rearguard actions against it.
My reporting from 2004 on the roots of the FSP.