Free State Project

New Hampshire's Free State Project Eschews Presidential Primaries While Changing State Politics

These pioneering libertarians, soon to be 20,000 strong, have already changed Granite State laws.


This past weekend, a group of about 100

Carla Gericke
Reason TV

members of the Free State Project (FSP) gathered for one of their regular meetings in Manchester, New Hampshire. But this particular confab was different, because it was held just days after FSP hit its more-than-a-decade-in-the-making target to get 20,000 liberty-inclined citizens to pledge to move to New Hampshire in the hopes of creating a significant political force in the Live Free or Die State. While over 2,000 Free Staters have already moved to New Hampshire, the rest of the signers will begin migrating over the next few years. 

As Brian Doherty noted after the milestone was reached last week, FSP already has a long list of accomplishments in the state, including "getting 15 of their brethren in the state Housechallenging anti-ridehail lawsfighting in court for outre religious libertywinning legal battles over taping copsbeing mocked by Colbert for heroically paying off people's parking metershosting cool anything goes festivals for libertariansnullifying pot juries, and inducing occasional pants-wetting absurd paranoia in local statists."

Though the first-in-the-nation presidential primaries were just days away and hundreds of journalists had been hovering for weeks around the mostly quiet northern New England communities, few of the Free Staters I spoke with had a preferred presidential candidate, if they even were interested in voting at all. 

One Free Stater who moved from Dallas in 2009, Rep. Amanda Bouldin, is now a state legislator (and a registered Democrat to boot), representing 3,300 people in the Manchester area. She says she's voting for Vermin Supreme, the black boot-headed performance artist who is also a presidential candidate on the Democratic ballot.

Like most of the Free Staters we spoke with, Bouldin is disinterested in the dog-and-pony show of the presidential pageant, but as legislator, she's not at all cynical about the political process. She was one of the driving forces behind a bill that made Narcan, a drug that reverses the effects of a heroin overdose, legally available to anyone with a prescription. Previously, Narcan was only available to EMTs and police officers in New Hampshire. 

Addressing other Free Staters at the gathering Bouldin said, "I'm 31, haven't done much, but goddammit, I've done something to help save lives. Not a lot of people in politics can say that."

Bouldin told me that her efforts to make Narcan accessible to the public in a state with an overdose epidemic were "an uphill battle all the way." She added, "About half of the people on the legislature are retired and about half of the criminal justice committee is made up of retired police. Their eyes bug out of their heads when you propose a bill to arrest fewer people."

Amanda B. Johnson, who writes and hosts the cryptocurrency web show The Daily Decrypt, said she doesn't vote at all because it's a "coercive technology of the past, where governance is assigned to where you happen to live rather than you making a choice in the market of how you'd like to be governed."

Johnson told me about another alternative form of governance she was able to experience since moving to New Hampshire: "I went to my first mediation session last month. It was a real competitive alternative to the super-expensive, super-unfair state court system." 

Carla Gericke, president of the Free State Project, told me that signers are committed to moving within five years, but she's not hung up on that technicality. "We know that thousands are moving here and we're affecting change," she says. 

Gericke is proud of the 40 Free Staters who have been elected to state government in the past decade and of the many others investing in real estate and creating businesses as part of the movement to "expand liberties on social and economic fronts." She added, "New Hampshire was the first and only state where a state legislature totally decriminalized marijuana, and that was vetoed by a Democratic governor. We've done well pushing some successful bills, but then they get killed because the bad guys are in charge."

Regarding all the 2016 presidential hoopla (there was a Republican debate in Manchester that very night), Gericke opined, "The presidential field looks pretty gnarly. On the one hand we've got the oligarchy, Bush and Clinton, and on the other we've got the bread and circuses with Trump and Bernie." Of the presidential pratfalls of the family Paul, she offered that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) did some great things, his NSA filibuster among them, but he played politics and couldn't generate the excitement among the liberty base that his father did. "Rand assumed his father's base would be there," says Gericke, "but Ron was authentic, even if he was a crappy politician." 

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has made it clear he wants what remains of the "liberty vote" left in the wake of Paul's departure from the Republican presidential race. "I personally couldn't vote for Ted Cruz, no way," says Gericke. "I think most Free Staters don't care as much about presidential politics. They think it's a shell game and we can be more effective on a local level. Let's work on our own backyard first."

Coming up later this month on the FSP agenda is their annual four-day Liberty Forum, featuring keynote speaker Edward Snowden, who will appear from Russia via a live link.

NEXT: Tech/Gaming Journalist: 'I think' Hillary Clinton's 'war on video games' was 'well-intentioned'

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  1. “New Hampshire was the first and only state where a state legislature totally decriminalized marijuana, and that was vetoed by a Democratic governor.

    I’m not hip to the technical details of NH’s legalization bill. Did the state apparatchiks and unions get a cut? If not, now you know why it was vetoed.

    1. This sooo much.

      Legalize, regulate and tax is the progressive stance.

    2. Here is the text of the bill.

      I haven’t looked through the particulars, but it set a regulatory scheme similar to alcohol, so presumably it would have contained some vig for the unions and such. Maggie Hassan stated that she vetoed it for the children, specifically

      I just think it’s the wrong message to send to young people

    3. It was vetoed because Hassan is a stupid cunt who thinks she has to be all “serious” and “grown up” “for the children”. (sorry for the scare quotes assault). Even though she supported decrim as a senator.

      She has also vetoed a law to get rid of permit requirement for concealed carry. She sucks.

  2. How confident are we that people are going to keep their 10 year-old pledge?

    1. I’m taking a wait-and-see approach. Plus, this might attract some people who haven’t pledged.

      FWIW, I will be in a position to relocate in a few years, and would consider NH. Despite the cold. And the Yankees.

        1. Well, that comes with the Yankee part. Yes, I do find northern accents grating as do many southerners. This is entirely arbitrary, learned behavior on my part, but still annoying.

      1. Well, most people in NH probably root for the Red So…wait a second! Hey!

      2. Right, I didn’t intend to disparage them, they very well could end up meeting their goal. I just don’t think people take pledges all that seriously.

        1. They met the 20K goal last week.

          1. 20K pledge goal, not 20K people actually moving. Or am I mistaken?

          2. The goal they met was 20K pledgers; there have only been 2K pledged movers so far. I wish the article above had been clearer on that.

      3. I’m wondering how much culture shock there would be in relocating from Texas…

        1. I think the climate would be more of an issue. I’m from the mid-atlantic and the thought of a NE winter scares even me.

          But, yeah, the culture, too.

          1. The dark is probably as much of a problem as the cold if you are coming from texas. You probably get like an hour more light than NH in December.

            I love winter here, but it does get a bit rough. Especially when there isn’t much snow to make things pretty and interesting.

        2. I’m not so much concerned about the culture shock since I’ve traveled extensively for work. But, being born and raised in Texas, the weather is a whole different story. I’m cold now and we are supposed to hit 70 today.

          1. It’s supposed to hit 87?F here in LA today.

            I miss real seasons.

        3. I drove around NH 5 years ago during the fall, and it didn’t seem so bad to me. I’d prefer to live around Laconia, so that the Funspot classic arcade would be convenient. But I probably wouldn’t move from Texas, especially since I have a family with deep roots here in DFW.

      4. I’d just like to mention here that no one from the south seems to have any idea what a Yankee is.

      5. When NH/TX reciprocity is a thing, I’ll start considering the move ( I like colder weather).

    2. A lot of them signed up fairly recently, so there should be a sizable migration regardless. But many of the early signers probably forgot, or changed their minds, or thought there was an implicit agreement if the 20K wasn’t reached in the first 5 years, the deal was off. And there’s no enforcement mechanism, but if the early movers are making real changes, more than 20K will end up moving.

      1. there’s no enforcement mechanism

        With a staunch enough progressive president, forced relocation could be arranged. Probably not to NH, though. I’m thinking camps in Montana.

    3. I pledged a few years ago, maybe four or five? I’m starting to get my affairs in order to attempt the move.

      Of course, I currently live in Scranton, so I have more than enough motivation to be just about anywhere else already.

      1. What’s bad in Scranton? I just had a friend build a home in NE Penna., & another one considering it, & so was I.

        1. The only thing I know about Scranton PA is the Harry Chapin song “Thirty Thousand Pounds of Bananas”

    4. If they had gone with Wyoming, I would have considered pledging.

  3. Their eyes bug out of their heads when you propose a bill to arrest fewer people.


  4. [W]e can be more effective on a local level. Let’s work on our own backyard first.”

    ^This, this, a thousand times this.

    1. Yep, it reminds me of a very, very old Reason article from Matt Welch where he said that Libertarianism has got to be executed at the local level because that’s where the most egregious violations of liberty are occurring.

      1. Yeah, who cares about that 40% cut the feds take.

        1. It’s not a question of not caring, it’s a question about real laws, many of which are clearly unconstitutional but rarely get scrutiny because they only affect a small, regional population, who oftentimes are on board with the violation because democracy.

          Reason does a pretty good job of covering them, but they can’t cover them all.

          Everything from occupational licensing to local police overreach and brutality, to laws which ban this or that speech or activity. Not to mention local corruption and cronyism which is deeply entrenched in nearly every local government.

        2. There’s a difference between caring (principle) and being able to do something about it (practicality). As noted above they are focusing their efforts where it can do the most good. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

      2. And when the NH Free Staters can show substantial positive changes they’ve made, we’re more likely to gain converts and start seeing more pro-liberty changes in other places and then start heading up the chain.

    2. Ugh, that doesn’t mean I actually have to talk to people, does it? Because that never goes well.

      1. Sometimes it’s enough just to vote. Or to fund those who do the talking for you.

      2. I didn’t know you really talked to anyone. I thought you just sort of listened to their prayers.

        1. Hugh not having to talk to people is pretty much the Platonic ideal of the win/win scenario.

    3. Like it will make a difference. By the time any locality gets enough power to do anything at all, the feds will already have taken complete power away from states and locals.

      1. Well, that’s an awfully defeatist attitude.

        I don’t think that the feds have the power to do that. I’m talking actual force, not legal/constitutional powers.

  5. These pioneering libertarians, soon to be 20,000 strong

    Let’s not count our chickens just yet.

    1. Particularly not the wings.

      1. +4 wing parts per chicken

  6. What is with all the heroin junkies in New England? It doesn’t seem to be that big of an epidemic in Virginia but damn do we have a lot of meth heads.

    1. Poor white Yankee trash with no job, no prospects, spending their welfare checks on heroin imported from NYC.

      1. That’s depressing. I’ve never been to NH, VT, MA, or ME, but the countryside in CT between Hartford and Old Lyme was pretty bleak/crumbling.

        Rhode Island doesn’t seem that bad.

        1. I’ve always suspected the NE sucks. Thanks for confirming my prejudices.

          1. I wouldn’t say it sucks. It is definitely different though.

            1. I’m just breaking balls. I’m sure there are nice parts.

              1. I’ve lived in the West and the Midwest, and one thing I can definitely say about NE is that they people just aren’t that friendly compared to other places I have lived. For example it’s no good trying to hitchhike around here, but when I live in Colorado that was a reliable mode of transportation.

        2. NH seemed pretty nice when I visited once. I prefer the big city but if your into small town or rural life it looked a lot better than say upstate NY.

          1. I went to a wedding in New Hampshire last summer and really liked it.

            1. Irish likes a state that is 98 percent white. Color me shocked.

              1. That would be disconcerting for me. I spent several weeks in upstate NY one summer during college and the lack of black people was jarring. It just didn’t look right.

                1. I enjoy living in a diverse area, mostly because of the food choices available. If I were single it would have other advantages too.

      2. And like the governor of Maine said, a lot of the problem is white girls with drug-dealer boyfriends named Pimp Daddy Bling Bling.

          1. Even I got that without the tag, Eddie.

    2. You would, too, faced with the long, dark, bitterly cold winters.

      I’m guessing meth is more popular down south because people likes a high that lets them move around and function.

      1. Followed by some of the most beautiful summers in the country.

        1. Yeah, all two weeks of it.

          Where I live, summer weather starts in May and Ends in September, sometimes later.

    3. “What is with all the heroin junkies in New England? It doesn’t seem to be that big of an epidemic in Virginia but damn do we have a lot of meth heads.”

      They have far more wealth and/or Southern ingenuity?

      1. There are definitely some chemists over in WV…

      2. “Southern ingenuity..”

        What you did, there…

      3. Virginia has a lot of Federal jobs?

        1. Meth being the drug of choice in Virginia seems to match most of the South:


          It really may be a cultural issue, I’m a Virginian and meth does looks way more fun than heroin.

          1. Huh. Maybe it is cultural. I’d take the heroin myself. I’ve never found speed all that fun. Useful, but not fun. And it makes your dick shrink.

    4. While I can’t speak on new England as a whole, I did see the rise in vermont. Burlington is a great trade city. Close to Canada. The police didn’t expect it. Traffickers can branch across the lake into Upstate new york, and down route 7 into Middlebury, Rutland, and Bennington. These three towns are some of the biggest in each area. Really, Vermont has a great trade system. Access to the only highway (which would take you through southern NH and into boston). Upstate new York is desolate and increasingly poor as the economy is tanking there. With little job prospects, and opioids becoming harder to get after they were prescribed like candy, it’s a perfect storm.

    5. I don’t know what it is, but I’m sick of hearing things called “epidemics”.

      I think it’s mostly because people are bringing up lots of cheap dope from NY and CT.

      I don’t care too much, except that it sometimes makes me think that I should lock my doors, which is something I have never done in my life.

  7. …she doesn’t vote at all because it’s a “coercive technology of the past, where governance is assigned to where you happen to live rather than you making a choice in the market of how you’d like to be governed.”

    Unfortunately, governments aren’t like your teeth. Ignore them and they don’t go away.

    1. Yeah, she’s not really helping by not voting. But perhaps more importantly she’s not voting for the statists.

    2. If you ignore your teeth long enough they’ll go away.

    3. Not ignoring them doesn’t seem to help either, though. I vote as hard as I can and the same assholes still get elected. So I’m giving it up.

  8. Ron was authentic, even if he was a crappy politician.”

    Authenticity makes a great politician. Ron Paul was elected 12 times.

    Sanders is a socialist, but he’s authentic, and he’s taking the lead over a rehearsed and coached and focus-grouped politician on the Democrat side.

  9. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has made it clear he wants what remains of the “liberty vote” left in the wake of Paul’s departure from the Republican presidential race

    He’s made it clear that he does NOT want the liberty vote, and he’s not getting mine.

    1. No, Hyper, he wants the liberty vote. He’s just not willing to do anything to earn it.

      1. Well he can’t have it.

        *crosses arms in defiance*

      2. He wants some more votes, I get it. So do the rest of them and they’re all doing just as much as Cruz to get the liberty vote, that is just the opposite of what they need to do. Oh well, they all know that the vast majority of voters are stupid so they’re going to keep doing exactly what they want to do, which is take more power for themselves.

        1. Because for every liberty vote to be gained, there’s a socon or statist vote to be lost. As long as our numbers remain small we’re destined to be taken for granted in national politics. Sure, we’ll get lip service and the occasional scrap, but nothing more.

          1. There are 22 of us! And some of us vote!

            1. Don’t exaggerate now.

              1. That’s not an exaggeration. Some of us really do vote.

  10. Lunchtime FB Derp:

    1. You genuinely cannot make this stuff up

    2. I don’t think these senators just realized everything they are trying to outlaw.

    Its not just the Broke Back Mountain stuff people, its the Monica Lewinsky stuff too.
    It would be worth an intern seducing one of these bigots so they could do 15 years get to experience their idea of sodomy.

    He links to this story

    What does this bigoted asshole have to say for himself?

    If we could put a bill in that said anything that’s unconstitutional be removed from the legal books of Michigan, that’s probably something I could vote for, but am I going to mess up this dog bill that everybody wants? No.

    1. 2. I don’t think these senators just realized everything they are trying to outlaw.

      Of course they do, that’s the point. They’re outlawing it for YOU, not themselves.

      1. In this case, the FB acquaintance is bitching about the wording of the bill, which is ultimately trying to outlaw animal fucking, because the bill doesn’t remove references to human butt fucking.

        It’s just bizarre.

        1. You can eat animals, but not fuck em? I think we are only utilizing half their potential gentlemen.

          1. “Sex with animals? There’s no time, man!”

    1. The EPA can pry my two-stroke KTM from my cold, dead, soot covered hands.

    2. RIP aftermarket performance parts.

    3. It’s like the EPA sits around and says to themselves who can we fuck with today?

      I know several weekend racers who are probably going apeshit over this right now.

  11. That rosy pinkish-purplish tinge exploding all over Donald’s cock? …created by the vigorous and ravenous lips of Limbaugh, Marconi cum dump for Trump jizz.

  12. So this is basically a poor man’s orphan’s version of Zionism.

    Can’t wait till the SJWs start lobbing rockets from the occupied zone.

    1. I feel bad about this, but I laughed out loud at the thought.

  13. Like most of the Free Staters we spoke with, Bouldin is disinterested in the dog-and-pony show of the presidential pageant…

    …but not so disinterested in the status quo that she didn’t run as a Democrat and doesn’t intend to vote for one in the presidential election, albeit a joke candidate. When the DNC and the RNC are counting the rolls, there isn’t room next to the D or R next to your name to indicate the various delicate nuances of what being a Democrat means to you, personally. You just look like yet another person who believes the Team dynamic is just peachy and you’re proud to be a part of it.

  14. a bill that made Narcan, a drug that reverses the effects of a heroin overdose, legally available to anyone with a prescription. Previously, Narcan was only available to EMTs and police officers in New Hampshire.

    No, it was always available to anyone by prescription. What the bill did was make it possible for people to get a prescription to buy it to keep around for others in emergencies?as EMTs & police already had permission to do.

  15. effecting

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  17. Yeah, you know, I’m not holding out a lot of hope for this ‘free state’ project when it’s advocates are members –and elected legislators– from the most statist party.

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