Skip to comments.Free State Project: Striving to be good neighbors
Posted on 08/24/2004 11:10:20 AM PDT by freepatriot32
The Free State Project is picking up speed as Libertarians and other freedom-minded people begin moving to a small state where they hope to make a big difference.
New Hampshire was chosen last fall as the destination for thousands of small-government advocates who are promising to move in and try to staunch the onslaught of socialism.
Now they're starting to make good on their promise.
An estimated 300 or 350 Free Staters (or Porcupines, as they call themselves) attended the first semi-official gathering in New Hampshire June 24-27. Though the Porcupine Freedom Festival wasn't officially sponsored by the FSP, "it was as close as you could get to an official Free State Project shindig," said Bill Alleman, a resident of New Hampshire since 1988.
A member of the FSP, Alleman is referred to as a Free State pioneer because he was in the state before it was selected for the project.
The Porcupine Festival was an opportunity for Free Staters to "get to know other members," and for people who haven't committed to the project, it was a chance to check out the state and meet some of the Free Staters before they commit, said Amanda Phillips, president of the FSP.
The project's goal is to get 20,000 Americans to commit to moving to the state by 2011 and start working through the political process to help establish a more libertarian government.
"We had about 250 members in New Hampshire before this state was chosen, and we've had about 50 move in since then," Phillips said. "Even though we're not asking people to move to New Hampshire yet, a lot of people changed their moving dates during the festival, saying they had been planning to relocate within three to five years, but they now intend to move within a year because they are so enthusiastic."
Alleman estimated a significantly higher number: "My guess would be that we have about 300 people who have moved into New Hampshire because of the Free State Project, not including the pioneers who were already here."
Simply by moving into New Hampshire, people from other states will enjoy a higher level of freedom than they are accustomed to, Alleman added -- noting that New Hampshire was selected because it already has one of the lowest tax burdens of any state (there is no state income tax or sales tax), it allows more personal liberty than most states (there are no seat belt or motorcycle helmet laws), and because people in the state traditionally have a pro-small-government mentality.
The state also has few gun laws and the nation's eighth-lowest marijuana arrest rate, and the state government refuses federal highway money, which is how the state gets away with having no seat belt laws, Phillips said.
Governor Craig Benson, a Republican, has signed on as a "Friend of the FSP," which means that although he isn't joining the project, he supports the Porcupines' goals, she added.
This spring, Benson formed a new Task Force for Government Efficiency, which is examining state offices and suggesting ways they could operate more efficiently. Of the eight members on the task force, seven are Free Staters -- including state Libertarian Party Chair John Babiarz and Phillips, even though Phillips still lives in Massachusetts.
John Barnes, an FSP member and vice chair of the state LP's second district, said he is convinced that the project is "the best thing that ever happened to the LPNH.
"We now have several social events every month. This is rejuvenating us, and the press exposure -- both good and bad -- has been fantastic."
That said, the FSP and the LPNH are experiencing "growing pains," he added.
An example of the growing pains is "The Grafton Incident," as some newspapers have dubbed a recent uproar in Grafton -- a town of 1,200 that was selected as the possible target of a Free Town Project.
Unfortunately for the Free State Project and -- to a lesser extent -- the LPNH, much of the publicity surrounding Grafton was negative, Alleman said.
A group of people began talking on Internet chat rooms about setting up a microcosm of the FSP in one small town by moving in approximately 200 activists, and the townspeople became understandably concerned.
"There was some libertarian exhibitionism going on," Alleman noted, pointing to some Free Town Project proponents who wanted to "just take over and not even talk about the interim steps, the things we really want -- like lower taxes and school reform.
"But nothing has really happened, outside of riling the neighbors."
And Grafton residents were riled, to the point that about 20 percent of the town's population showed up for a town meeting to argue with FSP and LP representatives.
"We got a taste of what's going to happen to us if and when a Libertarian candidate becomes electable and the Democrats and Republicans get scared," Barnes said. "The part the mainstream opposition harped on were all the victimless crime issues. We really need to find another issue for the left wing of our party to get behind. The Patriot Act seems like just the ticket.
"Some people promoting the Free Town Project were making outrageous statements about how we were going to take over the town and allow prostitution, and people reading this were understandably alarmed."
Those opponents who were alarmed began making even more inflammatory comments and "totally unsupported statements about the Free State Project favoring polygamy," leading to the largest town meeting in Grafton's history, Barnes said.
Phillips and Tim Condon of the FSP "acquitted themselves extremely well, given the fact that they were taking a beating from the crowd."
Babiarz, who lives in Grafton, and Mike Lorrey, another Porcupine who lives in the area, both had credibility with the crowd, which eventually calmed down.
Since then, the rhetoric surrounding a potential Free Town Project has been tamed somewhat, Barnes noted -- adding that the Free Town Project has been disbanded.
"The upshot of it was, we got a lot of press -- and that's a good thing," he said. "We couldn't have gotten that much press coverage if we had paid for it. We even received international media attention."
Now the challenge will be to promote the project in a way that characterizes the FSP as "political refugees from socialist states," Barnes said. "'Live and let live' is the sound bite that works."
Some of the characteristics that made New Hampshire appealing to the Porcupines are the same characteristics that lead some in the state to reject the FSP, Barnes said.
"New Englanders in general and New Hampshirites in particular are very stubborn, and they're very suspicious of flatlanders moving in from out of state," he said.
Because of this, Porcupines moving to the state need to make one point very clear, he said: "We're moving here to be left alone, not to change things."
And Barnes has some sage advice for FSP immigrants: "When you move here, the first thing you want to do is become a good citizen in the eyes of your neighbors.
"Help out with a church charity, start a business or get a good job, and above all, listen to people. After you've been here for a while and have proven that you're willing to help and that you're primarily interested in freedom, people will begin to listen to you.
"Put politics aside for a while and enjoy yourself."
Precisely why this project will fail...the state has been overrun by liberals.
Old thread...but, your comment is prescient.
Free Lunch State maybe.
How about Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota?
How about TEXAS?