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Free State Project

The Free State Project (FSP) is a plan to have 20,000 individuals move to a single state in the United States, with the intent of influencing local politics and policy in an effort to reduce the size and scope of government at the local, state, and federal levels. In 2003, the group chose New Hampshire, known for its "Live Free or Die" motto and absence of a state income tax and state sales tax, as its target.

The original target date for pledges was the end of 2006. As of August 2, 2008, the project said that 8,505 people have pledged to move to New Hampshire, while 289 have confirmed that they have actually moved. In addition, 252 New Hampshire residents who joined before the state vote are members.

Mission Statement

The project's mission statement reads: "The Free State Project is an agreement among 20,000 libertarian activists 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 success of the Project would likely entail reductions in taxation and regulation, reforms at all levels of government to expand individual rights and free markets, and a restoration of constitutional federalism, demonstrating the benefits of liberty to the rest of the nation and the world.

The statement of intent

I hereby state my solemn intent to move to the state of New Hampshire. Once there, I will exert the fullest practical effort toward the creation of a society in which the maximum role of civil government is the protection of life, liberty, and property.

Alternately, supporters of the FSP who cannot commit to the Statement may sign up as a Friend of the Free State Project.

History of the movement

Inspired by an article published in L. Neil Smith's online magazine The Libertarian Enterprise on July 23, 2001, Jason Sorens, a Ph.D. candidate at Yale University at the time, argued that the thinly scattered libertarian activism was failing. His conclusion was that it would be necessary for libertarians to geographically concentrate their efforts in order to achieve "liberty in our lifetime." As a result, the Free State Project was founded on September 1, 2001.

When the FSP surpassed 5,000 members in August, 2003, a vote was held to choose the state. The ten candidates were (alphabetically): Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming. These states were chosen because of their low populations (under 1.5 million), relatively pro-libertarian native cultures, lack of dependence on federal funds, and decent job markets. The voting process used a Condorcet method to determine which state was most preferable to the most people. On October 1, 2003, it was announced that New Hampshire had been chosen as the Free State (Wyoming came in second). The vote was certified by Alan R. Weiss of ECL / Synchromesh Computing of Austin, Texas as fair and unbiased. As part of the certification process, individual members of the FSP could also view their ballots on-line so that they could self-verify their vote.

Following the vote, the focus of the FSP shifted toward recruiting another 15,000 members to commit to the move to New Hampshire. Once membership reaches 20,000, all members are supposed to move within five years. There is no obligation to move until and unless 20,000 members are reached. Early in 2004, Amanda Phillips was named president of the FSP. Amanda Phillips resigned in March 2006, and was replaced by Varrin Swearingen. Swearingen resigned the presidency in the Fall of 2007, and was succeeded by Irena Goddard. Jason Sorens remains Chairman of the Board of Directors.

After moving to New Hampshire, members have pledged to "exert the fullest practical effort toward the creation of a society in which the maximum role of civil government is the protection of life, liberty, and property." Most (but not all) plan to work within the political system to reduce the size and scope of government through reductions in taxation and regulation, reforms in state and local law, an end to federal mandates, and a restoration of what they see as constitutional federalism. Others include anarcho-capitalists who oppose taxation altogether. The Free State Project itself is non-partisan and does not take any stance on issues other than the limitation of government.

The First 1000

In January 2006 the FSP launched "The First 1000, an effort to sign up 1000 people who would agree to move to New Hampshire by the end of 2008, with the understanding that the agreement was only binding if at least 1000 people signed up before the deadline, set for midnight on December 31, 2006. Response to the initial goal of 20,000 was relatively slow, and it was hoped that setting a smaller interim goal would speed up the migration to New Hampshire and generate additional publicity.

The sign-up rate accelerated sharply toward the very end. The pledge was successfully completed on December 30, 2006 at around 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, approximately 28 hours before the deadline.

Insignia of the FSP

The porcupine signifies a cute and cuddly creature which one is advised to avoid stepping on. This is meant to imply that these individuals are friendly and non-aggressive, but want to be left alone and will defend themselves if attacked, symbolizing the non-aggression principle. This mascot has given rise to "porcupine" or "porc" being used as a term for both FSP participants as well as anyone in New Hampshire (FSPer or not) devoted to working for libertarian causes. The insignia bears the FSP's motto, "Liberty in Our Lifetime."

Recruitment progress

As of October 10, 2008, 8,709 participants have signed up. Of these, 586 are already in New Hampshire, including 333 who have logged into the website to declare that they have moved since the state vote. More than 1,000 originally opted out of New Hampshire and were removed from the count after the vote, so total growth since the state vote was held is more than 4,000.

Recruitment progress has quickened since the endorsement of Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul. Movements to New Hampshire have also quickened in pace following the completion of the First 1,000.

FSP members have been elected in New Hampshire. The list includes Dawn Lincoln of Winchester, New Hampshire on the Winchester Budget Committee, state representative Joel Winters, and other local officials.

The FSP also sponsors a syndicated call-in talk radio show, Free Talk Live which, as of November 25, 2007 is broadcast on 31 radio stations as well as on satellite radio, via download, and via podcasting services. The show moved from Sarasota, Florida to Keene, New Hampshire over Labor Day weekend 2006.

Splinter groups

The Free State Project inspired or contributed to several splinter groups, such as Free State Wyoming, which was created independently of the Free State Project, but which absorbed some of those who had voted for a western state and were disappointed by the selection of New Hampshire.

Another such project is the Free Town Project which was started in 2004 by a few Free State Project members who were hoping for quicker change at a smaller scale. While the project's more radical members failed to win over the residents of their planned destination of Grafton, New Hampshire.

Criticism

Many commentators have questioned the capability of the project to reach its goals. While the project at first received strong support in the libertarian community, it now appears to be stalling. Based on the recent lower rate of new sign-ups, the project might not reach its goal of 20,000 signed members for another 10-12 years — far later than the original plan of 20,000 by September 2006.

The First 1000 effort is one approach they are using to modify the plan from the original goal of 20,000 movers, in part because more recent estimations of required activist strength are significantly lower than 20,000.

The reaction of the present residents of the state is a controversial topic. The plan could be considered analogous to entryism. Reactions on the ground have been mixed, though some coalition building with both Left and Right has happened in the last year, over issues like halting the implementation of the federal REAL ID Act program within the state.

Another problem is the commitment of existing members to actually move if the time comes. Many did not participate in the 2003 state selection vote, and though several hundred of the non-voting members did reaffirm their commitment after being contacted by FSP leadership, a large number (estimated as between 1000-2000) did not respond.

The FSP has stepped up recruitment efforts. These efforts include direct mail, BlogAds, and planning a more traditional convention-style summit with its annual Porcupine Freedom Festival campout held each summer. Sign-ups have increased since Ron Paul's endorsement of the Project. Free Staters have also reached out to like-minded people in neighboring states, recruiting at the annual MassCANN cannabis legalization event and a Ron Paul Tea Party in Boston.

Recent estimates of the number of political activists needed for the intended changes have been greatly reduced with experience. Moreover, activists are being recruited from within the state who had not been part of the project before the vote.

Antecedents

The Free State Project appears unique in combining two common methods for creating political change: moving to a new area to create a new society, and reshaping an existing society through peaceful, democratic means. Many groups throughout history have done one or the other, but not both.

European Freestate Project

The FSP inspired a European Freestate Project which was founded in June 2004 (with a relaunch in September 2006). Anyone can join as a supporter or as a committed member (signing a similar statement of intent like the FSP to move once a location is chosen). The first milestone goal was to get 100 committed members, which would then choose a formal leadership. Up until then four volunteers led the EFP.

Notes

See also

External links

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