New Hampshire’s Libertarian Experiment

New Hampshire

Nearly as far northeast as a person can get in this country, where they eventually come to among the granite stumps of once great spires, is New Hampshire. Though small enough to avoid overly much attention, the Granite State will on occasion flash across the collective conscience of the nation with news of some political hilarity. The state distinguishes itself from its New England neighbors and can be seen at times to brandish an anarchic torch, thrust towards encroachers upon its taciturn call of the wild. The people there believe, by and large, that the efficacy of a seatbelt should be reserved for those who would don it voluntarily, and that mandatory motorcycle helmets are an affront to freedom. Small wonder, then, that the Free State Project, a grand Libertarian experiment, selected New Hampshire to be its stage.

New Hampshire
They are serious when they put it on the state quarter.

Free Staters, who have chosen the porcupine for their charge (it works well on the Gadsden Flag), have steadily begun to flock from online communities across the country to New Hampshire. The ultimate goal of the project is to move 20,000 libertarian volunteers into a political ecosphere where they can affect substantive change. So far, the FSP has managed to gather more than 16,000 signed pledges from libertarians dispersed across the country, and another 1,600 have already enacted their political migration to New Hampshire as the vanguard.

The genesis of the Free State Project was a July 23, 2001, article written by a Yale Ph.D. student named Jason Sorens. Sorens’ manifesto, which was published in The Libertarian Enterprise, made a plea for “freedom in our lifetimes.” He indicted the major economic thinking of the time, saying that it had “gone back to thinking up new exceptions to the rule,” and lamented the caricaturing of libertarian philosophies as “politically naïve.”

Considering the failure of previous iterations of strategy to elect a single Libertarian Party candidate on the national level, and dismissing other John-Galts’-Island type nation building schemes as either impractical or fraudulent, Sorens proposed the “Free State Society” based on research from his dissertation. He had crunched the numbers to craft a proposal based around an influential, yet attainable, number of political migrants. Though initially rife with appeals to secession which were later revised, his article and its accompanying call to arms established the network through which his vision began to manifest.

In 2003, with the framework up and acting, the FSP held a Condorcet-style vote to determine the state to which the project pledges (now anyone who signed an agreement to work to minimize government to bare essential functions) would relocate. New Hampshire ultimately won the vote, cementing its participation in this unique libertarian experiment. In consideration of the state’s beloved motto of “Live Free or Die,” and its general attitudes towards authoritative intervention in the day-to-day lives of its people, a better match may not have been possible.

With over a decade passed since New Hampshire’s election to Free Statehood, a progress report on the project shows that 24 FSP signatories have attained office to the state legislature since 2006. That figure has been achieved with only a number representing 10 percent of pledges having relocated to date. While the native Republicans have shown sympathy towards, and sought the endorsement of, the Free Staters, Democrats in New Hampshire generally demonstrate a lower personal opinion. That is an interesting phenomenon, as the first Free Stater elected to state office, Tim O’Flaherty, was a Democrat himself.

By the accounts of many neighbors, some of whom consider themselves instate friends of the group, the Free Staters are seen as fine people who are active in their community. They have come from as far as California and Florida, and even their president, Carla Gericke, used to practice law in South Africa. By any easy measure, New Hampshire’s libertarian experiment is going swimmingly.

Opinion by Brian Whittemore

Sources:

The New York Times

Free State Project

The Libertarian Enterprise

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia User Jeffrey Joseph – No restriction unless necessary by law

Left Inset Photo Public Domain via U.S Mint

One Response to "New Hampshire’s Libertarian Experiment"

  1. Rich   November 1, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Two points the article gets way wrong:

    >FSP isn’t libertarian but for liberty-lovers according to its literature. Libertarian communities are only authorized by the Libertarian International, which has one with 30,000 participants in Pinellas, Florida ( about the size of NH) and several thousand registered families/co-housers who’re explicit Libertarians. See http://www.libertarianinternational.org

    >The http://www.lp.org has only recently undertaken to elect candidates to federal office from those already in local office, and it aims to get those in state office first. The federal candidates it runs are for constituency-building purposes. So the claim it has problems getting people elected nationally is misleading.

    Otherwise, nice article. L/libertarians of several parties are about 5% of the NH legislature.

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