Free State Project
Logo of the Free State Project
|Motto||"Liberty in Our Lifetime"|
|Formation||September 1, 2001|
|Headquarters||373 South Willow St #161, Manchester, New Hampshire, United States|
|Remarks||20,000 people have pledged (February 3, 2016)|
The Free State Project (FSP) is an American political migration movement founded in 2001 to recruit at least 20,000 libertarians to move to a single low-population state (New Hampshire, selected in 2003) in order to make the state a stronghold for libertarian ideas. New Hampshire Union Leader reports that Free State Project is not a political party, but a nonprofit organization.
Participants sign a statement of intent declaring that they intend to move to New Hampshire within five years of the drive reaching 20,000 participants. This statement of intent is intended to function as a form of assurance contract. As of February 3, 2016[update], 20,000 people have signed this statement of intent—completing the original goal—and 1,909 people are listed as "early movers" to New Hampshire on the FSP website, saying they had made their move prior to the 20,000-participant trigger. Approximately a dozen Free Staters were elected to the 400-member New Hampshire House of Representatives in the 2012 election and about 18 in the 2014 election.
The FSP is a social movement generally based upon decentralized decision making. The group hosts various events, but most of FSP's activities depend upon volunteers, and no formal plan dictates to participants or movers what their actions should be in New Hampshire.
The FSP mission statement, adopted in 2005, states:
The Free State Project is an agreement among 20,000 pro-liberty 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.
"Life, liberty, and property" are rights that were enumerated in the October 1774 Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress and in Article 12 of the New Hampshire Constitution.
To become a participant of the Free State Project, a person is asked to agree to the Statement of Intent (SOI):
I hereby state my solemn intent to move to the State of New Hampshire within 5 years after 20,000 Participants have signed up. 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 individuals' life, liberty, and property.
The FSP is open to people with a minimum age of 18 and United States citizenship is not required; people who promote violence, racial hatred, or bigotry are not welcome in the FSP.
The Free State Project was founded in 2001 by Jason Sorens, then a Ph.D. student at Yale University. Sorens published an article in The Libertarian Enterprise highlighting the failure of libertarians to elect any candidate to federal office and outlining his ideas for a secessionist movement, calling people to respond to him with interest. Sorens soon published a follow-up article  backing away from secession, "and it never played a role in the FSP’s philosophy from then on." Sorens has stated that the movement continues an American tradition of political migration, which includes groups such as Mormon settlers in Utah, Amish religious communities and the "Jamestown Seventy", an earlier effort to influence the politics of a particular state through deliberate migration.
The organization began without a specific state in mind. A systematic review started by narrowing potential states to those with a population of less than 1.5 million and those where the combined spending in 2000 by the Democratic and Republican parties was less than $5.2 million, the total national spending by the Libertarian Party in that year. Hawaii and Rhode Island were eliminated from this list because of their propensity for centralized government.
In September 2003, the state vote was held and participants voted using the Minimax Condorcet method to choose the state. New Hampshire was the winner, with Wyoming coming in second by a 57% to 43% margin. Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Vermont were also on the list. New Hampshire was chosen because the perceived individualist culture of the state was thought to resonate well with libertarian ideals. However, the Free State Project has drawn criticism from some New Hampshire residents concerned about population pressure and opposition to increased taxation. On the other hand, some Republicans have responded more favorably to the project.
In December 2012, state representative Cynthia Chase (D-Keene) said "Free Staters are the single biggest threat the state is facing today. There is, legally, nothing we can do to prevent them from moving here to take over the state, which is their openly stated goal. In this country you can move anywhere you choose and they have that same right. What we can do is to make the environment here so unwelcoming that some will choose not to come, and some may actually leave. One way is to pass measures that will restrict the “freedoms” that they think they will find here".
In 2012, the Concord Police Department applied for $258,000 in federal government funding to buy a Lenco BearCat armored vehicle for protection against terrorist attacks, riots, or shooting incidents. The application said: "Groups such as the Sovereign Citizens, Free Staters and Occupy New Hampshire are active and present daily challenges". The grant from the United States Department of Homeland Security was successful and the Concord City Council unanimously approved of the grant after having revised the application to remove references to those political movements.
In September 2014, Republican Party Senate nominee Scott Brown, a former United States Senator from Massachusetts, said his election campaign needed "Freestaters" to support him in his one-minute closing statement at the Granite State Debate.
On February 3, 2016, the Free State Project announced via social media that 20,000 people had signed the Statement of Intent. In a press conference later that day, then FSP president Carla Gericke officially announced that the move had been triggered and that signers were expected to follow up on their pledge. The project organization will change focus from recruiting signers to encouraging them to move to New Hampshire, stating "we want 20,000 movers".
The Free State Project is not aligned with any political party, and has no official position for or against any issues or candidates. It receives its funding from individual donors interested in moving as part of the FSP or attending one of the annual events. Donations are tax-deductible as the FSP is a tax-exempt nonprofit educational organization, falling under category 501(c)(3). This affects all donations since July 20, 2009.
Several early movers have been elected to the 400-member New Hampshire House of Representatives. In 2006, Joel Winters became the first known Free Stater to be elected, running as a Democrat. He was re-elected in 2008, but defeated in 2010. In 2010, 12 Free Staters were elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives, all of them as Republicans. In 2012, 11 more were elected. In 2014, 18 were elected. In 2016, 15 were elected, out of 32 candidates. In 2012, Free Stater and self-described anarchist Tim O'Flaherty was elected as a Democrat, representing Manchester Ward 5. He was defeated for re-election in 2014.
In 2012, elected participants wrote and passed House Bill 418 which requires state agencies to consider open source software and data formats when making acquisitions. However, it died in the Senate.
The Free State Project organizes two annual events in New Hampshire:
- The New Hampshire Liberty Forum is a convention-style event with a wide variety of speakers, dinners and events.
- The Porcupine Freedom Festival (PorcFest) is a weeklong summer festival that takes place at a campground. Randian philosophy professor Roderick Long has described it as "like Woodstock for rational people".
On February 17, 2006, economist Walter Block publicly expressed his support for the FSP and is quoted as saying:
You people are doing the Lord's work. The FSP is one of the freshest practical ideas for promoting liberty that has come out of the libertarian movement in the past few decades. May you succeed beyond your wildest dreams, and thus demonstrate in yet another empirical way the benefits and blessings of liberty.
Jeffrey Tucker reflected about his experiences at the New Hampshire Liberty Forum in Nashua, saying in part: "If you are willing to look past mainstream media coverage of American politics, you can actually find exciting and interesting activities taking place that rise above lobbying, voting, graft and corruption".
The project has been endorsed by Ron Paul and Gary Johnson. In 2010, Lew Rockwell from the Mises Institute endorsed the project and referred to the city of Keene, New Hampshire as "The northern capital of libertarianism". In 2011, Peter Schiff said he had considered moving at one point.
Free Town Project
The Free Town Project was a related[under discussion] project that sought to move to a very small town and advocate for legal changes there. Two towns were involved: Grafton, New Hampshire and Mentone, Texas.
The Free Town Project was active in Grafton from 2004 to sometime in 2016. Grafton's appeal as a favorable destination was due to its absence of zoning laws and a very low property tax rate. Additionally, John Babiarz lived there already, and had had an unsuccessful run for Governor of New Hampshire under the Libertarian Party.
Though no records were kept of the number of project participants who moved there, the town's population grew from 1,138 in 2000 to 1,340 in 2010. Project participants fashioned homes out of yurts, RVs, trailers, tents, and shipping containers. The changes they voted in included a 30% reduction in the town's budget, and denying funding to the county’s senior-citizens council.
In 2012, a bear attacked a woman in her yard in Grafton. In 2018, a bear attacked a woman in her wheelchair, in Groton in Grafton County. Then in 2020, a bear attacked a man from behind, in Canaan, also in Grafton County. Before this, it had been more than a hundred years since the last black bear attack in all of New Hampshire. A few Free Towners were deliberately feeding the bears, while others were simply careless with their garbage.
The end of the Free Town Project in 2016 coincided somewhat with the Free State Project achieving its goal of 20,000 signatures. Matt Hongoltz-Hetling wrote in his book that "the same Trigger that birthed the Free State was a death knell for the Free Town. ... After years in which Grafton was the most visible and important landing point in the world for those who wanted to create a libertarian utopia, in the post-Trigger era, it became just another town in a state with many options."
The Free Town Project was also briefly involved with Mentone, Texas in 2005. Mentone is in Loving County, at the time the least populous county in the U.S. Three men — Lawrence Pendarvis, Bobby Emory, and Don Duncan — claimed to have bought 126 acres (51 ha) of land and registered to vote there. However, someone tipped off the county sheriff to the group's website, which said the group sought "to control the local government and remove oppressive regulations (such as planning and zoning, and building code requirements) and stop enforcement of laws prohibiting victimless acts among consenting adults such as dueling, gambling, incest, price-gouging, and drug handling." Additionally, Lawrence Pendarvis had been convicted of 129 counts of child pornography in 1997, but the conviction was overturned on appeal due to "gross prosecutorial misconduct".
The sheriff determined that the land was not sold to the group, as no deed had been filed at the county courthouse. He contacted the sellers who said that the land had been sold to other buyers, after which the sheriff filed misdemeanor charges against the three men and threatened to arrest them if they returned.
- American Redoubt
- Foot voting
- Free Talk Live
- Free West Alliance
- Libertarian conservatism
- Libertarian Republican
- Libertarian Party of New Hampshire
- Libertarianism in the United States
- New Hampshire Liberty Alliance
- Night-watchman state
- Objectivism (Ayn Rand)
- Politics of New Hampshire
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That the inhabitants of the English colonies in North-America, by the immutable laws of nature, the principles of the English constitution, and the several charters or compacts, have the following RIGHTS: Resolved, N.C.D. 1. That they are entitled to life, liberty and property: and they have never ceded to any foreign power whatever, a right to dispose of either without their consent.
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- Organizational Profile – National Center for Charitable Statistics (Urban Institute)
- on 's channelYouTube
- Free State Project A Libertarian Testing Ground magazine article