Free Staters pick N.H. "to liberate for sex, guns and drugs"
- [Note that I did get them to correct the erroneous quotation, "autocratic territory" - supposed to be "autonomous territory" (!). --JPS]
'Free staters' pick New Hampshire to liberate for sex, guns and drugs
Fringe activists hope to infiltrate vote and set up a breakaway minimalist
Wednesday October 1, 2003
Joanna Walters in New York, The Guardian
A libertarian movement promoting "minimalist government", the free market,
drugs, prostitution and gun ownership plans to infiltrate New Hampshire to
create a breakaway American regime, its leaders will announce today.
The Free State Project, which has supporters in the UK and worldwide, will
reveal today at a meeting in New York that its members have voted for the
small but highly-symbolic north-eastern state as its target to win power.
Project chiefs will now try to persuade 20,000 people to move to New
Hampshire and sway the electorate towards blocking federal "nanny" laws and
Jason Sorens, a lecturer in political science at Yale University and
president of the project, said he wants to create an "autocratic territory"
and the Free State Project will follow the examples of the Mormons in Utah,
the French separatists in Quebec, Canada, and the conservative Amish
Political sceptics have dismissed the project as the fringe cult fantasies
of a disorganised shower of anarchists and internet geeks. But Professor
Sorens claims membership is soaring as people become angry over increasing
restrictions on personal freedom, government surveillance of private
individuals and greater state power in the justice system.
Membership of the Free State Project rocketed after an article in Playboy
this year. "I think that was a good place to find people who are socially
tolerant and wary of government regulation over private behaviour," Prof
Sorens said yesterday.
The FSP argues that civil government should exist only to protect life,
liberty, and property. Individuals are free to do as they please, provided
it does not harm others.
In a "Free State", that would translate as a green light for casinos,
brothels, cocaine farms and gun supermarkets. Leaders would also do away
with seatbelt laws, limits on gay marriage and most taxes. Schools and
hospitals would be entirely privatised.
"The classical liberal philosophy has a long and respectable pedigree. We
see ourselves as a kind of chamber of commerce, promoting the state as
somewhere where people will come and live freely and do business," he said.
Prof Sorens sees new New Hampshire as having economic parallels with
Singapore and Hong Kong, and social parallels to the tolerant Netherlands.
New Hampshire's state motto is already "Live free or die".
A ballot last week had members choosing from a shortlist of 10 states, each
chosen on the basis that the FSP had calculated the populations were low
enough and federal influence weak enough that moving 20,000 members there
would give enough leverage to sway the state legislature.
Wyoming came second in the ballot. Other states on the list included Alaska,
Idaho, Montana, Vermont and the Dakotas. Members must agree to move to the
But the New Hampshire Democratic chairwoman, Kathy Sullivan, said she
considered the project "sort of a very fringe group that can best be
described as anarchists".
A British member, Matthew Hurry, a 24-year-old computer technician from
Brighton, was already preparing to move to the chosen state. "It's one of
the few good ideas I've seen actually put into practice with a good chance
of success. Freedom is important for people, and the western world is
severely lacking in it," he said.
But Francis Tyers, a 20-year-old University of Wales student, who studies in
Aberystwyth but is currently on placement with the computer giant Hewlett
Packard in Ireland, said Alaska would have been his first choice. "I
specified on my membership form that I would move when they had legalised
the cultivation of marijuana. I'm hoping that this will be one of the first
things on their agenda. And secession from the United States would be
great," he said.
It is this kind of radical idea that Prof Sorens emphasises is not the FSP's
main thrust. "We have no wish to alienate the people of New Hampshire. We
want to win them over," he said.
James Maynard, one of 150 project members who already live in New Hampshire,
is currently campaigning as a Libertarian to try to win a council seat in
the Keene city elections in November. "The FSP is a mix of common sense
ideas and "thinking out of the box". Within the framework of a real-life
state and local politics, a group will not be afraid to try new things and
take lessons from the business world to bring New Hampshire a smaller, less
expensive, more accountable government," he said.
Project members are mostly men and in their 20s and 30s. Many own small
businesses and half of them have a university degree, with 18% possessing
doctorates and 40% earning more than £40,000 a year.