Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

a history of the fsp

Expand Messages
  • Jason P Sorens
    Please find below my first draft of the History of the FSP. Please suggest additions & corrections; this is obviously written from my POV and based on my
    Message 1 of 8 , Aug 30, 2002
    • 0 Attachment
      Please find below my first draft of the History of the FSP. Please
      suggest additions & corrections; this is obviously written from my POV and
      based on my recollections. Ignore the HTML code, BTW, it's just there to
      make it easier on me later.

      Thanks,
      Jason

      A History of the Free State Project
      On Its First Birthday

      by Jason P. Sorens

      The official birthdate of the Free State Project was today,
      September 1st, 2001. On that day the Statement of Intent and
      Participation Guidelines (at that time we called them "bylaws") were
      presented to the public.
      However, the origins of the Free State Project go back to a <a
      href="http://www.webleyweb.com/tle/libe131-20010723-03.html"><em>The
      Libertarian Enterprise</em> article</a> published on July 23. In this
      article I argued that libertarian political activism was failing
      miserably, and that we needed a new alternative. To carve out a sphere of
      liberty within our lifetimes, we need to take advantage of America's
      not-yet-dead federal system. States remain a locus of sovereignty and
      legislative power. I figured that if 20,000 freedom activists got
      together in a single state, they could make a major difference.
      Furthermore, there doesn't seem to be any alternative strategy with nearly
      the same chance for success. The core idea that would make the Project
      work was that we would gather signatures before the move; by getting
      commitments from people we would solve the coordination dilemma (no one
      wants to move if he fears that others will not move with him), and by
      concentrating on membership rather than asking for huge investments we
      would avoid the pitfalls of failed "free nation" projects. I called for
      supporters of the idea to e-mail me and help with organising a "Free State
      Project." I summed up,
      It is exciting to me that we might have a real shot at true freedom in our
      lifetimes. Certainly, there will be inconveniences. We might have to move
      away from friends and family; there might be spells of unemployment; we
      might have to take careers that are not our first choice. But I can't
      believe that we've gone so soft that we won't tolerate these
      inconveniences for a possibility at attaining true liberty. Our
      forefathers bled and died - because of the Stamp Tax! The Free State
      Project requires nothing of that kind, and the stakes are so much higher.
      How much is liberty worth to you?
      Our first supporter, besides a friend with whom I'd been
      discussing the idea, was <em>The Libertarian Enterprise</em> editor John
      Taylor, who wrote me back after receiving the submission and said "sign me
      up!"
      Within a week I received over 200 emails expressing support and
      variations on the theme, "It's about time someone came up with an idea
      like this!" I wrote a <a
      href="http://www.webleyweb.com/tle/libe133-20010806-02.html">followup
      essay</a> which was published two weeks later. It appeared we were
      already over 1% of the way toward our goal of 20,000.
      Our main task was to discuss a suitable "bylaws" and a "pledge"
      that we could circulate for signatures. Within days we had also come up
      with some criteria for choosing a state: obviously it needed to have a low
      population, and a cutoff point of no higher than 2 million had immediate
      support; we also recognized the usefulness of coastline, a decent job
      market, a native pro-liberty culture, and a negative fiscal balance with
      the federal government (that is, states that pay more in taxes than they
      receive in expenditures will be more open to radical autonomy proposals).
      By July 31 one interested participant, Robert Vroman, had set up a
      <a href="http://groups.yahoo.com/group/freestateproject">Yahoo club</a>.
      This club was to be the major locus of discussion for people interested in
      the FSP, and its archives are invaluable for anyone researching the FSP's
      history. Robert also had the foresight to pay for domain name
      registrations, freestateproject.com and freestateproject.org. <a
      href="http://www.freestateproject.org/archives.htm">The website was
      originally launched on August 4 on a free web service</a>, and on August
      10 it was moved to freestateproject.com. Freestateproject.org was set up
      as a mirror site about a month later but is now our default address.
      Until last month, August 2001 was by far the busiest month on our
      Yahoo group (then a club). Today, we have a variety of options for
      discussion, and people interested in free-ranging discussion usually find
      our <a href="http://forum.freestateproject.org">web community</a> and <a
      href="http://groups.yahoo.com/group/fspcrackerbarrel">"FSP
      crackerbarrel"</a> e-mail list more inviting, as the old discussion group
      is now moderated and limited to discussion of FSP business.
      Early contributors to the Yahoo club included Robert Vroman,
      johnny_magic, Dan (themistocles2002), Amanda Maxwell, Christopher Hallaxs
      (shadowstrider), Debra Ricketts (anarchomom), Dennis
      (liberty_in_this_lifetime), Mary Lou Seymour (libertymls), Mike
      Linksvayer, Steve Cobb (simplulo), Elizabeth McKinstry, and Joe Littlejohn
      (timberrattler1776). Based on the intelligent and constructive content of
      their contributions, I invited Robert, Amanda, Debra, Dennis, Mary Lou,
      Steve, Elizabeth, and Joe into an informal "brain trust" that would act as
      a vanguard in organizing publicity and making day-to-day decisions.
      Discussions in the club yielded many fruitful results. On August
      2 I suggested giving people the right to opt out of certain states when
      they sign the Statement, and making the Statement void three years after
      signing unless it is renewed, proposals that were eventually accepted by
      overwhelming majorities in member polls. The catch-phrase "liberty in our
      lifetime" was developed in the club, and Steve Cobb's suggestions in
      particular led to the adoption of cumulative count as the mechanism for
      voting on a state. Joe Littlejohn designed the porcupine logo, approved
      in a website poll on September 9th, along with various banners still in
      use. Elizabeth McKinstry was the main motor behind getting ad rates
      compiled and Internet recruitment going.
      From August 10 to August 21 we ran a series of web polls. The
      "leadership" of the FSP, such as it was, did not necessarily get its way
      on important policies. We favored considering states under just 1.2
      million population, but no clear majority existed for this policy at that
      time, 45% voting for considering all states under 2 million population.
      At the time I also opposed consideration of non-coastal states, but I lost
      that vote, 56-44%. In retrospect, it is good that I did, for some
      non-coastal states have turned out to be good candidates. Finally, we
      strongly supported making a decision on a target state soon. This issue
      remains controversial, but we are sticking with the plan that emerged from
      the poll. In the poll, which ran from August 22 to August 29, 32% favored
      delaying the choice until we reached 20,000 members, 18% favored waiting
      until 10,000, 13% favored waiting until 5,000, 18% wanted to take the vote
      after 1,000 members, and 20% wanted to take the vote immediately. The
      group was therefore somewhat polarized, and we chose the median position,
      waiting until 5,000. This decision was encoded into the Participation
      Guidelines and there it has remained. Amending the Guidelines is
      hazardous, because it requires notifying the entire membership that they
      may withdraw their signatures, so changing this provision has not been
      seriously considered since.
      Another poll held at the same time confirmed cumulative count as
      the vote mechanism (67-20%, 13% voting "doesn't matter"). Today we have a
      cumulative count "practice poll" on the website, which lets visitors see
      how the procedure works.
      On August 28 we got some unexpected publicity when Brian Wilson, a
      libertarian radio talk show host in California, joined the Free State
      Project on the air.
      Thus, we were optimistic when September 1 came and the final
      versions of the Statement of Intent and Participation Guidelines were
      posted on the website. We had an online form so that people could sign up
      instantly online if they wanted.
      But when it came down to it, people were reluctant to sign up at
      first. We had over 300 people who had signed up for the email list, but
      only about 50 of them signed the Statement of Intent in the first 10 days
      of September.
      Then September 11th hit. Understandably, people's minds were on
      other matters for quite some time. For a month very little happened in
      the Free State Project, and all our momentum was dissipated. A couple of
      people even withdrew their Statements, saying they did not support a
      "secession" movement after 9/11 (despite the fact that we are not a
      secession movement).
      However, this was not totally lost time. I sent a letter to
      Walter Williams to let him know of our Project and the fact that his
      writings were one of the inspirations for our efforts. He replied in a
      friendly note, and several months later my letter was to bear fruit.
      Several things helped us to begin getting out of the doldrums.
      First, we put the website on a dedicated server, eliminating the
      unreliability that had previously plagued it. Next, we changed the
      mission statement to an upbeat and positive one; it remains our mission
      statement, with a couple of tweaks, today:
      The Free State Project is a plan in which 20,000 or more liberty-oriented
      people will move to a single state of the U.S. to secure there a free
      society. We will accomplish this by first reforming state law, opting out
      of federal mandates, and finally negotiating directly with the federal
      government for appropriate political autonomy. We will be a community of
      freedom-loving individuals and families, and create a shining example of
      liberty for the rest of the nation and the world.
      October and November were involved with improving the website:
      adding a Frequently Asked Questions section, developing a printable flyer,
      and changing from format to format in search of the best one. We also
      e-mailed Libertarian Party officers in every state, asking them to let us
      know of publicity opportunities in their state and, if in a state under
      consideration, to let us know what the political, economic, and social
      climate of the state was like. Finally, we asked them for the opportunity
      to print an article about the FSP in their newsletters. Only a minority
      took us up on this offer, including Maine, Minnesota, Kentucky, and
      Virginia. However, the Florida LP invited us to send a speaker to their
      convention in January, and that invitation gave us the idea to send
      speakers to other conventions.
      We tried to get on the agenda for as many conventions as we could,
      generally only for states that were in driving distance for one of the
      organisers. In the end, Elizabeth McKinstry was the main convention
      speaker, taking on Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Colorado, and Ohio. I
      spoke at a
      Manhattan LP meeting in May. The convention appearances helped get the
      word out, but we quickly discovered that they were too expensive for the
      coverage we got. Typically, a convention appearance would result in
      something like five new members, but having a table cost anywhere from $50
      to $100, and the Florida convention cost hundreds more because of the
      airplane and hotel expenses.
      In early December I concluded some research that was to be the
      foundation of future state research and decisions about which states were
      viable. The resulting essay, "What Can 20,000 Liberty Activists
      Accomplish?" was picked up by Freedom Daily News on free-market.net and
      brought us a couple hundred website visitors, which at that time was a
      substantial number. In this essay I calculated that 20,000 activists
      could essentially "take over" any state under about 1.2 million population
      and where Democrats and Republicans combined spent less than $10 million
      in most election cycles. The research was also important because it
      showed that the Free State Project <em>was</em> viable: if we could just
      get 20,000 committed freedom-lovers into a single state, they would have
      an immense impact.
      Around the same time, a short yet intense controversy erupted on
      the Yahoo club over whether the FSP should consider American
      commonwealths, specifically the Virgin Islands. An advisory website poll
      was put up, the "no" side squeaked by with victory. Given that result,
      and the fact that including commonwealths would invalidate all previously
      signed Statements of Intent (which state that you agree to move to a
      "state" specifically), we decided to rule out commonwealths definitively.
      We decided that if for some reason we failed to reach even 1000 members,
      then taking over the Virgin Islands might be a last-ditch option.
      However, given that we have now passed 1000 members and are growing
      rapidly, the idea of taking over a commonwealth is a dead issue.
      In January we started a new partnership program with
      free-market.net. Under the terms of this agreement, we have placed banner
      ads on free-market.net and gotten our materials included in the FMN
      database, and sometimes also on Freedom Daily News. We are fortunate in
      that the editor assigned to cover us for free-market.net, Mary Lou
      Seymour, is also one of the longtime activists for the FSP. Around the
      same time, another longtime activist, Dennis Zachman, disappeared from
      contact and has never been heard from again. Christopher Williams of
      Washington was brought into the informal organisers' circle.
      At the beginning of February we started to reap the fruits of
      long-laid plans. Josh Corn volunteered to design a Cumulative Count
      practice vote for the webpage, which got a good deal of attention and is
      still in use. We set up an e-gold account, and donations started to
      trickle in, covering our free-market.net partnership and convention
      expenses. New essays were posted on free-market.net. We settled on a
      final website format, the one you see now, which was designed by Debra
      Ricketts. Finally, I went back and personally emailed all those people
      who had signed up for the email list back in July, August, and September,
      but who had never made a commitment to the FSP. This effort alone yielded
      about a hundred new signatures.
      In early March Walter Williams mentioned the Free State Project
      briefly on the Rush Limbaugh program, in response to a caller from New
      Hampshire. However, he did not give out the website address: this was
      probably fortunate, for who knows whether our server could have been able
      to handle a sudden burst of tens or even hundreds of thousands of
      visitors?
      In the same month <em>LP News</em> published a little blurb on the
      F.S.P., based on a short e-mail interview between an <em>LP News</em>
      reporter and myself.
      From mid-February to mid-March our daily signup rate reached about
      4, much better than the previous rate. During this same period, the
      organisers were working hard on Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws for
      Free State Project, Inc., a nonprofit corporation. We decided to
      incorporate in Nevada because among the states where the organisers lived,
      it had the easiest rules for incorporation. Debra Ricketts, Robert
      Vroman, Elizabeth McKinstry, Joe Littlejohn, and I were the first Board of
      Directors, Mary Lou Seymour and Amanda Maxwell deciding they'd rather
      continue as activists in an informal role, while Steve Cobb could not be a
      Director because of his international residence. The Board elected me as
      President, Elizabeth as Vice-President, Debra as Treasurer, and Steve as
      Secretary. Debra was Treasurer because she maintained the official
      corporate address, and from a legal point of view it is best for a
      corporation to maintain its bank account in the same state where it is
      incorporated.
      A couple of people - not members of the FSP, but libertarians I
      suppose - wrote and denounced us for incorporating, saying that it would
      give the government control of us in some unspecified way. Never mind
      that almost all major libertarian, classical liberal, and
      constitutionalist organisations are incorporated, and that this was a
      method of holding the group decision-makers publicly accountable, as well
      as allowing us to open a bank account.
      Soon afterward, we got to work designing new committees.
      Originally, there were to be 3 committees: Research, Publicity, and
      Finance, but Publicity and Finance were combined into a single committee,
      with Elizabeth McKinstry as chair. Robert Vroman was first chair of the
      Research Committee, but at the end of May he had to drop out due to other
      commitments. Membership in all the committees was open, and indeed many
      people who were interested in seeing the FSP succeed but were not
      signatories to the Statement of Intent joined the committees.
      Setting up the committees was a necessary step in the FSP's
      evolution. We had gone from a relatively modest-sized group in which a
      hard core of volunteers could get everything done to a large and rapidly
      growing group in which that hard core of volunteers was increasingly
      overworked. Setting up the committees was a way to get more people
      involved and to reduce the burden on the old organisers. However, our
      growth has been so rapid that today I probably spend 30-40 hours a week on
      the Free State Project, even though my responsibilities have been cut
      dramatically. For example, I no longer participate much in publicity and
      finance decisions, and many of them are even undertaken without my
      knowledge. That is a good thing.
      In May I left for Scotland for six weeks, and Elizabeth took over
      as acting President. During this time the website received some new
      departments, such as sections describing current advertising, a section
      describing the committees, and a section describing the forums. In July
      an FSP store was added, where you can get merchandise with the FSP logo,
      profits going toward the FSP for publicity efforts. An outstanding web
      community was also set up on our own server and now boasts over 230
      members.
      I returned at the beginning of July to find that controversy had
      wracked the Yahoo group once again. This time a few posters had grumbled
      about admonitions to keep conversations on topic. The Yahoo group had
      grown to an unwieldy size (it now has over 430 members), and volume was
      accordingly high (10-20 messages a day). In this environment some members
      were leaving the group because they could not handle the volume, and the
      moderators tried to put on some restraints, including moderated status for
      new subscribers. A new Tech Committee was formed to deal with this
      situation and to handle issues relating to the website and the web
      community; Debra Ricketts is chair.
      The controversy on the Yahoo group continued in fits and starts
      while I was there, until one weekend in August while I was away. Ben
      Irvin, a Research Committee member and witty advocate for Montana and the
      West generally, felt he was being threatened with censorship and
      threatened to get all the Westerners together and secede from the FSP to
      form their own project. Fortunately, we got things cooled down, and the
      new solution has been to make the old Yahoo group fully moderated (under
      Philip Boncer) and restricted to FSP business, while the
      "fspcrackerbarrel" list on Yahoo handles general discussion. Still,
      August 2002 was the highest-traffic month ever, surpassing even August
      2001 with almost 1200 messages.
      Our major publicity efforts to date have been banner ads in
      free-market.net, rationalreview.com, the <em>Sierra Times</em> website,
      and anti-state.com, several radio interviews, convention appearances, and
      a full-page ad in <em>LP News</em>. We will have a full-page ad on the
      back cover of <em>Liberty</em> in November, paid for by a single member's
      donation. However, the biggest publicity bonus was something unlooked
      for: Walter Williams' endorsement of the Free State Project in a widely
      syndicated column and on the "Hannity and Colmes" TV program. On the day
      of Dr. Williams' column, August 7th, the website had over 7000 unique
      visitors, shattering the previous record. The next day we had over 3700
      visitors. Before the column, we had 566 signed-up FSP participants; three
      weeks later, on August 28th, there were 976. The column and TV appearance
      were probably worth at least 300 signups. Below you can see a chart
      plotting our monthly growth over time.
      <center><img src="./images/growth.jpg"></center>
      Obviously August is an aberration; however, we do seem to be
      experiencing an upward trend in growth rate. Thus, linear growth
      projections are far too conservative. A purely exponential model, by
      contrast, is probably a little too optimistic. At any rate, we hope to
      reach 5000 participants by the end of 2003 and 20000 by September 1, 2006.
      We need about 14 signatures per day on average to reach this latter goal.
      Last week, after the Walter Williams euphoria had worn off, we averaged
      about 7 signups per day. Contrast this figure with about 0.5 signers per
      day in the last four months of 2001.
      State research has grown by leaps and bounds since the beginning
      of July. The Research Committee has determined that "all states under 1.5
      million population at the time of the membership vote will appear on the
      ballot, excepting Hawaii and Rhode Island, which have been eliminated
      outright due to their big-government tendencies." Currently, ten states
      meet this standard: Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, North
      Dakota, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Delaware. Barring unforeseen
      circumstances, all these states should make it to the final vote.
      The Research Committee has drafted in-depth research reports on
      most of these states already, though these reports will need to be updated
      as new data come in and as new variables are suggested. The Research
      Committee has also designed a spreadsheet that allows anyone to weight the
      most important quantitatively measurable factors according to his own
      preferences, yielding an absolute ranking of states. I have performed
      various permutations on the data, and I feel confident in stating that no
      matter how you weight the data, a few states consistently end up near the
      top: Alaska, Delaware, Wyoming, and New Hampshire especially, but Idaho,
      the Dakotas, and Vermont also do fairly well. Maine and Montana tend to
      be laggards in this dataset, but some have presented convincing arguments
      - for Montana especially - that subjective, non-quantifiable factors weigh
      heavily in their favor and should make them serious candidates.
      The question of "which state?" has dominated discussions among FSP
      members and prospectives since the very beginning, and that is to be
      expected. However, we should realize that any of these ten states would
      make an excellent candidate, and that no matter which state we pick, we
      should have a very good chance at developing a truly free society in at
      least one state, perhaps the best opportunity the freedom movement has
      enjoyed in America in a century.
    • Jason P Sorens
      Note as well that since it s dated September 1, it contains some assertions about expected events in the immediate future, namely, tomorrow when the RC meets.
      Message 2 of 8 , Aug 30, 2002
      • 0 Attachment
        Note as well that since it's dated September 1, it contains some
        assertions about expected events in the immediate future, namely,
        tomorrow when the RC meets. ;)

        ________________________________________________________________________

        Jason P Sorens---jason.sorens@...---http://pantheon.yale.edu/~jps35

        http://www.freestateproject.org - Do you want liberty in your lifetime?
      • anarchist4242
        ... Where can one see the above chart?
        Message 3 of 8 , Aug 30, 2002
        • 0 Attachment
          --- In freestateproject@y..., Jason P Sorens <jason.sorens@y...>
          wrote:
          >
          > A History of the Free State Project
          > On Its First Birthday
          >
          > by Jason P. Sorens
          > ...
          > Below you can see a chart plotting our monthly growth over time.
          > ./images/growth.jpg

          Where can one see the above chart?
        • Tim Condon
          ... I just want to say that s an excellent historical review, and will be important for future generations who want to know precisely how the Free State
          Message 4 of 8 , Aug 30, 2002
          • 0 Attachment
            > The question of "which state?" has dominated discussions among FSP
            >members and prospectives since the very beginning, and that is to be
            >expected. However, we should realize that any of these ten states would
            >make an excellent candidate, and that no matter which state we pick, we
            >should have a very good chance at developing a truly free society in at
            >least one state, perhaps the best opportunity the freedom movement has
            >enjoyed in America in a century.

            I just want to say that's an excellent historical review, and will
            be important for future generations who want to know precisely how the Free
            State Project came about. I also want to say that although I "opted out" of
            Hawaii and Alaska because of my original feeling that they're too remote, I
            will move to *any* of the ten remaining states, including Alaska. This
            Project is growing, it is a shining idea, it is, indeed, a chance to show
            the world what "a free society" can look like, and what it can do. The
            state, whatever it is and wherever it is, will be a "little Hong Kong" in
            the midst of the United States, an explosion of wealth and creativity and
            freedom, and will be a beacon not only for other states, but for the entire
            world. In short, this is *exciting*. Tim C.

            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Jason P Sorens
            ... It ll be up on the website in the article Monday morning. I use a text-based email, so I don t have a way of inserting images into emails.
            Message 5 of 8 , Aug 30, 2002
            • 0 Attachment
              On Fri, 30 Aug 2002, anarchist4242 wrote:

              > > Below you can see a chart plotting our monthly growth over time.
              > > ./images/growth.jpg
              >
              > Where can one see the above chart?

              It'll be up on the website in the article Monday morning. I use a
              text-based email, so I don't have a way of inserting images into emails.

              ________________________________________________________________________

              Jason P Sorens---jason.sorens@...---http://pantheon.yale.edu/~jps35

              http://www.freestateproject.org - Do you want liberty in your lifetime?
            • Jason P Sorens
              Sorry - *Sunday* morning is when the article goes up. ________________________________________________________________________ Jason P
              Message 6 of 8 , Aug 30, 2002
              • 0 Attachment
                Sorry - *Sunday* morning is when the article goes up.

                ________________________________________________________________________

                Jason P Sorens---jason.sorens@...---http://pantheon.yale.edu/~jps35

                http://www.freestateproject.org - Do you want liberty in your lifetime?
              • Joseph Littlejohn
                Great overview... going on Lew Rockwell s page by any chance? ... From: Jason P Sorens To: freestateproject@yahoogroups.com Sent: Friday, August 30, 2002 7:43
                Message 7 of 8 , Aug 30, 2002
                • 0 Attachment
                  Great overview... going on Lew Rockwell's page by any chance?
                  ----- Original Message -----
                  From: Jason P Sorens
                  To: freestateproject@yahoogroups.com
                  Sent: Friday, August 30, 2002 7:43 PM
                  Subject: Re: [FSP] Re: a history of the fsp



                  Sorry - *Sunday* morning is when the article goes up.

                  ________________________________________________________________________

                  Jason P Sorens---jason.sorens@...---http://pantheon.yale.edu/~jps35

                  http://www.freestateproject.org - Do you want liberty in your lifetime?



                  Yahoo! Groups Sponsor
                  ADVERTISEMENT



                  To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
                  freestateproject-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com



                  Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo! Terms of Service.



                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                • Jason P Sorens
                  ... I ll probably put it on the website and Freedom Daily News should pick it up. I could email Lew about it and let him know he can reprint it there if he
                  Message 8 of 8 , Aug 31, 2002
                  • 0 Attachment
                    On Fri, 30 Aug 2002, Joseph Littlejohn wrote:

                    > Great overview... going on Lew Rockwell's page by any chance?

                    I'll probably put it on the website and Freedom Daily News should pick it
                    up. I could email Lew about it and let him know he can reprint it there
                    if he likes.

                    Jason
                  Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.