The Free State Project (FSP) is a political movement, founded in 2001, to recruit at least 20,000 libertarian-leaning people to move to a single low-population state (New Hampshire, selected in 2003) in order to make the state a stronghold for libertarian ideas. The project seeks to overcome the historical ineffectiveness of limited-government activism by the small, diffuse population of activists across the 50 United States and around the world.
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, or other self-selected triggers. As of June 2011, more than 1,000 FSP participants have become “early movers” to New Hampshire, in that they have made their move prior to the 20,000-participant trigger. As of November 2012, over 13,000 people have signed this statement of intent and more than 1,100 have moved. In 2010, at least 12 “Free Staters” (early project movers) were elected to the 400-member New Hampshire House of Representatives.
The Free State Project is a social movement generally based upon decentralized decision making. A control group that performs various activities, 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.
- 1 Intent
- 1 Eligibility
- 2 History
- 3 Ideology and political positions
- 4 Annual events
- 5 Responses
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 state 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. 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.
The FSP is open to people with a minimum age of 18. U.S. 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, and calling people to respond to him with interest. The movement has, since then, come to emphasize secessionism much less strongly, with Sorens publishing a note in the journal to this effect in 2004. Sorens has stated that the movement continues an American tradition of political migration, which includes groups such as Mormon settlers in Utah, and Amish religious communities.
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. Participants voted using the Condorcet method to choose the state. New Hampshire was the winner, with Wyoming coming in second by a 55% to 45% margin. Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Maine, Montana, Vermont, and the Dakotas (North Dakota and South Dakota) were also on the list.
New Hampshire was chosen because the perceived individualist culture of New Hampshire was thought to resonate well with libertarian ideals. The Free State Project, however, has drawn criticism from some New Hampshire residents concerned about population pressure and opposition to increased taxation. Republicans , on the other hand, have responded more favorably to the project, because of their espoused agreement on small government.
Ideology and political positions
The Free State Project itself does not take official political positions, support candidates in elections, or support or oppose legislation. The goal of the FSP is to move people to New Hampshire to directly affect political process.
The Free State Project receives its funding from individual donors interested in moving as part of the FSP or attending one of the annual events.
Several early movers have been elected to the New Hampshire legislature. In 2006 one of its participants, Joel Winters, was elected to the state legislature, running as a Democrat. He was re-elected in 2008 but defeated in 2010. In 2008, 4 Free Staters were elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives, including Winters, according to group participants. In 2010, at least 12 Free Staters were elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives. In 2012, elected members wrote and passed House Bill 418 which requires state agencies to consider open source software and data formats when making acquisitions.
The Free State Project is the official organizer of 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 week-long summer festival that takes place in a camp ground, and it is “like Woodstock for rational people,” says Roderick T. Long.
On February 17, 2006, economist Walter Block publicly expressed his support for the FSP. He 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. He 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.
Critics argue that the Free State Project is “radical”, a “fantasy”, or that they “go too far” in seeking to restrict government.
The Free State Project was the centerpiece of the 2012 documentary film Libertopia.