NOTE: The opinions and commentary expressed in this essay are those of the author and are an exercise of free speech. They do not necessarily represent the views of Free State Project Inc., its Directors, its Officers, or its Participants.
By Morey Straus
California libertarians have been fighting a losing battle against pandering politicians for a very long time. In recent years, we've lost countless freedoms and even more dollars to the government machine. After being grabbed by the throat so many times and being told that we can no longer do this or own that, even the most politically apathetic among us are going to start looking at alternatives.
The dismal showing of pro-liberty candidates in the 2004 elections proves that liberty is a lost cause here. Superior Court Judge Jim Gray, running for U.S. Senate, was arguably California Libertarians' most marketable candidate in decades. He put considerable energy toward getting press, to be allowed into the debates, to demonstrate that he had real solutions backed by real world experience. Most of these efforts were futile. Without any significant recognition by the duopoly or the media, his candidacy was doomed. He received 1.7% of the vote.
So where does the freedom loving San Franciscan look to escape? There are a few other major cities in the US with a counterculture feel, cosmopolitan atmosphere, appreciation for the arts, and tolerable weather. One might consider Seattle, if it weren't for the fact that that they too have a motorcycle helmet law in effect in Washington State. And apart from existing businesses that were grandfathered in, the health Nazis have banned smoking within city limits. How about Austin? The leftists who control that city are also following in the footsteps of SF. Not only that, but the conservatives in control of the great state of Texas are busy making their chosen intolerances into law. New York? Fuhgedaboutit.
In looking at the major cities of the USA, one will eventually come to the grim realization that it is not possible to evade the statists' power by simply running to another metropolis. They are all just a year or two behind San Francisco in the erosion of liberty. You, dear libertarian reader, will need to open yourself up to other possibilities. What is needed is a place where the people have a strong cultural respect for personal freedoms and responsibilities.
Enter the Free State Project, a plan for the scattered individuals who value freedom to come together in one state in order to put libertarian values back on the political map. The project has no illusions about achieving an instant libertarian majority. The aim is simply to have some influence on politics at the state and local levels. A chance to find out if those famous words of Margaret Mead still hold true; whether a minority group of activists really can still make a difference.
There are currently four states in the Union that have no helmet law. One of those states is the only one that allows adults to choose whether or not to wear a seat belt. It's the safest state in America, with less crime than Switzerland. Perhaps not coincidentally, that state is also the least restrictive of the right to keep and bear arms. It is one of a few States that can lay claim to having nearly one third of registered voters who do not affiliate themselves with either the Republicans or Democrats. This state is among the lowest taxed in the country. The state is New Hampshire, chosen for these and many other reasons by the participants of the Free State Project. New Hampshire's State motto is, appropriately, "Live free or die."
New Hampshire is no libertarian utopia. It has lots of room for improvement, and a couple of distinct drawbacks. For example: Alcohol is even more heavily regulated than here in California. No third parties (such as the Libertarian Party) are officially recognized. The weather can be brutal. The good news is that all but the last have real potential to be changed.
In most places, it's difficult to get enough libertarians together to hold a picnic. In New Hampshire, social events with more than 100 people are common, but it's much more than a support group. They are making real, honest-to-goodness progress. Libertarians are winning major elected offices, delivering successful ballot initiatives, and publicly taking a stand against that which they believe to be immoral. While there are dedicated libertarian activists here and in other states doing great work, this concentrated effort in New Hampshire seems the best (and perhaps only) chance to achieve "Liberty in Our Lifetime."
Morey Straus is a Free State Project participant, currently living in San Francisco with his non-libertarian partner and two cats, all of whom think he is nuts.