Porcupine Freedom Festival '06 - President's Welcome
... there was hope
Speech delivered to the 2006 Porcupine Freedom Festival
Friday, June 23, 2006, 5:00 p.m.
By: Varrin Swearingen, FSP President
I wouldn't call the 20th
century libertarian movement a total failure. Merely saying it that
way gives a feel for my impression of it's level of success, though.
The libertarian movement got started
sometime in the middle of the 20th century, accelerating
in the latter part of the century. FEE (Foundation for Economic
Education) led the way in 1946, the IHS got started in 1961, (I)SIL's
roots trace back to the late 1960's, the LP in 1971, Cato in 1977,
Reason in 1978, the Advocates for Self Government in 1985, the
Republican Liberty Caucus in 1990, and countless organizations since
By the end of the last century, there
were dozens of well known pro-freedom organizations that worked hard
in various arenas to fend off the full-on assault of government. But
as these efforts became better organized and, presumably, more
effective, the government grew ever larger and our freedom ever
smaller. The measurable result was still negative.
Budgets at every level of government
were astronomically higher than they were at the dawn of the century,
the amount and impact of regulation continued to grow at a
mind-numbing pace, and freedom was quickly being extinguished by
every level of government in every part of America. Indeed, the
government is more or less a reflection of the people, and the people
aren't too interested in freedom these days. At the beginning of
this century, there was not much hope for the future of freedom in
This hopelessness is the backdrop for
the formation of the Free State Project. Though many dedicated
people did much excellent work to preserve our freedom, we were
outnumbered. Successes were unusual and when they did happen, it was
in an environment of net loss of freedom. One step forward, two (or
three) steps back. Fewer and fewer people were willing to work for
freedom and more and more people worshiped government.
The idea behind the Free State Project
is to resolve the problem of too few people being interested in
freedom. If a sufficient number of pro-freedom activists relocated
to a single, low-population state, with an already freedom-friendly
populace, maybe the routine failures could be turned around into
routine successes. Maybe, we could have some hope of liberty... in
Since the founding of the Free State
Project, things have gotten a lot worse. If we needed the project in
the summer of 2001, how much more do we need it now? Remember, the
FSP was founded before the acceleration into oppression that has
marked the last five years. If it was hopeless then, in 2001, how
much more hopeless is it now? Consider these examples. Since the
formation of the FSP:
The supreme court has ruled private
property can now be 'legally' taken for private redevelopment;
federal spending grew 33% between 2001 and 2005; during that same
period of time NH General Fund spending grew 27% and NH total
government spending grew 31%; the freedom to travel has been
dramatically reduced by numerous organizations, a national ID card
has become a reality, dozens of new bureaucracies have been made, a
universal healthcare program just passed one state to the south of us
and a major west coast city is considering a similar move, and the
list goes on and on and on.
There is little hope in this picture,
no matter where you live. In fact, even here in New Hampshire,
though things are measurably better than other states, freedom
continues to decrease. All this is true despite continued efforts in
the freedom movement to stop the decline of freedom. As optimistic
as I am, I'm forced to acknowledge that the freedom movement
continues to fail to even slow the rate of decline of freedom in
The question is, with all of this
hopelessness, can the FSP succeed? Is there any hope at all? What
will it take to build a Free State?
For the first two years of the project,
nobody really knew the answer to that question. In fact, not only
didn't anyone know, but those who guessed disagreed significantly on
what it would take to succeed.
The truth is, predictions of success
were entirely speculative. Sure, we could extrapolate data from
activity in various environments around the world, but we had no
evidence that an organized project like this would actually work. We
didn't even know which state we'd end up in. We didn't know if
anyone would actually move. And we didn't know if, after moving,
there would be any measurable positive impact. Nevertheless, there
Hope is wonderful, and it can inspire
people to greatness. However, it can be empty and disappointing when
what you once hoped for appears impossible. So while some were
hopeful, there was not yet much assurance of success. Even if the
project, as originally designed, succeeded in meeting its goal of
obtaining 20,000 commitments by pro-freedom activists to move to a
single state, there was no assurance that anyone would actually move.
Even if those 20,000 people did move, there was no assurance of any
actual success. There were many unknowns just a few short years ago.
The project managed to attract 5,000
participants and the state vote was held. This, itself, was a huge
successful step. Being ¼ of the way to completing the
monumental task of persuading 20,000 people to move for freedom gave
people hope, and rightly so. The credibility of the Free State
Project as the single obvious organized freedom movement was solidly
established. If a project designed to concentrate libertarian
activists is to ever attract enough people to succeed, this is it.
There is hope.
What has happened since then, however,
gives me more hope ... more assurance than ever before. Since the
state vote, we have established what could not have been established
previously. We have proof now that pro-freedom activists will
actually move to New Hampshire. If you have moved to New Hampshire
as a result of the Free State Project since October 1st, 2003, please
raise your hand.
There's proof. There's knowledge.
People are moving. There's hope.
But the good news doesn't end there.
Those who have already moved to New Hampshire have given us proof
that that they can actually change things for the better. They've
persuaded their new friends and neighbors that freedom is better than
tyranny. They've written bills that passed, lobbied for good bills
that passed because of their efforts, lobbied against bad bills that
failed because of their efforts, successfully campaigned in local
elections, won elected office, successfully defended themselves
against government lawsuits, and the list goes on. If you've moved
since October 1st, 2003, and you feel you've participated
in some activity that has caused there to be more freedom in New
Hampshire than there would have been without your participation,
please raise your hand.
There's proof. There's knowledge.
There's people having an effect. There's hope.
There is now concrete evidence that
pro-freedom activists will move to New Hampshire for the purpose of
increasing the level of freedom here and will actually be effective
in doing so. This is not a pipe dream or untested theory, it is
More impressive is the amount that has
been accomplished with relatively few people. Though existing
support in-state was strong, the effect of just those couple hundred
early movers, some of whom just raised their hands, has been very
noticeable and positive. Millions of dollars of current or future
taxes have been stopped by the work of just a few recently-moved FSP
participants. Bad changes to state and local laws have been stopped
and good changes have been successful as a result of the work of a
few recently-moved FSP participants.
If a few people can accomplish so much,
imagine what 1000 people could do. Could they, by themselves, create
a 'free state'? Could they get 50% or 75% of the way there? We
don't know that much yet, but it seems to me that 1000 people could
erase any doubt in even the most pessimistic skeptic's mind that New
Hampshire is the freest state in the nation, bar none.
What then could 2000 do? Or 5000? Or
10,000? What about 20,000?
There's little doubt in my mind that
20,000 effective pro-freedom activists could create a Free State
right here in New Hampshire. And even if we wound up arguing over
the minutia in 10 or 20 years, we would be so much better off than
the rest of the nation that no sane person who treasures freedom
would want to live anywhere else.
But merely imagining our success won't
assure us of it. We have a job to do. In order to succeed, it is
imperative that we attract 20,000 people to the Free State Project.
We succeeded in attracting 5,000 people in a fairly short period of
time. Since October, 2003, our rate of growth has slowed – we have
only added about 2600 participants.
The good news is, it should now be far
easier for people to commit to the project knowing that the theory
behind it has been, at least in part, demonstrated to work right
here, right now, in this case in New Hampshire. Our job is to spread
that message of hope to pro-freedom activists around us.
If there is to be any hope, I do
believe this is it. Hope for freedom is fading in the rest of the
nation. The light of liberty is being more rapidly extinguished each
day. The most likely hope for freedom lies with the Free State
Project and that hope appears brighter today than ever before.
Welcome to the Free State...