Interview with Sorens
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.
Interview with Sorens
Wednesday, July 07, 2004
Originally published at MicroBalrog's Fiery Blog
It has often been repeated by all sides of the political debate that the US constitution is in danger. The Evil Bushistas (or Clintonistas, depending on who you ask) are trampling on our rights all over the place, and there's nothing we can do about it. Well, Jason Sorens thinks we can. His plan is to move 20,000 pro-freedom people into one state - New-Hampshire - and to make it as free as possible, proving by experiment that freedom works and expanding from ther. MicroBalrog was there and spoke to him. Here's what he found out.
Can I call you Jason?Yes!
Jason, you have a PHD in Political Studies. Can you explain to the readers how moving twenty thousand people into a state with a population of over a million will shift it's policies? After all, 20,000 are not much of a voting block.
They're a marginal voting bloc, but they are a significant activist base. 20,000 pro-freedom activists in New Hampshire would outnumber all other activists currently there. The idea is not to take over New Hampshire, but to "leaven the loaf," to increase the visibility and saturation of pro-freedom ideas and proposals. So we're expecting all signed up FSP participants to be "activist" in some sense: supporting pro-freedom candidates and thinktanks financially or with volunteer time, for example.
What is the social background of the average Porcupine? Where do they come from? Is the average FSP member rich, poor, Sourthern, Northern?
We have participants from every state and every background. According to one survey we did, their incomes are on average a little higher than the U.S. average, they tend to be somewhat more educated on average than the U.S. average, and they also tend to be younger, with a significant proportion between ages 18 and 35.
Why are you doing that? I mean, don't you people have a life or something?
Why are we moving? Well, it's very natural for Americans to move to states where they can have a higher quality of life. New Hampshire is consistently rated as having the best quality of life in the U.S.: it has low taxes, low crime, strong communities, and an independent spirit. It's just the right state for people like us. The fact that thousands of liberty-oriented Americans will be moving to New Hampshire over the next several years also means that a bright future looks secure for the state. The state provides a good environment to invest, work, raise a family, and follow leisure pursuits.
Jason, you know my average reader is a 2nd Amendent supporter. What are you going to do for the NH gun owner?
NH has some of the best gun laws in the country. It's a shall-issue state and has few other regulations on firearms. Some of our supporters in NH testified in favor of a bill that would repeal even the permit requirement for concealed carry: it passed the Senate but not the House. Once Free Staters start moving to the state and getting active, I expect legislation like this will begin passing regularly. Gun owners can expect to see their rights respected if they move to NH.
Yeah, but what of the various federal policies on the issue? Is there going to be any help on that?
I think so. There are clever ways to circumvent federal policies with state law. For example, a friend of mine who runs the Montana Sport Shooters Association says that he is working on legislation for that state that would repeal federal permit requirements for purchasing and owning machine guns produced within that state. Since there is no interstate commerce involved, that would be a state issue. We could do something similar in NH. Furthermore, we have to realize that spreading our resources thin across the whole country is not going to affect the federal government. We need to have a solid base somewhere in the country to push for a smaller federal role in many policies, including gun laws. With an active state legislature and governor calling for pro-freedom reforms and two representatives and senators, we would provide the leverage needed to turn the anti-freedom tide.
Some critics of the Project have said you are going to have difficulty finding jobs for the newcomers. How are you going to handle that problem?
NH actually has a very good job market, and that was one of the reasons it won the vote we held among FSP participants. NH easily defeated every other low-population state under consideration, partly because it is expected to create over 110,000 jobs over the next 10 years. Moreover, many Free Staters are bringing their own businesses to NH and are looking to hire. If you sign up, you have several years in which to move to New Hampshire (the way it works is that we're trying to get 20,000 signatures, after which everyone who signs up is expected to move within five years - it's just a 'moral' obligation, not a legal one), which is plenty of time to find a job and home.
The Drug War is largely a federal policy. How are you going to address that on a state level?
There are ways we could address this issue on the state level as well. First, we could end collaboration between state law enforcement and federal law enforcement in drug and gun laws. Then we could pass a resolution calling on the federal government to recognize that federal drug policy is unconstitutional, and that drug policy is properly a state and local matter. We could take 10th Amendment lawsuits to the federal judiciary, which is proving surprisingly receptive to constitutional challenges to drug laws on federal grounds. Ultimately, we could consider options such as nullification.
What are your positions on hunting? I personally am not a hunter at all, but I gather this is very important to some of the readers of this.
I'm not a hunter either; I simply wasn't raised with it. I'd like to learn how to hunt, though. I have no moral problems with hunting.
Aren't you afraid you project will attract some creepy wackos? How do you filter people out?
The only way you can filter these people out is if they identify themselves in some way. We've taken a strong stand against people we've found making racial comments or taking other wacko stands. There have only been a small handful of these people so far, among the thousands of people who've signed up - and I've never met any of them among the hundreds of Free Staters I've met at events all over the country. Somehow we've ended up with the good ones!
For the liberal reader, what do you think about gay marriage, abortion rights., and the Patriot Act? I'd think these are very important to the well-being of a free society, but maybe that's just because I'm a liberal democrat :).
Well, I think Free Staters have different views on abortion - it all depends on whether you think the fetus is a person with rights or not. Free Staters favor getting government out of marriage altogether, and accordingly the gay marriage debate really misses the point. Free Staters oppose the USA PATRIOT Act, and in fact I think the Bush Administration's abuse of power has really helped our recruitment! People are looking for alternatives, and they know that replacing the Bush-Cheney crowd with a new establishment won't solve things.
Speak of the devil :-) , do you think there's reason for the Democrat reader to sign up?
I think any Democrat, Republican, Green, or Libertarian who supports individual freedom across the board would want to sign on. We want lower taxes, more business competition, and secure property rights, but that also means less corporate subsidies and stricter regulation of pollution. We want to legalize drugs and prostitution for consenting adults and end foreign interventionism, while maintaining a strong stance against fraud and violent crime. There's something for everyone in there, but we are really looking for people who support more or less the whole package. You don't have to call yourself a "libertarian"; these ideas used to be known as "liberal."
Some leftist would probably gasp in horror at your oppostion to campaign finance regulations, claiming it would enable rich fatcats to buy their way into an election. What response do you have for those people?
The real problem with the U.S. political system is two-party establishment control of the media. Voters only vote for what they know; to break the two-party stranglehold we have to break through to the media directly. Sometimes the best way to do that is through the help of wealthy individuals. In 1992, Ross Perot used his fortune to pry open the political system just a little bit, and his presence in the election actually increased voter turnout for the first time in decades. Now, Perot was obviously a very flawed candidate, but the principle nevertheless holds that third parties and alternative movements can only break into voters' consciousness with money. Campaign finance regulations will merely solidify the sclerotic two-party system.
A lot of federal policies are hinged on the federal government threatening to pull out federal higway funds. How are you going to solve that problem.
NH already gives up some federal highway funds in order to forego seatbelt laws for adults. NH is a compact state and is not at all dependent on federal funding. Ultimately, if the federal government decides not to fund our roads at all, we won't collect a federal gas tax. We'll run all the highways on state gas taxes and tolls, and we'll be just as well off.
Now when we dealt with important parts, what about the Gun Nut Question of the Century? 9mm or .45?
Haha! Well, as I said, I've never hunted before, and I've actually only shot a gun on one occasion. I enjoyed it, but I haven't gone to the range since - we don't have many of them in Connecticut, where I'm living now. Once I get to NH, I'm sure I'll shoot more. I haven't shot the .45, just a 9mm (Glock semiauto, pretty standard I guess, although it was a 10-bullet clip, which I understand Feinstein has since made illegal to sell), so I'll have to go with the 9mm for now!
And another Question of the Century: Star Trek or Star Wars?
I never enjoyed Star Trek - too regimented and preachy. So Star Wars over Star Trek, but Lord of the Rings over both!
Anything else which you think we should know? And no, I'm not going to bless you.
I'd encourage everyone to check out www.freestateproject.org to see what we're all about. This is a very serious movement, and the future of a free society may ultimately hang in the balance. Get involved!
Jason Sorens, PhD
Dept. of Political Science, Yale Univ.
PO Box 208301
New Haven, CT 06520
59511, Ashdod, Israel