The Statement of Intent Isn't a Promise

Why doesn't every libertarian sign up for the Free State Project? For some, deep local connections to family or friends make it difficult or undesirable to move, and I don't wish to see them uprooted: society trumps politics every time. But for many, the issue is being unable to promise confidently to move to New Hampshire within six or seven years. This short essay is for these people.

The Free State Project's Statement of Intent isn't a promise. It begins, "I hereby state my solemn intent to move to the state of New Hampshire." What does "solemn intent" mean? Let's look at the word "intent" first.

In normal usage, "intend" and "intent" convey something weaker than a promise. "I intended to go, but something came up." Here, the speaker isn't admitting to breaking a promise; instead, he's simply noting that he meant to pursue a particular course of action, but unforeseen circumstances changed his mind. When you intend to do something, you admit it might not be possible, but you think it will be.

Even a defiant public statement of the following kind - "We intend to fight this case all the way to the Supreme Court" - while conveying firm determination, leaves an out: "We are planning to do X, but some future possibilities are outside our control. In the end, we may not do X, but we think and hope that we will."

What about "solemn"? That adjective suggests that the decision to sign the Statement of Intent isn't a light one. It requires some serious, sober thought. You shouldn't do it on a whim.

Even so, a statement of "solemn intent" isn't a promise or a commitment. It isn't a contract, even in the moral sense. It is a statement of what you intend to do, what you expect to do if all works out as planned.

I propose this guideline: If you think the chance is greater than 50% that you will be able to move to New Hampshire within seven years, and you agree with our philosophy, you should sign the Statement of Intent. The FSP isn't expecting 100% follow-through from all 20,000 signers, nor does it need 100% follow-through to work. Even 5,000 libertarian activists (understood in the broadest sense) would revolutionize the philosophical conversation in any state, and all the more so in swingy, independent, historically classically liberal New Hampshire. Finally, it's worth noting that moving doesn't necessarily require full-time residency. The Attorney General doesn't require it for voting or even running for political office. The more time you spend here helping us reach our neighbors, the better -- but not everyone can be here full-time, and that's understandable.

wyomingliberty
wyomingliberty's picture

By signing the Free State Project statement of intent, a person is agreeing to try very hard to move to New Hampshire within five years of the Free State Project reaching 20,000 participants. It is understandable that some people might not make it. People may go to jail, a nursing home, or sadly, even die. There is no physical enforcement of the promise to move. Nor should there be! It is an oath. A saying of one's word, one's honor.

Jim Slavin (not verified)

Thank you Jason, I appreciate the explanation, well said

Peter Kroll (not verified)

I live in Australia. I have watched America from here, and seen the slide into authoritarianism with the consequent erosion of civil liberties. This is being mirrored in Australia. I have seen America take undeclared war to the world with drone strikes. I have seen the hoovering of data by the NSA, and watched the debate which focuses only on the right to privacy of American citizens, treating the rest of the planet as fair game.

The truth is, I have despaired. Your site and your movement gives me cause for hope. Just a glimmer, but a glimmer is all I need.

Thank you.

tjsace1
tjsace1's picture

I greatly admire the non-binding part of the agreement, it should be that way. People have good intentions but uncontrollable situations do arise that deviate signer's plans.

Still, I worry that the "solemn" part isn't emphasized enough. I have a general fear that many of the 20,000 signers only sign in general "support" for the idea. I fully recognize we may not get all 20,000 to move after the trigger, nor do we need all of them, only part will be sufficient. Either way I myself fully plan to move to NH- but I haven't signed the pledge yet. Why you ask? It's because I take my "solemn oath" very seriously. I plan first to retain $10k in savings (which I am halfway there), then sign, then PROMPTLY move. I find it silly and counterproductive to agree to such a pledge without having the tangible resources to take action.

I like the "Friends of the FSP" portion for anyone who is still on the fence, but I would suggest greater emphasis on the "actually moving" part. I guess I really want this to work just as much as the next full- blood Libertarian.

DeFed Columbia (not verified)

If I could make the 2 1/2 hour commute back and forth to work in NYS, or stay in NYS during the work week and come home on the weekends, I would've started working on this already. I SOOO want to do this. I can't drop my job and hope something works out in NH. I'm paid well here. Suggestions?

Thomas (not verified)

DeFed Columbia, one of the candidates for the Republican nomination for governor of New Hampshire spent years working in Maryland and going back to New Hampshire on weekends where his family lived. You can certainly do it to NYC by bus, train, plane or car.

Jack W (not verified)

I liked the balance of the original statement/signing. In this instance the article seems to be pushing for people to fill in blanks even though they aren't planning on moving, and then the comments go the opposite direction and want people to only sign if they are moving right away. This discussion is over-thinking, and wasteful clutter. My approach is to only sign if you have solemn intent for the 5 year window as a minimum. As in, many people need to realize they can move to NH at any time. I'm moving in 1 year to make it in time for PorcFest 2015. People can move whenever the hell they want, how they want. In my case, the quote about "society trumps politics", that is exactly why I'm moving. I'm surrounded by socialists here and want to get far away from politics. The society I will be gaining in NH is phenomenal. It amazes me how many people think they are stuck and tied down to their current homes, and don't realize how free they are. (I say this from the perspective of a teenager who successfully moved out of his parents' home early, and now know I can do whatever the hell I want).

Jason Sorens (not verified)

Great point, Jack. The social benefits of moving to NH are significant. We might not see a lot of the legislative changes we want for a few more years yet, but you get the community right away.

Brenda S (not verified)

I signed, with the agreement of my husband, because we are planning to move to NH. We hope to be there very soon, but it depends completely on his job and if he can transfer there. (It's very likely.) We are visiting in August to "get the lay of the land". We are coming from CA and crave freedom!!! (We are very conservative libertarians.) This country was intended to be a "Free Country" and we hate what is happening to it. God created us with the freedom to choose Him or not. He doesn't want us forced to think or believe a certain way... He works on each of our hearts individually. (Sorry... squirrel...) Anyhow, we signed with full intent (and anxiousness) to move as soon as possible. We hope others will do the same so we can have a state of like-minded people.

Jason Sorens (not verified)

Welcome, Brenda! We have all sorts of libertarians in the FSP, from very conservative to moderate to very... not-conservative. :) But the one thing we all agree on is working to secure the blessings of individual liberty and limited government for ourselves and our children.

Kamuela (not verified)

If this triggers, I have to go. I see it as basic voluntary conscription. I've signed my name pledging to partake in a political process to reclaim individual rights. In the meantime, I have moved further and further away from political methods of reclaiming liberty, but I will honor this commitment.

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