Common Objections to the FSP
People have expressed a lot of opinions about the FSP, including a lot of objections, most of which came up early in the FSP’s existence, when the FSP was still young and the idea radical. These objections are much less important now that the FSP has matured and demonstrated real success, but people new to the FSP still often express them. They cannot be expected to go read the many reports and thousands of which-state discussion forum posts that were made in the FSP’s first two years, before the state vote was held. For their convenience we provide the summary below. The objections tend to fall into four categories: wrong strategy, wrong state, misconceptions about the nature of the FSP, and personal obstacles to joining.
Some people have suggested that the FSP strategy would be ineffective, immoral, or have adverse consequences. These concerns are demonstrably unfounded.
1. “Migration is an unrealistic distraction from serious activism.”
There are many pro-liberty strategies besides migration, but they are not mutually exclusive. In fact, there is synergy if we combine them. Think tanks, education, legislative reform, various types of activism—all will be more effective if concentrated within New Hampshire. The FSP is no longer merely an interesting theory or an online community. Real people are really moving and making real progress for liberty. Over 9000 people are participants and roughly 500 have moved as of June 2009. FSP movers have formed pro-liberty newspapers and internet, television, and radio shows, receiving positive coverage in existing media. Four FSP movers were elected to the NH state legislature in 2008. FSP movers helped defeat anti- liberty legislation like Real-ID, mandatory seat belt laws for adults, and numerous tax increases, and helped pass pro-liberty like spending caps, eminent domain safeguards, and gun rights protections. If you’d like to see how real it is for yourself, plan a visit at FreeStateProject.org/visitnh.”
2. “But we’re making progress where I live.”
Occasional advances in liberty are being made in many places, but overall we are losing ground. The sad fact is that the political environment and critical mass of activists needed to realize political change simply does not exist in any other state. The NH culture already leans in a pro-liberty direction, the institutions and activist networks are in place, and the state is small enough that fewer people are needed to make a difference. In NH, you will still have to work hard, but you can actually win.
3. “The FSP wants to "take over" NH.”
Even when the FSP’s ambitious target of 20,000 participants have all moved to NH, they will form only 5% of the NH voting population. They can make as much noise as they want, but, at the end of the day, it is the NH voters who will make the decisions. FSP participants will have to rely on persuasion. Those who have moved to NH with the FSP have been active, influential, upstanding, and integrated members of their community. There is no political party or platform attempting to be forced upon the state. The goal is to peacefully and democratically make NH better and freer, and those who have moved have reflected this goal.
4. “By concentrating in one state, we’d become an easy target.”
Anyone who is active in public life, especially politics, makes themselves a target for smears, attacks, and opposition, especially as they are successful and a threat to entrenched interests. Love of liberty must trump fear if progress is to be made. Fortunately, by being part of a large community that can support, protect, and back each other up, both individuals and the group as a whole have greater safety and protection.
5. “The FSP will never reach its goal of 20,000 participants.”
Some pro-liberty people care more about liberty than others. As the FSP belatedly discovered, many pro-liberty people care so much that they are willing to move to New Hampshire long before 20,000 people sign up. Hundreds have already moved, and are finding success and camaraderie—pretty unfamiliar to most pro-liberty people. The FSP has recruited over 9000 participants and has averaged about 20 sign-ups per week. While we regularly wish that our numbers grew faster and that we were more effective with our shoestring budget and all-volunteer organization, there is no doubt that the 20,000 participant goal will be reached. Hundreds of thousands of pro-liberty activists have yet to even hear about the FSP, decades of failure of national election campaigns and policy think tanks to achieve smaller government is becoming apparent, and NH successes are getting increased attention. The FSP is an idea whose time has come.”
6. “FSP participants don’t care what happens to the rest of the country or the world.”
We all want liberty everywhere, but pro-liberty people have limited resources and need to prioritize their actions. It is better to focus on a modest but attainable goal and create a success that will provide an example. America’s status as the freest nation in the world is diminishing. It is time to reassert federalism. By making NH a sanctuary and model society based on respect for individual rights, personal responsibility, and limited government, not only will there be a home for those that want to live in such a society, but the rest of the country and the world can learn from its example.
7. “The FSP is stealing the best activists from other states.”
With roughly 0.5% of the US population, New Hampshire is so small that it is not necessary to drain all the pro-liberty activists from the rest of the US to make an appreciable difference. But focusing on one state (or at least a smaller number of states) is an acknowledgement of reality. Pro-liberty people are currently too small a minority to effect change across the US. In fact, concentrating our forces actually increases the absolute number of activists, as previously dormant and disaffected pro-liberty people become enthusiastic and reengaged when they find they are not alone and can actually succeed.
8. “Why bother? The system is corrupt and/or doomed. There’s no guarantee this project will be a success.”
It’s easy to be pessimistic. The government continues to grow, the country complains but continues to vote for big-government candidates, and the consequences of government intervention and poor decisions by individuals are being witnessed in all facets of society. Futility and sadness however are no way to live one’s life. The FSP is a bastion of hope, optimism and success. We are securing and promoting liberty in NH. We are having fun and building a strong community while changing the world. We are achieving liberty in our lifetime. You can be a part of this. Join us in NH. You won’t regret it.
9. “A FSP participant behaved obnoxiously, so the whole FSP sucks.”
This is called the “fallacy of composition”—drawing false conclusions about a group based on one of its members. There might be some common types, but it would be hard to generalize about the FSP community overall: try to gather a few data points before you form your opinion. If you are pro-liberty, try to keep in mind our shared values and goals before you “take your ball and go home.”
When people dispute the choice of New Hampshire as the Free State, they either believe the FSP should have picked some other state X, because state X has some recent sign of success or is freer in some important way (e.g. lower property tax or fewer restrictions on guns, medical marijuana, or home-schooling), or they believe that the FSP should not have picked New Hampshire because of some disqualifying criterion (e.g. New Hampshire is too cold or too close to leftist Massachusetts). The which-state question was discussed intensively over two years by hundreds of FSP community members. Everyone has his pet criterion which he considered “obvious”, but over the course of the discussions people came to understand that the answer was not obvious: only with a spreadsheet with dozens of criteria could anyone properly evaluate the candidate states. Finally, after the FSP hit 5000 participants, the state vote was held: New Hampshire won handily, followed by Wyoming, with the rest much further behind. Some of the more common complaints about New Hampshire are described below.
1. “NH natives don’t like out-of-staters and/or the FSP.”
No one likes outsiders coming in and changing things. As such, there was some initial skepticism and hostility from some NH natives about the FSP. However, once people understood that participants were moving to preserve and promote more freedom, that they understood the NH motto of “Live Free or Die”, and that they were active, productive, and friendly members of communities, that hostility and skepticism turned into friendship and optimism that “reinforcements have arrived.”
2. “NH is too cold.”
NH experiences all four seasons but does have longer, colder, snowier winters than most other regions of the country. In the summer, it can regularly reach over 90°F and in the winter it can regularly be below 20°F. Fortunately, in NH, heating is inexpensive and abundant, roads are cleared quickly and effectively, winter recreation activities abound, and most parking lots and office buildings are designed to limit the need to be in the cold. Indeed, many Free Staters who have moved from warmer states report their habits have stayed the same. Instead of regularly running between air-conditioned homes, cars, and workplaces, they run between heated homes, cars, and workplaces. NH winters may take some getting used to, but it is a small price to pay for increased liberty and a small sacrifice in comparison to what others have given to secure the blessings of liberty for themselves and future generations.
3. “If NH is so pro-liberty, why did Ron Paul lose there while Obama and NH Democrats won?”
NH is neither perfect nor immune from the broader trends of the country. If it were, there would be no need for the FSP. But let us be clear about some things. First, Ron Paul had his highest early primary vote in NH, and he is a supporter of the FSP. Second, every state went for big-government McBama and no third party candidate seriously campaigned in NH. NH voters faced the same wasted-vote dilemma as everyone else: if one’s favorite candidate has no chance of winning, better to vote for one’s preferred candidate among those who do have a chance. Third, NH is a state where even Democrats favor balanced budgets, low taxes, and limited government. National elections are important, but imagine what would be possible if, instead of hoping for a miracle, pro-liberty money and energy were focused on winnable NH state and congressional elections.
4. “NH consists of rich WASPs and crazy mountain men, and FSP participants are either gun-toting loonies, paranoid conspiracy theorists, angry white men, or all of the above.”
Opponents have subjected NH and the FSP to some unflattering stereotypes. NH is indeed one of the least diverse states in the county, but people of most backgrounds, incomes, and persuasions live there. FSP participants are a diverse group of all ages, races, genders, religions, sexual orientations, pro-liberty philosophies, etc. Some choose to open or conceal-carry firearms while other don’t even own a gun; some live in the sticks while others live in downtown condos; some distrust the “official story” while others don’t care; some simply want smaller government while others emotionally despise it. The main exclusion that the FSP does make is that “anyone who promotes violence, racial hatred, or bigotry is not welcome.” NH residents and FSP participants are generally fun, happy, open-minded, sensible individuals. You’ll like us.
5. “NH is being taken over by a big-government liberal migration from Massachusetts.”
A University of NH study found that nearly 80,000 people have moved from Boston to NH between 2001 and 2005, matching the national average for state population gain. These movers are attracted by NH’s lower taxes, lower cost of living, safer communities, less expensive, more scenic homes, and that there are “too many liberals in Massachusetts.” It is a concern that these new residents bring with them big government philosophies, but the Wall Street Journal reports these new residents tend to be more fiscally conservative, wanting to maintain the aforementioned qualities of NH that led them to move. As such, the influx into the state is not a negative, but a positive for the FSP. But remember that the FSP strategy is based on gathering liberty activists, one of whom is worth a hundred passive voters. Nonetheless, if NH’s status as the freest state in the county is to be maintained and strengthened, more pro-liberty activists like yourself are needed.
Misconceptions about the nature of the FSP
Before saying what the FSP is not, we should say what it is: Free State Project, Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging the movement of pro-liberty activists to NH, people who can pledge to move to New Hampshire and “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.” There is no other litmus test (though people who promote violence, racism, or bigotry are not welcome). The FSP community contains Participants (who pledge to move if certain conditions come true) and Friends (who cannot pledge to move, but still agree with the Project’s mission).
1. “The FSP is a secessionist movement.”
The FSP is not a secessionist movement. If you do support non-violent secession you are still welcome to become a participant and work towards that with other like minded activists, but realize that this is not a goal or priority of the FSP. See the above objection about the FSP “taking over” NH.
2. “The FSP is a political organization with a campaign and a platform.”
The FSP has no political platform, nor even an agenda for what participants must do. Instead, each participant chooses the issue(s) to focus on, the tactics to use, and the people to work with. This freedom has resulted in a dynamic and successful community of activists.
3. “The FSP is only intended for Libertarians.”
The FSP is for all pro-liberty activists, whether you call yourself agorist, anarcho-capitalist, classical liberal, constitutionalist, liberal, libertarian, voluntaryist, or any of a slew of other labels. What we care about is that you 1) agree that the maximum role of government is the protection of life, liberty, and property 2) will move to NH and 3) will be active there towards the achievement of such a government. If you care about liberty, the FSP is for you.
4. “Participants must move to New Hampshire once they sign up for the FSP.”
When you sign up as a participant of the FSP, you choose when you would like to move to NH. The standard commitment is to move is within 5 years of the project reaching 20,000 participants. When you sign up however, you can specify the year, the number of participants required, or an event that would trigger your move. For details, see www.freestateproject.org/join.
5. “FSP Participants all live in and/or are expected to move to the same area of NH.”
When you move to NH, you choose wherever you would like to live in the state. FSP participants are located throughout NH, but certain areas have attracted more than others for geographic, political, and personal reasons. Nashua, Manchester, and Concord are city centers and has attracted those interested in electoral politics; Keene is a rural city and home to many civil disobedience activists; the Lakes Region and Seacoast are comprised of many small towns with beautiful surroundings and have attracted many families; and the north of the state offers large, mountainside plots of land for those looking to be away from civilization. NH is a diverse state that offers many great locations to settle down, and you are free to choose wherever is right for you; the trouble is picking just one.”
Personal Obstacles to joining the FSP
Lots of people can’t move for various reasons, like job, family obligations, or health. If you like the idea of the FSP but feel you can’t move now, no problem—there are lots of ways to contribute to the FSP and/or get active in New Hampshire without moving there physically, especially now in the Internet age. You can always volunteer or donate money to the FSP, the growing number of NH-based liberty organizations, and other liberty organizations with NH activities. However, do consider the answers below to common personal obstacles, and be sure to browse our New Hampshire Info Center.
1. “I have friends and family where I currently live.”
The potential distance of NH from friends, and especially family, can be a serious drawback. Fortunately, modern communication technologies allow people to inexpensively talk via text, voice, and/or video with people anywhere in the world and transportation to and from NH by bus, plane, or car is easy and inexpensive. By moving, you will also be making many new friends in the FSP community and the general NH population. If you can’t bring your friends and family with you to NH, there are plenty of ways to maintain your relationships from NH.
2. “I’d like to move, but my significant other is reluctant.”
The most effective way to increase another person’s willingness to move is for them to actually visit NH and experience the FSP community. You are welcome to visit whenever works for you, but to help you make the most of your time let us know you are coming via www.FreeStateProject.org/visitnh. Of course, the best times are during the annual summer Porcupine Freedom Festival and the winter New Hampshire Liberty Forum.
3. “I have a good job where I currently live.”
It’s definitely tough to leave a good job, especially in these economic times. However, there are also many good jobs in NH, where the economy is diverse, high-tech jobs are prominent, unemployment is low, entrepreneurs/small businesses are encouraged, and you keep more of your paycheck after taxes. Alternatively, many companies are amenable to telecommuting or have offices in NH or its surrounding states. If the FSP is attractive to you, there are ways to continue your career while still achieving liberty in your lifetime in NH.
4. “I have a mortgage where I currently live.”
If your house is keeping you from moving, all we can suggest is starting the process of selling or renting it and looking for housing in NH. The sooner you start, the sooner you can move. The FSP web site offers some information to help get you started, e.g. FSP-friendly realtors. Your house is certainly an obstacle, but it is not insurmountable.
5. “I have kids in school.”
It is certainly an ordeal to uproot kids and move them to a new school. If you are happy with your child’s school and the environment they are growing up, consider moving when they have graduated. If you are not satisfied, you should know that NH is the 7th best state in the country to raise kids, and offers a wide selection of quality schooling options, from home-school networks to Montessori schools to good public schools. You might just find both a better school and more freedom in NH.