Political movement eyes NH
|Title:||Political movement eyes NH as possible 'invasion' point|
|Publication:||The Union Leader|
Political movement eyes NH as possible 'invasion' pointBy Roger Talbot 10/13/02
On the checklist of freedom, New Hampshire shines consistently, say activists intent on migrating en masse to a state where their influence could bring a day of reckoning.
The plan is to have 20,000 like-minded people many view themselves as libertarians in principle settle in a state and use ballot power to win elective office, change local and state laws, challenge the pervasiveness of big-government and "negotiate" with the federal government for "appropriate political autonomy."
In the year since the Free State Project surfaced on the Internet, (www.freestateproject.org) its membership has grown by about 10 percent each month. As of Oct. 2, some 1,228 adults had signed up, promising to move with their families, their businesses, their expertise and their dreams, to the chosen state.
When the membership reaches 5,000, they will vote to pick a state and New Hampshire is high on the short list.
The project's Research Committee narrowed the field at a meeting on Aug. 31. Thirty-eight states were eliminated because their populations are so large that 20,000 activists moving to any one would be only minimally influential. Two small states, Hawaii and Rhode Island, were cut because they have exhibited "big-government tendencies."
That leaves 10 states, all with populations under 1.5 million. Six of the candidates are in the West: Alaska, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. The four other possibilities are Delaware and a New England trio: Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire.
The states differ in their tax structure, economic climate, geography, politics, livability, crime rates, gun, drug and school laws all relatively objective factors to be compared, weighed and debated on the Internet in the months ahead.
Among the 10, New Hampshire tops the field with regard to "quality of life." The project's benchmark is the annual "Most Livable State" award handed out by the Morgan Quitno publishing and research firm. This year, New Hampshire was third in livability, trailing only Minnesota and Iowa, neither of which are in contention as an FSP destination.
Posted on the project's Web site is a detailed comparative analysis of the states in which project founder Jason Sorens consistently ranked New Hampshire among the top three or four candidates, depending on which factors are considered more important.
Sorens was in England last week and could not be reached for comment. He is a graduate student at Yale University where his dissertation is titled, "The Political Economy of Secessionism: Regional Response to Globalization."
A great state motto
On the subjective side, there is New Hampshire's intriguingly symbolic "Live Free or Die" motto.
"In New Hampshire, people think, 'Live Free or Die,'" said Elizabeth McKinstry of Hillsdale, Mich., the project's vice president.
McKinstry referred to the motto in a telephone interview where she compared some of the states on the short list.
She personally dismissed Vermont, where she went to college.
"Vermont is not a rallying point for the political ideas we espouse," she said.
Geographically, she said, Delaware loses points because it is too close to Washington, D.C.
"Delaware has no perceived political identity, whereas, in New Hampshire, people think, 'Live Free or Die,'" McKinstry said.
The project's Web site carries detailed reports on each of the 10 states, touching on everything from politics to culture to the average daily temperature. New Hampshire's report was researched and written by Michelle Dumas of Somersworth, a district vice chairman of the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire.
"Combining its high ranking in most of the objective data categories, its geographic advantages of offering both a seacoast and an international border, its possibilities for expansion into two neighboring states also under consideration by FSP, its native culture historically known for orientation toward liberty and its viability as a state where the immediate quality of life is likely to be most comfortable for free staters, we believe that New Hampshire should be considered one of the top contenders in the final decision."
In an interview, when asked about why New Hampshire rises to the top of the list, Dumas also cited the symbolism of the state's motto.
"I think 'Live Free or Die,' is really still a part of the values of the people of New Hampshire. We're known for our independence. And I think there is still a great deal of the population that would be welcoming what the Free State Project wants to bring here," she said.
Dumas signed on to FSP after hearing McKinstry speak two weeks ago at the Libertarian Party's convention in Nashua.
"We thought a lot about it. We don't want to move," Dumas said of herself, her husband and their 12-year-old daughter. "I want them to come to New Hampshire, but, if 20,000 like-minded people are migrating to another part of the country, then we would follow them, because I believe only good things can come of this. . . .
"It's not necessarily where you are, it's the people you associate with that's important," she said.
A peaceful revolution
Noted libertarian commentator and writer Walter E. Williams an economics professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. wrote about the FSP in August in a weekly column he distributes to about 160 newspapers. He also discussed the project on a national television talk show. In both cases, the only state he mentioned by name was New Hampshire.
"Are there any signs that those Americans who want to unconstitutionally control the lives of others are going to let up soon? I say no, but there's a peaceful resolution proposed by Free State Project. . . . Twenty or 30,000 Americans who love liberty would move to one state, possibly New Hampshire, peaceably take over the legislature, negotiate with Congress to obey their oath of office to uphold the Constitution, and if necessary secede from the Union."
In a telephone interview last week, Williams said he got some flak for suggesting secession.
"They are really talking about negotiation with Congress to have it abide by the Constitution," he said of the project's leaders. "I'm more pessimistic. I see no evidence of Americans in general wishing to let others live free. I don't see signs on the horizon that they are willing to let Walter Williams take care of his own retirement, as opposed to Congress deciding what percentage of my income I must put away for retirement."
Williams said New Hampshire stands out as an ideal FSP destination because of its low taxes, large legislature and geography. Running for the N.H. House doesn't cost a fortune, he said, and the state is not as thickly settled as, for example, Delaware. The Seacoast Region gives New Hampshire access to the world, something land-locked western states do not have. He also noted that New Hampshire is less dependent on the federal government than are states with vast federal lands.
In addition, Williams cited the "spirit of the people of New Hampshire." He said they radiate "a little more independent," and are viewed as "highly skilled."
"People who want to work, combined with liberty, that's what makes a state rich," Williams said.
What's enticing about FSP to Richard Tomasso of Nashua is that it is something practical and doable.
"A lot of the pro-freedom movement tends to be very scattered. This is a chance to focus energy on a smaller area, to get some success and needed reforms rather than trying a scatter-shot approach," he said.
Tomasso serves as secretary of the state's Libertarian Party. He is 30, single, self-employed and has signed on to participate in FSP.
"The goal is to create a freer state, where individual rights are respected, where there are low taxes and a growing economy. Essentially, and I guess I'm partial, the goal of the project is making more of the country like New Hampshire," Tomasso said.
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