Wyoming one of four states
|Title:||Wyoming one of four states targeted for Libertarian plan|
Wyoming one of four states targeted for Libertarian planBy Associated Press 10/13/02
CHEYENNE, Wyo.(AP) A North Carolina man is targeting Wyoming, Delaware, New Hampshire and Alaska for an experiment to overhaul a state's government and wean it from federal control.
Jason Sorens, 25, a Yale University political science doctoral candidate, Libertarian and founder of the Free State Project, plans to enlist 20,000 "liberty-oriented individuals" to move to a state and reform its laws, from criminal codes to tax structure.
The government's only role should be to defend citizens from force and fraud, he believes.
Drug and gun laws would be repealed, and asset forfeiture and abuses of eminent domain would end, the project's Web site states. Utilities would be privatized, and inefficient regulations and monopolies would be eliminated.
The plan includes opting out of federal mandates and ultimately negotiating with the federal government for appropriate political autonomy. The threat of secession would be used, if needed, as leverage.
"We think government is too large, too distant, and we also think that we need to get back a bit more to our constitutional principles and start to take the Constitution seriously," Sorens said recently from his home in Asheville, N.C.
Sorens said his group, which has 1,220 members, faces a self-imposed deadline of September 2006 to recruit 20,000. He hopes to entice 5,000 members by September 2004, which is when a state will be chosen.
"I think we have a good shot at it," he said. "But if we were unable to reach 5,000 by then, we would really have to consider whether to pursue the project."
Population is the critical factor, the group says. With 20,000 activists, it could influence only states with fewer than 1.5 million residents or states where less than $10 million is spent on political campaigns in any election cycle, project research has shown.
Other criteria include coastal access for trade, lack of dependence on federal funds, a decent job market and a certain Libertarian streak.
"We're looking at states that are already pro-freedom and pro-small government," he said. "Of course we will be interested in making some changes; however, these aren't going to be drastic changes, and we're going to start very humbly.
"We're not going to come in like gangbusters, obviously."
Wyoming's economy and landlocked status would hurt the state's chances to become the testing ground, but Sorens said both might be overcome.
He said secession is not the goal but the bargaining chip.
"I doubt that any American state would actually go through with that, but the very idea of the possibility should make it easier for us to achieve concessions with the federal government," Sorens said.
U.S. Attorney for Wyoming Matthew Mead said the project's backers would have a difficult time circumventing federal law if that is the intention.
"Of course they're free to move to this state or any other state," he said. "And if they want to try to change state law, they're free to do that. ... But they will be subject to the same federal laws as everyone else."
Libertarian candidate for governor Dave Dawson supports the Free State Project. He has advocated less government at every turn on the campaign trail, pushing for repeal of federal income taxes and handing education, health care and other government programs to the private sector.
"It's a great idea," he said of the Free State Project. "The problem is getting Libertarians to do something all together is a lot like herding cats."
Dawson said he would love to see the plan succeed but doesn't think Wyoming is the place. The state is not as independently minded as everyone thinks, he said.
Still, he said, "I think it's realistic. It's certainly not easy."
These media articles are maintained on a non-commercial basis by The Free State Project, a non-profit organization, for historical, educational, scholarship, and research purposes. (For information regarding "Fair Use", see US Code Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 107).