Free State Project may target Delaware
|Title:||Free State Project may target Delaware|
Free State Project may target DelawareBy Sean O'Sullivan Staff Reporter 02/03/03
A bloodless coup to take control of the Delaware state government is being planned.
If successful, by 2010 an army of 20,000 will move in, ascend to power and eliminate virtually all taxes - along with nearly all government programs and regulations. No public schools, no health, welfare or social services, no liquor laws, no gun control or land use laws. Smoking would be allowed nearly everywhere, as would almost all forms of gambling and prostitution.
The free market would run riot.
Those are the goals of the Free State Project, an Internet-driven group that wants to organize 20,000 like-minded activists to move to a small state and create a libertarian utopia.
Delaware is considered to be one of the most promising states.
Political experts say the chance of success is remote. But Jason Sorens, a 26-year-old Yale political science graduate student, said he has 2,400 people signed up so far and committed to achieve "Liberty in our Lifetime."
Photo courtesy of the Free State Project
|Free State Project founder Jason Sorens attends a December meeting in College Park, Md. Sorens and his group list Delaware as among the most promising states.|
The movement is not officially affiliated with the Libertarian Party, but it has the support of national and Delaware Libertarian leaders.
The group does not want to secede from the union, Sorens said. Members want to work within the political system to nearly eliminate government and show the nation and the world "the benefits of liberty." Only the police and courts would be retained to protect residents from "force and fraud."
According to the plan, detailed at www.freestate project.org, once the membership reaches 5,000, a state will be chosen. When 20,000 are enrolled - enough to organize, influence and control a small state - they will begin to move.
"We expect to have an impact [on the target state] by 2010," said Sorens, adding that changes should be "evolutionary, not revolutionary."
The target "free state" has to have fewer than 1.5 million residents, a decent job market, a culture that is "pro-liberty," a slight reliance on federal aid and, if possible, coastal access for free trade. Sorens' analyses put Delaware near the top of the list. Other states that rank well include Wyoming, New Hampshire, Vermont, Alaska and Idaho.
The Delaware Libertarian Party has invited Sorens to speak at the party's state convention in March.
The Libertarian Party has about 760 registered voters in Delaware. If the project moves to Delaware, it could mean a 2,600 percent increase for the party. However, it would still trail the 225,000 registered Democrats, the 176,000 registered Republicans and the 118,000 registered independents.
In the 2000 election, Democrat Ruth Ann Minner won the governor's race with more than 191,000 votes, defeating Republican John Burris by more than 63,000.
Joseph Pika, a University of Delaware political science professor, said the idea is novel, but doomed.
"I think they are misreading Delaware politics," he said. Delaware voters are moderate as a group and shun extremists, he said.
One member of the Delaware Libertarian Party conceded the plan is a long shot.
"I don't know if it will happen," said Jim Holliday, the chairman of the New Castle County Libertarian Party. "I personally am not putting much effort into it."
This kind of takeover has been tried once before in Delaware.
In 1895 and 1896, a group of "single taxers" moved to Delaware from Pennsylvania with the idea of persuading the state to adopt a plan where only land, not buildings on it, would be taxed. What was done on the land was not anyone's concern, according to the group.
The effort failed, but the invaders remained, founding the village of Arden, where that principle lives on.
Reach Sean O'Sullivan at 302-324-2777 or at email@example.com.
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