Free State Project comes to Wyoming
|Title:||Free State Project comes to Wyoming|
|Author:||Matthew Van Dusen|
Free State Project comes to WyomingBy Matthew Van Dusen Star-Tribune staff writer 05/18/03
One might compare the dining room of the Szechwan Chinese Restaurant in Casper where Libertarians met to discuss the Free State Project Saturday, to the reading room of the British Museum where Karl Marx wrote Das Kapital.
In both places, political thinkers were trying to find a different way to govern people. Still, it's best not to mention Marx around adherents of the Free State Project.
The project, devised by Yale doctoral student Jason Sorens, aims to have 20,000 liberty-minded people move into a sparsely populated state and renounce big government through incremental political action. The group rejects violence as a means of change.
Debra Ricketts, a project board member, met with a group of about 15 Libertarians, including former gubernatorial candidate Dave Dawson, to talk about the project Saturday in the dim light of the restaurant.
Project leaders have identified Wyoming as a potential candidate because of its low population and libertarian sympathies. The project is not formally affiliated with the Libertarians, but the groups share similar interests.
Ricketts said that among those who have signed on with the project, "Wyoming certainly seems to be one of the front runners. It gets a lot of talk." New Hampshire is also high on the list.
Dawson said he had seen ideas like this before, but "this is the first one I've seen that is well organized and actually has legs."
The plan, however, has lots of foggy bits.
How, for example, will an economy the size of Wyoming's absorb 20,000 people, most of whom are not oil and gas workers, over five years?
Ricketts, a technology worker in Las Vegas, said some members are already looking at the job markets, and many of them are entrepreneurs. Those already in the state could ease the transition for others who would follow.
Once people get here, the blueprint for change remains unclear. Ricketts was not troubled by that, saying the project's goal is to get 20,000 people into a state and the rest comes later.
Movement leader Sorens had put some thought into the matter.
Based on a rough analogy to the sovereigntist movement in Quebec, Sorens calculated that 20,000 people, half of the paid membership of the United States Libertarian Party, could exert up to 62 times that much voting influence. Sixty-two times 20,000 equals 1.24 million, more than double the population of Wyoming. The 20,000 activists could mobilize much of a state's population and win government majorities, Sorens believes.
The group would then roll back gun and drug laws, privatize utilities and limit the government to securing the freedoms laid out in the Bill of Rights.
Project supporters reject the idea the end of big government would lead to a cruel society without programs to support the poor or elderly.
"I would rather fall through the cracks than be pounded through collander," said Wyoming Libertarian Party chairman Dennis Brossman.
Carol Ann Remington of Missouri was so eager to get the project started she has even dropped off a few job applications while in Casper.
"This is not a whim and a fancy," she said.
But mobilizing 5,000 members by September 2004, and 20,000 by September 2006, as is Sorens' plan, will not be easy.
The frequently-asked-questions section on the Free State Project Web site, reads, "I am interested in joining the FSP, but I wouldn't be willing to move to a place like Wyoming or Alaska. What do I do?"
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