Libertarian group aiming for U.S. state takeover
|Title:||Libertarian group aiming for U.S. state takeover|
Libertarian group aiming for U.S. state takeoverBy Kristin Roberts 06/04/03
MIAMI (Reuters) Libertarians who hope to take control of a U.S. state's government and then do away with most of it are looking at 10 states as possible targets and aim to make their selection by October.
Leaders of the almost 2-year-old Free State Project say membership is nearing a magic 5,000 mark, the number that the group has set as the trigger point for an internal vote on which U.S. state they should call home.
Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming are all in the running.
Under a plan by a Yale University political scientist, seen as a long shot by experts, the group will move to the chosen state, recruit at least 15,000 more people who share the libertarian vision of less government in citizens' lives and get elected to state offices including the legislature and ultimately the governorship.
Once in power, they intend to dramatically slice the state's government and its budget, perhaps by 75 percent. On its Web site (http://freestateproject.org), the group says it does not promote secession from the United States.
With government scaled back dramatically, state officials will have the sole job of protecting "life, liberty and property," according to Jason Sorens, the group's Yale-educated founder and president, who expects a vote this fall.
"The original idea was simply to concentrate the number of activists in a single state," Sorens said. He had observed the ineffectiveness of previous libertarian actions, highlighted by the failure of Libertarian Party presidential contenders to win more than 1 percent of the vote.
By moving to one state, the group expects better odds, but history and political science experts disagree.
"It's not very likely at all" that the group will succeed, said David Gillespie, political science professor at Presbyterian College in South Carolina.
The movement will suffer, experts said, from obstacles facing all minor parties in the two-party dominated American political system as well as the fringe nature of libertarians.
"The Libertarian image within the country is a radical image," Gillespie said, noting libertarians and the Free State Project fall into a category of movements based on doctrine rather than pragmatism needed to form coalitions and win elections.
"They find their reality not in election victory but in being right."
Libertarians have not been alone in America's history in their quest for less government. Classical liberals of Thomas Jefferson's bent say the nation's founders had no intention of creating a country whose government was so deeply involved in citizens' lives.
Other groups have looked to break from the federal government altogether. South Carolina seceded from the union of states in 1860 to advance the conflict that resulted in the Civil War. In 1990, Alaskans elected an Alaskan Independence Party candidate for governor.
The Free State Project, however, derives its hope from Canada where Quebec's separatist Parti Quebecois in 1976 won a provincial election with 41 percent of the popular vote despite having just 100,000 members in a population of 6.2 million.
Based roughly on those figures, the Free State Project expects that by moving to a state with fewer than 1.5 million people and developing a base of 20,000 members, the group can win election to state offices and begin chopping the budget.
Membership in the Free State Project, which involves a pledge to pack up and move, topped 3,700 by the end of May.
The states under consideration meet requirements of a small population and relatively low average spending by the Democratic and Republican parties during recent election cycles.
Rhode Island and Hawaii were eliminated because of their "hopelessly statist political cultures," the group's research committee decided.
Three of the ten Alaska, North Dakota and Maine have all had third-party governors. In U.S. history, only eight third-party candidates have won state gubernatorial elections, according to the National Governors Association.
But the last third party to have enduring success was the Republican Party, solidified by President Abraham Lincoln's 1860 win six years after the party's first official meeting.
Free State Project leaders say they recognize the problems facing minor parties. Sorens, in fact, hopes the group will act more as a voting league to support any candidate who endorses libertarian ideas.
Still, even supporters of minor party movements say the Free State Project is a long shot.
"It's fun to theorize but then it gets to selling your house," said Richard Winger, a libertarian and editor of Ballot Access News, a publication on ballot laws and regulations.
"I can't see mass migration," he said.
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).