Creating a free state
|Title:||Creating a free state|
|Publication:||Orange County Register|
Creating a free stateYearning for life in a low-tax, limited-government place?
By John Seiler Editorial writer The Register 06/08/03
Suppose a group of about 20,000 people dedicated to freedom moved to a state and sharply reduced its government. That's the idea behind the Free State Project.
"The premise is to identify the best states in the country that support limited government and liberty," the project's president and founder, Jason Sorens, told me. He's a graduate student at Yale who will be teaching political science there next fall. The political philosophers who have most influenced him include Murray Rothbard, Friedrich Hayek and John Locke.
The project's Web site, www.freestateproject.org, explains the movement and has a great deal of demographic and economic data on the 10 American states that are being considered as candidates for the project.
The states are (in rank by lowest number of voters): Wyoming, Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont, South Dakota, Delaware, Montana, Idaho, New Hampshire and Maine.
Other rankings are provided for lowest level of federal interference, job growth, state taxes, income level, crime rates, gun freedom, size of state and local government and other variables.
So far, the project has signed up more than 3,800 people who have pledged to move to the state voted on by the project. They will vote by vote in September or October on the state to be chosen.
The idea is not, Sorens said, for some kind of revolutionary takeover. Rather, people will move to the state and gradually work to reduce its government. "Those of us who do move will blend in to support those with freedom ideas" who already are in the state. The hope is to "eventually elect a majority in the state legislature that's favorable to our views."
Nor will the project members move to one neighborhood or city. They will move to wherever they wish in the state, following individual preferences, such as for urban or rural areas.
The Free State Project will help project members until they reach 20,000 in the goal state, after which they will be on their own. Already, he said, those signed up for the project are networking on jobs. "We expect more of that will happen, especially after a state is chosen," he said.
The project is deliberately nonpartisan. "The Free State movement isn't political," he insisted. It will set up a nonpartisan voters' league to advise on which issues and candidates to support. "Some people will be writing, others running for office. There will be a variety of approaches."
The movement has attracted libertarians. But Sorens said, "We don't use the libertarian label. A lot of people who agree with us don't use that label. We are looking beyond the label. We're trying to be loose and bare-bones about it. We're trying not to impose something on" project members.
The project's political goals include privatization of most government services, including schools, cutting government spending and taxing 75 percent, repealing gun laws, and deregulating utilities and other industries.
The goal of the government should be only to protect "life, liberty and property," Sorens said, citing John Locke's formula and do no more.
He admits that the immense and increasing federal coercion over people could not be halted by a state government. Still, he said, "States have a lot of tools they can use" to stymie the federal leviathan. He said Alaska and Hawaii voted to not participate in the USA Patriot Act, legislation that greatly increased federal extra-constitutional snooping powers.
"And there is a lot of soft coercion, such as through federal highway funds," he said. "If states could replace those funds they could get around" the coercion.
West Coast project members met May 24-25 in Missoula, Mont. to advance the movement. A preliminary vote favored Montana as the state to move to. But the high number of attendees from that state skewed the voting.
Vin Suprynowicz, a libertarian activist and assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, spoke at the conference. "What do people do if they're discouraged by the intrusiveness of government?" he asked when I talked to him. Movements like the Free State Project, he said, are a "nonviolent" way to try to reduce government.
Of project members he met, he said, "They're nice, cheerful folks whom you'd want to have as your neighbors."
Can the Free State Project succeed? I think it can, at least until it runs up against the federal government's immense wall of intolerance. Just 10 years ago about 500,000 Californians a year were fleeing our state, seeking economic and political havens in states more amenable to liberty.
Why not the opposite process? Why not select a state as a place where those loving liberty can go and, through a loose organization, change it for the better?
If that happened, at a minimum the economy would boom from lower taxes and regulations. It then might serve as a model, as have Hong Kong and Switzerland, of how liberty improves everybody's lives, while California's attempt to become only more socialist comes crashing down in fiscal disaster.
It's worth trying.
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