Political PioneersEditorial 06/24/03
In terms of interesting social experiments, the prospective Libertarian invasion of New Hampshire probably wouldn't compare with the Shaker communities that once thrived in the state or even some of the back-to-the-earth communes that flourished ever so briefly. The Libertarians are already among us, after all, and their anti-tax, anti-government world view isn't all that noticeable in low-tax, small-government New Hampshire.
Still, the prospect of 20,000 or so people migrating to New Hampshire to establish a Libertarian utopia is intriguing. At this point, though, it's only a prospect, because the Libertarian pioneers have not yet decided which state will be chosen for what they call the Free State Project. New Hampshire is but one of 10, although it is said to be on the short list, along with Wyoming. But even if New Hampshire makes the final cut, there's no guarantee that the Libertarian horde will be on its way. Organizers of the Free State Project say that resettlement will not begin until they have 20,000 people signed up, and they'll give themselves no more than three years to achieve critical mass.
If they do, they hope to enlist people to run for office on the Libertarian platform of minimal government, minimal taxes and minimal social controls. Their hope is to push the state as far back as possible to what they consider the founding principles of the country, when individual liberty reigned supreme.
"We don't know what the hell we're doing because we've never done it before," said Elizabeth McKinstry, vice president of the project, which has not been endorsed by the Libertarian Party. "We're just trying to get a bunch of people who think the same way in the same place and see what happens."
For that, they could spare themselves the trouble and spend some time in Democratic-dominated Hanover, one of the Republican redoubts in rural Grafton County or even the New Hampshire House.
What they're really interested in, of course, is discovering what would happen if they ever dominated a place. That raises the question of whether New Hampshire has anything to worry about in providing a political playground for people who take their politics very seriously.
Our guess is no. Libertarians may be politically extreme, but it's a consistent sort of extremism. Their opposition to taxes and gun laws is likely to annoy many Democrats, but their hostility to social controls such as abortion and drug laws would probably irk many Republicans. It should balance out. In any case, the New Hampshire Legislature, which seriously debates bizarre proposals on a regular basis, has probably cured many New Hampshirites of any fear toward those on the political fringe.
And if the Libertarians did achieve some influence, exactly how would it manifest itself in a low-tax, minimal-government state that regularly elects people who maintain that the state's spending and government are out of control? Liberate the liquor stores from state control? Help the state kick its habit of filling its treasury by emptying the pockets of visitors?
Speaking of which, would it be possible to target some sort of tax or fee at people who move into the state with a political agenda? That would give the migrants a taste of a different form of taxophobia the New Hampshire variety.
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