NH high on list for FSP
|Title:||New Hampshire high on list for Free State project|
New Hampshire high on list for Free State project
by Syvia Smith 07/23/03
LANCASTERFreedoms like being able to purchase beer at grocery stores and shoot off firecrackers have put the Granite State high on the list of potential targets for the Free State Project, which wants to enlist 20,000 like-minded people to move to a low-population state in order to advocate for smaller government.
Participants in the movement recently tested the waters here and found a lot to their liking.
Along with Montana and Wyoming, New Hampshire is one of the top contenders to be the chosen state. Heading its list of attractions is New Hampshire's long history of rejecting taxes and espousing individual rights, according to Free Staters.
"I'm impressed by the degree of freedom that New Hampshire people enjoy," said Keith Murphy of Baltimore about his recent week-long participation in a "Welcome to New Hampshire" fact-finding event last month.
Free Staters assembled at Lancaster's Rogers Campground, at a rented hospitality house in Jefferson, and toured the state from June 21-29. Approximately, 150 individuals, many of whom were small business owners, attended the event. They came from 22 states, from as far away as Oregon.
Reached by phone, Murphy, 28, a legislative assistant in the Maryland Legislature, said, "If I didn't have other obligations, I'd be in New Hampshire now." He said his goal during his week in New Hampshire had been to do one thing every day that he couldn't do in Maryland. "The first day, I rode on one of those push merry go rounds that have been banned in Maryland," he said.
"Another day I shot off fireworks, illegal in Maryland. And I enjoyed the convenience, unavailable to us in Maryland, of buying beer in a grocery store."
Murphy was particularly enthusiastic about seeing four zeros in place of the sales tax amount that would have shown up on a Maryland receipt.
The Free State Project was founded by North Carolina resident Jason Sorens, who recently earned a doctorate in political science. Sorens, 26, is a member of the Libertarian Party, but he described the Free State Project as an independent organization made up not only of Libertarians, who comprise approximately 40 percent of the membership, but Republicans, independents, Green Party members, and others with a libertarian bent. Its board of directors is made up of one Libertarian, Sorens, a Republican, and three Independents. Sorens describes as "broadly libertarian" the Free State philosophy that a government's main reason for being is to protect individual rights.
"Our intent is to lend our support to the existing small government movement in the state that is chosen," said Sorens during a recent phone interview. "It's appealing that there's a Libertarian network in place in New Hampshire. Also a plus is the state's cross-nomination system, allowing a candidate to run under two or more political labels."
Asked if an influx of 20,000 people would strain municipal services, Sorens said, "We emphasize being a net positive community. We have a high proportion of professionals and small business owners who would be bringing their capital and expertise to the state. We would give more into the system than we take out. Most of our members either home school or private school. We don't believe in taking welfare."
He continued, "Then again, we are not your typical suburbanites either. We would, for instance, oppose tax-supported garbage collection and support a plan to reduce the statewide property tax." Sorens said that those relocating would have five years to do so. Thus, the exodus would be staggered.
Most of the Free State visitors spent up to a week exploring New Hampshire. They also attended programs organized by the state Libertarian Party's Welcome to the Granite-State committee. Michael Badnarik of Austin, Texas, and Cleveland, Ohio, resident Gary Nolan, who are both seeking the Libertarian candidacy for president, spoke at one event.
Attendees met with local citizens and business people. Gov. Craig Benson greeted them during an informal chat during their tour of the State House. John Babiarz of Grafton, who chairs the N.H. Libertarian Party and ran for governor in the last election, said that one venture capitalist who is considering relocating his business here flew in from Nevada to be among those meeting the governor.
Michelle Dumas, 34, of Somersworth, one of the Welcome to the Granite State organizers, said several attendees told her they'd each talked to 30 New Hampshire citizens and gotten only positive responses to the prospect of 20,000 Free Staters relocating here.
To attract people to the New Hampshire fact-finding event, Dumas prepared a comprehensive report on the state, which can be viewed online at www.lpnh.org, under "Welcome to New Hampshire." Among the state's attractions, Dumas listed its ranking by "Liberty Magazine" as having the fourth-lowest taxes per capita in the nation and that it's alleged to have the highest concentration of high-tech workers in the U.S. She also noted the state's number 6 ranking from the Small Business Survival Committee, which evaluates how states and local governments interact with small businesses and entrepreneurs.
According to The Granite State organizers, attendees responded enthusiastically to the Granite State's scenic beauty and friendly citizens.
"The striking thing," said Atlanta resident Trevor Snyder during a phone interview, "is that every person we spoke to said, 'Come and do whatever you want. As long as you don't bother others, they won't bother you.'"
Synder, an information tech manager for a company that builds airports, noted that one of his friends had been leaning toward Wyoming, but by the end of the week, the Granite State had become his top choice.
Others also told organizers that they definitely were going to cast their votes for the Granite State. "It would be good for the project to come here," said Dumas. "New Hampshire, known for its spirit of independence, is a state that reflects their ideals. Of the other states that they have been looking at, Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Wyoming New Hampshire has the lowest dependence on federal dollars. Their coming here would help us to build on the strengths of this state."
Jackie Casey of Portland, Ore., already has made plans to relocate to New Hampshire. The 32-year-old army veteran has worked in software quality assurance most of her career. After encountering the Libertarian philosophy in college, she founded the Libertarian Students Club at the University of Arizona. Casey's father lives in Gilmanton Ironworks, but she says that isn't the only reason she is coming here. "For me, no state income and sales taxes is a major attraction."
State Republican Party chair Jayne Millerick of Chichester reacted positively to the possibility of 20,000 Free Staters moving here.
"The prospect of having a number of active dedicated voters, regardless of their party affiliation, move to New Hampshire is good for the state. Much of their ideology, such as individual liberty, personal responsibility, and free trade is similar to ours. We are good at presenting issues to New Hampshire voters, regardless of their party ties," she said. "We would enjoy the challenge of persuading newcomers to vote with us. The larger problem would be with the Democrats. You'd be hard pressed to find a Libertarian voting Democratic."
But Pamela Walsh of Concord, the press secretary for the state Democratic Party, wasn't as pessimistic about the impact on her party.
"We're not opposed to making government smaller, but sometimes things, such as defense, schools and environmental protection, can only be accomplished by the community together. We agree with the Libertarians on some issues, such as personal privacy and the right to free choice in reproductive matters," Walsh said. "I don't know how they would vote here. They agree with us on some issues and the Republicans on others. In many ways, they sound as split as the rest of the electorate."
The Free State Project concept was first proposed by Sorens in a 1971 article in the online journal "Libertarian Enterprise." Sorens recently earned his doctorate in political science from Yale. He will be a lecturer at Yale this fall.
He said his main motivation for the Free State Project was "to really make a difference somewhere and to show the rest of the country what could be done by reducing the role of government."
He said, "We believe in bringing policies closer to the local level. The further away government gets, the more likely it is to tread on individual freedom."
August 15 is the deadline to sign up for the Free State Project. The movement needs 5,000 pledged members to vote on the relocation state this fall. According to Sorens, over 4,400 individuals so far have committed themselves to the plan. Most of them have signed up online at www.freestateproject.org.
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