|Title:||Thinking small, Free State Project hopes for big things|
Thinking small, Free State Project hopes for big things
by Kenric Ward Press Journal opinion page editor 09/22/03
On Thursday, a group called the Free State Project begins its countdown to freedom. That's when balloting closes for selection of a "free state."
Over the past year, the libertarian-minded organization has been gathering members, mainly in cyberspace, with a goal of designating a single state as a new home. Not since the Mormons' transcontinental migration of the late 1840s has there been such a large, organized effort to move an entire group of Americans to one location.
But Utah is not one of the 10 states in the running for a libertarian-style invasion. And, relax, neither is Florida. That's because size matters most, and the smaller the better. Free Staters have winnowed the field by targeting states with a maximum population of 1.3 million so their group can leverage an immediate electoral impact.
Some small states, such as Rhode Island and Hawaii, were axed early for their leftist leanings or federal control. Yet Free State leadership eschews any partisan litmus test other than its motto, "Liberty in our lifetime."
"The Free State Project is a coalition among libertarians, classical liberals and constitutionalists," explains Jason Sorens, the group's founder and president. He believes that anyone living outside strict Republican or Democratic Party orthodoxy can fit into this new "third way."
Sorens, a Texas native and doctoral student at Yale University, says the focus is on "states where the FSP would have a chance of winning majorities in the state legislature and the governorship."
To calibrate those chances, Free State volunteers fanned out across the country to analyze the top 10 prospects. Here's their alphabetical ballot of finalists, with a few of the strong points (you can fill in the downsides, starting with the weather):
- Alaska Lowest tax burden, loosest gun-control laws, more oil and
gas than any other state except Texas.
- Delaware Smallest area, key port access, proximity to larger
- Idaho Fewest trial lawyers per capita, ranks first in the nation on
Clemson University's "Economic Freedom" index, based on low welfare and public
- Maine Most politically independent state (Ross Perot came in second
here in 1992).
- Montana Bordered by four other Free State candidates, several
libertarian Republicans in Legislature.
- New Hampshire No income or sales taxes, lowest dependence on
federal dollars, highest number of elected Libertarians.
- North Dakota Liberal initiative, referendum and recall laws,
Legislature controlled by conservatives who are cutting state government.
- South Dakota Both Democratic senators vulnerable, among lowest tax
and crime rates.
- Vermont Proximity to jobs, well-educated citizenry, environmentally
- Wyoming Fewest number of voters, elects the most
conservative/libertarian candidates (including libertarian Democrats).
"I'm hearing a lot about Montana, Wyoming and New Hampshire," he says of his colleagues in Florida. The Sunshine State, by the way, has the second most Free State members, behind California.
Condon, a self-professed "native cracker" who describes himself as "right" on fiscal issues and "left" on social matters, sees a geographic and attitudinal split among Free Staters.
"The Western mindset is to just be left alone. Sort of an open-sky mentality. The Eastern attitude is more cerebral and academically oriented."
That melange shatters the stereotype of a gun-toting, black-helicopter crowd. While drawing heavily (though unofficially) from Libertarian Party ranks, many Free Staters, like Condon, hue closer to the Green Party on several issues.
Irene Davis, a former Titusville city councilwoman, is a prototypical Free State "porcupine" with her prickly political proclivities. She got into hot water when she opened a council meeting with a Wiccan invocation and resigned in a dispute over tax issues.
Her pick for a free state? Delaware, for its favorable business climate, as well as its comparatively benign weather.
The Free State Project expects to announce the results of its election Oct. 1. But the official call to move won't come until five years after the group reaches 20,000 members. With nearly 6,000 currently on the rolls, and limited media exposure thus far, Condon expects that the migration could begin around 2010.
Will it be history in the making, or just another utopian dream gone bust? You can find out more by logging onto (www.freestateproject.org).
Kenric Ward can be reached at (email@example.com).
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).