New Hampshire, at Least the Best
|Title:||New Hampshire, at Least the Best|
New Hampshire, at Least the Best
by Jonathan Finer Washington Post Staff Writer 10/02/03
MANCHESTER, N.H., Oct. 1 -- With no income tax or property tax, no motorcycle helmet laws or seat belt requirements, and a constitutionally enshrined right to revolution for its citizens, New Hampshire has long been held up as a model by those who think that governments are best that govern least.
That notion received a strong endorsement today when the state was declared the winner of a ballot held by the Free State Project, an Internet-based club advocating limited government. Thousands of members have pledged to relocate to whichever state won an election conducted last month and use their clout to work for less government, more individual freedom, and a national model for libertarianism.
Among 10 finalists, New Hampshire edged Wyoming to win.
"We are happy with the results and happy for our members," said Elizabeth McKinstry, vice president of the organization. "Now we have a lot of work ahead of us."
That work includes persuading 15,000 more like-minded people to sign on. The approximately 5,000 members already registered have agreed to move to the state only when total membership reaches 20,000. If enough new members are not recruited by 2006, the commitments made -- which are not binding -- are nullified.
McKinstry, 33, who works as a graphic designer in Ann Arbor, Mich., said about 75 percent of members are younger than 50, and almost half are paid $60,000 or more a year. "It's a young, prosperous group, and now that it's decided, it should be easier to convince people to come along."
But not all the members are waiting around for that to happen. Jackie Casey, 33, began planning a move to New Hampshire from Portland, Ore., last month, arriving today at a Merrimack house filled with shipping boxes. She said if New Hampshire lost, she would move to whatever state was selected, after a few years. "I'm glad I don't have to pack again for at least a little while."
The idea for a mass emigration emerged from an article posted in 2001 on the online journal Libertarian Enterprise, by Jason Sorens, a political science graduate student at Yale. After an enthusiastic response from Internet readers, the Free State Project was formed that summer.
To be considered, states needed a population of fewer than 1.5 million residents, a promising job market, a "liberty friendly culture," and a low reliance on federal aid. Montana, Wyoming, Delaware, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota and Alaska made the cut.
Most states were largely indifferent toward the project, but New Hampshire Libertarian Party members actively recruited the Free State group, organizing a visit for 200 members in July. Their pitch stressed that politics in the state are accessible, because of its population of about 1.2 million, a 400-plus-seat legislature, and campaigns for state offices that can be run for less than $1,000. The trip included a meeting with Gov. Craig Benson (R), who told the group to "come on up."
John Babiarz, head of the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire, said he expected the Free State Project's members to push for decreased taxation and curbing of laws related to prostitution and drug use. "We're very much looking forward to their infusing the state with activism," he said.
But not everyone in the state is excited about the prospect of the group arriving en masse in the coming years.
During her shift at the tourist Welcome Center in Manchester, New Hampshire's largest city, Barbara Constable was not feeling particularly welcoming. She called the prospect of the arrival of 20,000 libertarians "frightening. This is a small, small state," she said. "I am not sure we're ready for that."
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