Free State Project sets sights on New Hampshire
|Title:||Free State Project sets sights on New Hampshire|
|Publication:||Coos County Democrat|
Free State Project sets sights on New Hampshire
by Jeremy Bowman 10/09/03
The Free State Project, a group which hopes to recruit 20,000 libertarian-minded citizens to move to one state "to work within the political system to reduce the size and scope of government," has selected New Hampshire as the site of its movement.
The Project started two years ago with this goal in mind and has since gained over 5,000 pledges. The members had narrowed the target state down to 10 finalists: New Hampshire, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Alaska, Maine, Vermont, Delaware, South Dakota and North Dakota. They announced New Hampshire as their destination on Wednesday, October 1 (after a vote had been taken in September). Wyoming finished second, 10 percentage points behind New Hampshire.
Project Vice President Elizabeth McKinstry, was quoted in Associated Press reports, as saying that New Hampshire won because it "boasts the lowest state and local tax burden in the continental U.S., the leanest state government in the country, a citizen legislature, a healthy job market, and perhaps most important local support for our movement."
The Governor's office, having already invited the movement before the decision was announced, issued another welcoming statement last week. "Since colonial times," said Governor Craig Benson, "people have come to New Hampshire seeking individual liberty and limited government. In my previous meeting with leaders of the Free State Project, they said they were small business owners and entrepreneurs who believe in low taxes and limited government. I am excited they are for the rule of law, against prejudice, and eager to be engaged in the political process. As with all new citizens, I expect they will be positive contributors to New Hampshire, and I welcome them."
Several local residents, who responded to short man-in-the-street interviews, had not heard of the Free State Project or said that they did not have enough information to pass fair judgment.
When informed of the group's intentions those interviewed had mixed reactions. Said one man, "They got a right to live here, so does everybody else." He then said, jokingly, that you have to make it through one summer and winter before you know what you're doing here.
Paul Robitaille, chairman of the Co?ounty Democratic Party was not concerned. "I don't think this is going to pan out to be much of anything," he said. Mr. Robitaille said that libertarians already in the state had not garnered much influence.
Bud Schiff, a retired military man and part-time resident of Colebrook said, "I think that sucks. That's a load of crap. I'm against anarchy and that looks like anarchy." He added that he was opposed to gerrymandering the system, and was surprised the Governor didn't see that.
When politics were brought up, many of those questioned diverted the conversation to more urgent issues such as the local economy or the war in Iraq, expressing apathy for the Free State Project. Others initially reacted negatively to the idea of an influx of people but then said that the local economy could use help and that new businesses were needed.
One part of the economy that stands to be greatly affected by the migration is the real estate market.
Real estate agent Aurore M. Hood of Lancaster, welcomes the Free Staters. "We have a very unique area up here, our arms are open. I welcome anyone that wants to join us and our state. If they want to come to Co?it's beautiful," she said.
Another real estate agent, Peter Powell of Lancaster, had strong reservations about the Project. "I want people to come here who are adopting the community for what it is, not to turn it into something else." He said that he wants to help people for the right reasons, not just to sell them real estate. What also concerned him was the image of New Hampshire as the "cranky Yankee" state, a state that can be easily influenced by outsiders. The decision, he said, provides a good opportunity for us to look at ourselves in the mirror and see that it is "alarming" that we appear so ripe to a group of people that want to manipulate the community.
He was also bothered by the Governor's response. "The idea that Benson embraces it is offensive to me," he said, and he added that he finds it alarming that the Governor and the state allow itself to be manipulated in such a way.
The porcupines, as Free Staters like to call themselves due to the animal's docile-unless-bothered behavior, that were contacted by the Democrat were very enthusiastic about moving to New Hampshire. Doug Hillman, a self-employed man from Graham, Ala., is planning to move somewhere near Littleton or Lancaster within the next year with his wife and four children. Mr. Graham has been to New Hampshire several times before and even spent his honeymoon here 10 years ago. He was impressed with the Governor's "Come on up, we'd love to have you" invitation last summer, and has already spoken with some local politicians. "Some state representatives are very excited," he said about the relocation, and state libertarians "are salivating at the idea of 20,000 pro-liberty activists coming to New Hampshire. A lot of the country thinks you're wacko if you're a libertarian," he added, but in New Hampshire it's different. Mr. Hillman cited campaign-finance reform as one of many infringements of the "nanny state" that the Free State Project wants to combat. He also pointed out the "Live Free or Die" motto on the license plates as a major selling point.
Devra Morgan and her husband, computer consultants from the Dallas area, are also considering Co?s a point of relocation. She said " the rural setting" appeals to her, and she liked the area when she came to Lancaster in February for an "Escape to New Hampshire" tour to familiarize the Free Staters with New Hampshire. Individual liberty and accountability were the biggest reasons she saw for the need for the Free State Project, and she believed congregating libertarians in a place where they might have an influence was an idea "whose time had come." As far as her political ambitions are concerned she likes that the FSP has the ability to make a change and said, "I would like to run for office a couple of years down the road," once she has had time adapt and situate herself as a New Hampshire citizen. She, her husband, mother-in-law and two children are "very excited" about the move and are planning to come in three-six months.
But expect the migration to be an ooze rather than a tidal wave as many Free State members do not plan to move until 2005. Although the Project does expect membership to speed up now that a specific state has been selected, with only a few more than 5,000 members committed there is a still a lot of work to be done to reach the goal of 20,000 Free Staters.
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