Looking to live free
|Title:||Looking to live free|
|Publication:||Lebanon Daily News|
Looking to live free
A state boasting the motto "Live Free or Die" seems a natural match for members of a political party that views much of government as an unnecessary and unconstitutional infringement of individual rights.
The Free State Project last week chose New Hampshire as the place to try its social experiment. They expect their 5,000 members to relocate to the Granite State in the near future and work to create a political incubator that forwards its views of limited government, few laws and individual freedom. Project organizers are trying to push toward a 20,000-person involvement in two years.
Reaction from major political party representatives in New Hampshire appears mixed. Republican Gov. Craig Benson reportedly said last year, while the project was still looking for its final roosting place, "Come on up, we'd love to have you."
Kathy Sullivan, chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, said after the announcement that members of the group "can best be described as anarchists."
The reality is that Libertarians, like all members of third-party political organizations in the U.S., have to fight for even tangential attention from the mainstream -- whether media or politicians. The Granite State has more than 1.2 million residents; 5,000, even 20,000 people, isn't a substantial enough bloc to radically alter the political landscape in that, or any other, state.
But we hearken again to the state's motto -- perhaps those looking for grassroots change are hoping to find numbers of kindred souls willing to push for something very different in the political sphere.
The project has enough wisdom to seek out a small state, where, though small, their numbers can at least appear on the radar screen. Other states the group considered were Wyoming, which finished second in the running, Montana, Alaska, Maine and both Dakotas. Pennsylvania's neighbor, Delaware, was also on the short list.
New Hampshire's a good match for the small-government set. According to "50 State Comparisons," a March 2003 publication of The Taxpayers Network, New Hampshire residents' state and local tax burden totaled 8.6 percent of their income in 2002. That's second-best in the country, behind only Tennessee's 8.4 percent. It ranked seventh in per capita income the same year, at $34,334. It also had the lowest share of people living below the poverty line, 6 percent in 2001.
But there's still some social engineering available to the libertarian set. New Hampshire checks in at number six in terms of state tax burden for retirees, at $5,279 annually -- all of it, however, in property taxes. Pennsylvania ... we're number one, not that we want to be, with a ghastly $7,391 per capita charge on retirees, counting both property and sales taxes. Also like Pennsylvania, New Hampshire keeps alcohol sales in government hands, for the most part.
Political change is slow in coming. It has to start somewhere. We don't know whether the Free State Project will ever generate more buzz than it did in picking its base of operations, but there should be some credit given to a group who is at least looking to see if we can't do the political thing perhaps a little better than it's being done now.
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