Freebooters swoop on 'live free or die' New Hampshire
|Title:||Freebooters swoop on 'live free or die' New Hampshire|
Freebooters swoop on 'live free or die' New HampshirePolitical experiment aims to sway state's politics through mass migration
by Andrew Buncombe in Portsmouth, New Hampshire 11/23/03
The state of New Hampshire prides itself on its "small government", for its sense of freedom and laissez-faire attitude. The motto of the only American state without a compulsory seat-belt law is "Live Free or Die".
But things may become even more loose in New Hampshire if campaigners get their way: they are seeking to turn it into a haven for American libertarians by organising a mass influx of like-minded people to shift the balance of local politics.
"Many of the decisions taken in the United States are made at a state level," said James Maynard, a web designer and a spokesman for the Free State Project. "If we get enough people here we can achieve a difference." The project, largely organised on the internet, is calling for members to move to New Hampshire, where their combined voices would have a decisive impact on local politics. Organisers believe that if 20,000 people moved here it would be sufficient to hold the balance of power.
The project was started by Jason Sorens, a political science lecturer at Yale. He has stressed the need to try and win over the people of New Hampshire rather than blatantly advertising the desire of some project members to decriminalise drugs and brothels. "When we arrive in our state we will have to do our best to blend in, lay down roots in the community and slowly build our individual reputations," he wrote. "If we come in trumpeting an abolish-everything platform we will make enemies of the people who might otherwise be sympathetic to us."
New Hampshire was named the "chosen state" only a month ago, but already some have migrated there. "Having so many people move into a state means we can really raise issues," Justin Somma, a freelance writer, told The New York Times, after relocating to the town of Keane from New York. "Once we start to elect people to the statehouse, I think the low-hanging fruit will be educational reform and medical marijuana."
Largely rural New Hampshire was selected in a nationwide poll, beating other contenders such as Alaska, Maine, Montana and Wyoming. The physical size of the state was important - New Hampshire is small, which will help the project members organise - and it already has a tradition of small government. It has lax or liberal gun laws, depending on your point of view, and no state income tax or sales tax.
So far the project is still in its infancy, with just over 5,000 members across the US. Three project members who stood in local elections earlier this month but did poorly have already been welcomed by some in New Hampshire, among them Governor Craig Benson.
"We'd love to have you," he told them at a recent meeting. "You're active, you want to make the state or the towns and cities you hope to live in a better place, and that is the core value of New Hampshire. I think New Hampshire should be open to everybody. If we start to say to people 'What are your values?' and before you come to New Hampshire we want you to pass a quiz, then by definition we close the diversity of New Hampshire down."
Michelle Dumas, a married mother from Somesworth, 10 miles from Portsmouth, is excited by the prospects for the state. "We have always been advocates of small government," she said. "This could be an example to others that small government works, that liberty really does work."
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