Leaving O.C. for 'liberty'
|Title:||Leaving O.C. for 'liberty'|
|Author:||Jane Glenn Haas|
|Publication:||Orange County Register|
Leaving O.C. for 'liberty'Group touts New Hampshire as land of more freedom, self-sufficiency.
by Jane Glenn Haas The Orange County Register 11/28/03
LEAVING CALIFORNIA: Philip Heath is part
of the Free State Project, which aims to move Libertarians to New Hampshire
Philip Heath has never seen what's called "tween time" in New Hampshire - the dreary period that precedes real winter. In fact, the student at Cal State Fullerton doesn't remember anything of the state that he visited at age 2.
Yet Heath, 20, a native Californian, vows to move here when he graduates in 2005. He plans to "make a difference" in this state capital and in the New Hampshire Legislature, where 400 House members, the third largest parliamentary body in the English-speaking world, still struggle to find consensus on issues long settled in other states, like mandating car seat belts for adults.
Heath is a member of the Free State Project, a national Internet-based effort ( www.freestateproject.org ) to encourage 20,000 Libertarians and like-minded individuals to move to New Hampshire to find "liberty in our lifetime."
So far, 5,055 people are committed to the political experiment. Their ultimate dream is to transform New Hampshire by repealing state taxes, rolling back gun control and drug prohibition, and privatizing utilities.
"We're going to get away from California's socialistic government," says Heath, who is among 500 California residents - many from Orange County - pledging to move.
They will find a lifestyle that combines rugged individualism with self-sufficiency and a sense of community, says John Babiarz, chairman of New Hampshire's Libertarian Party.
"The Free State Project will attract people of all political backgrounds who believe we can do better for ourselves and our families and community than government can," he says over lunch in the shadow of New Hampshire's state capital building.
He dismisses recent New Hampshire contests in which Libertarian candidates won 25 percent of the vote but failed to win any city races.
Babiarz, 47, a computer consultant, works from his home in the small town of Grafton but travels regularly to Concord to serve on Gov. Craig Benson's efficiency committee. He moved to Grafton from Connecticut 11 years ago to avoid state income tax.
This, after all, is the "live free or die" state. No helmet laws. No sales tax. No garbage pickups in many communities. Instead, there are volunteer fire departments, tollways instead of freeways and residents in many towns separate their garbage, cans and bottles and pay a fee to cart their trash to transfer stations.
Babiarz effectively sold New Hampshire as the destination state to Free State Project members by emphasizing "freedom from oppressive taxes." New Hampshire, with a population of 1.2 million, won a run-off vote among Free Staters who also considered moving to Idaho, Montana, South Dakota or Wyoming.
Until the Free State Project multitude officially arrives in the state, in about 2010, Babiarz acts as head of a clearinghouse to answer questions, help pioneers find jobs, find places to move their businesses, make contacts, find real estate.
Preferred cities and towns are Manchester, Claremont, Grafton, Keene and some areas in the sparsely-populated White Mountains.
The Free State Project has sparked editorials - all negative - in New Hampshire newspapers. Locals aren't impressed with the plan.
The Libertarian Party
Fuller just turned down a job cleaning stables. Free Staters, he says, won't make his job search any easier.
Babiarz disagrees. He envisions self-employed Free State migrants like himself. Those moving to Claremont, he says, will be attracted by empty factory space and will bring business and jobs.
At any rate, "20,000 voters can make a difference in this state," Babiarz says, pointing out there is one legislative representative for each 3,100 New Hampshire residents.
Heath agrees with Babiarz:
"Even if we don't accomplish all our goals, we'll still have more freedom in New Hampshire than we do here in California."
Heath says the California government tramples his liberties, forces him to pay for roads he doesn't drive, support social programs he doesn't accept, pay taxes he doesn't believe in.
"You should be able to get a gun and carry it if you want to protect yourself," says Heath, who will earn his degree in accounting next year and plans to open a business in New Hampshire. "I'll figure out what business that will be when I get there," he says.
He refuses to be deterred by talk of snow and ice, insisting: "I'm prepared to make sacrifices to live the kind of life I want to live."
Among his causes: shifting the burden of road maintenance to local government entities and letting New Hampshire drivers pay for roads through tolls.
Like half the Free State members, Heath falls into the 20- to 30-year-old range. So does Lauren Rahn of Orange, a student at Rutgers University in New Jersey, who vows she's moving to New Hampshire after graduation.
"I'm kind of fed up with a system of government that should be more representative democracy," she said. "Instead it's a bunch of people who have the money and just do what they want."
Rahn, 21, views the Free State "as a kind of utopia." New Hampshire also fits her career goal of historical preservationist.
"There are a lot of old cemeteries, things like that there," she says.
Vintage jukeboxes decorate each booth in Lindy's Diner in Keene, a local watering hole that advertises itself a place where presidential hopefuls meet and greet.
James Maynard, 35, hangs out here. The Web page designer is an early Free Stater and committed Libertarian. New Hampshire representatives, he said, are more inclined to work for the good of their constituents. The state Legislature meets from January to May, and representatives earn $100 for their efforts.
"No one is in it for the money," Maynard said.
Maynard supports more choices in education, including a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for parents who home-school. He also wants competition for health-insurance policies for state workers and teachers.
"We need a more fiscally responsible, socially tolerant government," he said. "Let's face it, government just doesn't work."
Jack Williams, 47, of Santa Ana absolutely agrees.
Laid off from his mechanic's job after 26 years, he worries that he won't find similar work if he moves. But at least he knows he can pursue his hobby - gun collecting.
"State government severely limits my enjoyment of my hobby here," he said.
Giving Williams the freedom to collect guns at leisure is one aspect of the Free State Project, started by Jason Sorens, 27, a lecturer in political science at Yale University.
"This comes up every 10 years or so - the idea to change things by moving," said Tibor Machan, who teaches business ethics at Chapman University and also writes for the Register's commentary pages as a promoter of libertarianism.
Sorens' concept to influence a state is unique, Machan notes.
"And I'm not a prophet, but this could be a success if enough people decide to pick up and go. It is possible they could promote their ideas and get them accepted."
Despite his commitment to libertarian principles, don't look for Machan in New Hampshire. California, he says, is not that totalitarian.
Drake Thompson thinks it's much too crowded, though. Born and raised in Buena Park, Thompson, 40, and his family moved to Bedford, an upscale community just outside Manchester, about three years ago.
His goal: a better quality of life.
He found a new, 2,800-square-foot house on an acre lot in the high $200,000s. "No way we could have afforded this home in Orange County," says Thompson, a surgical supply representative who specializes in spinal consulting.
"The kids have a better life here and we have a small-town, community lifestyle. We run into people we know all the time at the stores, around town."
Wages are on a par with California in his field, Thompson says. Although he misses year-round golf, he is learning to ski.
Thompson has no political agenda but adds value to the New Hampshire economy and so will Free State Project advocates, proponents say. "In the long term, we will enhance the New Hampshire economy," said Kelton Baker, 30, writer and interim president of the project. "In our latest poll, about 40 percent of those signed up said they will be moving in the next two years."
David Hanson of San Juan Capistrano will be among the first to leave California. The retired pharmacist does part-time work in New Hampshire and figures he'll easily find jobs in a new location.
More important, of all the Orange County Free Staters, Hanson knows what he's getting into. He was raised in New York and enjoys hunting, fishing and camping.
"California has been good to me, but the place is getting a little crowded," he says. Hanson's only regret is the Free State Project chose New Hampshire instead of Maine. Either way, "I expect I'll head south for the winter months," he said.
GETTING THE WORD OUT: Philip Heath, a member of Free State Project, works his
stand at Cal State Fullerton to promote the plan to move Libertarians to New
Hampshire. He'Gs definitely leaving California, he says, because it is "too
THE PLAN: The Free State Project, a national Internet-based effort, encourages
20,000 Libertarians and like-minded individuals to move to New Hampshire to
find 'liberty in our lifetime.'
CONTACT US: (714) 796-7987 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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