'Free Stater' plan for NH debated at forum
|Title:||'Free Stater' plan for NH debated at forum|
'Free Stater' plan for NH debated at forumby Jenna Wolf Special to The Union Leader 02/28/04
WASHINGTON Speakers at yesterday's forum on the Free State Project and its goal to re-locate 20,000 libertarians to the Granite State see challenges and opportunities ahead.
In hopes of spreading its free society message and build support for the project, the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research sponsored yesterday's debate titled, "The Free State Project: Move and Live Free?" Experts on economics, policy and politics argued the advantages and difficulties ahead for the libertarian movement.
The Free State Project aims to relocate 20,000 libertarians to New Hampshire towns as advocates for limited government and greater personal liberty.
"We love NH and what it stands for," said James Sorens, a Yale University political science professor who is serving as project director of the Free State Project. "We want to be a part of that, and we're hoping our message will come through crystal clear."
The group formed in September of 2001 and now, Sorens claims, has more than 5,000 members who have signed non-binding contracts to pack their bags for a new life in the Granite State.
The group is predominantly single, well-off, and educated males between 18-35 years of age.
"These people are most likely to move, settle, make roots and be involved in the community," Sorens said. But 40 percent who have signed contracts are married, though their children "will not be using public schools," he said.
They have already set up a home schooling association and others will attend private institutions, Sorens explained.
Michael Barone, a senior writer with U.S. News and World Report and principal co-author of The Almanac of American Politics, said the group appeared to be "a form of communalism that reminds me of Brigham Young and the Mormons."
He said New Hampshire is already the most libertarian of the northern states because it has a "real force on national politics" and has "people who indeed vote with their feet."
New Hampshire is home to 257 members of the Free State Project, according to Sorens, though only 20 who have signed the contract have moved in from out of state.
That is the first real test for the organization, Sorens said, getting 20,000 libertarians to move north.
"We're not asking people to move until we get all the signatures," he said.
Wyoming was the runner-up choice for the movement, with Vermont, Delaware, North and South Dakota, Montana, Idaho and Alaska also possible choices. About 1,000 members opted out of moving to New Hampshire when it was selected, which Sorens claims is "typical."
Richard Vedder, an economic historian at Ohio University, said the success of the movement depends on migration to the state, which in the end will determine the movement's ability to sway politics in New Hampshire.
But, Vedder said, 20,000 libertarians would only be able to change New Hampshire's political orientation to a small degree. What the group is doing, he said, is "a more explicit way of doing what Americans are already doing.
"Americans already tend to move away from big government," Vedder said, and to states that offer lower taxes, such as New Hampshire.
Every day for the past 3 years, 1,500 people have moved from high tax states to ones that offer some relief, according to Vedder.
Alan Bock, an editorial writer at the Orange County Register, said the Free State Project follows in the tradition of the migration projects in the United States of the mid-70s.
But those cases were different, he said, in that the Free State Project is not seeking a "utopian society."
A challenge the Free State Project will face in New Hampshire, Bock said, is "when outsiders come with explicit political agendas, are they going to alienate them rather than influence?"
Jenna Wolf is a Washington intern with the Boston University News Service
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