Live free (or try)
|Title:||Live free (or try)|
|Publication:||Yale Alumni Magazine|
Live free (or try)by James McElroy May/June '04
Yale political science lecturer Jason Sorens '03PhD has a plan to take over New Hampshire. But first, he has to find 20,000 libertarians. And they have to be willing to relocate.
So far, more than 5,000 people have signed up for his Free State Project, an Internet-based effort (www.freestateproject.org) whose members pledge to move to the "Live Free or Die" state once membership reaches 20,000. In cities, towns, and rural areas, the immigrants will "exert the fullest practical effort toward the creation of a society in which the maximum role of civil government is the protection of life, liberty, and property."
Besides influencing elections and the decisions of government officials, the Free Staters also hope that, as private citizens, they can better provide services often managed by the government, including education, healthcare, economic regulation, and banking. Furthermore, they want to offer positive examples of how private citizens can make a difference in the world without appealing to the government for help. On the project's web site, one young man describes how he plans to build a house in New Hampshire that would only use renewable energy, and then help those who are interested build their own.
The Free State Project's audacious quest has been written up in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and Playboy, among others. "We're by far the biggest libertarian story of the past year," says Sorens, wryly.
But despite his self-deprecating sense of humor and his smooth, apple-cheeked face (which makes him look younger than the undergrads he teaches), do not underestimate his seriousness. Sorens began developing his philosophy of politics while still a high school student in Houston. Three years ago, as a 24-year-old working on his Yale political science dissertation on "autonomy movements" around the world, he got the idea for his very own autonomy movement, dedicated to scaling back government interference and encouraging citizens to take responsibility for welfare of the poor, education, and public health and safety.
"This is about the only political philosophy that can appeal to all political interests," says Sorens. "We've got voluntary socialists and social conservatives. Whatever your views, you can live happily under such a system."
But will a group with such divergent cultural and economic ideals actually manage to work together in New Hampshire? Sorens thinks so, for the simple reason that the members' often contradictory social belief systems are generally subservient to their common desire for unfettered personal freedom. They don't want anyone to force them to live any one way, so they should be able to resist the temptation to force others to live their one way.
Sorens says the project is necessarily linked to his work as an academic, but he keeps it out of the classroom; he never brings up his political opinions with his students. And while the project was a natural extension of his dissertation, he insists it is definitely not a mere experiment. "The ultimate goal is to have a better society," he says. Nothing more, nothing less.JAMES MCELROY '95
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