Best for Liberty? An Analysis of Three Leading States
by Robert Hawes
With the Free State Project (FSP) closing in on the
5,000-member mark, the time for the state vote is close at hand. After
rigorous research and debate, a few states have slowly migrated their way to
the top of our list of candidates, and it is time that we took a good, hard
look at these states to see which might make the best candidate for a future
free state: Idaho, New Hampshire, and Wyoming (in no particular
Many feel that all three of these states possess various virtues that rank them
as the most liberty-friendly states in the country, but the question remains:
which is best for liberty along the lines of what the FSP has in mind?
A few thoughts for your consideration
In terms of total population (from the
| New Hampshire
In his essay What Can 20,000
Liberty Activists Accomplish? Jason Sorens revealed that the FSP's target
participation level of 20,000 activists (as well as the slate of candidate
states) was chosen based on the example of Quebec's Parti Quebecois,
which achieved a parliamentary majority in 1976 as follows:
"At the time, the PQ had a paid membership of roughly 100,000,
while the population of Quebec at that time was 6.2 million. In other words,
having a paid member for every 62 citizens of the province gave the PQ a
parliamentary majority. Applying the same ratio to the FSP's membership goal,
we get 1.2 million population for a state in which 20,000 party members could
win majorities at the state level. The following states have less than 1.2
million population: Wyoming, Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont, South Dakota,
Delaware, Montana, Rhode Island (Hawaii, Idaho, New Hampshire, and Maine are
If you are trying to influence and reform government in a given region, it only
makes sense that your chances for doing so improve if the number of those who
support you is as large as possible in proportion to the total population of
that region. That is the logic of the FSP's plan: a higher number of
activists concentrated in a lower population region. Population was thus
the first criteria by which candidate states were selected.
That said, those that qualify based on their populations are not necessarily
equally workable. Those states that are further beneath that cut-off level are
logically better candidates (as long as there are not significant intervening
factors) due to the fact that they allow for progressively higher saturation
levels of activists with regard to the total and voting populations of a state.
Here is a ratio comparing the above three states (considering 1 FSP activist,
out of 20,000 total, for every state resident):
|| 1 to 24.5|
| New Hampshire
|| 1 to 61.8|
|| 1 to 64.7|
Rounding up, New Hampshire maxes out at the upper acceptable limit of the
activist-to-resident ratio (1 to 62), and Idaho clearly exceeds it. Wyoming,
on the other hand, is far below the threshold and thus represents more than
twice the saturation levels that the FSP could have in either New Hampshire or
But now let's say that the FSP does not attract 20,000 activists. Instead, it
only attracts 15,000. How do the numbers look then?
|| 1 to 33.0|
| New Hampshire
|| 1 to 82.4|
|| 1 to 86.3|
New Hampshire and Idaho are now far above the upper acceptable limit of the
activist-to-resident ratio, while Wyoming is still far beneath it. In fact,
Wyoming could drop to less than 8,000 activists and still equal the
activist-to-resident ratio in New Hampshire and Idaho. This means that at
full-strength, half-strength, or even less, Wyoming allows the FSP activists to
saturate the state's population more heavily than either Idaho or New
Hampshire, which grow dangerously out of reach as the number of activists is
reduced. This is a serious consideration for us. If we choose a state that
will take a full 20,000 hard-working participants, and we get any fewer than
that, or if they are not as activist as we need them to be, there is a great
likelihood that we could fail in our attempt to create a free state due to our
effective activists simply being vastly outnumbered.
Also, if we vote for a higher population state at 5,000, and then do not get
all 20,000, we could end up with a split in the FSP's ranks. According to the
FSP's FAQ, the assumption is that the FSP
will disband if it fails to reach 20,000 within five years of its start-up date
(September, 2001). If we have, say, only 12,000 in the FSP by 2006, and 3,000
have already moved, the remaining 9,000 will have to decide whether to join the
others in a place where we would likely not be able to create a free state,
give up and go their separate ways, or fall back to another state where 9,000
would have more of a realistic chance at attaining the goal. Choosing a smaller
state eliminates this issue as the need to fall back in the event that we fail
to reach 20,000 would be less likely to occur (particularly in Wyoming
there is no smaller state than this one).
- Voting-Age Population
Voting-age population numbers reflect the number of state residents that we
will be actively working with (or against) since they are the ones who are
eligible to vote and participate in the political process alongside us. The
more of them that there are, the more potential they have to either help us or
In terms of voting-age population (from the 2000 Census):
| New Hampshire
Idaho and New Hampshire are virtually the same here, at nearly one million
voting-age inhabitants each. However, notice again that Wyoming presents far
less of an obstacle.
20,000 FSPer's would represent:
|| 5.5% of voters|
|| 2.2% of voters|
| New Hampshire
|| 2.2% of voters|
Once again, we see that our saturation is much higher in Wyoming where we would
represent more than twice the total percentage of voting-age residents as in
either Idaho or New Hampshire. At 15,000 activists FSPer's would represent:
|| 4.1% of voters|
|| 1.6% of voters|
| New Hampshire
|| 1.6% of voters|
So if the FSP is only able to attract 15,000 or so activists to its chosen
state, we see that this would give us nearly three times the saturation among
voting-age residents in Wyoming as in either Idaho or New Hampshire. Which
figure are the politicians likely to take more seriously? Which figure is
likely to make more of a difference in a close election? The answer here may
very well be tied to our degree of influence and success in implementing our
- Urbanization Largest MSA's
These are the largest metropolitan areas (MSA's Metropolitan Statistical
Areas) that are fully within each candidate state (some may overlap with other
states, but these numbers do not incorporate the overlapping portion):
|| Boise City and Nampa|
| New Hampshire
Why list only the largest MSA's? Because it shows what is likely to be the
single most difficult area to access, influence, and reform. Conducting
campaigns in more heavily populated areas is generally much more difficult
because they tend to be havens of statist thought, government dependency, and
entrenched opposition. Welfare recipients and those who are more dependent
upon other forms of government assistance (such as public education and
housing) are more heavily concentrated in these areas. These folks are the
least likely to listen to our political reform message due to the fact that the
removal of such programs and services (as we would likely target) would impact
them first and foremost.
Densely populated areas are also home to big business interests, which are
often directly tied to political offices via campaign contributions and union
activism. Our intent to introduce greater competition in the market place, and
to remove preferences, would likely cut into the profit margins of such big
business entities, earning us their wrath as well as that of their political
partners. Political party machines are also generally more entrenched in such
areas due to the statist-driven infrastructure that they have put into place
and now maintain for a willing constituency.
The media is also a crucial element to larger population areas, and one that we
must not underestimate. Most of us realize that the media in this country is
overwhelmingly statist-oriented, particularly those media outlets owned and
operated by such industry giants as Gannett. Their message is very clearly a
Leftist one, and their power to do harm to budding movements such as ours is
enormous. They can focus both local and national attention on us, and while
this may not necessarily phase us, consider what impact it might have upon the
residents of our chosen state should they find themselves being ridiculed
before the nation because of something that we are driving. Embarrassment and
a desire to avoid controversy could create a backlash against us.
So, for those reasons, I decided to go with the sheer size of the largest MSA's
we'd be dealing with. As such, they represent places where campaigns might be
cheaper and less time-consuming, but they also represent ascending levels of
difficulty with regard to the other factors that I mentioned (which could
negate any advantages).
Which of these areas would presumably be easier for 15,000 or 20,000 activists
- Political History and Trends
This element reflects the degree to which a state has historically supported
lesser-statist or non-statist candidates (over a lengthy period of time). In
places where there is a more established history of support for
liberty-friendly candidates, we will find an electorate more willing to listen
to our message, and perhaps sooner than elsewhere.
Changing a state to be what we would like it to be, will be an uphill battle in
many ways, not the least of which is going to be persuading the electorate to
deviate from the current statist mentality that pervades this country. But the
further an electorate is from our ideological foundation, the longer it will
take us to educate them, hence the longer it will likely take for them to
support our reform efforts. We will have a large group of activists working
together, but we cannot do this by ourselves! We will have to convince a
relatively large portion of the present electorate to support us. How tough we
make that on ourselves, and thus how long it takes, is up to us.
With this idea, I present two measurements for your consideration:
The above two measurements show Wyoming and Idaho with a commanding lead over
New Hampshire. Note once again the size of voter turn-outs in these states and
judge yourself where the FSP's few thousand would have their largest impact on
the state vote.
- "High Votes for Conservative and Libertarian Presidential Candidates"
(from the FSP's State Data Page). This is
a ranking of how often our candidates states have supported more
|| No. 1 of 10|
|| No. 2 of 10|
| New Hampshire
|| No. 7 of 10|
- Analyzing the Freedom Orientation of Existing
State Populations by "Tennyson". In this analysis, Tennyson compares how
the states voted in the 2000 presidential election and ranks them by what
percentages they voted in favor of "Big Government" candidates and "Small
|| 71.5% for "Small Gov't" candidates
|| 60,908 to 152,851 votes with 59.7% voter
|| 70.1% for "Small Gov't" candidates
|| 144,869 to 349,601 votes with 53.7% voter
| New Hampshire
|| 51% for "Big Gov't" candidates
|| 288,504 to 279,211 votes with 62.3% voter
- Expense of Elections
When the FSPer's first start out, we're going to be low on both cash and
experience. We could always team up with the local GOP or libertarians, as has
been suggested, and this could have some advantages in saving us time, effort,
and expense. However, at the same time, any assistance they render us will
basically equate to a level of dependency that we will have on them. They
could assist us
at a price. A price that could slow our agenda or end
up compromising it completely depending upon the circumstances.
To succeed, we may have to join up with the local GOP (LP, Constitution Party,
or what-have-you) but we should also have an environment where we can run our
own candidates or at least support worthy candidates outside of main parties,
if necessary. Even if we do work within, say the GOP, there will still be:
primaries and run-offs; mailings; get-out-the-vote drives; television, radio
and newspaper ads to purchase (among a host of other things), and all of this
costs money. Our chances to successfully access the system in our candidate
states will thus be largely dependent upon how much it costs to get a chance at
The three states we are examining rank as follows (from "Low Campaign
Expenditures" ("Fin" variable) on the FSP's
State Data Page):
|| No. 3 out of 10|
|| No. 5 out of 10|
| New Hampshire
|| No. 10 out of 10|
- % Native Population = to FSP Acceptance?
The attitude of our new state's current inhabitants toward new-comers may
realistically impact our effectiveness there. Thus, the FSP may be more
acceptable to the residents of states in which a higher percentage of persons
are not native to that state. For instance, Maine seems to have quite a
reputation of being suspicious of those who are "from away." This is not
really surprising when you consider that, as of 1990, 70.6% of Maine's
population was native-born.
The three states we are examining rank as follows in terms of what percentage
of their population is actually native (from a
forum thread and thanks to Joe Swyers for compiling):
|| (43.4% in 1990)
|| No. 2 out of 10|
| New Hampshire
|| (45.8% in 1990)
|| No. 3 out of 10|
|| (52.1% in 1990)
|| No. 4 out of 10|
- Term limits
Term limits can assist by preventing opposition forces from using the power of
incumbency and name-recognition in order to permanently entrench themselves in
the legislature. In other words, term limits open up the field to greater
competition from those who might not otherwise be able to compete with
powerful, well-financed, political elite. This could be a powerful tool for us
to gain access to the system in whatever state we choose.
Of these three states, only Wyoming has term limits (which go into effect in
A voter initiative approved term limits in Idaho; however, the state
legislature repealed the measure. Idaho's governor vetoed the repeal, and the
legislature then voted to override his veto (50-20 in the House, 26-8 in the
Senate). A new effort is currently underway to secure term limits in Idaho.
New Hampshire does not, and has not had, term limits.
- Initiatives and Referendums
Initiatives allow state voters to bypass the legislature and governor and
propose a law or constitutional amendment to be placed on the ballot.
Referendums allow voters to vote on a law passed by the legislature in order to
keep it from taking effect. Both of these measures can be used to defeat
partisan political forces that might otherwise prove unassailable by means of
the normal legislative process, and could thus prove invaluable for our
Unions and Right-to-work Laws
- Idaho has both the initiative and referendum, and requires:
"All petitions for initiative and referendum must contain
signatures of registered voters equal to 6% (40,772 signatures) of the
qualified electors at the November 5, 2002 general election before being
considered for final filing." [Source]
- Wyoming has both the initiative and referendum, and requires:
"28,204 (signatures) 15% of the total votes cast in the
Idaho and Wyoming also require that those signing the initiative proposal
reside in a specified number of counties. Idaho's process is somewhat simpler
although it requires more signatures due to its larger population. (*Note
In Wyoming, the FSP's projected 20,000 would nearly muster enough
signatures just by themselves to put an initiative item on the ballot. In
Idaho, it would take a little over twice our own number).
- New Hampshire does not have either the initiative or referendum
In states without right-to-work laws, you could be required to join a union and
pay dues in order to hold a job. Unions are infamous for their political
activism, and you could very well find your dues going to support political
causes you do not agree with. States with powerful, forced-membership unions
would present a difficult obstacle for us, and in many cases, we would be
partially financing our own opposition.
Wyoming and Idaho both have right-to-work laws. New Hampshire is not a
right-to-work state; however, right-to-work legislation has been introduced
One particularly powerful union organization is the teacher's union. They have
considerable political clout because of their proximity to "the children," and
could give us a real battle when it comes to education reform issues.
Of the three states that we are considering here
- Wyoming does not allow for either teacher monopoly bargaining or
forced dues (the only one of our ten candidate states that meets this
description putting unions at their least powerful).
- Idaho allows for teacher monopoly bargaining, but not for forced
- New Hampshire allows both teacher monopoly bargaining and forced
Some Concluding Thoughts on These Three States
This report could be much longer and more involved; however, I believe that it
adequately addresses some of the most important issues in our consideration of
which state the FSP should select.
The main thrust of the FSP is an attempt on the part of, we hope, 20,000
activists to transform one state of the Union into a bastion of liberty.
Candidate states have been narrowed down based on two criteria to date: 1)
population and 2) liberty-orientation.
As explained previously, the FSP's 20,000 activists are targeted at states of
no more than 1.2 million inhabitants, based on the Quebec example. This is in
order to achieve the maximum possible saturation of FSP activists in relation
to the native population of that state. The higher the saturation of FSPer's,
the better our chances for success. Two states (Rhode Island and Hawaii) were
also eliminated; not due to their populations, but because they are infamous
statist strongholds. So population is not even the deciding element by itself.
Population and liberty-orientation must both prove to be reasonably favorable.
Of all of our candidate states, and particularly among what appear to be the
top three most-considered states, Wyoming stands out strongly due to the
fact that it is one of the most liberty-friendly states in the country, and
allows us the maximum possible saturation of FSP activists among the general
inhabitants due to its low population. Even among the lower population states,
Wyoming still maintains a commanding lead.
Here are some other things to consider about these states
- New Hampshire
New Hampshire boasts some impressive personal liberty provisions and incentives.
For instance, seatbelt and helmet usage are not required there, nor is auto
liability insurance. New Hampshire ranks 2nd in the FSP's "gun freedom"
measurement, and is 2nd in expected job outlook (behind Idaho). New Hampshire
has no personal income tax or state sales tax (ranking 2nd of all ten states
for overall low taxes), and has elected a number of libertarians to lower
offices. (The one libertarian serving in New Hampshire's legislature recently
switched to the GOP).
New Hampshire is undoubtedly the freest state in New England; however, it also
has some issues that detract from it as being the best state for liberty, as
per the FSP's designs.
New Hampshire does not tax goods and services or wages. However, it does have
four types of income taxes. New Hampshire taxes dividends, interest, general
business revenue, and has a unique tax called the "business enterprise tax."
New Hampshire's comparatively high property taxes are also tied to funding for
public education, a fact that will make them difficult to reduce as it will
bring us into direct conflict with the teacher's unions, which are at their
most powerful in this state since New Hampshire allows for both monopoly
bargaining and forced dues. This may make both education reform and property
tax reductions an almost insurmountable problem in New Hampshire. The short
distances between cities in New England, and the region's overall proximity to
major statist enclaves such as New York City, Boston, and Burlington also make
it likely that Leftist media elements could more easily draw national scrutiny
on us, and Leftist sympathizers could easily bus in supporters for rallies and
demonstrations. The NAACP is one example of a special interest group that has
mastered this tactic. The unions have as well, and such groups are capable of
exerting enormous pressure on local businesses and politicians. In New
Hampshire, their propaganda masters and other reinforcements would be within
easy hailing distance.
New Hampshire has nearly one million voting-age inhabitants and lacks term
limits and the initiative and referendum, meaning that state-wide level reforms
must be routed through the legislature; and ballot issues must be backed and
approved by a larger number of voters. This puts the FSP's potential 20,000 or
so activists at a decided disadvantage. Without the initiative and referendum,
we will be unable to work around the legislature, meaning that our attempts at
reform will lie at the mercy of the major political parties that control state
politics. And without term limits, those major political parties will be able
to continue fronting the same candidates year after year, making it difficult
for us to have a chance at introducing better candidates into the system and
have them actually prove viable. Incumbent politicians would be able to use
their name-recognition and experience to draw greater funding and essentially
eclipse competitors in a number of ways as a result. Thus, New Hampshire's
comparatively large population will weigh against us most heavily here.
New Hampshire has a 400-member legislature and very small districts (the
smallest having 3,089 people), which can be an advantage in that it may offer
more of a chance for more people to participate in the system. However, New
Hampshire's districts are growing with its population. Its largest House
district is currently at 21,559 inhabitants, which is larger than in any other
state, with the exception of Idaho. Legislation has recently been introduced
to reduce district size even further, but its passage is not yet certain.
Also, on the other side of the legislative coin, New Hampshire has the largest
Senate districts of any of our candidate states: 53,000 people, which is far
ahead of the closest runners-up, Delaware and Idaho, both of which have Senate
districts of more than 38,000.
New Hampshire is the fastest growing state in New England, a factor that is
causing problems with regard to providing for education and transportation
funding in addition to expanding its electoral districts. These issues are
likely to begin driving up taxes in the state and renewing the call for a state
income or sales tax. New Hampshire defeated a state income tax attempt in
2002, but the opposition is not likely to vanish into the woodwork. Witness
the example of Tennessee where vehement tax protests virtually besieged the
state capital on several occasions. However, the legislature still adopted tax
increases and more may be on the way. In a related example, Oregon recently
defeated an income tax increase measure. The Portland School district is now
pushing to implement an income tax on Portland residents strictly to fund
education within the Portland MSA. And the powers-that-be in Oregon politics
are already working on another sales tax proposal just a few weeks after
their previous attempt was defeated!
New Hampshire is especially vulnerable to new tax proposals due to the fact
that the state is nursing a rising budget deficit. It was at $19.7 million in
2002 and is projected to rise to $54.6 million in 2003. This will put
additional pressure on the legislature to increase existing taxes or implement
new ones. In politics, there is rarely any sort of true "defeat." There is
only "next time."
Finance also comes to bear in terms of activism when you consider that New
Hampshire ranks at the bottom of our ten states when it comes to expense of
elections. The 2002 tax battle in New Hampshire was a costly one. It is
evident from this that there are strong political forces at work here, and that
they are locked in a determined contest for control of the state's political
system. We are at great risk of being out-spent by the opposition in this
Also, consider the fact that New Hampshire's neighboring states have little
reputation for being liberty-friendly despite the fact that they are FSP
candidate states (with the exception of Massachusetts, of course). Vermont
might have been dismissed by the FSP for statist tendencies (like Rhode Island)
were it not for its "Vermont Carry" provision, which allows anyone to carry a
gun without a concealed carry permit. Maine consistently scores at the bottom
of our measurements, and Massachusetts is infamous for its statist tendencies.
If the FSP moves into New Hampshire, it will most likely draw freedom-lovers
desiring to escape from the oppressive taxes and statist systems in Vermont,
Maine, and Massachusetts (if not New York as well). This may bolster the FSP's
numbers in New Hampshire, but I believe it would also isolate the state. If
what freedom-loving element there is in those states leave them for New
Hampshire, it seems that they would become even more statist. This could then
have the effect of raising a perimeter around New Hampshire, preventing us from
being able to expand this movement in the future as the neighboring states
would likely be more hostile than ever. It might then be said that New
Hampshire could serve as a magnificent contrast to the statist governments of
Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts, but the fact of the matter is that it
already does! And these states are not changing to conform to it. Why should
we expect them to do so in the future, particularly if there are fewer
liberty-loving people lobbying for change in them?
Some also fear that statists will flee from the increasing cost of living in
nearby locations like Boston due to New Hampshire's growing economy and job
market. After all, the population pools that employers will have available to
draw new hires from in New Hampshire's region of the country are mostly statist
strongholds. If such people do move in, they could effectively dilute the
FSP's activists. Thus, either way you look at it, New Hampshire is situated
very badly in terms of potential allies and enemies.
Personally, I believe that Idaho is the best choice among the three most
populous candidate states: Idaho, Maine, and New Hampshire.
Idaho is at a disadvantage in that it has the largest population of any of our
ten candidate states, the largest House districts, and very large Senate
districts; however, as you can see below, it has various advantages that place
it above New Hampshire in my analysis.
- Has the strongest predicted job growth of all ten states (New Hampshire is
2nd) and is not located as close to major statist enclaves, thus making it less
likely to attract statist immigrants seeking better jobs
- Has the lowest number of voting-age inhabitants of our three largest
states: 924,923 out of 1,293,653 total inhabitants (as compared to 926,224 out
of 1,235,786 total in New Hampshire and 973,685 out of 1,274,923 total in
- Has the 2nd lowest degree of federal dependence in the West (after
- Has an international border and even port access for those who believe
this is a positive (but small and remote enough not to worry others too badly)
- Has the lowest campaign expenditures of the three largest states (ranks
5th overall as compared to 10th for New Hampshire)
- Has the 2nd highest number of votes for conservative and libertarian
presidential candidates (after Wyoming, and as compared to 7th for New
- Ties with Wyoming for 3rd place in terms of gun freedom
- Ranks 4th (under New Hampshire) in terms of low number of native residents
- Ties with New Hampshire for 1st in low number of NEA/AFT members
- 1st in economic freedom (as compared to 4th for New Hampshire)
- Has more privately and locally held land than New Hampshire (in fact,
Idaho's private and locally held land totals an area greater in size than the
entire State of New Hampshire)
- Has some of the most varied terrain and mild temperatures of any of our
candidate states certainly milder than New England (more suitable to a
larger number of folks)
- Has the initiative and referendum (for working around a stubborn
- Has the term limits issue in hot contention as a possible threat to the
GOP-dominated legislature (may be a good issue for us)
- Is a right-to-work state
- Empowers teacher's unions less than New Hampshire (allows monopoly
bargaining but not forced dues)
- Borders lower population, liberty-friendly states where we could easily
expand the movement in the future and build a regional solidarity
- Has a budget deficit but has reduced it substantially from the last fiscal
year: $221 million in 2002 to $75 million (projected) in 2003
Idaho is likely to be acceptable to a larger number of both westerners and
easterners, and together with its mild climate and vibrant economy, is the most
likely (in my opinion) to attract 20,000 or more activists. Adding to this,
and in addition to the initiative and referendum, Idaho also gives us a native
population that, despite its large size, votes heavily in favor of small
government candidates (refer back to the above criteria for details). I also
believe that the low population, liberty-friendly neighboring states are a
significant factor here. Idaho gives us a more realistic chance of building
regional solidarity to oppose the statist power of the growing "mega states" in
Washington DC (CA, IL, NY, etc.
If we need to pick a higher population state, it seems that Idaho gives us more
advantages for dealing with that population, attracting 20,000 activists, and
expanding this movement in the future.
- Has the lowest total and voting-age populations in the country (again,
giving us maximum saturation of activists among the inhabitants)
- Has the initiative and referendum
- Has term limits (which go into effect in 2004)
- Has no individual income tax or business tax at all
- Has some of the lowest property taxes in the country
- 2nd lowest gas tax of our candidate states (0.13 only Alaska is
lower with 0.8)
- Has the lowest federal dependence of all the western states (4th out of
all 10 states)
- Has the 3rd lowest number of government employees (behind North Dakota and
- Has the 3rd smallest House districts of all ten states (no more than 8,230
people), and the 2nd lowest Senate districts (no more than 16,500 people)
- Has the 3rd lowest campaign expenditures of all ten states (after North
Dakota and Vermont) Idaho is 5th, New Hampshire is 10th
- Ranks 1st in high votes for conservative and libertarian presidential
candidates (Idaho is 2nd, New Hampshire is 7th)
- Leads all western states (except for Alaska) in highest per capita income
(ranks 5th of all 10 states) New Hampshire is 2nd, Idaho is 6th of all ten
- Ranks 1st for lack of state-wide land-use planning (Idaho is 6th, New
Hampshire is 7th)
- Ties for 3rd with Idaho for favorable gun laws (New Hampshire is 2nd)
- Ranks 1st for gun ownership rates and gun shows (88% est. gun-ownership
rate Idaho had an est. 76% and New Hampshire had an estimated 36%)
(Wyoming had 50 gun shows in 2000 Idaho had 49, New Hampshire had 17)
- 2nd lowest number of unionized laborers 20,000 (North Dakota is 1st
with 19,000 Idaho has 42,000 to New Hampshire's 60,000)
- Ranks 1st for low numbers of unionized teachers (5,713 to Idaho's 11,132
and New Hampshire's 11,834)
- Ranks 3rd for "low level of city urbanization" on the state data page (1st
of all western states) New Hampshire is 8th, Idaho is 9th
- Ranks 2nd under "livability" on the state data page (New Hampshire is 1st,
Idaho is 8th)
- Ranks 2nd for lowest number of native-born inhabitants (42.5%) New
Hampshire is 3rd, Idaho is 4th
- Ranks 2nd under "economic freedom" (Idaho is 1st, New Hampshire is 4th)
- Ranks 4th in "more private and locally owned land" (Idaho is 5th, New
Hampshire is 9th)
- Has no state budget deficit has a $1.8 billion surplus (very
unlikely there will be any call for new taxes here, in fact, Wyoming is
considering lowering its 4% sales tax)
- Has a large royalty income from mining activities (the source of its $1.8
billion surplus), which helps fund education and various aspects of government,
giving the FSP an opportunity to lower or eliminate other types of taxes (it
also shows fiscal prudence on the part of Wyoming this fund has existed
and grown steadily since 1974)
- Borders several other FSP candidate states where this movement could
spread (Idaho, Montana, and South Dakota)
- Wyoming's population is concentrated in several pockets throughout the
state (such as Cheyenne and Casper), but the population in these areas is not
as high as that in other larger areas like Boise City or Anchorage, or the
Wilmington and Boston MSA's. This means that more of our activists will be
voting and otherwise supporting one another in the same elections, enhancing
their group strength without spreading it too thin or presenting it with too
large and powerful of a target. Our combined numbers would thus be more
manifest on the town, county, and state levels here.
Wyoming is also closer to large population centers than any other western
candidate state. Denver is within 90 minutes of Cheyenne, the state capitol,
and Boulder is even closer. Fort Collins, Colorado is only 45 minutes from
Cheyenne. Salt Lake City is one and a half hours from Wyoming (Park City,
Utah, part of the Salt Lake MSA, is only one hour and 10 minutes from Wyoming).
So Wyoming, while it does not have many inhabitants or "big city" amenities
itself, is closer to both than any other western candidate. The Denver area is
also growing and expanding toward Wyoming, and we will be close enough to reap
the benefits of that economic progress; however, we will also have the state
line between ourselves and Colorado keeping that state's more statist
politics at bay. And despite this growth trend, the immigration rate into
Wyoming is yet low enough that it is not affecting Wyoming politics and
infrastructure to any great degree.
Additionally, we have a chance to help Wyoming diversify its economy, something
that it needs and wants to do. By moving in people and jobs from all over the
country, we can help diversify the state economy and raise the standard of
living to a degree that would be impossible for us to duplicate in Idaho or New
Hampshire where the economies are more robust and the people more affluent.
Not only would this be a very positive thing for the people of Wyoming, but it
would also be an opportunity for us to diminish our "outsider" image and prove
that we are coming to contribute to Wyoming, not just "using" it.
In terms of more "livability" elements, Wyoming's climate and terrain are
greatly varied (it has the third warmest winters of our ten candidate states),
a fact that would make it easier for FSPer's to find someplace to live that is
more in line with their expectations and desires. States like New Hampshire,
Vermont, Maine, Alaska, and North Dakota are well-known for their harsh winter
conditions. New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine are definitely located well
within the snow-belt as well (for those of you who don't enjoy shoveling the
stuff). Parts of Wyoming can have harsh wintertime conditions as well, but
there are also other areas with milder conditions, a choice that we won't have
to the same degree with small states like VT and NH. And again, there are also
urban areas and open countryside, making it possible for a larger number of
FSPer's to find more acceptable and desirable places to live than states where
most of the population is concentrated in one certain part of the state.
Wyoming the Best State for Liberty?
All of these elements working together, and combined with the fact that Wyoming
allows the FSP a chance at the maximum possible saturation of activists to
residents, places Wyoming head-and-shoulders above the other nine candidate
states. Nowhere else do we have this number of benefits and liberty-friendly
elements along with so low of a burden for each FSP activist. Nowhere else
could we have so great an impact so very quickly simply by being there
and voting. And nowhere else will our natural opposition be as weak (the NEA,
and other unions and special interests both in sheer numbers and
political machinery). Wyoming is also located farther away from the statist
media and political elements (including special interest groups) that could
damage us so badly if we were located closer to statist enclaves like Boston
and New York.
Again, consider the notion that the FSP could fall short of 20,000
participants; or even if it gets all 20,000 that they might not be as activist
as necessary for one of the larger states. Even 20,000 libertarians who
confined their activism to voting could make an impact of some sort in any of
these states, or gather together and hold influence over a few towns or
counties, but could they achieve a free state? And when you consider that
8,000 to 10,000 in Wyoming could accomplish as much if not more than 20,000 in
Idaho or New Hampshire, consider what 20,000 in Wyoming could do!
As has been pointed out in our discussions already, a few libertarians forming
a township or gaining a majority influence in a county might be able to enact a
number of reforms; however, the extent of what they could accomplish could be
severely curtailed by the state government. States simply have much more
political power than town and county governments. They also have
representation in the United States Congress. Thus, if it is at all possible,
we should try our best to go somewhere that would allow us a greater voice in
the state government.
Wyoming presents us with a very real chance at achieving a majority
representation in a state legislature and thus a very real chance at "liberty
in our lifetime." Overall, it makes us less reliant upon the various unknown
elements that we face in other states such as: "will we have enough?" or "will
they really move?" or "will they do the work that's necessary to succeed?" Any
of these elements could be fatal to our efforts in the higher population
states. In Wyoming, they hurt us the least because our numbers count for so
much more even before anything else is considered.
Thank you for considering this perspective on what may be the most important
decision that we ever make.
In particular, my thanks go out to Joe Swyers, Keith Carlsen, and
Paul Bonneau for the time and effort they have expended in gathering and
posting much of this data.
thread on the FSP forum for a compilation of various threads relating to
the state decision.
Analysis of Presidential Elections
in the 10 Candidate States
In Tennyson's report Analyzing the Freedom
Orientation of Existing State Populations, he analysed the results of the
2000 presidential election and what it means to the FSP and its members. The
gist of that report is in this table:
Voter Predisposition to Vote for Small-government Candidates
(2000 Presidential Election)
Source: Analyzing the Freedom Orientation of
Existing State Populations
By looking at the 2000 election, we see that Wyoming and
Idaho come out far above all of the other candidate states. However, one
election is just that one election, and cannot be considered the whole
Nine most recent presidential elections
Here is the data from the nine most recent presidential elections: 2000
1968. This data presents a more complete picture of all recent Presidential
|| Bush (R)
|| Dole (R)
|| Bush (R)
| Ford (R)
| Nixon (R)
|| Gore (D)
|| Clinton (D)
|| Clinton (D)
|| Carter (D)
|| Bush (R)
|| Dole (R)
|| Bush (R)
|| Ford (R)
|| Bush (R)
|| Dole (R)
|| Bush (R)
|| Bush (R)
|| Clinton (D)
|| Clinton (D)
|| Gore (D)
|| Clinton (D)
|| Clinton (D)
|| Humphrey (D)
|| Bush (R)
|| Dole (R)
|| Clinton (D)
|| Nixon (R)
|| Bush (R)
|| Dole (R)
|| Bush (R)
|| Gore (D)
|| Clinton (D)
|| Clinton (D)
|| Bush (R)
|| Dole (R)
|| Bush (R)
1 Ross Perot beat George Bush in Maine with 30.44% to 30.39% of the
(Note: I stopped doing research at the 1968 election because in the
1964, 1960, and 1956 elections, most of the candidate states voted for the same
candidate and because the farther back you go, the less representative the data
is to the reality of today. Even in the 1970s and 1980s most of the candidate
states voted for the same candidate. Before 1956, well, most current Americans
were not even alive or at the very least, not even voting back then.)
The Republican presidential candidates from 1968 to 2000 generally sold
themselves as, or were perceived as, or pretended to be, more pro-small
government than the Democratic Party presidential candidates. Generally
this is the case and is clearly evident by the specific campaign literature and
ads of the above presidential candidates.
So we can rank the states by the
number of Republican presidential candidates that won their state elections:
Amount for Republicans from 1968 to 2000
Reagan and Goldwater
What about races where a candidate from a major party ran on downsizing
the federal government?
This has occured twice in somewhat recent times. In 1980 Ronald Reagan (R) ran
for president and in 1964 Barry Goldwater (R) ran for president. Both times,
their major issue was Downsizing DC. Reagan communicated the message better and
won the 1980 election while Goldwater lost his election.
According to Harry Browne and many others, the media even tried to portray
Reagan as more libertarian than he was. Ronald Reagan did not act as a
libertarian once in office, but that is how he ran for his first
(Note: Votes for the LP candidate, Ed Clark, are included with Reagan's,
because Reagan used many of Clark's ideas and this is the best election ever
for an LP candidate.)
1980 Election - Vote for Ronald Reagan
| Entire U.S.
2 Ed Clark got 11.7% of the 66.0% total.
(He got < 3% in all the other FSP candidate states)
Barry Goldwater only had the opportunity to run for office because the
paleo-conservative and the libertarian Republicans were able to take over the
Republican Party primary and hand the nomination to Barry Goldwater. The
national GOP did not even support his bid for president after he was nominated.
All records show that Barry Goldwater was set on dramatically reducing the size
of government and those in change of the GOP wanted nothing to do with him or
1964 Election - Vote for Barry Goldwater
Average of Reagan and Goldwater elections
I computed this table by averaging the "Amount of Republicans from 1968 to
2000" and "Average of Reagan and Goldwater elections" rankings:
Total Average Ranking According to this Report
Now that we have the whole picture, let's compare it to just the 2000
Amazingly, they are very similar, almost eerily similar. Maybe I was wrong.
Maybe, just maybe, the 2000 presidential election really does provide us with a
very good look at the ideology of the candidate states. None of the candidate
states move more than ONE position in the state ranking.
Whatever the conclusion, one thing is for sure: Time and time again, both
Idaho and Wyoming stand out in the above rankings.
by Phyllis Schatz
With an area of 83,557 square miles, Idaho is in many ways three states.
Northern Idaho, extending to the Canadian border, is heavily forested and
heavily dependent on the lumber industry. The residents are fiercely
independent and view even Southwestern Idaho residents with suspicion. For big
city amenities, residents look to Spokane, Washington. Southwestern Idaho
contains the state capitol, agriculture and electronics. Southeastern Idaho is
largely agricultural, with a growing electronics industry.
It may well be, as some have suggested, that Idaho would be a good
compromise between wide open spaces and city life. As an 18-yr. resident of
Idaho, I hesitate to recommend for or against it as the free state. I did not
know the term libertarian until 1996, but I would say it adequately describes
the majority of people in Idaho (although most of them either do not know the
term or equate it with anarchy and lawlessness). Idahoans are friendly, and
enjoy a casual life style. The general mood of the people in Idaho - as I see
it - is divided between "Just leave me alone and let me run my life and raise
my children as I see fit"(the majority) and "We have to pass laws to get Idaho
back to good Christian morals" (a very noisy minority).
In my part of the state (Boise), it seems that cops are everywhere, but I
have found them to be friendly and helpful (although my friends in the 18-25
age bracket have a different impression). When I was in an accident with no
personal injury but total destruction of my car, the investigating officer
drove me home. It is their policy that you are not stopped for speeding unless
going at least 10 miles over the speed limit (yes, even where the limit is
20mph). The police also seem reluctant to enforce the seat belt law. Official
policy is to not stop for seat belt violation unless there is another traffic
violation. In my personal experience, they don't even ticket then. Recently,
the officer investigating a minor accident for which he gave me a ticket, when
asking me if I was wearing my seat belt, was nodding his head, to indicate that
I should say yes.
I know that each of us is primarily interested in the prognosis for success
of the FSP. Unfortunately, statistical analysis cannot answer this complex
question for us. One very important element in the project is - what will it
take to inspire 20,000 freedom-loving people not only to move to one state, but
also to persevere when the going gets tough. This can often depend on things
like climate and entertainment opportunities.
For those of you who are interested in the weather, I would describe the
climate as moderate, although it varies from one part of the state to another
and from year to year. Here in the Treasure Valley (the largest population
center - Boise, Nampa, Caldwell, Meridian, Eagle, Star & Kuna) we enjoy
summertime temperatures in the 80s and 90s during the day, cooling off to the
40s - 60s at night. Winter temperatures are normally above freezing in the
daytime, although subzero is not unknown. If you like snow, you will have to go
to the higher elevations. When we do get snow in the valley (which doesn't
happen every year), it usually disappears by noon. If you are looking for more
rugged weather, there is plenty of that at the higher elevations of the north,
central and southeast parts of the state.
Idaho is not subject to hurricanes or tornadoes. Earthquakes are rare and
mild. Our major natural disasters are thunderstorms and forest fires
For summer recreation in the Boise area, there is the Greenbelt - a path
along the Boise River, maintained by the park department heavily used by
walkers, bicyclists and roller skaters. In July it is traditional to float the
Boise River on inner tubes (a good way to have fun without spending money). For
the more daring, there are white-water commercial raft trips on the Snake
River. In the winter, you can ski at nearby Bogus Basin, or drive a little
further to the famous Sun Valley ski resort. Did I mention we also have some
of the finest hunting and fishing in the country?
There are many gun enthusiasts in the state, and their rights are guaranteed
by the State Constitution: "No law shall impose licensure, registration or
special taxation on the ownership or possession of firearms or ammunition. Nor
shall any law permit the confiscation of firearms, except those actually used
in the commission of a felony." [ID state constitution, Article I, sec. 11]
For the less athletically inclined, summer brings "Alive after Five" every
Wednesday evening, and "First Thursday", both featuring (free) live musical
entertainment and a variety of food, in downtown Boise. First Thursday is, of
course, the first Thursday evening of each month during agreeable weather, and
features a stroll through the art galleries. The last week of June, we have the
"Boise River Festival" sponsored by local merchants and free to the public -
with several features especially for children. There is also Jazz at the winery
and Shakespeare under the Stars, as the usual array of performances found in
any metropolitan area of any size.
I hesitate to describe the political climate because it is currently in a
state of turmoil. The state legislature, composed of a Senate and House of
Representatives is dominated by Republicans. This is somewhat deceptive,
however, since politicians have learned that if they want to win an election,
they need to call themselves Republican regardless of their political
philosophy. A candidate does not need the endorsement of the party in order to
file under that banner. Voters do not state a party affiliation upon
registering. Primary elections are open to all registered voters, who then vote
in whichever single primary they choose for that election. Under present
circumstances, most voters vote the Republican Primary, regardless of party
affiliation. In May 2002, for the first time in Idaho history, there were three
parties in the primary: Republican, Democrat, and Libertarian. Many
Libertarians voted Republican, since most Libertarian candidates ran unopposed
in the primary.
Anything can happen in this fall's elections, including Libertarian
victories. The Libertarian Party of Idaho has shown a 29% increase in
membership since May of this year (from 117 to 151). The bad news is - there is
serious dissension within the party at this point. The good news is - there is
also serious dissension within the state Republican Party. Voters are fuming at
the action of the Republican majority in repealing a term limits law that was
passed by initiative and was approved by the voters on three occasions. A
minority of the Republicans are with the voters on the issue of arrogance of
A Party can gain ballot status by obtaining signatures equal to 2% of the
votes cast for presidential electors at the last general election. Thereafter
status can be maintained by one of two methods: 1) having three or more
candidates for state or national office listed on the ballot at the last
general election; 2) polling for one of it's candidates at least 3% of the
aggregate vote for governor or presidential electors. The Libertarian Party
has been on the ballot since 1976.
One very real disadvantage of Idaho as the free state is that the state
constitution speaks against secession: "SECTION 3. STATE INSEPARABLE PART OF
UNION. The state of Idaho is an inseparable part of the American Union, and
the Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the land." This is
not a fatal flaw, since Constitutions can be amended.
In summary: I believe the prognosis for Idaho as the free state cannot be
clearly seen at this time. The present political climate is turbulent and can
see dramatic changes for better or for worse in the elections of 2002. I will
issue updates on the health of the IDLP as they become available.
August 5, 2002
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent
those of the Free State Project, its Officers, or Directors.
The Grand Western Conference
J.J. Johnson - Jason Sorens - Vin Suprynowicz - Claire
The Spirit of the West
The Montana Libertarian Party would like to welcome everyone to attend the
Grand Western Conference (GWC) in Missoula, Montana on May 24 and 25, 2003.
The two day conference seeks to promote the choice of a Western state to be the
Free state. The event will be held at the "Best Inn" on Brooks Street (south
Many Western libertarians, along with Jason Sorens, will be giving
presentations: Claire Wolfe, Vin Suprynowicz, J.J. Johnson, etc. Another
noted libertarian from Colorado may also be presenting.
Panels and workshops representing Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming as the ideal
free state will be held. Please contact me if another Western state wishes to
operate a presentation.
Numerous after hours Western activities are planned to show-off the real
West, its culture, and life-style.
All this will cost only $25.00 (single) or $35.00 (family rate). This small
fee also includes a banquet. See Ben Irvin (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Mike
Fellows (email@example.com) for greater details and possible motel/hotel
May 24, 2003 (Saturday)
8:00 - 9:30 a.m. – Registration/Sign-in
9:30 - 9:45 a.m. – “Welcome to the Glorious West and Montana”
by Mike Fellows (MTLP Chair)
9:45 - 11:30 a.m. – Vin Suprynowicz: “Comments on the
West, Liberty, and the FSP”
11:30 - 1:00 p.m. – FSP/MTLP: “Grand Western Conference
1:00 - 2:30 p.m. – J.J. Johnson: “Freedom, the West, and
2:30 - 3:30 p.m. – Montana State Senator Jerry O’Neil:
“Montana and the Health of Libertarianism,” plus Q &
3:30 - 4:00 p.m. – See Ben Irvin, Mike Fellows, or Scott Butler
(in Conference Room) about fun evening activities (shooting, fishing,
waterholes, art galleries, best restaurants, etc.)
May 25, 2003 (Sunday)
9:00 - 10:15 a.m. – Claire Wolfe: “Home of the Heart:
Why even anarchists need a free state”
10:15 - 10:50 a.m. – Idaho Presentation “Why Idaho Is
10:50 - 11:25 a.m. – Montana Presentation: “Montana, Liberty,
and a Jeffersonian America”
11:25 - 12:00 p.m. – Wyoming Presentation: “Wyoming for
the Free State”
12:00 - 1:00 p.m. – Lunch Break (on your own)
1:00 - 2:30 p.m. – Jason Sorens: “The Free State Project
and the West”
2:30 - 4:30 p.m. – Montana Libertarian Party meeting (everyone
2:30 - 5:00 p.m. – See Ben Irvin, Mike Fellows, or Scott Butler
for fun things to do this evening, etc.
* Pay at registration on May 24, 2003
Contact Ben Irvin or Mike Fellows for greater details:
NOTE: The opinions and commentary expressed in this
essay are those of the author and are an exercise of free speech. They do not
necessarily represent the views of Free State Project Inc., its Directors, its
Officers, or its Participants.
Jason's Talk at the Grand Western Conference, 5/25/03
Free State Project and the West
The title I was given for my talk is "The Free State Project and the West." It's an intentionally vague title, and my remarks are actually going to be very wide-ranging.
Yesterday we heard some lions of the libertarian movement give their perspectives on a future "Free State," what it might look like and how we could get there. Today we heard able and persuasive presentations from representatives from Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, and Wyoming, presenting the reasons why they think their states are the best choices for the Free State Project. As I speak today, we stand at over 3,700 members and are probably about three to four months away from voting on a state. Therefore, both of these questions are critically important: Where should we go? What do we do once we get there?
The Free State Project is intentionally a decentralized, bare-bones affair. Some of the folks I've talked to in some of the states we're considering had gotten the wrong idea of the Project. They had this vision of a tightly-knit, highly disciplined cadre of activists "invading" their state and subjecting it to their will. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Any effort of that kind would be doomed to fail, as it would rightly arouse massive opposition.
We hope to get 20,000 freedom lovers to move. We may not end up getting this many, or we may get many more, but this is our goal. In none of the states we're considering will we be close to a majority. Therefore, a "takeover" will never be in the cards. What we libertarians *can* do is to finally get the ideas of limited government and robust individual liberty into the forefront of public debate. In the marketplace of ideas, I think we will ultimately be victorious - all the more so since the ideas we present are ideas that were present in the founding of this country, and ideas that still retain some power in the states that we're considering.
And so this Project is designed to maximize the appeal of the ideas of freedom in that ideological marketplace. Free Staters are a diverse bunch, with divergent backgrounds. Our Statement of Intent simply requires every member to signal a willingness to work for a society in which the maximum role of government is the protection of individuals' rights to life, liberty, and property. In other words, the government should definitely not be involved in providing for people, or in punishing their private vices. This all Free Staters believe. But there is plenty of disagreement too. What else can you expect from a movement that contains both a radical English college student and a crusty Black Hills rancher, both a New York stockbroker and a traditional Amish family? Yes, these are all real people who are members of the Free State Project. We have many different values, but we all hold the core value of freedom, because without freedom, and the absolute obligation to tolerate and respect the autonomy of others that freedom requires, all our other values are meaningless.
So I would say that the Free State Project is nothing more and nothing less than an effort to identify the best state for freedom lovers to live in, and to encourage more freedom lovers to move there and become politically active. Now what's so controversial about that?
The premise behind the Free State Project is sound - concentrating our resources is necessary if we're going to have any chance at seeing true liberty in our lifetime - but the execution will be difficult. The majority of Americans now reject our moral geography: they no longer see freedom at the center. Instead, they see government as a tool they can use to try to control their neighbors, to punish those they don't like, to impose their ideal world with all their special preferences - by force. They lack the courage to live and let live.
But let's not blame them too much. After all, this is a system in which we've all grown up. The government is there to get things done that you couldn't otherwise do, through legitimate methods. So if you think you like traditional values, you vote Republican and want the government to subsidize farms and promote Christianity. If you think you hate rich people, you vote Democrat and want the government to subsidize poverty. If you don't like drugs you want the government to fight a war on nonviolent drug users. If you don't like guns you want the government to fight a war on nonviolent gun owners. Most people don't see anything wrong with that because they separate government from the rest of society. They assume government operates by its own rules. They think, "Of course it would be wrong for *me* to break into someone's home and kidnap him at gunpoint because I thought he was smoking a joint. But if a man with a badge does it, that's The Law." I thought this way once. (Then I turned 15.) But I'm sure most of us did think this way at one time or another.
So we've got a long road ahead of us. We have the right on our side, but we still need to use effective methods to get our message across, especially considering the factors weighing against us. Special interest groups all want their piece of the pie, and they will never go away. Government bureaucracies have an in-built drive to perpetuate themselves, whatever the cost. And to ordinary people, what we are proposing may seem radical and untested. The status quo, despite all its imperfections, is comfortable for most people. The tiny minority of Americans who suffer from the random outbreaks of government brutality or simple incompetence, those who get flung aside or beaten down by the system, are still a tiny, disorganized, powerless minority.
For all these reasons, and more, when it comes to electoral politics, I am a gradualist. I would never lie about my ultimate goals for politics. However, I think we need to stress the intermediate stages of reform. Some reforms simply work better when they're implemented gradually; people often need time to adjust. Gradual reform also creates a constituency for further reform. If as a politician or political party or pressure group you can implement a few policies that work, you build trust for the next reforms you want.
If you look at the most successful national libertarian organizations out there - the Cato Institute, the Reason Foundation, and the Institute for Humane Studies - they are all fully engaged in the issues of the day, whether in national politics or intellectual currents. They're not interested in building abstruse, utopian ideologies; they want to improve things now. And I hope most Free State Project members feel the same way.
Because being involved in the policy debates of the day is so important, we should look for allies wherever we can find them. Earlier in this talk I bashed Democrats and Republicans. Guess what? Many of us, perhaps most of us, will be involved with the Democrats and Republicans. At the state and local levels, the Democratic and Republican parties are open to newcomers and, to a large degree, to new ideas. You can't necessarily predict someone's viewpoint on state and local politics from their party affiliation. In Alaska recently, the Republicans tried to impose a sales tax, and the Democrats resisted. Some Republicans broke ranks and the measure was defeated. In Delaware it was Republicans who pushed through a statewide indoor smoking ban; many Democrats resisted. In New Hampshire, by contrast, Democrats proposed an income tax and were slaughtered at the polls. The new Republican governor there has appointed a card-carrying Libertarian to his Small Government Commission.
Now, we're not going to agree with mainstream Democratic and Republican politicos on everything; we'll have to work with them on an issue by issue basis. But ordinary, grassroots party members - we can really work with them. In Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas, Republicans are pretty much dominant in state government. In some of these states the Republican leadership has become complacent. Their constituents want them to cut taxes and to stand up to the federal government on issues like property rights, but the leadership pays them no heed, because they figure the Democrats are worse, and no one will vote for them. Of course, Wyoming just elected a Democratic governor. Perhaps this is a sign of grassroots frustration with nowhere else to go.
We need to inject real competition into this two-party oligarchy. That's the only way we'll ever restore a constitutional republic. Now, I'm a Libertarian Party member and have done a lot of activism for that party, but I don't think a Libertarian Party majority will be possible in the Free State. The barriers are simply too high at present. A lot of (small-l) libertarians are disillusioned with the Libertarian Party, just as many conservatives and liberals are disillusioned with the two old parties. There are many reasons for this, but I think I can sum it up as follows: If the Libertarian Party wants to make a philosophical statement, too many of its candidates are not principled enough - or are simply wacky and bizarre; but if the Libertarian Party wants to win elections, its goals and methods are not gradualist and realistic enough.
I don't want to abandon the Libertarian Party at all; I think it should always be there to make that philosophical statement, to keep everyone honest. Perhaps more so, we need people not involved in partisan politics at all, who work for fundamental cultural change. But to create serious political competition in America, history demonstrates that you have to *start* within the current party arrangement. The most successful third parties in history were the Republicans and the Socialists. The Republicans were basically anti-slavery activists who joined the Whigs, used the Whigs for a while, and then jumped ship when they had gotten enough power and recognition, thus destroying the Whigs and replacing them. The Socialists labored in obscurity for a long time, and most Socialists finally joined the Democrats in the 1930s. Thereafter, the Democrats (in national government) were socialistic.
But there's another example from history, that of the non-partisan league. Many of you already know of my interest in this idea. In the early 20th century, the Non-Partisan League was a powerful force in the Dakotas and Montana. They endorsed candidates from both parties - but mostly from the Republicans, who were dominant - on the basis of their support for agricultural subsidies. The NPL governed North Dakota for various periods in the first half of the 20th century and accomplished almost all of their major aims. In the late 20th century, the Christian Right took over a party known for its comfortable Main-Street, country-club centrism, the Republicans. The Republican Party platform is essentially a Christian Right manifesto. Of course, Republican candidates generally have to run to the center on issues like school prayer and abortion, lest they make themselves a permanent minority. Nevertheless, this is a clear case of successful activism within the oligarchic system.
Personally, I will work to establish something like a non-partisan voters' league in whatever state we choose. I want to get in touch with taxpayers' groups, gun-rights groups, civil-liberties groups, and everyone else sympathetic to us in our chosen state. I want to talk to them about what *they* need, where they see a need for additional activism and resources. I want to coordinate the efforts of the *entire* freedom community so that we can exert concentrated pressure on state government. I foresee that this will require some organization that develops a parsimonious set of attainable political goals, and then endorses candidates on the basis of their support for these goals. Candidates that are in more or less full agreement with the organization's goals would additionally qualify for campaign funding. Somewhere down the line, a totally new, local political party will probably be necessary, to press our unique demands for decentralization. This should happen when we have high-profile supporters in government who are willing to go the independent route and set up this new party. Possibly by that point, we would have changed some of the institutional barriers to a multi-party system.
Due in large part to the FSP, libertarians are now thinking about what state governments can do. So we all know that state and local governments have control over zoning, utilities, most transportation, education, and a great deal of criminal law. But what can we do at the state level to pry loose the clutches of the federal government? Gary Marbut got a resolution through the Montana legislature expressing their support for requiring federal agents to operate in the state only with the consent of county sheriffs. We can go further: end cooperation with the feds, end cross-deputization of federal agents, and if necessary, arresting federal officers if they violate the state constitution. What if California were doing this right now with medical marijuana? Another issue that at first blush we could do nothing about is the Federal Reserve System. The federal government has full control over the Federal Reserve System and the dollar. But here's one idea that's been floating around: If we chose a state with a sales tax, we could pass a law stating that if you paid for your transaction with a gold or silver backed currency, you would be exempt from sales tax. That's one way to start moving toward a fully private, competitive market in currency. Now, I don't know if it would work, but it's worth looking into.
Of course, elections are just one small piece of the puzzle. We can't expect to win elections unless we win the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens. We'll need thinktanks, we'll need media, and most of all... We will need to create voluntary associations and programs that take care of social problems better than government does, thereby helping make our communities stronger and demonstrating that our ideas really do work. After all, freedom is not an excuse for laziness or indifference; quite the opposite. State co-optation of voluntary, ground-up solutions is what's responsible for community deterioration and rising indifference. We have to turn that around, and it will require a lot of sweat and a good bit of hard-earned cash too.
Now, my personal goals that I've just stated are my own opinions, not necessarily those of the Free State Project. The FSP, again, is a decentralized, bare-bones operation - it's not a political action group, just a framework for a very specific task, getting freedom lovers to move to a single state. So all the opinions I've just stated are fully up for discussion, and I know there are people in the FSP who will disagree with a point or two. There are those who will stay in the LP no matter what, some who will avoid partisan politics at all costs, and many I've spoken to like the idea of a Non-Partisan League and a new party somewhere down the road. We don't need a consensus, because all those people have niches to fill and jobs to perform.
But this is precisely the point of my talk - to get a discussion going. We are close to 5,000. Pretty soon we will know our new home. Every one of us needs to start thinking now about the practicalities of this thing, and getting prepared. Most importantly, every one of us needs to get our financial houses in order - pay off debt and build savings. If we can, we need to acquire new skills, because some of us will have to make career changes; I don't think there's any way around that. In order to cast a knowledgeable ballot, we need to take a good hard look at these states and see how they measure up against each other - both in terms of possibilities for political success and personal desirability. Study the State Data page on our website, play with the state comparison spreadsheets, join our discussion groups and chat about which state is best. Then we need to think about what, concretely, we are going to do to advance the cause of liberty in our lifetime in our neighborhoods, towns, and state.
Where should we go? What should we do once we get there? People will have different opinions, but when an historic opportunity is this close at hand, I think we'll all focus, and the best solutions will rise to the top. In the history of the Free State Project, that's the way things have always worked - I think the reason for that is that we're so close to our dream of freedom that we can almost taste it. And that's the reason I'm so proud of how far all of you have taken this little idea already.