Porc Fest 2006 Review
I'll be honest, Porc Fest 2006 went a
lot better than I expected. In fact, I dare say a lot of things
relating to the FSP are going a lot better than I expected.
I was expecting the fest to be a bit
smaller than it was last year due to later promotion and a couple of
scheduling problems. The data available before the start of the fest
jived with what I was thinking. The 2005 We'll Be There List was
just under 400 at the start of the Fest we actually had about 400-450
people attend. The 2006 We'll Be There List was around 300, so I
predicted attendance around 300 or a little more for the 2006 Fest.
I was wrong: it wasn't smaller. It
looks like we had at least 400 there, and possibly more. Though I
don't know how many people didn't come because they didn't hear about
it in time, I do know a number of people who didn't come because of
the LP convention the following weekend (many people confirmed that
with me at the LP convention). I suspect that with no conflicts and
earlier promotion, we probably would have broken 500 without too much
difficulty. The LP convention also had about 400 in attendance.
That makes Porc Fest the largest libertarian gathering in America
since last year's Porc Fest and likely roughly tied for the largest
all year this year.
But raw numbers don't tell the whole
story. There were oodles (that's a scientific term roughly equal to
'lots') of people there who had never been to Porc Fest before, some
who had never even been to New Hampshire before. I kept hearing over
and over again “we really want to move up here.” And that's what
it's all about. I fully expect a repeat of the last two years:
people come one year to Porc Fest with no plans to move, and the next
year back to Porc Fest as residents of New Hampshire. Good stuff.
So what actually happened? Well, not
being the 'Czar', I was significantly less plugged in this year.
Instead of a 'run down' of what all did happen at the fest, I'll give
you my personal Porc Fest story. It's certainly not exhaustive, but
gives a flavor of my time at the Fest.
Liberty Summit – on the trail
It started with the Mt. Liberty hike on
Friday, June 23rd. About a dozen of us scurried up the
mountain. The weather was a repeat of two years ago. Rain at the
campground had everyone questioning the decision to go. But I
reminded them that it might not be that way on the trail. Much like
our own pursuit of liberty, the hike to Mt. Liberty looked a little
gloomy at first, but by the time we got going, things cleared up and
it was beautiful. It was loads of fun to talk about all sorts of
things on the trail. Where else can you dig into the details of
marijuana decriminalization strategy, RFCs on encrypted emails, and
the nature of God all on the same hike?
Volunteer meeting – Help wanted!
I had to rush back to the campground to
make a 3 p.m. meeting for current and prospective volunteers for the
FSP. I was hoping for more people, but realized that might be tough
given the time (early Friday) and a scheduling conflict (another
presentation at the same time elsewhere). It was a mixed blessing
that the crowd was significantly comprised of people not currently
volunteering for the FSP. Though I wanted more current volunteers to
attend, I also wanted lots of new people to show up. Indeed there
were some new volunteers, and I hope to introduce them all to you
soon. We covered some history of the FSP, this year's areas of
focus, the organization structure, and what our interests and talents
are. Everyone seemed excited to do something to help us reach our
goal of 20,000 libertarian activists in New Hampshire.
Welcome and dinner
A little after 5:00 p.m., I gave the
welcome address to the crowd assembled for a free (yes, free!)
dinner. It was well attended and the audience seemed to like the
speech. It was a combination of good news and bad news. The bad
news is twofold: things keep getting worse across America and even in
New Hampshire, and the rate of FSP recruiting has slowed. The good
news, though, gives us more hope than ever before that the FSP can
and will work. We now know what we couldn't have known two years
ago: people are actually moving to New Hampshire (that's good), and
even better yet, they're having a measurable positive effect once
they arrive. The FSP strategy is working... sooner than expected!
There's hope for success, and that should make it easier to attract
more pro-freedom activists to New Hampshire. You can read the whole
speech in the essays section of the website.
Every night, there were campfires and
other social gatherings until the wee hours (some ran all night)
where people enjoyed being in the company of others who have a
similar view of freedom. Again, great stuff!
Dad duty – a family affair
Saturday was packed with speakers
which, unfortunately, I didn't get to see. I had dad duty. You see,
behind all this theoretical thinking and idealism are real live
families. I have a real wife who organized a real fun event and
needed help with the real live kids. We had a great time playing in
the playground with other children whose parents share our views on
freedom. Then, in the afternoon we swam. I got to chat with
libertarian activist parents while our kids tried their hardest to
splash all the water out of the pool. We all played nicely together.
That's how it works in New Hampshire.
Liberty Ladies cookoff – a taste of
That evening, my wife's real fun event
became a reality. The Liberty Ladies hosted a cookoff. To say it
was a success would be understating things quite a bit. Some were
skeptical about having contestants serve from their campsites. The
skeptics were converted, though. Sandy quipped “it's like a
scavenger hunt with food!” The judges were the Festival attendees
/ dinner guests (they paid $7 to eat and judge) and the contestants
were anyone who wanted to cook. Entry was free (contestants paid for
their own food) and cash prizes were offered.
Now when it came time to award the
prizes, I was a bit surprised at how big they were. Edi had
discussed this at great length with me and when I heard $100 for
third prize I was floored. Then, when they gave $200 for second
prize, I was even more surprised. But the first prize really blew me
away: $400 cashola! That's a lot of dough for a pot of meatballs!
And it couldn't have been a more
storybook ending to a beautiful story. Jenn, one of the Liberty
Ladies, had debated right up to the last minute about whether she
should cook or help out with the event. She decided to cook right at
the deadline which turned out to be a good decision!
Jenn and her husband, Billy, stayed in
my tent last year at Porc Fest. They had just arrived in New
Hampshire and came up to meet us all at the Fest. This year, they
were celebrating their 1-year anniversary living in New Hampshire.
What a way to celebrate! Jenn and Billy have lived an eventful first
year here (if you know the rest of their story, you know what an
understatement that is). Winning the grand prize in the cookoff was
a wonderful treat for both of them. Oh, and her meatballs....
fabulous! Kudos to Carol and Ward for the 2nd and 3rd
Porc Fest brings new financial support
Cary March, who didn't make it to the
Festival, decided to help the FSP raise some money earlier this year.
He started a pledge at pledgebank.com that said he'd give $50 per
month to the FSP from July through December ($300 total) if 39 other
people (for a total of 40) would too. We started Porc Fest off
without having completed that pledge and it was set to expire at the
end of June. I wrote a letter asking for money which was included in
the welcome folders, but I decided to take some time Saturday to ask
people to join the pledge. Though I wanted to make sure we had 40
people by the end of the Fest, my real goal was 50 (an even $15,000
by the end of the year).
As I walked around and talked to people
about the pledge, it was amazing to see the outpouring of support.
When people come to New Hampshire and see what's really going on,
they're almost immediately more interested in moving to New
Hampshire, and contributing their time and money to help the fight
for freedom. By the end of the cookoff, we had 40 people signed up
for the pledge!
The 40th person was a guy by
the name of Peter. Peter came to Porc Fest last year 'out of the
blue'. He saw our ad in Reason Magazine and just showed up. He had
never been to our website or even heard of the FSP before seeing that
ad. Peter joined the FSP, signed the First 1000 pledge, and came
back this year to Porc Fest as a New Hampshire resident (Porc Fest
has a way of doing that for people)! So Peter knew the value of his
own contributions since he was the beneficiary of similar
contributions last year. Thanks to Peter for finishing up the
I have to take one other little detour
to highlight the synergy of pro-freedom activism in NH. A guy named
Shuvom (have you heard of him?) has demonstrated some serious
self-starter activism skills in a very short period of time. I
needed some paper and a pen as I walked around looking for $50/month
pledge signers. He happened to be standing right in front of me and
offered me his paper and pen. Instead of just taking the paper and
pen he offered me, I took him with me. We wandered around showing
off good work the PR firm has done (including a freshly signed First
1000 form) and telling stories about how donor dollars turns into new
participants, First 1000 signers, early movers to NH and, ultimately,
more freedom. After signing up about 4 or 5 people, my daughter
(remember, this is a family affair) politely interrupted me to take
her to the restroom. I handed the paper, pen, and First 1000
tri-fold to Shuvom and said “here, keep going!”
Now it's one thing to ask people for
money. I don't mind hearing a “no” and I expect many people to
say that. But I also know that some people will say “yes” when
they're personally asked and given a clear explanation for how that
money will be spent and what benefit it brings. Even so, I have to
say, I have never before just spontaneously pawned that task off on
someone else, essentially in my place. But when I came back, there
was Shuvom, signing up more people! Kudos to Shuvom for being a
After hitting 40 signers, I decided to
sweeten the pot. I'd sign Edi up (I was already on the list) and
'double dip' if we got to 50 that same day. By the end of the night,
we had met our goal! Thanks to Tony for taking the big step to help
us recruit more participants and get them moved sooner! Now I'm
double poor! :)
A newcomers perspective
The campfire that night was extra
enjoyable. Some friends of mine, non-libertarian / non-FSP types,
came down to Porc Fest to visit from Montreal. We had quite a bit of
time to talk about libertarianism, the FSP, and, of course, airplanes
(we have lives, too)! By the end of the evening they said “if we
were going to move to the U.S., it'd definitely be here!” You just
never know what will happen if you invite your friends to Porc Fest.
New First 1000 signers!
I have to also take a moment to give
kudos to Chris who, while I was relentlessly harassing people for
money, was even more relentlessly harassing people to sign the First
1000 pledge. We had several on-site new signers of the First 1000
pledge, largely due to Chris's work. Thank you Chris! Oh, and
thanks to Sandy for taking the lead on the First 1000 program, too!
Church??? History, too!
I finished off the night by inviting
all the largely inebriated campfire goers to church in the morning.
And some of them showed up! Sunday morning, we heard, for the third
time, from Pastor Garett Lear. The crowd was about the same size as
previous years (about 40 or so) but included some of the late night
party crowd (what better place for them to be?) and one of the
candidates for Governor this year! In fact, just prior to the
service, another of the candidates for Governor showed up. One guess
as to which one of the three candidates (Lynch, Coburn, and Kahn)
didn't show up to Porc Fest...
The 'sermon' was an interesting mix of
history and instruction from the Bible. On one hand, we were called
with passages from the Bible to live right so we might be in a
position of authority (not power, authority... there is a difference)
to advocate freedom. On the other hand, we were given a truckload of
NH and U.S. history to illustrate that principle in action, right
here in NH. Pastor Lear is not only a good pastor, but maybe the
best read NH historian I know personally. Christian or not, if you
missed this one, you missed a good one. New Hampshire's foundation
of freedom is second to none and he knows an awful lot about it.
He'll be back, I'm sure!
Town info, lunch with the 'doc', and
I heard a rumor that the NH towns
information session was a big hit. I wound up missing it but talked
to people and read feedback that it was very helpful in helping
people determine just where in New Hampshire they'd like to call
home. And this wasn't just theoretical stuff – these people are
While that was going on, I had lunch
with the guy who I squarely blame for all of this stuff, Dr. Jason
Sorens. He's one example of the snowball effect that can come from
doing something good (in his case, he keeps doing good things). It
was his outline of the Free State Project in 2001 which led to what
we see today – people committing to move and work for freedom and
following through with those commitments by becoming effective
libertarian activists in New Hampshire.
Then I met with a couple of other FSP
Board members and our lead PR consultant at Positive Impact
Consulting (psst... Porc Fest is rubbing off on him, too!). He
reviewed preliminary survey results from well over 500 completed FSP
surveys. Many thanks to all of you who have taken the survey. The
survey remains open until July 15th so there's still time
(as of this writing) to complete it. I don't want to spill the beans
yet but some of the survey results are what we expected and some are
quite surprising. These results will help us better market the FSP
which, we hope, will result in increased response from our outreach.
2007 FSP Events – Porcupine Freedom
Festival and New Hampshire Liberty Forum
For the last month, including at the
Fest itself, I have been looking for people to take on the
responsibility of planning next year's FSP events. Based on feedback
from others, I thought we might be able to consider having two events
if we were able to recruit enough people to lead both events. It
turns out, we wound up with just the right mix of people! I had
dinner with 4 people who will lead the teams for two FSP events in
2007: the New Hampshire Liberty Forum and the Porcupine Freedom
Festival. They will share the same vision of showcasing New
Hampshire, but they'll do so with two distinctly different styles at
two different times of the year. More details on those events will
be available on the FSP website, the forums, and elsewhere as they
The spirit of Porc Fest lives on...
I have to take a moment and talk a bit
about the Sunday night campfire. It illustrates the reason we do the
Porcupine Freedom Festival. I wandered around after dinner and wound
up sitting with some folks from TN who really wanted to move to NH.
This was their first visit to Porc Fest and they're spending this
week looking for jobs and a place to live. We had lots of time in a
great casual environment to talk about all that.
But maybe more importantly, we talked
about all kinds of 'other' stuff. We told jokes, talked about New
Hampshire politics, rambled on about airplanes, enjoyed the campfire,
and generally made friends. And, you see, that's an often
unpublished part of the spirit of the people who move to NH because
of the Free State Project. Not only do we get great things done in
New Hampshire, but we do it together. We're not doing this alone, as
isolated beacons of liberty in a sea of tyranny. We see each other
regularly. We're friends. We're neighbors. We support each other.
Casual meetings, ad-hoc gatherings, weddings, parties, recreational
events, and all sorts of other things happen all year in New
Hampshire. The campfire never goes out – Porc Fest is just a
continuation of the year-around activites. Maybe it's the biggest
gathering all year, but it's definitely not the only one. Liberty
lives in NH, not just at Porc Fest. For that family from TN, they
just got a sample. Come home to NH and you can live it year around.
Before blasting off on Monday, I
stopped by for yet another cozy gathering in the rain. Some of those
under the big white awning aren't so distant now, though. They just
moved to NH the week before Porc Fest. They came home, and it was my
honor and pleasure to welcome them, again. Saying good bye wasn't
really much of a good bye at all. We knew we'd see each other again
soon. In fact, they stopped by my hometown for dinner the other
The Cannae Tactic: How to Sell New Hampshire Self-Government
by Jason Sorens
I have titled this talk, The Cannae Tactic, after the Battle of Cannae, which was fought in 216 BC between the Carthaginians under Hannibal and the Romans. Hannibal's tactical innovation was to place his greenest troops in the center and his veterans on the flanks. The center advanced to engage the Roman army, then withdrew as if in retreat. The Romans pursued them, thinking the battle was a rout, but then the veterans on the flanks surrounded them. The Roman army was completely annihilated, losing some 60 to 70 thousand men. I think there's an analogous tactic that could work on the important issue of New Hampshire self-government. In a moment I'll describe what I mean by that term.
When I came up with the idea of the Free State Project, I assumed that most of the people who would be moving would be activists in a very weak sense of the term, maybe donating $50 a year to local libertarian causes but not necessarily doing much else. For that reason I thought we might need as many as 20,000 activists to build a permanent majority in a state of this size. As it turns out, though, the majority of the people moving are Super-Activists. They are spending hours each week writing letters, testifying before the legislature, putting out newspapers, engaging their fellow citizens. What we've found is that now, Free Staters are dominating the testimony at the state legislature on bills that matter most to us.
What we need now is a true grassroots movement that will hold elected officials accountable every time. Once we have 1,000 activists in state, I think we will have that. We don't need 20,000 if the people that move in are Super-Activists.
But another thing that will help us achieve more with fewer numbers is smart tactics. We need to know how to sell our ideas, both to the public and to elected officials.
When it comes to policy reforms, political scientists have found that a frontal assault almost never works, especially in a system like ours in which power is diffused through three branches of government. Instead, you need something like the Cannae Tactic. Rule Number One for any reformist leader is: You can never destroy an adversarial interest group, you can only hope to co-opt them. For us libertarians, potentially adversarial interest groups might include labor unions, certain government employees, big businesses that get corporate welfare, the more extreme environmentalist organizations, and those elements of law enforcement who are more concerned about the size of their payrolls than true reductions in crime. These interest groups will never go away, and they will always effectively pursue their interests.
But perhaps, by initiating a tactical retreat on certain issues, you can bring these interest groups in and give them a stake in something much more important that you want. Thus, you can beat a retreat from school vouchers to distract the teachers' unions and instead offer something more beguiling: fully private, for-profit, teacher-owned schools. Handing the government schools over to the teachers would be a big financial windfall for them. Maybe some of them deserve it, and some of them don't, but the point is that you get their political support for a reform that ends up creating hard budget constraints, competition, and choice in schooling Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the three things needed to make a truly world-class, innovative educational system.
Let's turn now to the issue of New Hampshire self-government, one of the biggest issues. What I mean by New Hampshire self-government is "New Hampshire control over New Hampshire affairs." It means getting the federal government to stop deciding issues for us and to let us make our own decisions.
At one extreme, self-government could mean complete independence, in which New Hampshire has control of its own foreign policy and defense. I realize a few people are promoting this idea now, but we can expect the vast majority of Granite Staters to oppose it, and a fair number of Americans, perhaps even a majority, who would favor the use of military force to end such an experiment. Complete independence is the frontal assault tactic, using a vastly outnumbered force to attack a citadel. The outcome Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a massacre.
Self-government is the Cannae Tactic. Not only does Ã¢â‚¬Ëœself-government' sound softer and more positive than Ã¢â‚¬Ëœindependence,' it makes more sense politically because it can bring in the left. Self-government could be arranged ad hoc, allowing New Hampshire to opt out of various taxes and programs, such as an agreement to devolve Social Security to the state and stop withholding Social Security taxes from New Hampshire residents' paychecks. This reform alone would mean an average annual tax cut of $490 for every man, woman, and child in the state, without any loss of benefits. If we got New Hampshire the right to opt out of income and estate taxes as well, in exchange for which we gave up all block grants and federal programs other than defense, then there would be a per capita benefit of $1324 per year, even if all spending remained the same. The way to push for these changes in Congress might be to sell them as "pilot programs" for reforms the federal government is considering anyway (such as President Bush's Social Security choice plan).
Of course, we wouldn't want all spending to remain the same; we'd want to privatize our Social Security program, eliminate corporate welfare, and generally reduce spending. If we eliminated all federal and state welfare programs and instead consolidated those programs into a single cash payment, we could give $8600 to every adult individual in New Hampshire while still trimming overall spending levels by about 10%. (I'm also assuming here that the state is still funding education and all non-welfare programs at the same level as today. I would also note that we could spend more than $10,000 per year on the poorest individuals if we means-tested benefits slightly.) This is a variant of the plan proposed by Charles Murray in his new book In Our Hands. He advocates doing it on the federal level, but I think that having the states decide on it as they choose makes more sense.
It should be obvious how the left might support such a plan, sometimes called a basic minimum income. Welfare recipients benefit because they are no longer restricted in what they can spend: housing, food, and so on. But the program doesn't damage work incentives because every individual gets it, no matter his or her income. It isn't a "pure" libertarian solution by any means, but it does cut bureaucracy very significantly. But this is the kind of program that will work best only when New Hampshire gets self-government, that is, the right to opt out of federal income and FICA taxes. The first reason is that it could not be adequately funded under the current system. The feds spend a lot on transfer programs, and what they give to us in block grants is tightly hedged by restrictions. The second reason is that New Hampshire is a net loser from the federal fiscal game. Self-government means another $1324 per person per year that we can use as we see fit.
To the right we can sell self-government as an automatic Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and very sizeable Ã¢â‚¬â€œ tax cut. To the left we can sell self-government as the ticket to more spending on the poor. To everyone we can sell the idea that New Hampshire can take care of its own problems better than Washington, DC can. We can draw in a wide range of interest groups and give them a stake in a reform that is very important to all of us here.
While I think self-government can be achieved on an ad hoc basis, it could also be achieved with a change in legal status for New Hampshire. There is a jurisdiction in the United States where residents do not pay federal income taxes. That is Puerto Rico. They do pay payroll taxes and benefit from Medicare and Medicaid, but that is by their own choice. They apparently do have the right to opt out of those taxes and programs. New Hampshire could, with congressional approval, also become a Commonwealth or simply an unincorporated territory of the United States. We would lose our voting rights in Congress and the electoral college, but New Hampshire has very little influence on the federal government as it is. This kind of change in status is obviously a much more drastic change than working on individual programs ad hoc, and as I've argued, it may be unnecessary.
There are of course other federal policies we'd like to change, such as federal drug laws. I don't think self-government or even independence has an answer to this sticky issue. Look at what happened when Canada made timid moves toward legalizing marijuana. The U.S. government essentially threatened to shut down trade from Canada unless they fought the drug war the way the American government wants them to. I don't know what the answer to the federal drug war is, other than using our foothold here as a bully pulpit to proclaim the need for reform.
In my opinion, "dealing with the feds" should probably wait until we've privatized the schools, repealed business licensing, and made other necessary reforms at the state and local levels. But libertarians being what they are, my guess is that there will be different groups of people working on all kinds of different things, all at the same time. I predict that self-government will become the lynchpin of any successful New Hampshire autonomy project, and that in order to succeed, its supporters will have to sell it in a way that appeals to the vast majority of Granite Staters, regardless of ideology, party, class, race, creedÃ¢â‚¬Â¦whatever. At that point self-government becomes a matter of simply doing what is in the interests of everyone in our state, rather than contested ground in an ideological war. The broader point that I hope I have supported is that, by using the Cannae Tactic, our First 1000 will leverage their numbers even more powerfully to create change in New Hampshire. Exciting things are already happening, but the best is yet to come. Sign up, and join the party.
... there was hope
Speech delivered to the 2006 Porcupine Freedom Festival
Friday, June 23, 2006, 5:00 p.m.
By: Varrin Swearingen, FSP President
I wouldn't call the 20th
century libertarian movement a total failure. Merely saying it that
way gives a feel for my impression of it's level of success, though.
The libertarian movement got started
sometime in the middle of the 20th century, accelerating
in the latter part of the century. FEE (Foundation for Economic
Education) led the way in 1946, the IHS got started in 1961, (I)SIL's
roots trace back to the late 1960's, the LP in 1971, Cato in 1977,
Reason in 1978, the Advocates for Self Government in 1985, the
Republican Liberty Caucus in 1990, and countless organizations since
By the end of the last century, there
were dozens of well known pro-freedom organizations that worked hard
in various arenas to fend off the full-on assault of government. But
as these efforts became better organized and, presumably, more
effective, the government grew ever larger and our freedom ever
smaller. The measurable result was still negative.
Budgets at every level of government
were astronomically higher than they were at the dawn of the century,
the amount and impact of regulation continued to grow at a
mind-numbing pace, and freedom was quickly being extinguished by
every level of government in every part of America. Indeed, the
government is more or less a reflection of the people, and the people
aren't too interested in freedom these days. At the beginning of
this century, there was not much hope for the future of freedom in
This hopelessness is the backdrop for
the formation of the Free State Project. Though many dedicated
people did much excellent work to preserve our freedom, we were
outnumbered. Successes were unusual and when they did happen, it was
in an environment of net loss of freedom. One step forward, two (or
three) steps back. Fewer and fewer people were willing to work for
freedom and more and more people worshiped government.
The idea behind the Free State Project
is to resolve the problem of too few people being interested in
freedom. If a sufficient number of pro-freedom activists relocated
to a single, low-population state, with an already freedom-friendly
populace, maybe the routine failures could be turned around into
routine successes. Maybe, we could have some hope of liberty... in
Since the founding of the Free State
Project, things have gotten a lot worse. If we needed the project in
the summer of 2001, how much more do we need it now? Remember, the
FSP was founded before the acceleration into oppression that has
marked the last five years. If it was hopeless then, in 2001, how
much more hopeless is it now? Consider these examples. Since the
formation of the FSP:
The supreme court has ruled private
property can now be 'legally' taken for private redevelopment;
federal spending grew 33% between 2001 and 2005; during that same
period of time NH General Fund spending grew 27% and NH total
government spending grew 31%; the freedom to travel has been
dramatically reduced by numerous organizations, a national ID card
has become a reality, dozens of new bureaucracies have been made, a
universal healthcare program just passed one state to the south of us
and a major west coast city is considering a similar move, and the
list goes on and on and on.
There is little hope in this picture,
no matter where you live. In fact, even here in New Hampshire,
though things are measurably better than other states, freedom
continues to decrease. All this is true despite continued efforts in
the freedom movement to stop the decline of freedom. As optimistic
as I am, I'm forced to acknowledge that the freedom movement
continues to fail to even slow the rate of decline of freedom in
The question is, with all of this
hopelessness, can the FSP succeed? Is there any hope at all? What
will it take to build a Free State?
For the first two years of the project,
nobody really knew the answer to that question. In fact, not only
didn't anyone know, but those who guessed disagreed significantly on
what it would take to succeed.
The truth is, predictions of success
were entirely speculative. Sure, we could extrapolate data from
activity in various environments around the world, but we had no
evidence that an organized project like this would actually work. We
didn't even know which state we'd end up in. We didn't know if
anyone would actually move. And we didn't know if, after moving,
there would be any measurable positive impact. Nevertheless, there
Hope is wonderful, and it can inspire
people to greatness. However, it can be empty and disappointing when
what you once hoped for appears impossible. So while some were
hopeful, there was not yet much assurance of success. Even if the
project, as originally designed, succeeded in meeting its goal of
obtaining 20,000 commitments by pro-freedom activists to move to a
single state, there was no assurance that anyone would actually move.
Even if those 20,000 people did move, there was no assurance of any
actual success. There were many unknowns just a few short years ago.
The project managed to attract 5,000
participants and the state vote was held. This, itself, was a huge
successful step. Being ¼ of the way to completing the
monumental task of persuading 20,000 people to move for freedom gave
people hope, and rightly so. The credibility of the Free State
Project as the single obvious organized freedom movement was solidly
established. If a project designed to concentrate libertarian
activists is to ever attract enough people to succeed, this is it.
There is hope.
What has happened since then, however,
gives me more hope ... more assurance than ever before. Since the
state vote, we have established what could not have been established
previously. We have proof now that pro-freedom activists will
actually move to New Hampshire. If you have moved to New Hampshire
as a result of the Free State Project since October 1st, 2003, please
raise your hand.
There's proof. There's knowledge.
People are moving. There's hope.
But the good news doesn't end there.
Those who have already moved to New Hampshire have given us proof
that that they can actually change things for the better. They've
persuaded their new friends and neighbors that freedom is better than
tyranny. They've written bills that passed, lobbied for good bills
that passed because of their efforts, lobbied against bad bills that
failed because of their efforts, successfully campaigned in local
elections, won elected office, successfully defended themselves
against government lawsuits, and the list goes on. If you've moved
since October 1st, 2003, and you feel you've participated
in some activity that has caused there to be more freedom in New
Hampshire than there would have been without your participation,
please raise your hand.
There's proof. There's knowledge.
There's people having an effect. There's hope.
There is now concrete evidence that
pro-freedom activists will move to New Hampshire for the purpose of
increasing the level of freedom here and will actually be effective
in doing so. This is not a pipe dream or untested theory, it is
More impressive is the amount that has
been accomplished with relatively few people. Though existing
support in-state was strong, the effect of just those couple hundred
early movers, some of whom just raised their hands, has been very
noticeable and positive. Millions of dollars of current or future
taxes have been stopped by the work of just a few recently-moved FSP
participants. Bad changes to state and local laws have been stopped
and good changes have been successful as a result of the work of a
few recently-moved FSP participants.
If a few people can accomplish so much,
imagine what 1000 people could do. Could they, by themselves, create
a 'free state'? Could they get 50% or 75% of the way there? We
don't know that much yet, but it seems to me that 1000 people could
erase any doubt in even the most pessimistic skeptic's mind that New
Hampshire is the freest state in the nation, bar none.
What then could 2000 do? Or 5000? Or
10,000? What about 20,000?
There's little doubt in my mind that
20,000 effective pro-freedom activists could create a Free State
right here in New Hampshire. And even if we wound up arguing over
the minutia in 10 or 20 years, we would be so much better off than
the rest of the nation that no sane person who treasures freedom
would want to live anywhere else.
But merely imagining our success won't
assure us of it. We have a job to do. In order to succeed, it is
imperative that we attract 20,000 people to the Free State Project.
We succeeded in attracting 5,000 people in a fairly short period of
time. Since October, 2003, our rate of growth has slowed – we have
only added about 2600 participants.
The good news is, it should now be far
easier for people to commit to the project knowing that the theory
behind it has been, at least in part, demonstrated to work right
here, right now, in this case in New Hampshire. Our job is to spread
that message of hope to pro-freedom activists around us.
If there is to be any hope, I do
believe this is it. Hope for freedom is fading in the rest of the
nation. The light of liberty is being more rapidly extinguished each
day. The most likely hope for freedom lies with the Free State
Project and that hope appears brighter today than ever before.
Welcome to the Free State...