– an on-going series of interviews with our Liaison Leaders.
While the FSP is looking for activists who support liberty for all, we can find libertarians in many different communities of ignterest, each with its own priorities and reasons for valuing freedom. It makes sense for some members of these communities to interface with their own, since they are more likely to empathize and speak the same language, figuratively speaking. This has been going on informally since the FSP's inception, but we are formalizing it a little.
Below is a list of interest groups and people assigned as liaisons. The list is not exhaustive, and the people are not exclusive. We ask that the liaisons make efforts to reach out to their communities, and we ask that anyone else doing so keep the liaisons informed, so as to coordinate activities.
Feel free to suggest additional interest groups, especially if you are willing to volunteer as a liaison yourself, if you believe that connecting with them will help further the FSP mission. Please send any feedback to the Coordinator: Wade Bartlett.
Also, you can visit the Interest Group Liaisons discussion board in the FSP Forum.
Title: Libertarians seek a place in the New Hampshire sun
Author: Adam Geller
For Immediate Release
February 13, 2009
New Hampshire Once Again Shows the Way to Freedom
CONCORD -- As it has done in the past, New Hampshire is once again leading a pack of states in taking a stand against intrusive government.
For Immediate Release
January 4, 2008
PORCUPINES TALK DRUGS, ACTIVISM, IMMIGRATION AND REAL MONEY
Nashua, NH - The first day of presentations for the 2008
Liberty Forum covered the broad themes of the War on Drugs, citizen
activism, school choice, immigration and real money. "All these topics are
important for moving liberty forward, which is the overall theme of the
forum", said Forum organizer Chris Lawless.
Over the afternoon, attendees had the choice of presentations, covering
drugs, activism and immigration. The session on the War on Drugs was led
by Peter Christ, former undercover narcotics officer, who highlighted the
origins in the government policy and what it has done to policing in
America. In short, it has made everything worse.
Those interested in citizen activism at the federal level could hear Bob
Schulz of We The People, which currently has a writ in front of the U.S.
Supreme Court being heard today to hear a case to validate the right to
petition for redress of grievances against the government; the Court will
issue its decision on Monday morning. The writ was filed after all prior
petitions concerning the income tax, the Iraq war, the Patriot Act and the
Federal Reserve were ignored by the federal government.
For more local activism, Don Gorman, former state legislator and political
director of the NH Liberty Alliance, gave a stirring appeal for people to
move here and how they can become effective activists right away. Carla
Howell of the Center for Small Government, discussed the ballot initiative
in Massachusetts to eliminate the state income tax and what effect that
could have on the rest of the country.
The panel on Education Choice covered homeschooling, private schools and
public school choice. Gardner Goldsmith discussed the history of
immigration laws and the repeated arguments of the 1800's being used
today against foreign workers. He outlined his federalist position to let
the states handle immigration rather than the federal government, since it
has no constitutional authority to do so.
Rounding out the day was a session on the NH real estate and job market,
which is a primary interest to the many would-be movers. Artist Peter
Bagge of Reason Magazine related many funny stories of his journalistic
A full exhibitors' hall featured many local citizens groups, a job
placement agency, political parties, presidential campaigns and even
The keynote dinner featured Bernard von NotHaus, founder of the Liberty
Dollar. He spoke about sound money, and how "we cannot gave good
government without good money". He pointed out that the last time the
global economy collapsed was the fall of Rome, which resulted in 1000
years of no liberty and no money, and how we are headed for a similar
disaster if we do not take control of our money. "We are Americans. It is
our duty to fix it" he said, stirring the crowd to applause.
NotHaus also announced that the Liberty Dollar is still in business with a
new 2008 minting featuring an MSRP and a private barter currency marker.
He said a $1 silver liberty from 1999 recently sold for $700 on eBay,
showing the huge demand for an appreciating currency in contrast to the
depreciating federal reserve note.
The Liberty Forum continues until Sunday at the Crowne Plaza in Nashua.
Full details are at http://www.freestateproject.org/libertyforum
The Free State Project: Move and Live Free?
Rountable panel at the
American Enterprise Institute, 2/27/04 in Washington DC
Available as a
transcript or as the following audio files.
| Speaker/Topic || Start |
| File 1
|| Michael Greve (AEI) - Introduction
|Jason Sorens (FSP Chairman)
|Michael Barone (U.S. News & World Report)
|Richard Vedder (Ohio University)
|Alan Bock (Orange County Register) ...
| File 2
|| ... continues with Alan Bock
| Starts with Greve's questions. Jason Sorens, Alan Bock.
| Question & Answer ...
| File 3
|| ... continues with Question & Answer
(* Audio files are in Windows Media Audio (WMA) format)
Related news stories
(See 2/27 and 2/28/04)
More media articles about the FSP
These media articles are maintained on a non-commercial basis by
The Free State Project,
a non-profit organization, for historical, educational, scholarship,
and research purposes. (For information regarding "Fair Use", see
US Code Title 17,
Chapter 1, Section 107).
Interview with Jim Walters
Liaison for the States Rights Community 10/27/05
Liaisons Corner: Hi Jim, and welcome to the interviews at
Liaisons Corner. We appreciate your taking the time to help the Free State
Project participants get to know you better. Let's get started! Jim, Please
tell us where you were born and raised and a bit about your early years and
Jim Walters: I was born in Montgomery, Alabama to a family of
educators. My father was a Principal and Assistant Superintendent for over 38
years and my mother was a math teacher. Both my parents were from farm families
and were the first ones in their family to get a college education. I'm
especially proud of them because not only did they excel, my mother was the
Valedictorian of her class at Auburn in 1938 and was Phi Beta Kappa. Both of
them worked their way through school during the Depression. I graduated high
school from a small school and had 27 in my graduating class. At our 10th
Reunion, we found out that 17 of us had gone on to college. Not bad for a
little country school!
LC: Now let us know something about your high school and
college years. Also your bio was rich in involvement in the Boy Scouts, please
tell us about when you first joined the Scouts and how you have maintained
involvement in the Scouting movement throughout the years.
JW: I got a late start in Scouting, but all of us who were
involved went at it with a vengeance! We were in the BSA's teenage Explorer
program and four of us became Eagle Scouts together. I worked on camp staff and
was inducted into Scouting's Honor Society, The Order of the Arrow, and later
received the Vigil Honor. Later, I became an Assistant Scoutmaster and in the
1970's became a fulltime professional with the Boy Scouts in the New Orleans
Area Council. 29 years later, I retired from the BSA's National Staff in
Irving, Texas and am still active as a volunteer with my Explorer Post that
I've been active with for the past 25 years. We specialize in War For Southern
Independence Reenacting and are known as Co. K, 5th Louisiana Infantry. I since
turned over command to one of my "kids" who joined the unit 25 years ago as a
12 year old courier. I'm pretty much the "Commander Emeritus".
LC: Jim, somewhere along the line you have developed a deep
sense of a love of freedom. Where did that all start?
JW: My father was an avid reader and student of history and
would tell me stories of how he used to listen to Huey Long on the radio and
his involvement as a Marine in WWII in the Pacific. I think I inherited it from
him. I was a voracious reader like he was and that made history come alive for
me. History is full of struggles for freedom and full of stories of those who
try to deny that basic human need to be free. The stories are about both the
Patriots and the Tyrants. Being from the South, we have seen tyranny and
destruction up close and it's not an abstraction. Freedom is given by God and
not from a generous and benevolent ruler. Getting off my soapbox, I guess being
the rebellious sort, I was born with an innate resistance to authority and
always made a point to question it. That combined with a knowledge of the
Patriots of history has given me a reverence for the dedication of freedom
seekers all over the world.
LC: Tell us how it all evolved to the point of your hearing
about the Free State Project.
JW: All my political activity, beliefs, religious beliefs,
education, and experience came together with the FSP into a "perfect storm"
that showed me a way to freedom, not just for the South, but for the country as
a whole. The Free State Project is a perfect fit that offers a way for Liberty
to happen for all of us. One of my favorite columnists is Dr. Walter Williams.
He tagged the "Red State/Blue State'" thing when he said the country is divided
right down the middle with half of the people wanting to be left alone by
government and be allowed to live their lives, raise their children, and
worship in the town square., while the other half is pathologically INCAPABLE
of leaving them alone! So it appears we have a game of "It's My Turn To Be The
Tyrant" going on.
The FSP offered a magnificently simple solution and an alternative to the
divisive society we are forced to live in. Maybe if we all became tolerant of
each other and took the tool of coercive government off the table, then we
might just get along fine! While I may personally disagree with a lot of groups
in the FSP and will probably will denounce them in the town square as they will
most certainly denounce me. Neither of us will have the brute force of
government to inflict our agendas on the other.
LC: You have been interested in or a member of the League
of the South. Please tell the readers about the League of the South and how
that may have influenced your views on life.
JW: Over the years, I've become aware of the steady loss of our
freedoms and the deterioration of our national ethic of desiring freedom and
independence from an ever-growing Federal government. State sovereignty was a
constitutional cornerstone of our republic. It ended at Appomattox when the
forces of a centralized and concentrated Federal Government overcame on the
battlefield what they could not win by peaceful means. Starting then, we have
evolved into the "Nanny State" we are in now. Southerners are concerned by the
anti-Southern bigotry and attempts to eradicate and cleanse Southern history by
way of what some of us are calling "Reconstruction Part II". Quite a few of us
are seeing the attacks on traditional values as an attack on Christianity by
the Secular Humanists. We are on the side of freedom while those who oppose us
are always collectivists and are never libertarian in nature.
The purpose of the League of the South is to create a free and independent
South where everyone is equal before God and the Law and that government is the
servant of the people rather than the Master. Our position in the League is
that we seek to accomplish this new independence by honorable means. I have
been a member of the League of the South for about six years and I'm on the
Board of Advisors of the Texas LoS. We are working to establish alternative
institutions for ourselves such as our own credit union in Texas and support
home schooling. Many of us are resources for home school associations. We also
put on cultural events and conferences that are a lot of fun, but serve a dual
purpose to bring Southerners together and to give us an opportunity to tell
people who we are and what we believe. We have attracted the attention of the
Southern Poverty Law Center, who refers to us as a "Neo-Confederate Hate
Group". First I bristled at that term, I'm more of a "Paleo-American". The same
people refer to the Boy Scouts as a homophobic hate group and the religious
right as a hate group, too. In other words, read what we are about at www.dixienet.org and decide for yourself.
LC: Jim, as our States Rights Liaison Leader, I have heard
you talk very passionately about state's rights. Please tell us about your
views on state's rights, then tell us how you might envision how we might bring
New Hampshire in line with those views.
JW: You are right on the passionate part! State sovereignty, in
my opinion, is the only hope we have in remaining a free country. Our country
is way too diverse to please some and force a one size fits all solution to
problems. Mississippi is not like San Francisco and New Hampshire is different
from Minnesota. Why is different necessarily bad? There is a dangerous mindset
that I call a "Zero Sum" mindset. Boiled down, it says that if any one is
prosperous, then they must have stolen or exploited another to get it. If one
group is free, then they must oppress or deny another group their freedom. It
goes in polar opposite of a lot of our people's traditional faith.
I see New Hampshire being 90% in line with our Southern Nationalist views.
That's why I voted for NH in the selection of the Free State. I really don't
think that there is a lot more to do to bring NH into our way of thinking. I
chose NH because they were already pretty much in line already. I've always
loved the "Live Free or Die" state motto. Jefferson Davis made it clear when he
said that the point of southern Independence was, "All we want is to be left
alone". Sadly, "those people" that Dr. Walter Williams defined in his 2000
election analysis, were incapable of leaving the South alone!
LC: Jim, you are a southern boy through and through (War
Eagle). How do you feel about a southern boy from Alabama going to a New
England state to see it become a truly free state, is that not a little
upsidedown from what folks might have thought in 1865?
JW: Over my life, I've met only a handful of people from New
Hampshire and have liked them and their attitudes. I asked them why in the
WORLD do they want to be considered Yankees! They are more like Southerners!
It's the independent spirit that attracts me to New Hampshire and the
opportunity to help them win their freedom from the Federal giant. I'm trying
to recruit a Confederate Expeditionary Brigade to come with me. Southerners, by
nature, are bound to their homes and are not culturally nomads. It's hard to
talk with them about leaving their homes and families to move to a new and
somewhat different place. My answer to them is that you are being asked to help
New Hampshire win its freedom. Your ancestors left home and marched and fought
for four years for the Confederacy to win their freedom. The sacrifice was
horrendous, not only the loss of some 650,000 Americans, but included some
50,000 Southern civilians, and the ravaging of the countryside itself. So, they
ask me, why go to New Hampshire? My answer is that I believe that the road to
Southern freedom leads straight through New Hampshire and that the cause of the
South is the cause of New Hampshire. New Hampshire has not had a campaign of
over 140 years of demonization that the South has had to endure. The worst I've
heard anyone say about NH was that they are "colorful". So, as the great
general, Nathan Bedford Forrest said, "Hit 'em where they ain't!" Well, they
ain't in New Hampshire!
LC: You have a strong Scottish background, do you not? Has
your Scots blood played any part in your love of freedom?
JW: Both sides of my family came to America from Scotland in
the early 1700's. My mother's family to Georgia and my father's South Carolina.
I actually think it's genetically disposed! In fact, my second career after the
Boy Scouts is my own Scottish food business. It's grown out of my involvement
in Scottish Clan societies, the Royal Museum of Scotland, as well as my
interest in Scottish history. One of my favorite books, "Cracker Culture,
Celtic Ways of the Old South", by Dr. Grady MacWhinney makes the point that at
the time of the War Between the States or The War to Prevent Southern
Independence, as I like to put it, that the South was 75% Celtic while the
North was nearly the flip side Anglo-Saxon English, hence New England! Their
mercantile culture goes back to the beginning and our cultural differences come
about honestly. BTW, New Hampshire is a hotbed of Scottish activity that I'm
looking forward to being a part of. I tell my native Scot friends that the
English kicked the more rowdy of us out first and that a Texan is nothing but a
Scot on steroids!.
LC: Jim, as you know we do not know the future, however, I
am going to ask you as I ask all Liaison Leaders in these interviews, how do
you envision what the state of New Hampshire might look like in say 10 years
JW: As the great Southerner, Dr. Martin Luther King said, "I
have a dream". That dream is the restoration of our constitutional republic of
sovereign states. New Hampshire is the cornerstone of that new republic and
will be a shinning light to show how a free society operates in reality as well
as a free economy. The remaining 10% of what needs to be done in the Free State
would include the development of free foreign trade, making the state as
business friendly as we can make it, and to watch our borders! I see a group of
highly diverse people actually getting along and not at each others throats as
we see in our country now. I've never heard of a Libertarian Revolution that
forced freedom and liberty on anyone! Sadly, it is always the opposite.
Freedom and liberty are extinguished by tyrants. I've noticed that there's a
bad habit of Yankees to become violent when you threaten their revenues! I just
hope Abraham Lincoln isn't President of the USA when the time comes to
renegotiate New Hampshire's relationship with Washington!
LC: Thanks, Jim, for taking the time for us to get to know
Back to Liaisons Corner
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.
Finding the Right States for State Rights
by Sean Scallon
This article first appeared in the January 2003 issue of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture (www.ChroniclesMagazine.org).
It seems more than a bit ironic that a man so identified with the cause of states rights
and the South's quest for self-determination would have attended a school in the
heartland of Yankee centralism.
Yet, John C. Calhoun was Yale man, a graduate of an institution set up by
Congregationalists that was part of the intellectual center of what would be New
England's eventual domination over the rest of America, something that Calhoun was
opposed to and fearful of.
And yet, in irony still, a Yale man, a graduate student attending part of the
intellectual center of the new multicultural America, is trying to carrying on Calhoun's
work today, even if the Elis would be loath to admit that Calhoun even attended school
in New Haven.
"My wife's a South Carolinian and she grew up not too far from where Calhoun lived and
worked," Jason P. Sorens said. "From that, and my time here at Yale and through own my
own views on states' rights, I'm quite aware of his legacy."
For that legacy of states rights and nullification is part of Sorens' Free State Project
(FSP), a libertarian group that has a plan to put Calhoun's views on the states' right to act
independently of the federal government in defense of their own interests into action.
What Sorens' group hopes to do is to attract 20,000 or more liberty oriented people
to join his group and agree to move to a single, small U.S. state to be able to influence
that state's body politic towards the principles of a free society. The group was
formed in 2001 in the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election, as once again
Libertarians were stuck in the mire of national third party politics.
"I was thinking about this idea after the 2000 election," Sorens said. "A column written
by Walter Williams, which talked about the possibilities of secession, influenced my
thinking in this direction, as did a round-table discussion in Liberty magazine about
what strategies the Libertarian Party should pursue. I talked to friends and also wrote
an essay in The Libertarian Enterprise, an online Libertarian magazine, and got
an excellent response. That's how myself and several others first came together to form
There are currently 40,000 paid Libertarian Party activists according to Sorens'
figures, of which he believes half of that total is a potential pool for recruits to the
FSP, at least from within LP ranks. It's these 20,000 members which Sorens hopes can be
the activist cadre for an existing state Libertarian Party or within a new political
organization, or in coalition with other existing parties within the state they choose.
Using the example of the Parti Quebecois, (which the FSP cites frequently in articles on
their website) Sorens estimates that the PQ had 100,000 paid members by 1976 in a Quebec
that had a population of 6.2 million, or, a ratio of one member for every 62 persons when
it won control of the provincial legislature. Applying the same mathematics to a state
with a population of 1.2 million or less and where the two major political parties spend
less than five million each for political campaigns at all levels, Sorens believes it is
possible their group could achieve the same results as the PQ.
Utopian? Naive? Madness? Certainly there are those who would give this plan a first
glance might think so, having seen every crackpot political venture before, like finding
a deserted island in the Pacific Ocean and declaring themselves their own little nation,
complete with anthem and flag and the leader enthroned as Napoleon. Or giving money to
fund coups or rebel groups in third world countries in the name of democracy. Or the
more usual direct mail schemes for political causes that wind up benefiting those behind
them and the U.S. Postal Service rather the contributors. As a disclaimer, when this
writer first ventured upon their website and read their premise, it reminded one of Jim
Jones taking his People's Temple followers in the jungles of Guyana to make a socialist
paradise that became a living hell on earth.
But is the FSP any more or less insane than third party politics in this country? Is it
any more or less insane than Libertarians or Constitutionalists or Greens trying yet once
again to elect a president, especially one that will likely be without Congressional or
state office support? Is it any more or less insane than spending another year toiling in
the political fields trying to cultivate another rich harvest of grassroots support just
to elect an alderman? Or is it more or less insane than the old, proverbial "working with
our two-party system?"
"Third parties don't work on a national scale," Sorens said. "Not just because the
system is against them but the culture is too. If you look around the world, the parties
and movements that are new and dynamic are the ones promoting regionalism and
And if one looks back through American history, one finds the idea of the FSP hardly so
insane after all. The migration of 20,000 or so activists into a small state pales in
comparison to the migration of African-Americans from the South to Northern cities
through half the 20th century. It certainly would be on par with the migration of Mormons
from Navuoo, Ill. to their desert kingdom in Utah or at least on the level with recent
political migrations of New York liberals to Vermont, which changed the political
orientation of that state changed from cantankerous Yankee to Ben and Jerry hippie, or
California conservatives to the Rocky Mountain states and Texas, which made these places
even more pro-Republican than they already were. Certainly Southern politics (and culture
for that matter) were never the same again with all the Yankee migrants from the East and
Midwest settling there since the end of World War II to the present day.
So what would these activists in the Free State Project do with their "freedom?", i.e,
what would they do in the event they were ever elected to hold public office in the state
they were migrating to? For starters, they would like to repeal state taxes and wasteful
state government spending programs. Then they would move to ending collaboration between
state and federal law enforcement officials in enforcing unconstitutional federal laws.
They would end asset forfeiture and abuses of eminent domain along with privatizing
utilities and ending inefficient state regulations and monopolies. They would negotiate
directly with the federal government for more autonomy, opting out of national programs
and receive tax rebates or block grants instead as some provinces have done in other
countries. They could also adopt electoral reform with instant runoff and preferential
voting methods to elect public officials rather than first past the post. And there's
"There should be no federal role in land ownership and we would give federal lands back
to states and local communities for more productive use," Sorens said. "We also would
want to give Indian tribes living within our states full autonomy. Most of us feel that
states should eventually enjoy the right to control immigration. States that would want to have a large immigrant population should have the right to do so and those that do not wish to
should have the right to put up barriers."
Such autonomy, if obtained, could go in fascinating directions. Take foreign policy for
example. A state that did not favor an undeclared war or military action far away from
its borders could prevent the members of their national guard from taking part in it. Or
not allow their citizens to participate in any reintroduction of the military draft
unless war has been declared by Congress or allow their citizens tax money to fund it.
They could also reject treaties that directly went their economic, political or cultural
interests, especially those drawn up in the United Nations. Or negotiate trade agreements
of their own with other provinces and states around the globe. Such autonomy could catch
on. If the foreign policy experts and bureaucrats in the State Department, Pentagon, CIA,
United Nations or in Congress and the White House, knew that an unpopular treaty, trade
agreement, or military adventure would be opposed by several states, they may think
twice. In fact it could break the monopoly that the current establishment has upon
foreign policy of this country and put a check upon the Empire.
If migration of political, cultural, ethnic, racial and religious groups is as American
as apple pie, so is the autonomy and right of dissent from federal policy. It's in the
same spirit and letter as that of the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions which opposed and
forswore compliance of the Alien and Sedition Acts that Congress passed in 1798. It was
these resolutions that Calhoun drew upon his philosophy for nullification written in the
South Carolina Exposition of 1828 and the Fort Hill Address of 1831. Calhoun was not a
secessionist and neither is the FSP advocating secession. But the both agree the right of
a state and local body of government to declare itself opposed to and withdraw from
compliance of policies drawn up in Washington D.C. that are ruinous to the interests of
its people is what many Founding Fathers hope would be a check upon the growth of power
of the federal government. And while that check may have been removed after 1860, trying
to get it back certainly wouldn't be any less counterproductive for a group of activists
outside the two-party oligopoly than wasting their time trying to elect a representative,
senator or president, federal offices in a federal system that's already spoken for.
The FSP took shape in the middle of 2001 and progress towards their goal of 20,000
members has only reached 2,000 plus members by December of 2002. The disaster of
September 11 and the wave of nationalistic feeling afterward put a severe crimp building
membership. The FSP is using their website, www.freestateproject.org along with world of
mouth to gin up interest. They hope to advertise in libertarian and other political and
cultural publications and members are trying to recruit and put in a good world for
themselves at Libertarian Party conventions across the country. Responses have fit the
range from enthusiastic volunteers to people wishing to kill them.
"We've had good responses from some of the LP membership," Sorens said. "I think their
are many Libertarians out there burned out with conventional politics. They're looking
for something that has a chance to work. Others are just ignoring us or giving us a
polite nod and looking the other way.
"There were definitely some effects from Sept. 11 to the FSP. Some people who were
interested dropped out. Some people called us traitors, and we even received one death threat. The daily rate of people signing up slowed for a while after Sept. 11 but it began to pick up again in February. I think people are beginning to realize that not much in the country
has changed except for the federal government's trying to violate and take away our civil
liberties in the name of our protection. And yet, as 9/11 showed, it could not and did
not protect us from Al Qaida and their extremists. So we are starting to pick up members
again. We would like to reach 5,000 members in three years, because that would a tipping
point to show to people that we're serious."
The mixed response from Libertarians has led the FSP to look outside their circle towards
others who might be even more interested in their hopes and dreams for state and local
autonomy. Links towards paleoconservatives and paeolibertarians, members of political and
cultural autonomists and secessionists like the League of the South or to anti-federal
government groups in West, or strict Constitutionalist groups like the Constitution
Party, could provide fertile ground either for potential members or inspiration and ideas
for their own efforts. Members who sign up will get to choose the state they will live in
and agree to live there. On their website are economic and
political data on states below the 1.5 million person threshold, of which their are
several. They have criteria to judge those states that remain: big-government tendencies eliminated Hawaii and Rhode Island outright and cast some doubt on Vermont and Maine. Federal dependence hurts the chances of North and South Dakota. That leaves mostly western states like Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, eastern states like New Hampshire and Delaware, and, outside the contiguous United States, Alaska.
From talking to Sorens and from reading the website, the FSP is quite aware that simply
moving 20,000 people to particular state that many have never lived in before, if not
even passed through, and announcing "We're taking over!" is not going to go down very
well with the local populace who have lived there all their lives. So long as the FSP
talks the language of "building a local culture of liberty," "appeals to a state's
particularism and rights vis-Ã ÂÂ¶is the federal government" and supporting autonomy for
local groups such as Native American tribes, they're on the right track.
"We've stressed on our discussion websites how to best integrate ourselves into the
community we will eventually choose. But we're not really sure how that will really work
out," Sorens said. "In western states we have to make contact with ranchers, farmers and
miners and talk about gun rights issues, property rights and the ownership of federal
lands. In the east, we will have to take a small business approach and stress the issue
of taxes. Obviously if we locate in the west and Alaska, it will be to our advantage
because it's further away from the central government and that distance plays a role in
issues of autonomy."
Which would leave one to believe the west would be the perfect place for FSP members to
relocate. Particularly Alaska, which has a secessionist movement or at least the remnants
of one, the Alaska Independence Party (AIP), already in place, which elected a governor,
former Interior Secretary Walter Hickel, who served form 1990-94. But this leads to central
cultural problems and challenges that are in the FSP's path. While the West might be
more fertile ground politically, it's less so economically, at least as it relates to
Libertarians and FSP members in general. Many work in the high-tech sectors and financial
service industries, and jobs in those areas of employment are not exactly in great supply
in mostly rural, mostly commodity driven Western states and Alaska. Some FSP members,
according to Sorens, have made it quite clear they would not prefer to live in Alaska or
Wyoming. That's why a state like Delaware, the manor lawn of the DuPont family and the
home the government dependent credit card industry is still a possible FSP destination.
With the interconnectedness of modern technology, having FSP members move out west to
start up companies in the areas they are employed in order to give other FSP members on
their way jobs to come to, is one possible solution, there are more cultural challenges
The Parti Quebecois is mentioned many times on the FSP website and is certainly the model
they would like to follow as a successful autonomist political party. But the PQ had it
easy. All it had to do was to rally one single, homogenous ethnic, religious and
linguistic group to its cause. Herding cats might prove to be easier than trying to build
a coalition of libertarians, secessionists, Constitutionalists, paleoconservatives,
Greens, classical liberals, and any other groups that might have an interest in the free
state cause. And then try to assimilate into a state's particular culture, make common
cause and coalition with native political parties and interest groups, and finding a
cultural and economic group of voters as a source for their support, would be a task that
would burden even Hercules.
"Education is going to be an important part of what we do," Sorens said. "Educating
ourselves on the state that we choose to live in and educating the residents there as to
what we stand for. We have to focus our attention on those who don't vote or
whose lives aren't taken up by politics. So much of our political debate is framed by
elite opinion from pundits or experts or the media, that it's hard for regular people
not to follow along, because nobody wants to be part of, or examine closely, something
that polls just one percent of the population or is portrayed as being on the 'fringe.'
"That's why having so many activists in one single place, working together for what we
believe in, will not only make people take a look at us, but look at us again and again.
It's that second and third look that we need."
Given the announcement by President Bush of a new "Superagency" for
homeland security, the transferring of so many security related bureaus
of the federal government into one cabinet department modeled along the
lines of NKVD or the RSHA, the Free State Project is a worthy try to
accomplish the task of rolling back the state.
Sean Scallon is a reporter who lives in East Ellsworth, Wisconsin.
January 6, 2003
The views expressed in this essay do not necessarily represent those of Free State Project, Inc.
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.
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.
The Foreign-Policy Implications of a Free State
by Jason P. Sorens
If the Free State Project (FSP) succeeded and at least one state of the U.S.
became an "autonomous zone," what would be the implications for American
foreign policy and the world state system in general? Obviously, if foreign and
defense policy were devolved to the Free State, it would have control over its
own foreign policy. However, even with mere fiscal autonomy, a Free State would
have important implications for U.S. foreign policy.
What does fiscal autonomy (sometimes called "fiscal federalism") mean? In
general, it means that the states or provinces in a country have full control
over internal finances, and there are no cross-state or cross-provincial
subsidies. Whatever is raised in taxes in a state is spent in that state. Of
course, there are some areas of government spending that pertain specifically
to the country level and cannot be distributed by state. Defense is one such
area: it would be difficult, impractical, and unwise to allot military spending
strictly according to state tax revenues. Strategic considerations, for
example, may dictate that more troops should be placed on the coast or a border
than in some interior region (having military bases in California or Virginia
seems a better way to defend Kansas than putting the military bases in Kansas).
Fiscal autonomy therefore generally refers to non-public-goods portions of the
budget: welfare expenditures, social insurance, most kinds of law enforcement,
schooling, etc. In a Free State, of course, many of these current functions of
government would be carried out by private businesses or charities. Even if
these functions are not privatized, however, the mere fact of decentralization
will have important implications for the power and role of the federal
government in all areas.
The Federal Government's Budget Constraint
To see why this is so, think back to your introductory economics classes
and the concept of a budget constraint. In introductory microeconomics courses
they show you how giving people food stamps will actually encourage them to
spend money on other items as well, because money is fungible: what isn't spent
on food anymore will be spent on something else. In the same way, restricting
what the federal government can spend on redistribution, education, and law
enforcement will result in a reduction of what the federal government spends on
the military. The graph below demonstrates this.
Point A represents the tangency of the federal government's indifference
curve between military and redistributive spending and the federal government's
budget constraint. (An "indifference curve" is just a graphical representation
of how much of one good is necessary to compensate for the loss of another good
according to the preferences of the subject.) Now imagine that a Free State is
created, securing fiscal autonomy from the federal government in redistributive
policy. The federal government's revenues are reduced. The federal government
will attempt to compensate for the reduction in redistributive spending by
moving some spending from the military to redistribution (in technical economic
terms, this analysis assumes that both redistribution and military spending are
"normal goods" for the government). Point B is the new situation, representing
a decrease in both forms of spending.
Foreign Policy after the F.S.P.
What would be the implications of a decrease in military spending for U.S.
foreign policy? It is likely that unilateral war will become a less attractive
option for policy makers. Currently, the U.S. military budget represents about
a third of global military spending, even though the U.S. holds only about 5%
of the world's population. Especially in an age of "asymmetric force" (where
the greatest threats come not from states but from individuals and non-state
terrorist groups), America's bulky conventional military is too large and
tactically too conservative to protect Americans well. The reason policy makers
favor a large, conventional military is that it still serves their purposes
well: bullying leaders of foreign countries into compliance through threats of
bombing or economic sanctions. These policy makers are, contrary to the
popular imagination, not particularly attached to America at all but are more
interested in advancing their conceptions of historical grandeur on a world
stage. That this grandeur is dressed up in terminology of "democracy" and
"human rights" (and even "freedom") rather than overt imperial domination does
not make it any less arrogant and dangerous.
A smaller military budget would deter future missions like the bombing of
Yugoslavia and the bungled invasion of Somalia. It would force policy makers
to develop a more streamlined, efficient military that will be better suited
toward tracking down and eliminating decentralized threats to the American
people than to strong-arming the latest official villain.
A Free State would also deter an equally dangerous multilateralist
interventionism that takes its cues from the United Nations. By the same logic
as that presented above, a Free State would necessitate reductions in foreign
aid and U.N. dues. In addition, if, as we in the FSP hope, one Free State will
stimulate the emergence of others, there will be multiple centers of
independent criticism of global-statist policies. In the limit, Free States
with control over foreign policy would have the right to withdraw from
organizations like the U.N. altogether. (However, I see it as unlikely that
Free States would seek full decentralization of defense, for the reasons
expounded in the second paragraph. Rather, they would likely try to remain
under a common security umbrella in exchange for a yearly fee, for example.)
Another point that is worth making is that Free States would attract labor
and capital from inefficient interventionist states, creating constituencies
for free trade and capital mobility and encouraging interventionist states to
slim down. Free States would thus have a positive long-run impact on free trade
and economic globalization (which is by all means to be distinguished from
political "globalism"). This trend would in turn make the entire international
state system more peaceful, secure, and prosperous.
Neoconservative and establishment-liberal critics of the FSP will
doubtlessly enjoy pointing out that a Free State would reduce America's
conventional military capabilities. Nevertheless, this reduction would actually
serve Americans better, and a leaner government in all respects would certainly
make Americans' lives freer and richer. In addition, the dynamic effects of the
Free State should benefit the world at large in the long run.
April 4, 2002
The views expressed in this essay do not necessarily represent those of
Free State Project, Inc., its Directors, or its Officers.