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...
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.
A Line In The Sand
by Ted Sares
Recently, someone told me that smoking cigars was a "disgusting" habit. I replied that I was quite aware of that but it should be my decision to engage it, not hers......that is, as long as I did not impose it upon her. Being an occasional cigar smoker, I go to certain places to enjoy my H. Uphmans with fellow cigar smokers and without fear of reprisal or finger pointing. Some places will not allow me to do this, and I don't go there if I feel the need to torch up. I am always careful not to bother others with this activity. It's called freedom of choice even if my choice has possible harmful consequences to myself. But once again, there are some who are trying to tell me what's best for me.
To wit, local smoking bans now rolling across the nation may have less to do with protecting people from the supposed threat of "second-hand" smoke than they do with spreading the insidious disease of unlimited government power. This particularly malady has now metastasized and spread to local governments throughout the country. These bans grease the skids for even more intrusive regulation and establish the precedent that the rights of an individual can be violated any time a board of selectmen or city council decides that the "public good" demands it. That it has spread to states like California and Massachusetts, is no great surprise, but when it rears its ugly head in the "Live Free Or Die" state of New Hampshire, it is truly alarming.
Anti-tobacco activists initially claimed these bans would impact only public places (God forbid if you are caught smoking in Conway's Schuler Park), but predictably they have zeroed in on restaurants, bars, emporiums, nightclubs and other places where the owners heretofore have been free to set anti-smoking rules or where customers have been free to go elsewhere if they didn't like the smoke. Again, this is called freedom of choice.
The decision to smoke, or to avoid "second-hand" smoke (and the evidence concerning the health effects of second-hand smoke is not nearly as conclusive as it is concerning the health effects of actual smoking), is a question to be answered by each individual person based on his or her own risk assessment. Heck, just about everyone knows there are health risks involved with smoking, but everyone should have the freedom to bear responsibility for the consequences of assuming those risks. That's what free people living in a free nation do. They make these kinds of decisions regarding all aspects of their lives and most of these decisions involve risks. Some have harmful and negative consequences. Some are not popular. Some invite disapproval from others. But the individual must be free to make these decisions. He or she must be free, because their life belongs to them, not to others---- and certainly not to posturing and approval-seeking politicians and bureaucrats who react in Pavlovian manner to the crusade de jour. So why then when it comes to smoking is this individual freedom under such tenacious attack?
The anti-smoking crusade seems to be part of a greater overall attack from both sides of the political spectrum. Those on the right traditionally have been inclined to override the individual's judgment on matters such sex and violence in entertainment, alternative lifestyles, divorce, and the family. The left, on the other hand, purports to be opposed to this trend, albeit nominally, denouncing attempts to "legislate morality" and family values. While the left crusades for the toleration of alternative lifestyles, it also seeks to override the individual's judgment on material matters imposing restrictions on business, attempting to introduce socialist style windfall profit taxes, regulating advertising and campaign financing, and now legislating behavior that is deemed heathy (The Hazards of a Smoke-Free Environment, May 23, 2003, Robert Tracinski). Neither seems a safe haven for those who believe in freedom of the individual and in freedom of choice.
Most importantly, though, anti-smoking activists should satisfy themselves with thoroughly educating people about the health risks and allow them to make their own decisions. They should not commander the power of government and force people to make the "right" decision, nor should politicians superimpose their judgment on free people, most particularly when businesses seem to be doing this on a voluntary basis in NH. Our state motto represents empty words if we are not free to make these choices for ourselves--even mistaken choices that may turn out to be harmful. What next? Seat belts? Helmets for motorcyclists? No guns? No meat because of the potential of Mad Cow disease? Since sunlight can cause skin cancer, why shouldn't our Board of Selectmen regulate sunbathing at Conway Lake? If our Government can justify this, what can it not justify? Where does it end?
The State legislators, in concessions to a certain few, voted in favor of banning smoking 189-156. The Senate, however, maintained the sanctity of our motto and rejected this proposal. But activists are armed with righteousness and "good" intentions so when do they really step up the pace? Individual freedom, choice, personal responsibility, property rights, mean nothing to them. When do we tell them that the underlying issue remains that no anti-individual crusade and no crusade to rid our air of of tobacco smoke can override a much more important human requirement; namely, the need for the protection of individual rights.
When do we draw a line in the sand and tell them this is New Hampshire and enough is enough?
"The conservatives see man as a body freely roaming the earth, building sand piles or factories--with an electronic computer inside his skull, controlled from Washington. The liberals see man as a soul free-wheeling to the farthest reaches of the universe--but wearing chains from nose to toes when he crosses the street to buy a loaf of bread"-- Ayn Rand, Philosopher and Novelist
Ted Sares lives and writes in North Conway. This article originally appeared at tedsares.com.
Back to Essays
This is the page about the Minnesota FSP local group
Holding Effective Local Group meetings
Choosing the Location and Frequency
For many groups having one meeting in a central location once a month is
the best course of action. This is always the best course of action for new
local groups, as it begins to establish a pattern of doing something every
month, and in the first two months there may not be a lot of outreach
Some groups may find it necessary to alternate between two meeting
locations if the Local Group has a large area of operations. The effect of
this is that each sub-group has bi-monthly meetings. This course of action has
not been widely tested yet, but it is expected that it may make more time for
outreach activities, as most of our volunteers have a limited number of hours
that they can commit to making the FSP work.
Possible locations for the Local Group meeting include Restaurants, Parks,
Libraries, Coffeehouses, and even Firing Ranges. Restaurants have been the
traditional meeting place for many clubs. Parks can be good in some locations.
You should make sure that some covered areas are available in case of an
outburst of nature. Firing Ranges often have classrooms that are available for
around $10 an hour. In addition many members are gun enthusiasts, and being
co-located with a range might encourage attendance. The number of people
expected at the meeting should determine the size and type of the location.
Setting the Meeting Format
It is important to have a meeting agenda printed out to be given to all
meeting attendees. It will help keep the meeting on track, and people will
leave with a sense of accomplishment after all the points have been attended
to. Have new attendees introduce themselves, and explain how they heard of the
FSP, and what convinced them to join.
Try to get many people involved in the conversations in the meeting. We
can always use new ideas. It also makes them feel more connected to the group.
Try to have a new speaker once every three months. Meetings that have
noteworthy speakers tend to bring the members out of the woodwork. Some good
sources for speakers are FSP officers (both past and present), Economics or
Political professors from colleges, or other Liberty oriented groups in your
area as part of a "speaker's exchange".
Try to keep the formal meeting to around 2 hours. We must always respect
the member's time. If they want to stick around to chat after that (and many
will) it should be at their discretion. My experience is that presidential
politics should be one subject we avoid. We have all made up our minds, and
the tone of debate quickly becomes very ugly.
Try to make sure that every member who is at the meeting gets to "own" some
sort of activity. If there are many more people that tasks for large
outreaches, do something like give the member ten index cards that have the
Words "Looking for Liberty" across the top and our web site address across the
bottom and have them placed on bulletin boards in supermarkets, laundries, etc.
Letting the members know about the meeting David Mincin
Ok you have the list of members that the Local Group Coordinator sent you.
Send each member a personal email; don't just take the easy way and lump out
one email to all! Don't forget our success rests in the individual effort of
each of our members. Ask for a response to your email. A week later when you
get few responses, pick up the phone. Call every member in your area.
(Editor's Note: this may be impractical in some areas) You will mostly get
machines. Leave a message tell them who you are, and would recommend you leave
your email address, and phone number, ask them to drop you a note, or give you
Don't become discouraged if your first effort doesn't bare as much fruit as
you would like. Remember many of the folks on your list may have never been
contacted by the FSP, so your call may be a bit of a shock to them, but mostly
it will be welcome. If you do happen to run across someone who does not want
to be contacted, respect their wishes, and remove them from the list
You will be able to weed out the bad addresses and phone numbers because of
this initial contact. Let
firstname.lastname@example.org know which information is bad. Now
you have your core group of potential activists. I use the 3 times rule. If
the folks don't respond to my email, I call them monthly at least 3 times. I
keep everyone on my mailing list unless they tell me they do not want to be on
it, so they get an announcement of our monthly meeting.
I have been pleasantly surprised by the results of my persistence. I
receive calls or notes monthly from folks; mostly they apologize for not
getting back to me. The results have been that since we began having meeting
in March, we have had new folks at every meeting, including non-FSP members,
interested in learning more about us. Ask the attendees to bring a spouse,
family member, or friend! Hey why not?
Don't forget to send a short thank you note to all who have RSVPed,
or confirmed attendance by phone. This serves as a reminder, but more
important lets the folks know that your really appreciate their attendance.
Remember the folks have real lives too, and perhaps the FSP is not at the
top of their list. Your persistence will help get the FSP onto their real life
list. Don't get discouraged. Hey it is your job as a local leader to help the
folks understand how important our mission is. So bottom line, much of it is
about your attitude, and you willingness to get it done. Be honest, be up
front, and let the folks know that we are it! You want freedom or just feel
cool about chatting on the Internet? Of course go with your feelings on this,
don't play Mr. I know it all. Fact is none of us know it all or have all the
Forming Your Local Group
If there are any questions about this document they should be sent to
Finding a Location
Before contacting anyone, you should find a meeting place, and then reserve
it for a day about a month and a half out. Possible locations include
Restaurants, Parks, Libraries, Coffeehouses, and even Firing Ranges.
Restaurants have been the traditional meeting place for many clubs. Parks can
be good in some locations. You should make sure that some covered areas are
available in case of an outburst of nature. Firing Ranges often have
classrooms that are available for around $10 an hour. In addition many members
are gun enthusiasts, and being co-located with a range might encourage
It is important to put the reservation out about a month and a half,
because the first meeting requires a lot of preparation. You will still feel
the crunch, but it is doable.
Set Up the Yahoo Local Group List
Every Local Group should have a yahoo group. If your local group does not
have one, have
LocalGroups@FreeStateProject.org create one. If there is one, make
sure you are a moderator. When you become a moderator, make sure you are
notified of new signups, and those who cancel their membership. Make sure to
personally welcome the new members as they sign up. Personal contact is very
valuable. These yahoo groups will be very useful for sending e-mails to core
activists, polling members, posting pictures of events, posting the current
financial statements and gathering volunteers.
Also join the LocalGroupLeaders Yahoo Group. There is plenty of experience
being passed back and forth there. You can stay up to date on what has worked
in other places.
Every Local Group Meeting needs a few members. The first thing you need to
do is get a copy of the Member Database from
LocalGroups@FreeStateProject.org. Next, you will be writing an e-mail
to be read by every member of the database. Then, you will be drafting an
e-mail to be sent to no more than 50 people in the immediate area of the
Write an e-mail to be sent out to all the members of the local group. This
e-mail should include the expected agenda. Make sure to mention that you will
be identifying the likely core activists (all attendees almost by definition),
and that there will be an open discussion of which groups you will try
recruiting from. Make sure to give a prominent place to the Local Group yahoo
discussion list and encourage people to join. If you decide to follow this course of action,
you will not be sending another e-mail to this group for three months, so make sure you
include enough information. Many Internet companies do not permit you to send e-mail to a
whole lot of recipients, so the FSP has developed a way around them. Send your
e-mail and the list of addresses to
members@FreeStateProject.org. A person will then mail the letter to the
list you have provided. They will be sure to contact you if there are any
You should also write an individual e-mail to the 50 people closest to the
meeting location. Put their name and Free State Project in the Subject line of
the e-mail. You will be spending about 5 minutes per person looking at their
entries in the database (personal web site, source of signup, location, etc.).
Then write the e-mail with the express purpose that you communicate that you
are writing an individual letter to them. Make sure that they know a machine
is not writing it. If nothing else, ask them if they know of a place in
(home-town) that a lot of liberty lovers would likely go. Experience has
indicated that 2 in 10 respond when contacted like that. In this e-mail, you
may want to mention that they are being contacted because you noticed that they
are close to the meeting location. Let them know about the Yahoo group too.
This should take about 5 days.
If you are inclined to manage Local Group activities with a database, then
there is one in Access, and an Open Source database will be created shortly.
You can find it at
The very next thing to do is get some supplies for the inaugural meeting.
Merchandise@FreeStateProject.org and let them know you are setting up a
new Local Group. You will be sent a Local Group package.
In addition to the materials sent to you, you will need to get a container
for donations, a handful of pens and a notepad.
Greet for your area
Each Local Group should be personally welcoming new members to the FSP.
Make sure that
Greeters@FreeStateProject.org knows what geographic area you want to
handle. I would suggest that you pay particular attention to this. New
members are particularly enthusiastic and are looking for an opportunity to
help achieve Liberty in their Lifetime. Give them that opportunity. And your
Local Group members will love meeting people their efforts recruited.
Speak for your area
Join the FSP Speakers. You will then be notified of any organization that
is requesting speakers in your area. Do not worry if you have not spoken
publicly before, there are a couple of speaking courses at
www.freestateproject.org/training. If you remain uncomfortable, when the
Local Group is more developed, you can delegate this duty. Your group may even
decide that a great way to reach out is to have Local Group FSP speakers go to
meetings of other liberty loving organizations.
That First Meeting
This meeting sets the pace for the future meetings. Read the training
package "Holding a meeting: Really pack them in" at
www.freestateproject.org/training. There are three important things that
must take place at this meeting. First, you must develop a focus. Second, you
must develop a group identity. Third, you must get to know each of the
Local Groups do not have the resources to reach everyone. We are extremely
limited in time and money. As a result we need to put our efforts where they
are going to be most effective. We also know that a good message delivered
many times is more effective than a great message delivered once. With this
knowledge, we should focus on recruiting in populations that have high
concentrations of freedom lovers. To avoid overextending ourselves, we should
choose no more than three populations. The SoCalFSP Local Group decided that
most Libertarians have already made up their mind about the FSP, so we are
focusing our efforts elsewhere. If you are unsure about what populations might
be interested, go to www.freestateproject.org/liaisons
for a list of possibilities. At the meeting finalize your list, and ask the
people there to submit ideas on contacting them to the Yahoo Group.
The Local Groups will be working hard, and will not see an immediate
payoff. One way of motivating volunteers is to get them to feel a kinship
towards the local group. (Yes I know we are liberty lovers, but a group we
voluntarily help is not the same as collectivism. It is more like team
sports.) At the first meeting ask people to create a logo, symbol, or flag
that the local group can stamp their efforts with. Have it posted to the Yahoo
group in the files section, and then use the polls to vote for it.
At the meeting you will get to meet those in your local group who are
likely to volunteer. Get to know their interests and desires individually.
Find out what they want to get out of the Local Group. If Sally wants to shoot
fire full-autos, and Rob wants to get home schooling rights restored, then who
is more likely to help at a gun-show? It is also important because you want to
show as much consideration as possible for those who are giving their time to
advance the dream of freedom we share. A survey that is filled out by the
attendees may help accomplish this with a minimum of fuss, but don't forget the
individual human contact.
Collect Donations. You will likely be surprised by their generosity. The
amount donated will further increase after a few activities are completed.
After the First meeting
Post a summary of the First meeting to the Yahoo group as soon as you
possibly can. Get a couple of Logo ideas posted in the Files section of the
Yahoo group. Make sure that conversation relating to outreach keeps moving
along. When you get a couple of good ideas, use the Poll Section of the yahoo
group to vote on both the logo and first outreach. Make sure that volunteers
and detailed plans are made for the actions the Local Group undertakes. You
can find stories of past actions and their results at
Schedule the Second meeting for the weekend before the Local Groups First
Action. Use it as an opportunity to speak on the concerns of the group you
will be contacting, to discuss in detail what the plan is, and to brainstorm on
You must make certain that the first actions that you undertake are
completed. They do not have to be stunning victories. The Actions just have
to be done. If there are "learning experiences" then they can be planned for
next time. Maintain flexibility, stuff will not go as planned. No worries,
just do it.
Another important thing to do is talk about your activities. Send the
story of the Local Group's Action to
FSPLocalGroupLeaders@FreeStateProject.org. You will be contributing to a
climate of action. Your Local Group will inspire others that it is possible to
win this. Others can learn from the example by reading about it on the
archive, multiplying our effectiveness.
The Third meeting
You are now established as a local group. You did something. Keep doing
stuff. Continue to follow the advice on holding effective meetings at www.freestateproject.org/training.
Looking Ahead: Build the Group
After completing a few actions, and holding regular meetings for three or
four months, send out an email to all the FSP members in your local groups
area. This e-mail is going to show what the Local Group has achieved. You
will show how different the Local Group is. The Local Group doesn't just talk.
It ACTS! Then describe how they can get involved if they choose. Make sure to
mention that part of grassroots is being short on everything, so anything they
can do would help.
You will almost always be short on cash. Keep checking back at www.freestateproject.org/training for lessons on
effective fundraising from within the membership and soliciting donations from
outside the organization.
Delegate duties to other activists in the Local Group. There is training
available to teach them what they need to know. You are going to be busy just
trying to keep everyone coordinated when these activists as they start pushing
you. Their energy will inspire you. You may even long for the days when there
was a weekend with nothing planned. But I doubt it.