Report from the Grand Western Conference of the FSP

This was originally published by Gary Marbut in the Sierra Times, which is no longer available.

Over this past weekend I attended the Grand Western Conference of the Free State Project here in Missoula.

The Free State Project (FSP) was initiated by Dr. Jason Sorens, a political scientist from Yale. FSP is now a nationwide organization. The object is to determine which of the U.S. states offers its citizens the greatest climate of individual liberty. A complex matrix of factors is used to evaluate the quality of personal freedom, including economic factors, population and cultural factors, and, of course, the freedom of people to keep and bear arms.

Once the FSP has accumulated 5,000 members who have pledged to move to the chosen state, the project will allow its members to vote among the best states, especially to vote directed by the state-by-state freedom analysis done by the FSP. See their Website at:

After the freest state is chosen by FSP members (probably this Fall), they hope to eventually persuade at least 20,000 FSP members to move to that state to enjoy freedom, and maybe also work to enhance the quality of freedom there. While there is officially a list of ten states on the final selection list, practically the list is down to the frontrunners of New Hampshire, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana.

This conference drew about 150 freedom-minded people from across the U.S., but especially from western states. Presentations were made by J.J. Johnson (publisher, Sierra Times), Dr. Jason Sorens, editorialist Vin Suprynowicz, author Claire Wolfe, and Montana state senator Jerry O'Neil. These presentations were dynamite!

Photo by Kenneth Hagermeyer

This conference was held especially to showcase and examine top-listed western states. There were panels to make arguments to conferees for selection of Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Montana. I sat on the Montana panel, as did MSSA Board Member, Rep. Joe Balyeat.

Conferees came from as far away as Massachusetts, Kentucky and California, however most were from Montana, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, and Alberta (yes, Alberta, Canada!)

There was a run-off election straw poll taken after the state panel presentations, and Montana received by far the greatest number of straw votes from conferees (in case you wonder if Joe and I did a good job for Montana).

This was a tremendously stimulating conference. You will not be surprised that perhaps the foremost issue on the minds of conferees was the health of the right to keep and bear arms in the states examined. Conferees were impressed with the status of gun laws in Montana (few).

This conference was a tremendous experience. If the FSP picks Montana, we should welcome these freedom-loving people with open arms. They will help us make Montana even more free than it already is.

Although this event has been billed by the media as a Libertarian effort, less than 1/4 of conferees claimed in a show of hands to be members of the Libertarian Party. The FSP is declared to be non-partisan, attracting freedom-loving people of all parties, or of no political party.

Since only FSP members committed to move to the chosen state (not including me, FYI) get to vote in the selection of that state, and since the distribution of FSP members is more or less uniform across the U.S., it is anticipated that the final choice will be between New Hampshire (Easterners voting) and Montana (Westerners voting). It will be VERY interesting to see how this vote comes out!!

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