The Statement of Intent Isn't a Promise
Why doesn't every libertarian sign up for the Free State Project? For some, deep local connections to family or friends make it difficult or undesirable to move, and I don't wish to see them uprooted: society trumps politics every time. But for many, the issue is being unable to promise confidently to move to New Hampshire within six or seven years. This short essay is for these people.
The Free State Project's Statement of Intent isn't a promise. It begins, "I hereby state my solemn intent to move to the state of New Hampshire." What does "solemn intent" mean? Let's look at the word "intent" first.
In normal usage, "intend" and "intent" convey something weaker than a promise. "I intended to go, but something came up." Here, the speaker isn't admitting to breaking a promise; instead, he's simply noting that he meant to pursue a particular course of action, but unforeseen circumstances changed his mind. When you intend to do something, you admit it might not be possible, but you think it will be.
Even a defiant public statement of the following kind - "We intend to fight this case all the way to the Supreme Court" - while conveying firm determination, leaves an out: "We are planning to do X, but some future possibilities are outside our control. In the end, we may not do X, but we think and hope that we will."
What about "solemn"? That adjective suggests that the decision to sign the Statement of Intent isn't a light one. It requires some serious, sober thought. You shouldn't do it on a whim.
Even so, a statement of "solemn intent" isn't a promise or a commitment. It isn't a contract, even in the moral sense. It is a statement of what you intend to do, what you expect to do if all works out as planned.
I propose this guideline: If you think the chance is greater than 50% that you will be able to move to New Hampshire within seven years, and you agree with our philosophy, you should sign the Statement of Intent. The FSP isn't expecting 100% follow-through from all 20,000 signers, nor does it need 100% follow-through to work. Even 5,000 libertarian activists (understood in the broadest sense) would revolutionize the philosophical conversation in any state, and all the more so in swingy, independent, historically classically liberal New Hampshire. Finally, it's worth noting that moving doesn't necessarily require full-time residency. The Attorney General doesn't require it for voting or even running for political office. The more time you spend here helping us reach our neighbors, the better -- but not everyone can be here full-time, and that's understandable.