A Porcupine, mascot animal of the libertarian party.
Authors note: The FSP mentioned here should not be confused with the Freedom Socialist Party.
In July of 2001, a Ph. D. Student at Yale University named Jason Sorens wrote an article highlighting the failures of libertarian activism and what might be done to further the cause of personal human liberty. The traditional method of capturing government power and influence through elections in order to reduce such power and influence simply was not working. The Libertarian Party had been around for almost 30 years by that point, having been formed in December of 1971 in response to growing concern over the Nixon Administration, the War in Vietnam, military conscription, and a move away from an economic gold standard of currency. In those thirty years, the party largely failed to accomplish any of its goals. It had only one single electoral vote in 1972 from the presidential candidacy of John Hospers and Theodora Nathan.
Up until 2001, with the exception of Ron Pauls candidacy in 1988, a series of political unknowns ran, gaining less than one percent of the popular presidential vote each time. To this day, the Party has not elected a single Representative or Senator to Congress. What victories the party has enjoyed, few and far between though theyve been, have largely come in state and municipal elections. Those victories have generally not been enough to sway federal, much less state, policy on a long-term basis.
A new approach other than electoral politics had to be adopted. Rather than working as disparate voices in the wilderness talking about government overreach and political corruption, libertarians would be better served congregating together in a single state in order to form an island of small government activity in a nation going increasingly mad with unwieldy government power. Such was the idea.
The number set by Sorens was 20,000 libertarian activists moving to a single state he called a Free State Society. In 2003, New Hampshire was chosen as the state where libertarians would settle, with Wyoming coming in second place. Thirteen years later, Free State Project (FSP) President Carla Gericke announced that 20,000 people had signed a declaration of intent to move. The number of people who had actually moved to New Hampshire was far less than this, coming in just under 5,000.
A person who moves for the Project is called a Free Stater. Such people settle in various parts of the state. Concentrations of Free Staters can be found in Portsmouth, Keene, Manchester, Concord, and other regions. Some Free Staters choose to live in small towns; others choose to live in densely populated areas. Their stated, overt goal is to overthrow the New Hampshire state government through an election process to establish a small, libertarian government which favors the individual over the state.
Tiffany Hale, who moved in 2017, reports in the Free State Projects Movers Stories blog that she was incredibly happy with her decision to move to Berlin. She writes, We have been welcomed with open arms into the community (FSP and otherwise). Were so happy to be here; making the move was definitely right for our family! It was emotional to leave family, friends, and all things familiar, but now that were here we couldnt be happier!
Elliot Axelman, who prefers to be called Alu, moved from New York. He writes, Eight months have passed since we moved here, and I maintain that it was the best decision Ive ever made. We have excellent jobs; weve made great friends inside and outside of the liberty movement; and we are living in a beautiful apartment. Unlike in NYC, its likely that you can afford to live in the apartment or house you desire in New Hampshire.
Participants identifying themselves as Robert and Carol moved together as a couple from Wisconsin. Robert writes, The people here are wonderful. The area offers so much from outdoor adventure to excellent shopping. We are within an hour of mountains, Boston, the seacoast, and some of the countrys most beautiful, clean and breathtaking forests, trails and waterways.
Tony Jankowski came to New Hampshire as a Free Stater and fully intends to return, but had to leave for a career move to Portland, Oregon.
There is no better place for a person to raise their children and no better, no more a diverse community than that of Free Staters and other porcupine, Jankowski said.
These are some of the experiences participants have had since moving to New Hampshire in search of personal human liberty.
Their guiding philosophy is the Non-Aggression Principle, also called the NAP, which states unprovoked violence against another person is wrong. Such violence is often found through state measures such as forcible confiscation of property and excessive force on the part of police officers toward average citizens. While this certainly sounds appealing in principle, in practice, things havent always gone smoothly.
In 2016, after arguing that 14 year olds are capable of consenting to sexual activity with adults, Ian Bernard, also known as Ian Freeman, was expelled from the Free State Project. He had been a participant for 10 years. A week later, the Federal Bureau of Investigation served a warrant at 73 Leverett Street in Keene, NH after a months-long child pornography sting. Later that year, Bernard ran for Governor of New Hampshire as a Democrat.
Bernard had long been a part of a libertarian radio show called Free Talk Live. The show regularly featured Christopher Cantwell who was expelled from the Free State Project in 2013 for advocating violence against government agents. (He would remain bitter about it for at least another year when another post appeared on his blog highlighting what had happened). Since then, Cantwell has become infamous for being the Crying Nazi of Charlottesville. He has become an unapologetic white supremacist who argues for selective genocide based on ones political ideology
He was also a part of a group called The Free Keene Squad who went around filming themselves harassing parking enforcement staff working for the city of Keene. While being interviewed for Comedy Central, Cantwell showed off his firearm and his proficiency with it. Whether or not he is still permitted to own firearms after beginning work as an FBI informant remains to be seen.
After seeing his friend expelled and seeing himself get expelled, Ian Bernard started a group called Shire Society, a cult-like group that requires each participant to sign a declaration similar to the Free State Projects iinformal agreement. Thus far, the Shire Society has done little more than congratulate itself on not banning pedophiles and white supremacists. They havent been committing physical violence against anyone by doing so.
On his website FreeKeene.com, Bernard has even gone so far to defend Cody Wilson, an anarchist who was charged with having sexual intercourse with a 16-year-old girl he met on a website called SugarDaddyMeet. In August 2019, Wilson pled guilty to a felony charge of injury to a child. Prior to this incident, Wilson was scheduled to speak at the FSPs yearly February event called Liberty Forum based on his knowledge of 3D-printing firearms.
Another FSP participant named Aaron Day has gained ill repute by supporting Mike Gill, who accused certain New Hampshire residents of being heroin dealers. Day and Gill together lost a civil suit for defamation in which a jury awarded $274 million to the plaintiffs. Prior to this, Day would regularly run for public office in Bedford. In 2016, he ran as an independent for the U.S. Senate just to prevent incumbent Kelly Ayotte from being re-elected.
The Free State Project, meanwhile, has enjoyed a modicum of success running candidates for the New Hampshire State House. FSP participants Mike Sylvia, Glen Aldrich, Emily Sandblade, Mark Warden, and Elizabeth Edwards have at various times been fixtures in the states political process. Anywhere from 10 to 20 participants can be counted on to win elections in the legislature every year. Far more Free Staters run and do not succeed in getting elected.
While not exclusively so, most Free Staters who run for office do so as Republicans based on the ideals of small government who spends its money responsibly. This, as often as not, leads to a divide among the participants between those who are conservative and those who are not. Increasingly, more conservatives (rather than libertarians) appear to be active participants, making it difficult for left-leaning participants to have an equal voice or be taken seriously by others.
The infighting which takes place usually centers around a classical definition of libertarianism as advocated in the 19th century by writers such as Benjamin Tucker which was synonymous with state-free socialism and todays definition of libertarianism which is synonymous with anarcho-capitalism, a political ideology which arose from the works of economists Carl Menger and Ludwig von Mises, among others. The anarcho-capitalist philosophy traces its roots to Adam Smith in Wealth of Nations, who ironically was more politically left than those who espouse his ideas may realize. Left-libertarianism, or state-free socialism, has largely arisen from the works of Karl Marx, Peter Kropotkin, and Voltarine De Cleyre, among others.
While these two ideologies agree that centralized power is a net negative for society, left-libertarians would suggest that centralized power can be found in private organizations as well as public ones. An anarcho-capitalist would reply that all private authority depends on the consent of those who engage in it. A person who doesnt like their private authority figures simply needs disengage from them in order to obtain personal freedom.
Because the two sides have not been able to disagree, the Free State Project has not been able to offer a united front between all kinds of libertarians in order to achieve their goal. Indeed, as Jason Sorens observed in 2001 regarding the Libertarian Party, the Free State Project has yet to achieve its goals either of having 20,000 libertarians in the state or taking over the legislature.
When there is police overreach or government corruption, Free Staters are often among the first to respond. This was the case in 2016 when the police department of Manchester issued a shelter-in-place order for the West Side of the town in hopes of catching a fleeing suspect. The lockdown, as it came to be known, presented concerns as to whether community members were trading liberty for security.
The Free State Project soon protested these decisions in front of City Hall by holding signs for passers-by to view in their cars. The message presented that day was unambiguous: police officers should not take their authority too far. A counter-protest by other community members followed in support of their local police department.
While shelter-in-place orders have been used since then in Manchester, they did not have nearly the frightening, terrorizing aspect of the one from 2016 in which community members of Manchester were threatened by police officers who did not know whether or not they might be shot at any given moment.
The Free State Project is also known for alerting drivers of DUI checkpoints by holding up signs in the dark of night. The checkpoints, which are suspected of being a waste of resources, have long been disputed as an unnecessary disruption of someones day. While it is not under dispute whether drunk driving is a hazard for the public at large it is the checkpoints did little to reassure people that drunk drivers were actually being taken off the road among those who failed to see Free Stater signs, or who chose to ignore them completely. In 2018, after Representative John Burt claimed fewer than 1 percent of all drivers passing through such checkpoints are found to be driving under the influence, the statehouse passed a bill banning all DUI checkpoints throughout New Hampshire. As an alternative, roving patrols were suggested where police could identify anyone suspected of driving under the influence through erratic behavior. This was an unqualified success for the Free State Project, one of many it has enjoyed since it started in 2003.
Free Staters have long been activists for marijuana legalization. Legalization for medical marijuana passed in 2012 in both the New Hampshire House and Senate, only to be vetoed by then-governor John Lynch. Medical marijuana was later legalized and expanded upon by Governor Maggie Hassan. Based on the belief that a person should be able to do with their body what they please, the New Hampshire House has regularly considered whether various amounts of marijuana should be legal, and for what purpose. As recently as 2017, possession of of an ounce of marijuana is legal in the state of New Hampshire. Misdemeanor charges were also replaced with fines for the first three offenses; charges would only be brought after a fourth offense.
Despite their successes, the Projects participants most often remain hamstrung by their own need for ideological purity, if not outright terrible behavior toward their fellow human beings. The successes the FSP has won, which have often been small and incremental, remain overshadowed by the imperfect human nature of others. The Free State Projects reputation is often not the best with other New Hampshire community members.
When the move was triggered in 2016 by having 20,000 participants, a five-year window was opened during which time all interested participants from around the world could come to New Hampshire. If less than 20,000 people have moved by the year 2022, the Free State Project will reassess its current operations.
Editors note: The author moved to New Hampshire for the Free State Project in February of 2016 and has since withdrawn as a participant.
Winter Trabex is a freelance writer from Manchester and Inklink Community Contributor. Full disclosure: She moved to New Hampshire for the Free State Project in February of 2016 and has since withdrawn as a participant.
- Trump Wanted To 'Throw Massie Out of Republican Party!' but the Libertarian-Leaning Congressman Just Won His Primary Anyway - Reason - June 24th, 2020
- Google's warning against the Federalist is why libertarians will lose fight over Big Tech - Washington Examiner - June 24th, 2020
- Texas-based conservative group funding 'green' PAC in MT - KTVH - June 24th, 2020
- Non-mask wearing fools - The Real Nurse Jackie - McKnight's Long Term Care News - June 24th, 2020
- Morelle with big lead over Wilt but absentee votes still to be tallied - WXXI News - June 24th, 2020
- Lockdown easing analysis: Boris Johnson's libertarian instincts returned... and he went further than anyone really expected - Evening Standard - June 24th, 2020
- How a fringe sect from the 1980s influenced No 10's attitude to racism - The Guardian - June 24th, 2020
- Radley Balko on George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the Libertarian Case for Criminal Justice Reform - Reason - June 17th, 2020
- While pro-marijuana parties thrive, other minor parties struggle - Southernminn.com - June 17th, 2020
- Letters: 'It is suggested that Boris's Libertarian beliefs were the reasons for delayed Lockdown' - The Northern Echo - June 17th, 2020
- OPINION EXCHANGE | At the center of that Supreme Court ruling were people - Minneapolis Star Tribune - June 17th, 2020
- The other Jo, wants your 2020 vote, if youre fed up with the two-party system or if youre not - WIZM NEWS - June 17th, 2020
- 'Where Are Libertarians on Police Reform?' Right Where We've Always Been. - Reason - June 13th, 2020
- Protests: Meet the Romney-Gary Johnson-Bloomberg voter embracing Black Lives Matter - Vox.com - June 13th, 2020
- What the Pandemic Revealed - Niskanen Center - June 13th, 2020
- Santa Cruz Shooting Suspect Preached Libertarian Ideals, Was Pushed Over the Edge By Police Actions Against Protesters, Friends Say - SFist - June 13th, 2020
- Libertarian Think Tank Praises Pelosis Call to Remove Confederate Statues from Capitol: Slavery is The Least Libertarian Thing Imaginable - Mediaite - June 13th, 2020
- How Not To Build a Transpartisan Coalition for Police Reform - Reason - June 13th, 2020
- Primary Election ballots are in the mail | YourHub - The Know - June 13th, 2020
- Scared for their jobs, Iowa Republicans are gaming the democratic process - The Gazette - June 13th, 2020
- 61 Quick Facts and Observations on Socialism, Jesus, and Wealth | Jon Miltimore - Foundation for Economic Education - June 13th, 2020
- Nelson lead up to 23 votes over Tarkanian - The Record-Courier - June 13th, 2020
- Amash decides against Libertarian campaign for president | TheHill - The Hill - May 19th, 2020
- Libertarian Group Sues Ohio Again On Behalf Of Closed Gyms - WOSU - May 14th, 2020
- The Libertarian Party Critique of Justin Amash - Reason - May 14th, 2020
- Third Parties Unlikely to Wreak Havoc in 2020 Election - New York Magazine - May 14th, 2020
- Modest meat reforms would help Americans stay fed during the pandemic - The Maine Wire - May 14th, 2020
- Senate votes to reauthorize intel programs with added legal protections | TheHill - The Hill - May 14th, 2020
- Drop off or in person, 8 p.m. is deadline to cast your vote in the primary election - North Platte Telegraph - May 14th, 2020
- Another ludicrous Thought of the Day from the BBC: The Bishop of Manchester assures us that we have libertarian free will - stopthefud - May 14th, 2020
- Live Blog: Nebraska 2020 Primary Election Results | netnebraska.org - NET Nebraska - May 14th, 2020
- Will COVID-19 block third-party ballot access? - The Aggie - May 14th, 2020
- Michigan Rep. Justin Amash on Why Hed Run for President as a Libertarian and the Culture of the GOP - TIME - May 9th, 2020
- Governments Have Screwed Up Mask Purchase and Distribution. Maybe Everyone Should Be a Libertarian in a Pandemic. - Reason - May 9th, 2020
- We Need Economists, Civil Libertarians, and Epidemiologists in the COVID-19 Discussion - Reason - May 9th, 2020
- Is the Chinese Communist Party Really Trying To Take Over the World? - The National Interest - May 9th, 2020
- 600K primary election ballots are in the mail to Montana voters - Missoula Current - May 9th, 2020
- The Coronavirus Might Force Minor Parties Off the 2020 Ballot - New York Magazine - April 21st, 2020
- Who should be included in the libertarian canon - UConn Daily Campus - April 21st, 2020
- The Government Has a Lot More Emergency Powers Than Libertarians Like, but It Still Can't Control Everything - Cato Institute - April 21st, 2020
- Opinion | A new populist revolution is here. Don't buy in. - The Daily Northwestern - April 21st, 2020
- COVID-19 is killing minor parties' ability to get candidates on the ballot in Minnesota - MinnPost - April 21st, 2020
- Why You Should Be a Socialist and a Marxist - Jacobin magazine - April 21st, 2020
- Mark Cuban To Run For President? Billionaire Dallas Mavericks Owner Does Not Rule Out 2020 White House Bid - International Business Times - April 21st, 2020
- Berkeley institution Top Dog is on the ropes. But they still wont take federal aid. - SFGate - April 21st, 2020
- No One Is Coming - Tom Webster - Elemental - April 21st, 2020
- Briefs filed in case over whether NM will move to vote-by-mail primaries during coronavirus emergency - New Mexico Political Report - April 9th, 2020
- Construction Accidents and Personal Injuries, Everything You Ought To Know - The Libertarian Republic - March 24th, 2020
- 'Tiger King' is the weird docu-series distraction we can use right now - WICZ - March 24th, 2020
- As Science And Business Go To War With Each Other, President Trump Pours Fuel On The Fire - Forbes - March 24th, 2020
- Vermin Supreme's quest to win hearts, minds and the Libertarian primaries - The Spectator USA - March 22nd, 2020
- Where the 2020 Libertarian candidates stand on Jewish issues? - The Times of Israel - March 22nd, 2020
- COVID-19 and . . . 2024? - National Review - March 22nd, 2020
- Rand Paul Proves He Is Too Good For Us, As He Upsets the Right People - The Liberator Online - March 22nd, 2020
- Tiger King is the weird docu-series distraction we can use right now - Q13 News Seattle - March 22nd, 2020
- Campaign Beat: The Pandemic, The Primary And Third Parties - MTPR - March 22nd, 2020
- The Right to Assemble Not Erased By Government Emergency Libertarians to Continue Meeting in Keene Sundays at 5pm - Free Keene - March 22nd, 2020
- Just Send the Checks - Reason - March 22nd, 2020
- Opinion | Rufus Woods, Art of Community: Now is the time to sacrifice for elders and the vulnerable - wenatcheeworld.com - March 22nd, 2020
- OPINION EXCHANGE | Amid the outbreak, Minnesota's minor political parties will struggle to get on the ballot - Minneapolis Star Tribune - March 22nd, 2020
- The small-government case for giving everyone a big check - The Week Magazine - March 22nd, 2020
- Armstrong: Liberty in the midst of a pandemic - Complete Colorado - March 22nd, 2020
- At war, Britons can be trusted to do the right thing - Telegraph.co.uk - March 22nd, 2020
- Rand Paul looms as wild card in surveillance fight | TheHill - The Hill - March 8th, 2020
- Our Standards on Civility are Trash - The Libertarian Republic - March 8th, 2020
- Freelancers Shouldn't Betray Other Gig Workers By Allying with Anti-Union Opponents of AB5 - Common Dreams - March 8th, 2020
- Schiff says Democrats are negotiating to include more privacy protections in key surveillance bill | TheHill - The Hill - March 5th, 2020
- Senate passes $8.3 billion coronavirus bill, sending it to Trump | TheHill - The Hill - March 5th, 2020
- Civility and pleas to be heard mark debate among 18 marginal candidates - The Fulcrum - March 5th, 2020
- Talking about a revolution - The Economist - March 5th, 2020
- Plenty of contested races on the ballot this year - Norfolk Daily News - March 5th, 2020
- CA Voters Asked To Approve $17B In School Construction Bonds; Much Of It Unneeded (Opinion) - Patch.com - February 3rd, 2020
- Ahead of polls, New Zealand's opposition party rules out deal with kingmaker Peters - Midwest Communication - February 3rd, 2020
- Will SCOTUS Hearing on Ballot Position Apply to Minor Political Parties? - The Libertarian Republic - February 3rd, 2020
- Fire Wipes Out OC Nonprofit That Helps People Get Back Into The Workforce - LAist - February 3rd, 2020
- Proud Libertarian to run in upcoming council election - Queensland Times - February 3rd, 2020
- Dallas Food Events Not Around the Superbowl - Dallas Observer - February 3rd, 2020
- THE SAVAGE TRUTH: Shaw Blackmon in the middle of a 'jungle' brawl - 13WMAZ.com - February 3rd, 2020
- It's Windy Today! Hold On To Your Hats (And Patio Furniture) - LAist - February 3rd, 2020
- Judicial swamp looking to stymie the 'Trump Revolution' - Washington Times - February 3rd, 2020