Libertarians are powerless in the US. One of the many reasons is their numbers. They are a small percentage of the population, spread out too thinly to do accomplish much except providing ideas for other politicians to steal.
In 2000, Jason Sorens came up with unique solution to this problem. He figured that 20,000 like minded people, moving into a state with a population of 1.5 million or less, could have a profound effect on the state's politics at every level. The idea became the Free State Project. Liberty minded people have been asked to join and promise to move to the Free State within five years of the FSP reaching 20,000 members. This summer, when the ranks hit 5,000, a vote was held to select the state. New Hampshire, the Live Free Or Die State, won.
Migrations in search of freedom are nothing new, but this is the first time in our lifetimes we've seen such massive migration within the US for the primary purpose of changing the political and economic climate of an area.
Will it work? Before you can answer that question, you'll have to understand the mind set of Libertarians. (Although this is not officially connected to the Libertarian party, most of the people signing up are Libertarians .)
Libertarians come in two primary flavors: Capital L Libertarians, and small L libertarians. Capital Ls demand that Libertarianism be pure. There is no room for compromise, or incrementalism. If something violates Libertarian dogma, even a little, it must be rejected, no matter how pragmatic it may be.
Small L libertarians, like me, believe in the basic principles of Libertarianism, but temper it with pragmatism. We see nothing wrong with making incremental changes, snatching back our freedom a bit at a time, the way it was taken from us. We don't consider "compromise" a filthy word.
You might think that the Big Ls and the small Ls would be happy to work together. You would be wrong. Big Ls despise the small Ls, and see them as traitors to the cause. They call us LINOs, Libertarians In Name Only, and scream "Statist!" at us every time we propose anything that isn't pure enough for them. ("Statist" is the worst insult one Libertarian can hurl at another. It's almost as bad as calling a Democrat a capitalist.)
It may seem strange that people would reject help from others who agree with them on 90-95% of the issues, so let me give you a specific example. The subject of drunk driving came up on an FSP mailing list. A drunk driver who manages to make it home without killing himself or someone else, or damaging property, hasn't committed any crime in the perfect Libertarian world, and so should not be punished. Few people will accept the idea that he should be allowed to continue driving drunk until he does kill or maim someone, except for the big Ls. They insisted that there should be no penalty until after the damage was done. (We specified, early on, that we were talking about people who were really drunk, not the ridiculous .08 that the feds have forced on the states.) And they insisted that when the drunk did finally kill or maim someone, he should only be charged with that crime. Adding to the penalty for "having the politically incorrect amount of alcohol in their bloodstream" was unconscionable, and akin to convicting someone of a hate crime. The concept of reckless endangerment was rejected. We set up a private poll, and the vote was 7-2 to eliminate all drunk driving laws. I was one of the two, and on viewing the results, I could feel my small L suffering even more shrinkage.
Imagine trying to sell that idea to the general public. But big Ls don't worry about selling ideas to non-libertarians. You're either for them, or you're stupid.
Pragmatism is the ultimate evil for Big Ls. According to their philosophy, all roads should be private. Point out the fact that there's no practical way to do that, and the screaming starts. All schools should be private as well. The fact that the masses have come to expect "free" education is rejected as immaterial. The public has bought into the War on Some Drugs, but incremental changes are verboten there too. Anything less than allowing heroin vending machines is a horrible statitist sell out.
Will the Free State Project work? No. The Big Ls will spend their time fighting among themselves about who has the biggest L, taking time out only to denigrate the small Ls. They'll demand huge, immediate changes. The pushback will be enormous and insurmountable. In the end, it will hurt the Libertarian party more than it helps them.
Will it work? Maybe. Libertarians tend to be a bit smarter than average, and they'll learn from their mistakes. They'll realize that small changes are better than no changes, and while huge jumps in freedom won't be accepted by the masses, incremental increases will. With enough incremental changes, end goals can be reached. They may even realize small Ls are on their side, and stop treating them as enemies.
Will it work? Yes, but not perfectly. (What does, ever?) Because the influx of Free Staters will be gradual, they'll build their power base slowly, which will make it stronger. The natives of New Hampshire will gradually come to accept that these "foreigners" aren't the wild eyed anarchists the media makes them out to be. And as the state becomes more and more free, the benefits, both socially and economically, will become obvious.
The biggest battles will come from the feds, who will despise this experiment. Unfunded federal mandates, or mandates that are tied to federal money (like the drinking age and the .08 BAC DWI laws) will become a huge battleground. The feds backed off of the 55 MPH speed limit, not because they finally grew a brain, but because several states were forcing the issue and threatening to take it to the supreme court. The feds knew that if they lost they'd have to give up blackmailing the states to do their will, so they relented. The FSP will force the issue again.
Will it work? Yes, because it has to. Change on a national level is impossible. Congress is a wholly owned subsidiary of corporations and well funded special interests, and there's no way to change that. There needs to be at least one place left in the world where freedom loving people can go without being constantly stomped on by Big Brother.
Will it work? Yes, because I really want to move somewhere where I can go to a bar and light up a cigar without being guilty of a felony.
© 2003 Dave Hitt