Logo of the Free State Project
|Motto||"Liberty in Our Lifetime"|
|Formation||September 1, 2001|
|Headquarters||816 Elm Street, Manchester, New Hampshire, United States|
|Remarks||20,000 people have pledged (February 3, 2016)|
The Free State Project (FSP) is a political migration, founded in 2001, to recruit at least 20,000 libertarians to move to a single low-population state (New Hampshire, selected in 2003) in order to make the state a stronghold for libertarian ideas. The project seeks to overcome the historical ineffectiveness of limited-government activism which they believe was caused by the small number and diffuse population of libertarian activists across the 50 United States and around the world.
Participants sign a statement of intent declaring that they intend to move to New Hampshire within five years of the drive reaching 20,000 participants. This statement of intent is intended to function as a form of assurance contract. As of February 3, 2016[update], 20,000 people have signed this statement of intent—completing the original goal—and 1,909 people are listed as "early movers" to New Hampshire on the FSP website, saying they had made their move prior to the 20,000-participant trigger.
People aligned with the Free State Project have been elected to two-year terms in the 400-member New Hampshire House of Representatives since 2006. Approximately a dozen Free Staters were elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives in the 2012 election, and about 18 in the 2014 election.
The Free State Project is a social movement generally based upon decentralized decision making. The group hosts various events, but most of FSP's activities depend upon volunteers, and no formal plan dictates to participants or movers what their actions should be in New Hampshire.
The Free State Project was founded in 2001 by Jason Sorens, then a Ph.D. student at Yale University. Sorens published an article in The Libertarian Enterprise highlighting the failure of libertarians to elect any candidate to federal office and outlining his ideas for a secessionist movement, calling people to respond to him with interest. Sorens has stated that the movement continues an American tradition of political migration, which includes groups such as Mormon settlers in Utah, and Amish religious communities, as well as "Jamestown Seventy", an earlier effort to influence the politics of a particular state through deliberate migration.
The organization began without a specific state in mind. A systematic review started by narrowing potential states to those with a population of less than 1.5 million, and those where the combined spending in 2000 by the Democratic and Republican parties was less than $5.2 million, the total national spending by the Libertarian Party in that year. Hawaii and Rhode Island were eliminated from this list because of their propensity for centralized government.
In September 2003 the state vote was held. Participants voted using the Condorcet method to choose the state. New Hampshire was the winner, with Wyoming coming in second by a 57% to 43% margin. Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Vermont were also on the list.
New Hampshire was chosen because the perceived individualist culture of the state was thought to resonate well with libertarian ideals. The Free State Project, however, has drawn criticism from some New Hampshire residents concerned about population pressure and opposition to increased taxation. Some Republicans, on the other hand, have responded more favorably to the project, because of their espoused agreement on small government.
The FSP mission statement, adopted in 2005, states:
The Free State Project is an agreement among 20,000 pro-liberty activists to move to New Hampshire, where they will exert the fullest practical effort toward the creation of a society in which the maximum role of government is the protection of life, liberty, and property. The success of the Project would likely entail reductions in taxation and regulation, reforms at all levels of government to expand individual rights and free markets, and a restoration of constitutional federalism, demonstrating the benefits of liberty to the rest of the nation and the world.
"Life, liberty, and property" are rights that were enumerated in the October 1774 Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress and in Article 12 of the New Hampshire state constitution.
To become a participant of the Free State Project, a person is asked to agree to the Statement of Intent (SOI):
I hereby state my solemn intent to move to the State of New Hampshire within 5 years after 20,000 Participants have signed up. Once there, I will exert the fullest practical effort toward the creation of a society in which the maximum role of civil government is the protection of individuals' life, liberty, and property.
The FSP is open to people with a minimum age of 18. U.S. citizenship is not required. People who promote violence, racial hatred, or bigotry are not welcome in the FSP.
In December 2012, state representative Cynthia Chase (D-Keene) said "Free Staters are the single biggest threat the state is facing today. There is, legally, nothing we can do to prevent them from moving here to take over the state, which is their openly stated goal. In this country you can move anywhere you choose and they have that same right. What we can do is to make the environment here so unwelcoming that some will choose not to come, and some may actually leave. One way is to pass measures that will restrict the “freedoms” that they think they will find here."
In 2012, the Concord Police Department applied for $258,000 in federal government funding to buy a Lenco BearCat armored vehicle for protection against terrorist attacks, riots, or shooting incidents. The application said, "Groups such as the Sovereign Citizens, Free Staters and Occupy New Hampshire are active and present daily challenges." The grant from the US Department of Homeland Security was successful and the Concord City Council unanimously approved of the grant, after having revised the application to remove references to those political movements.
In September 2014, Republican Party Senate nominee Scott Brown, a former United States Senator from Massachusetts, said his election campaign needed "Freestaters" to support him in his one-minute closing statement at the Granite State Debate.
On February 3, 2016, the Free State Project announced via social media that 20,000 people had signed the Statement of Intent. In a press conference later that day the FSP president officially announced that the move had been triggered and that signers were expected to follow up on their pledge. The project organisation will change focus from recruiting signers to encouraging them to move to New Hampshire, stating "we want 20,000 movers".
The Free State Project aligns itself with no political party, takes no official political positions, supports no candidates in elections, and neither supports nor opposes any particular legislation.
The Free State Project receives its funding from individual donors interested in moving as part of the FSP or attending one of the annual events. Donations are tax deductible, as the FSP is a tax-exempt nonprofit educational organization, falling under category 501(c)(3). This affects all donations since July 20, 2009.
Several early movers have been elected to the New Hampshire legislature. In 2006 one of its participants, Joel Winters, was elected to the state legislature, running as a Democrat. He was re-elected in 2008 but defeated in 2010. In 2010, 12 Republican Free Staters were elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives.
On December 5, 2012, Free Stater and self-described anarchist Tim O'Flaherty was elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives under the Democratic Party ticket, representing Manchester Ward 5. He was defeated for re-election in 2014.
The Free State Project is the official organizer of two annual events in New Hampshire:
In 2006, Democrat Joel Winters became the first known free stater to become elected to the 400-member New Hampshire House of Representatives. In 2010, 12 Free Staters were elected. In 2012, eleven were elected. In 2014, at least 18 were elected.
On February 17, 2006, economist Walter Block publicly expressed his support for the FSP. He is quoted as saying,
You people are doing the Lord's work. The FSP is one of the freshest practical ideas for promoting liberty that has come out of the libertarian movement in the past few decades. May you succeed beyond your wildest dreams, and thus demonstrate in yet another empirical way the benefits and blessings of liberty.
Jeffrey Tucker reflected about his experiences at the New Hampshire Liberty Forum in Nashua, saying in part, "If you are willing to look past mainstream media coverage of American politics, you can actually find exciting and interesting activities taking place that rise above lobbying, voting, graft and corruption."
That the inhabitants of the English colonies in North-America, by the immutable laws of nature, the principles of the English constitution, and the several charters or compacts, have the following RIGHTS: Resolved, N.C.D. 1. That they are entitled to life, liberty and property: and they have never ceded to any foreign power whatever, a right to dispose of either without their consent.