Prominent libertarians have been making the news with various proposals to build libertarian paradises free of government control. Venture capitalist Peter Thiel has perhaps been the most vocal, with his support for building floating free cities in international waters well known. While such grand visions may be possible to achieve, they are still a ways off from fruition. If you are looking for a libertarian refuge in the here-and-now, however, there is a place for you to go: New Hampshire.
The Free State Project (FSP) is busily seeking to transform New Hampshire, already a very individualistic state, into a full-on libertarian society. The aim of the FSP is to encourage the immigration of libertarians from other states into New Hampshire in order to develop a critical-mass of voters that can mandate the permanent roll-back of government power over citizens’ lives. The project’s goal is to create a society in which the state is at its most minimalistic: its sole function will be the maintenance of people’s lives, liberty, and property.
The FSP has seen some success. More than 1,000 people have already moved to New Hampshire, and nearly 16,000 more have pledged to eventually do so. There are currently 11 members of the FSP in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. The organization has succeeded in making major inroads into the New Hampshire social and political scene. The dream of the FSP to completely transform the state in a libertarian image is far from realized, though its leaders are optimistic for the future.
All is not entirely well with the project, however. New Hampshire is a state whose citizens have a clear and proud identity not only as individuals, but also as New Hampshirites. As with much of New England, the people of New Hampshire do not take too kindly to carpet-baggers coming in from out of the state to tell them what to do. The reasoning for concentrating like-minded people in order to further libertarian aims may be sound, but the very independent streak on which the Free State Project relies generates the risk of a backlash from the broader populace the greater the larger and more vocal the FSP becomes.
If there is a perception that FSP supporters, particularly those who are not natives of the state, are trying to force massive changes on the people of New Hampshire, even if they are changes in keeping with a large segment of the population’s philosophy, then there will be a very negative response.
If the FSP hopes to succeed it needs to be more than an aggressive libertarian movement. It has to adopt New Hampshire’s cultural and historical legacy, or at least acknowledge and respect it. It has to treat New Hampshire and its people like a true polity, and not just a useful means to an end. If they can do that, perhaps New England will be the cradle of individual liberty once again.