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Freedom Movement Advances

Freedom Movement Advances

Libertarians Planting Seeds of Real Freedom in Several States


By John Tiffany


The freedom movement is advancing, but not in the way advocates had planned. How do you herd a bunch of cats, or porcupines? Libertarians are starting to find out. They have formed a group called the Free State Project, and already it is splintering several ways. And some of the splinters, it seems, are subsplintering.

The idea of the Free State Project, or porcupines, as members call themselves, is a simple one in principle: to create an oasis of freedom in overregulated, increasingly dictatorial America. To do this, they would first select an area, say a state, where freedom is already relatively prized by the inhabitants.

The next part is trickier—and this may be a new approach to politics that would only be possible in America: Get a number of Americans who love freedom to move to that area from outside it, to reinforce the freedom lovers already present. By achieving some sort of “critical mass,” enough voters would become concentrated in the area so that they collectively resist federal intrusion.

In the June 30, 2003, issue, AFP reported that a nationwide group of Free Staters voted via the Internet on which state to move to, and New Hampshire came out the winner, with 6,000 libertarians already vowing to move there, and an anticipated 20,000 within five years.

However, this result was unsatisfactory to some westerners, and immediately the movement split, with a splinter group, called, logically enough, Free State Wyoming and led by the colorfully named Boston T. Party, opting for Wyoming.

The group favoring New Hampshire in turn began to splinter, as members differed over which town in the state should be targeted first, if any.

In view of various considerations, the potential “free towns” in New Hampshire resolved down to a few promising survivors: Dalton (pop. 854), tiny Ellsworth (pop. 86), Grafton (pop. 971), Groton (pop. 341), Lempster (pop 1,036), and Orford (pop. 1,039).

The FSP has not yet selected a town, but the Free Town Project (FTP), as one particularly anarchistic splinter—officially it has no connection with the FSP—called itself, went ahead and chose Grafton. But they soon ran into problems with the locals.

Quiet Grafton, N.H., is in the proverbial “middle of nowhere.” The FTP wants to plant 200 libertarian settlers in Grafton. About 200 Grafton residents packed a town meeting this past June, demanding to know what the libertarians are planning for their town.

New Hampshire Gov. Craig Benson, a Republican, has signed on as a “Friend of the FSP,” which means that although he isn’t actually joining the project, he supports the porcupines’ goals.

This spring, Benson formed a new Task Force for Government Efficiency, which is examining state offices and suggesting ways they could operate more efficiently. Of the eight members on the task force, seven are Free Staters, including state Libertarian Party (LPNH) Chair man John Babiarz and Phillips, even though Phillips is living in Massachusetts.

John Barnes, an FSP member and vice chair of the state LP’s second district, said he is convinced that the project is “the best thing that ever happened to the LPNH.

“We now have several social events every month. This is rejuvenating us, and the press exposure, both good and bad, has been fantastic.”

That said, the FSP and the LPNH are experiencing “growing pains,” he added.

An example of the growing pains is the recent uproar in Grafton. Unfortunately, much of the publicity surrounding Grafton was negative.


A group of people began talking on Internet chat rooms about setting up a microcosm of the FSP in one small town by moving in approximately 200 activists, and the townspeople became understandably concerned, even riled, to the point that about 20 percent of Grafton’s population showed up for a town meeting to argue with FTP, FSP and LP representatives.

“We got a taste of what’s going to happen to us if and when a Libertarian candidate becomes electable and the Democrats and Republicans get scared,” Barnes said. “The part the mainstream opposition harped on was all the victimless crime issues. We really need to find another issue for our party to get behind. The Patriot Act seems just the ticket.

“Some FTP people were making outrageous statements about how we were going to take over the town and allow prostitution, and people reading this were understandably alarmed.”

Opponents began making even more inflammatory comments and “totally unsupported statements about the Free State Project favoring polygamy,” leading to the largest town meeting in Grafton’s history, Barnes said.

But Phillips and Tim Condon of the FSP “acquitted themselves extremely well, given the fact that they were taking a beating from the crowd.”

Babiarz, who lives in Grafton, and Mike Lorrey, another porcupine who lives in the area, both had credibility with the crowd, which eventually calmed down.

Since then, the rhetoric has been toned down, Barnes noted. And the FTP has been disbanded.

“The upshot of it was, we got a lot of press, and that’s a good thing,” he said. “We couldn’t have gotten that much press coverage if we had paid for it. We even received international media attention.”

Now the challenge will be to promote the project in a way that characterizes the FSP as “political refugees from socialist states,” Barnes said.

Boston T. Party, however, was critical about the possibility of any future collaboration between FSW and the FSP: “Given how it’s going with the FSP lately, e.g., Grafton, I’m uneasy about any public association. They have a few loose cannons they should dump overboard, and I disagree with the FSP strategy, if it may properly be termed as such.”


© American Free Press 2004