“The Free State
Project is a plan by which a critical mass of liberty-minded voters will
relocate to an underpopulated state and electorally take control of the
state government. From that point we will not only eradicate
authoritarian state laws, but slowly wean ourselves off federal control,
until we reach a satisfactory level of autonomy, whether independence or
something less. Our goal is to get 20,000 freedom minded men and women
to join the movement.”
-- Jason Sorens, founder of the Free State Project
I do not speak on behalf of Jason Sorens or the Free State Project. I am a fiercely non-partisan libertarian anarchist. I believe that functional anarchy is possible and even probable within my own lifetime, but that on the whole it can only be achieved by means that are rational, nonviolent and apolitical. My own opinion is that trying to abolish the state by voting is a pointless as trying to end war by fighting in one.
That being said, I’m about to make an argument to endorse the Free State Project as a vehicle for individual self-liberation as well as a promising joint effort in reducing the government. Did I just contradict myself? No. Put the issue of electoral politics aside for a moment.
Now imagine twenty thousand people dropping in on, say, New Mexico (my pick for the FSP location). Twenty thousand libertarians of varying degrees who believe in a free society enough to pack up and move to another state not a rational decision for all of us. Will they create a freer society? I believe so. Now, take that same group and drop them in the middle of a resurrected Nazi Germany (imagine, okay?). Would they create a freer society there as well? I think the answer there is yes again. Because when you put a large group of freedom-loving individuals in the same area, it makes a fertile environment for free living. You may move there and find an employer who’s more than happy to pay you in cash, off the books. You may find a landlord who doesn’t need to see two forms of ID. You’ll probably live next to neighbors less apt to act as unpaid government snoops. You might start up your own business and find helpful advice on working off the books from a whole community of business owners; folks who live and die by their reputations instead of by lawsuits and red tape, and would help even their fiercest competitors keep the government off their backs.
People would enjoy a greater degree of freedom as individuals because of the benefits of a libertarian community and an underground economy. They would also diminish the government by reducing state and local revenue per capita, thereby pressuring the government at both levels to privatize more public services. This would in turn demonstrate the efficiency of privatization, and that will create popular demand for even more privatization. Remember, not all cycles are vicious.
What we’re seeing here is a trend toward decentralizing the government into smaller and smaller regions until what’s left is just a mop-up job. People will, intentionally or not, abolish the nation-state by voting with their feet and their dollars. And we’re here to see the beginning of it! The people will probably come in successive waves like so: THE PIONEERS The first wave freedom-lovers. Mostly registered FSP members, the people who will determine the location for the project. I for one hope it is either or Nevada or New Mexico; one has a favorable political climate and one is a border state, which is gravy. And they're both pretty close to me in California, so I’m more likely to move to Nevada or New Mexico than I would be to move to Alaska or Hawaii. This wave will help establish a freedom-loving community and an off-the-books economy, thereby opening doors to refugees from all over the world.
IMMIGRANTS For centuries, people have come to America because of the idea of freedom that they associate with it. We have the opportunity to help those people make that idea into a reality. For most illegal immigrants the biggest obstacle, even in view of the recent wave of perverted nationalism, isn't getting into the country but sustaining oneself after making the move. If they know about a place where you can hire, work, buy and sell in cash or electronic currency or the barter system, then that problem is taken care of. We'll have people coming in from Mexico and Canada, but you may also be in contact with libertarians on other continents who have always wanted to live here. Invite them to come as vacationers or exchange students, and then invite them to stay. MILITARY DESERTERS AND OTHER VICTIMLESS FUGITIVES Time was when you could hitchhike across the country and get by on odd jobs along the way. Aren't you glad things have changed and now you have a Big Brother on the playground looking out for you? The economy we spur at a grassroots level will attract people who need to disappear for the same reasons it will attract people who need to get around the INS. This will appeal to Claire Wolfe fans (who should visit Doing Freedom!) because you can drop out of the system without starving to death.
THE PERSECUTED If you’re anti-war, you are part of a dissenting minority and about to come under fire. Intolerance reaches its all-time high in wartime. I never dreamed that bigotry and blind patriotism on this scale would come back in style in my lifetime. But that’s how it is, and people need a haven. They don’t need to respond to bigotry by gathering up in one place, but they should have that as an option. Illegal immigrants, deserters, or anyone persecuted because of their beliefs or ethnic backgrounds, will know that they are all welcome here.
Finally, I want to say that the deciding factor in my decision to endorse the Free State Project was September 11. The government on all levels is exploiting that unspeakable tragedy for its own ends by throwing your civil rights out the window, and by stirring up a very dangerous fad for bloodlust. If this escalates to World War III, it could be the first world war in which extinction is a very real threat. Think about that for a moment.
Things don’t have to go that way. There’s a good chance that if the voice of dissent is loud enough, it will divide the country and derail the war that politicians want so badly. The Free State Project is part of that dissent even now. Whether you agree with me on the FSP or not, we need to stand up and be counted as saying yes to peace and yes to liberty.
October 8, 2001