Thu, Oct 02, 2003 - Page 7 News List

`Free State Project' picks New Hampshire to liberate

FRINGE OR FORCE?A Libertarian group hopes to make the state a model of freedom as it does away with federal `nanny' laws and most social restrictions


A libertarian movement promoting "minimalist government," the free market, drugs, prostitution and gun ownership plans to infiltrate New Hampshire to create a breakaway American regime, its leaders will announce today.

The Free State Project, which has supporters in the UK and worldwide, was to reveal yesterday at a meeting in New York that its members have voted for the small but highly-symbolic northeastern state as its target to win power.

Project chiefs will now try to persuade 20,000 people to move to New Hampshire and sway the electorate toward blocking federal "nanny" laws and social restrictions.

Jason Sorens, a lecturer in political science at Yale University and president of the project, said he wants to create an "autocratic territory" and the Free State Project will follow the examples of the Mormons in Utah, the French separatists in Quebec, Canada, and the conservative Amish religious communities.

Political skeptics have dismissed the project as the fringe cult fantasies of a disorganized shower of anarchists and Internet geeks.

But Sorens claims membership is soaring as people become angry over increasing restrictions on personal freedom, government surveillance of private individuals and greater state power in the justice system.

Membership of the Free State Project (FSP) rocketed after an article in <> this year.

"I think that was a good place to find people who are socially tolerant and wary of government regulation over private behavior," Sorens said on Tuesday.

The FSP argues that civil government should exist only to protect life, liberty and property. Individuals are free to do as they please, provided it does not harm others.

In a "Free State," that would translate as a green light for casinos, brothels, cocaine farms and gun supermarkets. Leaders would also do away with seatbelt laws, limits on gay marriage and most taxes.

"The classical liberal philosophy has a long and respectable pedigree. We see ourselves as a kind of chamber of commerce, promoting the state as somewhere where people will come and live freely and do business," he said.

Schools and hospitals would be entirely privatized. Sorens sees new New Hampshire as having economic parallels with Singapore and Hong Kong, and social parallels to the tolerant Netherlands.

New Hampshire's state motto is already "Live free or die."

A ballot last week had members choosing from a shortlist of 10 states, each chosen on the basis that the FSP had calculated the populations were low enough and federal influence weak enough that moving 20,000 members there would give enough leverage to sway the state legislature.

Wyoming came second in the ballot. Other states on the list included Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Vermont and the Dakotas.

Members must agree to move to the chosen state.

But the New Hampshire Democratic chairwoman, Kathy Sullivan, said she considered the project "sort of a very fringe group that can best be described as anarchists."

A British member, Matthew Hurry, a 24-year-old computer technician from Brighton, was already preparing to move to the chosen state.

"It's one of the few good ideas I've seen actually put into practice with a good chance of success. Freedom is important for people, and the western world is severely lacking in it," he said.

But Francis Tyers, a 20-year-old University of Wales student, who studies in Aberystwyth but is currently on placement with the computer giant Hewlett Packard in Ireland, said Alaska would have been his first choice.

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