Here Come the Free Staters!

by | Jan 25, 2016


It looks like thousands — maybe tens of thousands — of libertarians will be moving to New Hampshire in the next few years. Via a vote in 2003, the Free State Project selected New Hampshire from among several low-population states as the state to target for a migration of people who share an interest in reducing government violations of liberty. Now, over 19,500 people have agreed to a Free State Project pledge saying that, once 20,000 people have made the pledge, the pledgers intend to move to New Hampshire within five years and “exert the fullest practical effort toward the creation of a society in which the maximum role of government is the protection of individuals’ rights to life, liberty, and property.” The project is over 97 percent of the way toward 20,000 pledgers, with that threshold expected to be reached soon.

Motivating the Free State Project is the reasoning that a few thousand devoted advocates for liberty can have an outsized influence in a relatively small state. This appears to already be the case with “early movers” who have relocated to New Hampshire before the pledge’s 20,000 threshold has been reached. As the Concord Monitor reported earlier this month, 18 early movers in the New Hampshire House of Representatives means “Free State movers, who represent 0.15 percent of the total population, comprise nearly 5 percent of the House.”

Electoral politics, though, is not the only focus of Free Staters — who sometimes go by the nickname “porcupines.” Public advocacy, civil disobedience, and even serving on a jury are additional avenues for advancing liberty. Free Stater Cathleen Converse, for example, served on a jury in 2012 that exercised jury nullification to find New Hampshire resident Douglas Darrell not guilty of violating marijuana laws. “It was the fact that the system was coming down on a peaceful man, and it wasn’t right,” Converse told the Manchester Union Leader in explanation of the jury’s decision.

In addition, much progress can be made for liberty just by increasing the portion of people who will speak up for liberty and against overreaching government as they live their daily lives. Not every mover needs to run for office or dedicate tens of hours a week to activism to make a difference. Many people do not expend great amounts of time and effort developing their political views. If these people regularly come into contact — whether at work, their kids’ sporting events, parties, or wherever — with informed individuals who advocate for liberty in conversation, that can have an enormous effect. You could think of this as spreading libertarianism through peer pressure.

The film 101 Reasons: Liberty Lives in New Hampshire provides a good introduction to why, even if Free Staters were not acting to bring greater respect for liberty to the state, people may be wise to choose to live in New Hampshire.

Are you interested in visiting New Hampshire, meeting some porcupines, and exploring if making the move is right for you? You could accomplish all three objectives at either of two large Free State Project events in the state this year — the New Hampshire Liberty Forum in Manchester on February 18-21 or the Porcupine Freedom Festival (PorcFest) in Lancaster on June 19-26.


  • Adam Dick

    Adam worked from 2003 through 2013 as a legislative aide for Rep. Ron Paul. Previously, he was a member of the Wisconsin State Board of Elections, a co-manager of Ed Thompson's 2002 Wisconsin governor campaign, and a lawyer in New York and Connecticut.

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