The Free State Project: Making the Best of a Broken System?

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March 28, 2007

Retta Fontana's commentary on the parallels between political activism and alcoholism stirred my imagination just so that a word to describe those addicted to politics emerged: "politicholism."

I am a recent signer of the Free State Project's Statement of Intent, as well as an early mover to the state of New Hampshire . The closest I've ever come to politicholics has been in my experience with the FSP.

My girlfriend and I rolled into the state sometime after 1 o'clock in the morning after a particularly long drive from my home state of New Jersey . Unpacking just enough for us to sleep, we didn't actually start snoring until sometime after 3:00 .

It was fortunate for us that I cannot sleep well in an unfamiliar place, as help was scheduled to arrive at 10:00 AM . Help indeed arrived in the form of other early movers that had already made their way. It was almost immediately that I caught a whiff of the politicholic's elixir, in the form of a statement that included the phrase, "one of us."

Now, I'm no fool. I realize very well that there are those who would like nothing better than to force me to do any number of things, and there are those who would be very content to let me live my life as I let them live theirs. But it was this politically-eager "one of us" phrase and an exhortation to "come to meetings" which made me wonder, "Have I done the right thing?"

I'm not what one would call an "old hand" to the realm of anarchy or political activism. I've not borne the battle scars of truly standing up to authority or fighting for this right or that right or any right at all. I'm new to this, and I'm constantly learning all kinds of nuances.

Exactly Why I Moved

I have to admit that the question of exactly why I moved doesn't involve a purely ideological response. I had come across the Free State Project perhaps six months before I moved. At the time, I was involved in a month-to-month contract. It really wasn't paying the bills, and I held that contract until a few days before I moved.

When my contract expired, so did any hope of meeting another month's rent. As "luck" would have it, my twelve month lease was up at the same time that my contract expired.

As a number of other New Jersey residents will tell you, the raising of taxes by the legislature is almost always en vogue. A number of months prior to our move, the governor decided that raising just about every tax on the books was the answer to New Jersey 's budgetary problems. Not only that, but new taxes were written into law as well. As far as I'm aware, he didn't even bother to pay lip service to reducing spending or battling corruption in the state. In any case, unmolested living in New Jersey was becoming more and more expensive. I did not want to imagine what it would be like without a steady income.

There were other factors, of course. My brother is also a resident of New Hampshire (his residency is unrelated to the FSP), and my girlfriend (originally from the Pacific Northwest ) absolutely hated living in New Jersey . I have to admit that I'm really an East-coast person and, so far, this seems to be an adequate compromise.

Last, but certainly not least, I had a distinct appreciation for the state motto: "Live Free or Die!" It seemed to me that a state in which the adults are treated like adults (if only marginally more so than other states) would be a good state in which to live.

The State of the " Free State Project"

I should like to point out that any comments I make regarding the FSP are borne out of a few points of contact. I have only lived in the state about a week shy of five months at the time of this writing. If there was anybody keeping score (whatever that would mean), I'd end up fairly low on the charts.

To a large extent, this was mostly due to my financial situation. I was starting over almost from scratch, especially in the realm of business networking. What little energy I had left over was put toward other domestic concerns . . . and a lot of posting on the NH Underground forum.

It was in my downtime that I really took the time to learn more about what I was doing in New Hampshire . I had already grasped many of the concepts of self-ownership, though I'd certainly shy from claiming to be an expert on the topic. As time passed, I found myself increasingly recalcitrant. Such an attitude does not a good voter make!

As my journey trended away from political action and more towards a personal approach (think Jim Davies' TOLFA), I began to see just how much politics was ingrained into the psyche of what seemed to be a majority of FSP adherents. At the present moment, I find that I do not have much interest in the political discussion du jour. I can only sigh and shake my head as I witness a large number of individuals throwing their time and energy away. When pressed to the point on forums, these individuals will ignore you at best, or resort to condescension or outright attack at worst.

One example of this comes from a thread on a New Hampshire forum. There was a discussion on some law coming before the House regarding firearms and the like. The subject of testifying had come up, and a comment was made that implied that everybody who's anybody goes to the statehouse to testify! My response was to deflate the idea that everybody goes to the statehouse.

Then I asked a question, one that, if it had merely been ignored, wouldn't have left such a bad taste in my mouth: "If a bad law ends up being passed, do you then follow the law? If so, why?" I was disappointed in the response. My question was entirely avoided. I got a snarky reply which amounted to little more than, "I wasn't talking to you!"

Given the circumstances, I suppose I shouldn't have expected anything better than that. I have a pretty good sense that discussing ideas which fall almost entirely outside of the box elicit all sorts of reactions from most people. That sort of negative reaction is rather tame, though I have seen some rather vociferous discussions from the more politically-motivated.

So, Why Not Politics?

The thing that bothers me most about the FSP being or becoming a political action group is that it attempts to affect change from within a system designed to maintain the status quo. I've heard concerns about the FSP from New Hampshire residents, mostly third-hand. The concern (or fear) is that a bunch of renegades will move in and take over, installing their version of "freedom." Setting aside the particular irony of that sentiment (there are very few "natives" alive anymore), their concern or fear is, I am sad to say, valid.

I think that's what bothers me the most about the whole political angle. It doesn't amount to any more than attempting to seize power. Individuals within the FSP come very close to stating it. They use different words, but the meaning is the same.

Is It All Vanity?

Lately, I've even been thinking that the whole notion of a " Free State " is really something of an oxymoron. How can a "state" be "free"? What would that even mean? I wouldn't expect a coherent answer from the politicholics--the best I can hope for there is for them to not be nasty in response.

But the entirety of the FSP is not made up of politicholics dreaming of tours in the statehouse. There are many bright and shining points of light, despite the lure of politics. Sometimes, it's a demonstration, such as in the case of the demonstrations at the IRS buildings. Sometimes, it involves thumbing your nose at the state, as in the case of Russell Kanning refusing to carry state-issued identification. In every case, it's about raising awareness of what "freedom" actually means. It is "liberty" writ tangible.

As for me, I am working my way towards that end. I have to tell people why I am doing what I am doing. I have to try to help those I care about see the chains that are wrapped about them. Indeed, I have to realize those chains for myself and loose them as best as I can.

I have only made a few small strides, such as not volunteering my SSN. My next move is still under consideration. All I can do is take things day by day, weigh the risks and the benefits, and ask myself if it is worth moving forward with my plans.

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