On Fear, and the Free State Project
Last week, my family sat down to watch NBC Boston’s new documentary: “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of New Hampshire,” a look at the rapidly growing Free State Project (FSP) in the Granite State. If you aren’t already familiar, the FSP is a nonprofit with the goal of moving 20,000 libertarians to New Hampshire to increase personal freedoms and secure limited government. Movers come from all walks of life, backgrounds, and means, and share a common goal articulated by founder Jason Sorens: liberty in our lifetime.
I’m a native Mainer who spent 13 years in Pennsylvania before moving to New Hampshire in 2022. I first signed the FSP ‘mover pledge’ around 2009. As a new mover, I expected to find people in my community who were passionate about liberty. What I found was even better: a community of people who are passionate about supporting each other in their diverse pursuits. From the people who showed up to help us unload our moving truck to those who reached out to invite us to break bread as we made our new home, it has been a joy. Whether they have been FSP supporters or not, we have been humbled by the kindness of our community.
That’s why I raised my eyebrows at some of the folks in the documentary, especially those who expressed fear that people like me, my wife, and my toddler would choose to make New Hampshire home. Throughout the nine available episodes (two more are yet to be released) Free State Project supporters, myself included, were described as “dangerous,” “extremist,” and seeking to change New Hampshire. In short, FSP critics say they are afraid, and they argue that you should be afraid, too.
Fear is a powerful motivator. However, the question should be asked of FSP’s critics: is it reasonable to be afraid of more liberty in New Hampshire? Liberty is each person’s unique expression of happiness. By its nature, the joy in life doesn’t have one definition. Lived experience is as unique, beautiful, and diverse as there are living people. The only constraints are the rights of our fellow humans, who also have unalienable rights.
That’s not seeking to change New Hampshire. Quite the opposite; it’s almost a direct restating of the first several articles of our State Constitution. Historical documents aside, respect for each person’s consent is a great basis for peaceful interaction among vastly diverse people.
As the NBC documentary stated, again and again, every supporter of the Free State Project has a shared code of ethics: don’t hurt people, and don’t take their stuff. Liberty is an exercise in self-control. No matter how much I admire my neighbor’s car, I have no right to take it from her. No matter how much better the public school would be, I have no right to steal part of my neighbor’s hard-earned money to secure funding. I may ask to borrow the car, and I may request support for the school, but using force isn’t peaceful or moral.
“Force” doesn’t fit with the vision of any libertarian. Forcing one version of happiness on someone else is, by definition, anti-liberty. Preventing others from using force, and protecting each individual’s rights, is the purpose of governance in a functional free society. If Granite State Progress and even some representatives in the State House are afraid free staters will help prevent the use of coercive force – they should be. Every person should feel safe to say no to violations of consent. A common saying among libertarians goes: good ideas don’t require force. Persuasion and kindness are better ways to improve our communities and our state.
We only get a Republic if we can keep it. That means respecting the individual rights of every single person, even those we disagree with. The debates over how to build a better state should be peaceful and respectful of each person’s unalienable rights and ineffable value.
It’s been a pleasure to watch the documentary so far. It’s been a greater pleasure to experience the people of New Hampshire in our new home. This beautiful state has so much to offer, and each citizen has an opportunity to add value. I’m optimistic about the future of this state and the future of every person who chooses to call this place home.
Conner Drigotas is the Managing Editor at insideInvestigator.org and a capitalist advocate for peace. This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Liberty Block or any of its members. We welcome all forms of serious feedback and debate.