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My Turn: Don’t fall into trap set by Free Staters

Former New Hampshire governor Craig Benson meets Free State founder Jason Sorens during a Liberty Alliance dinner in Plymouth on June 25.

Former New Hampshire governor Craig Benson meets Free State founder Jason Sorens during a Liberty Alliance dinner in Plymouth on June 25.

We are well into the 2014 election season, and there’s a lot at stake.

Not just control of the U.S. Senate, as newly minted New Hampshire resident Scott Brown ignores his GOP primary opponents in his rush to target incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

Not just the perversity quotient of the U.S. House, as primary voters sort through which candidates – representing which wing of the Republican Party? – will challenge Democratic incumbents Annie Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter.

Not just the balance of power in the New Hampshire General Court, as we’re still trying to forget – or at least recover from – the two-year reign of House Speaker “Bully” O’Brien.

I hate to mention this, but there’s also the 2016 presidential campaign right around the corner. And if we’re going to fulfill the responsibility of the “First in the Nation” primary, then New Hampshire needs to have solid – and sane – political parties.

You see, New Hampshire is the focus of a unique political experiment, started in 2001 by then-Yale doctoral student Jason Sorens. His idea was to get 20,000 activists to move to a single state with a small population and an easily accessible government.

“Once we’ve taken over the state government, we can slash state and local budgets, which make up a sizeable proportion of the tax and regulatory burden we face every day. Furthermore, we can eliminate substantial federal interference by refusing to take highway funds and the strings attached to them. Once we’ve accomplished these things, we can bargain with the national government over reducing the role of the national government in our state. We can use the threat of secession as leverage to do this.”

Snowplowing? Bridge safety? An adequately funded judicial system? Public colleges? These things are nowhere on the Free Staters’ priority list.

No, the Free Staters – at least those in Keene – seem to be more interested in marijuana and videotaping the city’s parking enforcement officers.

Here’s where it gets serious: Free Staters don’t care about political parties. That’s how two Free Staters, who lived in the same house, ran for state representative on opposite sides of the ticket. (The Democratic candidate won.) Free State candidates don’t advertise their allegiance to the project, they just join up with a political party and run for office.

In their 2012 election results roundup, the project outlined the progress they had made: Over the past eight years, FSP participants who have become state representatives went from zero to 1, to four, to 12 to 14 in 2010, to eleven this cycle. Only 1,100 movers are on the ground. With only 5 percent of the goal movers in New Hampshire, political FSP participants held onto the status quo while Republicans got trounced. Baby steps, people. It ain’t called a “project” for nothing!

Twenty-thousand movers could translate into 200 state reps, half the house. Imagine what fun would ensue.

One-fourth of the legislators identified as belonging to FSP ran as Democrats.

And now it’s 2014, election season again.

Is it going to get even weirder this year?

Sen. Peter Bragdon is retiring, and “Free State” mover Dan Hynes is running for his seat. Apparently Hynes has offered free room and board to FSPers willing to work for his campaign.

And here’s what his campaign website says about why he’s running (under “Smaller Gov”): “Dan Hynes opposes government regulations that force people to do things against their will, or that prevents them from doing things that bring them happiness as long as it does not harm other people.”

But don’t we need rules about which side of the road to drive on? Laws to protect property? What happens when the things that make one person happy conflict with what makes other people happy? What happens when most people want to have our highways plowed, but some people don’t want to pay for it?

People actually think that this kind of chaos is a good idea? And they’re moving to New Hampshire to create it?

Hasn’t New Hampshire already had enough nuttiness from our politicians? Can’t we all agree that we need a functioning government? And rational political parties? And that Granite Staters don’t really want to secede from the United States?

This election year, we need to pay close attention to who we’re voting for, where their allegiance lies and what sort of a government they believe in (if any).

There’s a lot at stake.

(Matt Murray is the creator and editor of the NH Labor News, an online blog that focuses on politics and their effect on working families. He lives in Merrimack.)

Legacy Comments35

Libertarianism--including the FSP, is just another iteration of the age-old effort to justify greed. As J.K. Galbraith observed: "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness." Moreover, Libertarianism is profoundly anti-democratic, as the secretive behavior of the FSP candidates in the last two election cycles demonstrates. It's not about open, honest, and fair elections, it's about power. At its core, libertarianism is fascism--the melding of the corporation and the government, and the CEO becomes the dictator. Libertarians idolize the rich and powerful--by definition superior men (Ayn Rand's John Galt, etc). Combine the power of the NSA with the Koch brothers' billions, abetted by recent SCOTUS decisions on corporations' "rights", and we're well on our merry way. All hail, Caesar!

I don't care if Scott Brown was born under the golden dome in Concord, he doesn't deserve to be a NH senator. He cares nothing about the state but just wants to get back into the Senate.

I know you dont care...but not to worry..every time you lie about Brown, I'll correct you.

These free state nuts (cult members is a better description) are a complete joke. Perhaps one day they will grow up and get a job. In the meantime they will continue to be marginalized as the lunatics that they are.

The lefts fear of a mere 1100 citizens spread across the state is stunning. ....... I mean stunningly embarrassing for them

Doesn't take many Fifth Columnists to bring dowe a country.

I wish the author would have contacted me so that I could have clarified some of his misconceptions. Speaking for myself, I have lived in NH for more than 7 years. My position about opposing government regulations not harming people was meant primarily to address victimless crimes. We need reform to keep people in jail who physically harm others, and not release them due to prison overcrowding. Sorry to disappoint my constituents who want to be able to drive on the left side of the road, but the government has a legitimate interest in having a motor vehicle code, in order to keep the public safe. A smaller government does not mean no government. To the comment that NH has no taxes, I guess you are not a business owner who has an income tax (also referred to as the BPT), a landowner, a driver, or ever eat out, as all of those things are taxed. Our business tax is higher than MA, and it prevents workers from being paid more, and prevents businesses from moving to NH. Our state has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. As a constitutional lawyer, I want to enforce the constitution, not re-write it. I want to work toward a smaller government keeping them out of my wallet, and out of my bedroom. Learn more about my positions: Thank you, Dan Hynes

Dan, I think you should know a little more about NH before trying to 'adjust' our government to keep them out of your wallet. When I went to for the state, there were about 11,000 state employees, both classified and unclassified. Today, more than forty years later, there are still about 11,000 state employees. However, during those years, the number of residents has increased from 750,000 to over 1.3 million. We still pay no sales or income taxes (except the very rich on savings earnings). NO FSP input is needed here, state government is small, efficient, and still the brunt of every right-wing politician looking for power. Our 424 citizen legislature still gets the $200 salary, but mileage reimbursement has increased over those forty years. However, then, as now, the legislature is dominated by lawyers, real estate agents, business owners, and, oh yes, retirees. What really bothers me about our legislature is that the average education level is around high-school graduate; would be nice to have a better educated legislature, I think.

FACT: In 2012 two DES employees were blogging at all times of the day and afternoon though out their working time. Another news source uncovered this, it should be noted that the Monitor never covered it. But in a recording with a radio show the Commissioner of the DES as well as the head of state IT admitted that this was going on. One was a supervisor and President of one of the SEA chapters. The comments they were making in many instances were about taxpayers, attacking people who fund their jobs and whom they are "servants". Nepotism? One family, two generations works for the state, one of their relatives gets state contracts. Shall I go on. These are not "saints". The story of one worker digging and hole and 6 standing around watching is not an urban myth, it is a reality. These are 36.25 hour employees (used to be 37 hours but they work so hard that the union got them another break). I have nothing against them but 11,000 is plenty, if anything it is too many. If they have time to blog all day, we don't need them.

So tell us Matt, what are you going to do with thousands of us 'freestaters' who moved here in 1989-2003? What kind of a xenophobic letter is this the Monitor has allowed? If you can import your progressive sludge from NY, CT, VT, RI and Mass, elect them to the legislature and then have them trying to tax our bedrooms and our balloons (yes this really happened) then certainly you have nothing to say about people who come here to preserve NH's low taxes and live free or die philosophy. Matt put on your big boy pants and stop being so bigoted. And stop being a control freak. NH, last I checked, does not have a litmus test for who can move here and who can't.

Vote Andrew Hemingway for Governor

It's all about POWER! I want it. I'll say anything to get it. Once I get it, I'll do anything to keep it. As an example, how about the First Free stater, before they had a name, Mel Thompson! Or the second, with a "catchy" name, "Billy-Mander" O'Brien. Why do some of the districts seem so 'Odd in their layout' (Concord District 5)? It's for Power and the ability to maintain it-regardless of what the voters want. They don't pay attention, believe only the Sound bites of the loudest, and, usually, don't learn by there mistakes the first time. We get the 'Best government money can Buy!

Instead of spreading dishonest, straw-man, propaganda hit pieces on the internet about a historical movement, why not reach out to some FSP Participants and ask them to go to lunch or to have a drink sometime? If you spend time with some of us, I think you'll find that we're not as evil as you make us out to be :) Not only are we here to stay, we're adding to our numbers every year. After all, your article makes mention of our progress. The overwhelming majority of Free Staters simply want to move to NH and live life like any other NH resident and sometimes some of us want to get politically involved, just like you do. Bottom line: if you're right about NH citizens not wanting liberty, then they won't vote more Free Staters into office. I think you're wrong about that, though. I think... NH is awesome and NH residents love liberty.

Matt...I agree with you. As a life-long resident of New Hampshire (aka-the cheapest state in the United States with NO sales and NO income tax), I would NEVER vote for someone recently arrived who wants to: cut taxes (we don't pay any), NOT fund highways, fire or police departments (I want to keep my fire insurance low), and re-write the constitution because some kid from Yale says he has a better way (actually an experiment over which neither he, nor anyone else, has control or guidance!!

How NH has changed. When we bought a piece of property in Chichester 24 yes ago, we went to a selectmen's meeting about a problem and were called "newcomers" after being in the area over 15 yrs then and coming from Merrimack NH before that. These people move in (and Scott Brown) and run for election the very next cycle and are completely accepted even though people don't know what they really stand for. Talk about Trojan Horses.

Scott Brown was BORN in can someone born in NH not be from NH???

Are you saying that Scott Brown is a 'free stater'?? I didn't know that. Or are you just throwing mud in the water??

Do you think our drug laws are functioning well? What do you think about the Land of the Free having the highest incarceration rate in the world? What are you doing about solving these problems besides getting in the way? Do you approve of your Federal tax money being spent on foreign aggression, homeland oppression, endless debt, and the excess incarcerations? Again what are you doing besides defending the status quo?

The discussion is about free STATERS, having nothing to do with federal issues !!

I don't have much use for political parties either. But I have even less use for anarchy. And that's what the FSP wants.

Funny, funny. Such hysterical hyperbole. Mr. Murray can't even be bothered to look up the FSP "Statement of Intent", where he would have seen "protection of life and property". That way he can declare in his ignorance, panic, and fear, "Laws to protect property?" Mr. Murray doesn't bother to note that New Hampshire already forgoes federal highway funds by not having seatbelt and helmet laws. (hint hint: FSPeople had nothing to do with that) Mr. Murray also ignores history with his repeated references to "roads". Have you ever looked up what "turnpike" means? Privately built roads. And seriously, considering the endless crying I read about the condition of "our infrastructure" of bridges and such, after government has been running them for so long, maybe Mr. Murray is depending on everyone else being as ignorant of the reality behind government mismanagement of the highways as he is.

So, Curt, are you stating that replacing our state-funded highways with privately built roads is a goal of FSP? Will those privately built roads be TOLL ROADS?? Does FSP believe that ALL government-built and maintained highways are mismanaged?? So, replacing our state built and maintained highways with privately built roads is a major goal of FSP?? Dumb, really dumb.

Nice try at having it both ways: do your best to thwart every effort to raise money that goes for infrastructure, then when bridges collapse, blame the government that you've starved of revenue for that collapse.

Govt has plenty of money - a fact you always sweep under the rug is your ilk has doubled the state budget since you elected Shaheen - There are no metrics that account for the democrats massive rise in spending other than their cradle to grave mentality

So tell us Matt, what are you going to do with thousands of us 'freestaters' who moved here in 1989-2003? What kind of a xenophobic letter is this the Monitor has allowed? If you can import your progressive sludge from NY, CT, VT, RI and Mass, elect them to the legislature and then have them trying to tax our bedrooms and our balloons (yes this really happened) then certainly you have nothing to say about people who come here to preserve NH's low taxes and live free or die philosophy. Matt put on your big boy pants and stop being so bigoted. And stop being a control freak. NH, last I checked, does not have a litmus test for who can move here and who can't.

Twenty thousand free staters will be unable to influence whether or not NH would actually secede. Pay no attention to the fact that free state legislators were likely instrumental in blocking right wing Republican efforts to repeal gay marriage in the state. You're welcome, Democrats.

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. As is happening all over the country, the courts are over-turning laws aimed at outlawing gay marriage. The NH Supremes surely would have done so too, had the bill passed, though I doubt the Senate would have passed it even had it made its way through the House.

Hey Matt, what's with your statement of: "An adequately funded judicial system? " With $15 million in State surplus, where do you think $12 million of that came from? Answer: The $1 million a month that's collected in fines and filing fees from the courts. The first word in the title of a Free-Stater is "free" as in N.H. Article 14 in that legal remedies to be FREE, complete and prompt, of not obliged to purchase it! But what do we have now? R&Ds in the Legislature wearing two hats of also attorneys passing statutes to give to their buddies of the Bar the power to ask for fees, that be O.K. to request such, but that one ought not to have to take it of their demands for such lest their case NOT be entered! So these fees are not needed to run the judiciary as like from all the other taxes collected that go into the General Fund. If some Free-Stater wants to run as an R or D that's fine with me, but from what I've seen of once they get in this "free"dom agenda they spout seems to vanish as they blend in with the R&D crooks already there.

Any idea what happens when you remove rule of law? Helloooo Somalia. Maybe there are laws that need reconsideration, tweaking, or removal, but laws exist because we've experienced, because we've learned lessons, because we don't want a given thing to happen again, to harm. Your rights end where mine begin and vice versa. Those lines are drawn and codified for a reason.

"we don't want a given thing to happen again" - thank goodness we have laws against murder and theft to prevent them from happening again. major LOL @ the Somalia comment /facepalm

An incomplete list of correct answers to your question: "Any idea what happens when you remove rule of law?" -A $17,000,000,000,000 national debt -The government spying on every American -A nationalized education system that has dumbed down every kid who's gone through American government schools for decades -The government forcing more and more guns out of the hands of good Americans, thus only violent criminals have access to some kinds of guns -The Federal Reserve System, which empowers their international banker friends and devalues the dollar so poor people are more poor -The ridiculously long list of over-reaching, misery-inducing, unconstitutional federal agencies/programs -A racist drug war designed to put poor black and brown people in prison, severely lowering their chances of having a better life and raising a family -An American Empire (About 1,000 bases in about 150 countries) I could go on forever.

So, Free Staters are really looking to remake US laws. Really dumb.

Your post contains a number of distortions--on schools for instance. Public schools are locally controlled and democratic-- and most do a good job at teaching our children. The forces of privatization from the corporate world and the far right have distorted test results--both national and international, while vastly overstating the benefits of privatization. Most charters do no better, and many do worse than public schools, while operating w/o much public oversight. The national debt is a complex issue, but suffice to say that both conservatives and liberals have contributed to its extent; in a fiat money system, it's nearly impossible for the central government to go broke; that there's an inverse relationship between private and public debt. In good economic times, the central government almost always runs a deficit; and the central government is NOT a business, and should not be run like one. Your hysterical take on guns is based on a mis-reading of the 2nd Amendment and taking the ravings of the NRA seriously. A central bank is essential to a modern economy--we have private banks that are TBTF, and a revolving door between Wall St. and the feds. And big money that corrupts the system--we need more and better regulations of Wall St. , and of campaign finance, not less. And non-partisan crafting of electoral districts in every state.I agree with you about the effects of the drug war on the poor, and about the extent of our empire overseas and NSA over-reach.

Common Core is the nationalizing of our local schools - don't let Brucies lengthy screeds fool you

If the schools were privatized some teachers would be terminated for the poor performance and arguing with say, 4th and 5th graders telling them that their political points were not correct. Private is not so bad, public education is a business and industry where individuals are out for their own interests, hmmmmm sounds like a corporation.

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