The Free State Project: The Real Deal
Sunni Maravillosa

I remember hearing about the Free State Project back when Jason Sorens was recruiting feedback for the idea. Having heard of plenty of other "let's form our own group" schemes, I smiled, nodded, and pushed the delete key, and expected to hear maybe one or two more things about the project at most. I'm delighted to say that I was wrong.

I am not a porcupine -- that's the animal FSPers have fittingly chosen as their mascot. Thus, I'm not an expert or an insider. My interest in the FSP lies in two areas: 1) some people whose opinions I respect and who are very dear to me have signed on; and 2) I am interested in seeing "liberty in my lifetime", which is what the FSP intends to achieve. After grilling my friends about the FSP at length, and making email acquaintance with one of their officers and proceeding to put that individual through a similar wringer, I'm satisfied that the FSP is the real deal. What convinced me wasn't any report or argument from my friends -- it was attending an FSP event and seeing firsthand the kinds of individuals who'll be involved in this project when it comes to fruition.

FSP overview
The goal of the Free State Project, for those of you who've been lurking in darkest Peru and haven't heard about it, is to create a group of freedom-loving individuals dedicated to creating a freedom enclave in the U.S. People are not asked to send any money, nor buy or invest cash into any idea, infrastructure, or project. They are asked to consider the project, and commit to moving to the state that is ultimately selected by their members as the Free State. Ten states are in the running for the Free State (you can find details, plus oodles of statistics on each state and comparisons, at the FSP site). When membership reaches 5,000, porcupines will vote on the state to move to (members may choose to exclude some states from their commitment); when it reaches 20,000, they will begin moving to that state.

The group is apolitical, in that it isn't an LP organization, and it doesn't require any specific political affiliation to join. It similarly doesn't require a commitment to electoral political action as a means of securing the goal of creating a freer state. Assuming the move to the selected Free State is carried out, the current leadership of the FSP will dissolve, its goals having been accomplished. It's expected that other individuals and/or groups will step up to help with the transition period, and also with setting up infrastructure to begin building the Free State.

The FSP is not a secessionist project -- the Free State will not be pushed to secede from the U.S. It is simply and solely a project to amass a group of liberty-loving individuals into one state in order to build the kind of rights-respecting society that many think the U.S. Constitution was designed to create. Thus, it should not become the sort of threat to the fedgov and other Thought Police agencies that many predict.

Revelations in Big Sky country
Despite the best and energetic efforts of my porcupine friends to persuade me as to the FSP's chances of success, I remained skeptical. When the opportunity arose to attend the Grand Western Conference, held in Missoula over the Memorial Day weekend, with the goal of showcasing the western states under consideration, I seized it. Having lived in Wyoming, I didn't need much convincing as to the area's charms -- being back in the mountains, even if only for a weekend, was very alluring. Being there discussing the best practical approach for securing more freedom sealed my decision.

I've been to a number of libertarian-oriented conferences, and read about many more. I know how argumentative and emotionally invested in being right some individuals can be. One of the first, and ongoing, surprises of the GWC was how pleasant everyone I spoke to was. Nothing seemed to be about ego; the presentations and private conversations alike seemed focused on accomplishing the goal of greater freedom.

Even better, the individuals all seemed committed to taking action to secure that precious liberty. I'll admit that it's hard to gauge something like that from a weekend meeting, but I do know that the atmosphere of the GWC was palpably different from all other libertarian meetings I've attended. Differences of opinion on philosophy and approach abounded, to be sure, but those were amicably admitted and set aside. Good-natured ribbing between east-coasters who'd made the trip and the westerners was plentiful, yet did not interfere with serious discussions.

To my further astonishment, the porcupines present seemed not only to understand the challenges that they might encounter upon being part of the movement, many seemed to embrace them. When JJ Johnson said in his presentation that there will be challenges, and that people could get killed, his comments were met with applause -- not because anyone wants to die, but simply because they've recognized that truth and are willing to do what it takes to create more freedom in their lives.

Unlike many libertarian activist movements, the FSP seems not to be driven by ego. Jason Sorens is a quiet, thoughtful looking individual, whose PhD graduation ceremony was held the weekend of the Missoula Great Western Conference. He attended the GWC, and if one didn't know him by sight, was easy to overlook. Other officers similarly never brought attention to themselves nor tried to dominate any aspect of the conference. This, along with other choices (not asking for money being chief among them), has given the porcupines a lot of credibility lacking from similar plans.

If you're serious about wanting freedom and are willing to work for it, I strongly encourage you to look into the Free State Project. They're serious about what they're doing. They are about creating a freer place in which to live, and in which to raise their children. As of June 12, the membership stands at just under 4100, 900 shy of the voting minimum. If you want to have a say in what state is chosen, you'd better act fast. I don't think you'll regret it.

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