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Bucking Big Guv
A grand experiment in New Hampshire

Date published: 2/26/2007

T HE MOTTO of New Hampshire is "live free or die," and the small New England enclave walks the talk. New Hampshire has gone further than most states in adopting a hands-off policy to big government--there is no state income tax, no general sales tax, and residents pay the lowest taxes in the country overall as a percentage of gross income. Individual responsibility is the order of the day--there are no mandatory seat-belt laws, for instance, and the legislature recently rejected a ban on smoking in restaurants and bars, reasoning that business owners can make their own decisions.

It's perhaps no surprise, then, that the Granite State is the petri dish for a unique experiment in American politics. The Free State Project--a non-partisan movement that advocates less government intervention in our daily lives--is trying to convince 20,000 like-minded people to relocate to relatively underpopulated New Hampshire. It could be a smart move, literally. With only 1,299,500 people in the state at last census count, a block of 20,000 like-minded folks could make a serious impact in public policy at the state level.

The FSP announced recently that the first wave has already begun. Participants in the project must pledge to move to New Hampshire once 20,000 have agreed to do so, and an eager 1,000 souls have already waded into the fray. They've agreed to relocate to the cold but beautiful and fiercely independent land right now, regardless of when the rest come on board. Called "early movers," one has already been elected to the State House. Indeed, Libertarians--which the majority of FSP supporters are--already hold 30 public offices in New Hampshire, and this newest movement seems likely to ensure more.

Can't limit congressional spending excesses and a never-ending parade of pork at the federal level? Can't stop the enormous growth in federal power (think indefinite detentions of terror suspects, wiretapping controversies, a massive new Medicare program, etc.) that has taken place under the current administration? These folks have an interesting solution: Head to one state and make a difference. That's federalism in action--and in that sense, the Constitution come to life. Whether they succeed or not, Free State Project supporters deserve kudos for innovation.