The Free State Project -- Negative Impact on Liberty?
by John Thomas, August 14, 2003
There has been a distinct drop off in activism in the LP. There are many factors - bad economy, troubles at National, off election year and Iraqi war blues.
However there is another factor as well. The Free State Project (FSP). It's not my goal to pick a fight with the Free Staters nor do I intend to debate the merits of the project.
Talking to some, not all, of the folks who have signed up for the FSP, one would get the impression that utopia is around the corner. I've been given the impression that many have abdicated from local activism in favor of the FSP. I also have been given the impression that they believe that "when" the 20,000 people of the FSP head to their final destination that "numbers alone" will do the job for winning liberty for them.
If you have signed up for FSP, are still active locally and realize that you have quite a huge undertaking ahead of you, obviously this article is not aimed at you.
If the FSP pulls off without a hitch and the 20,000 people who say they will move do so, they are in for the fight of their lives. Do you believe for a moment that the established powers will sit idly by and wait for the FSP to come take over their state? I can guarantee the media of the target state will be sure to "educate" the citizenry of the load of "nut cases" that are heading their way. The state house of the FSP target state will pass the most restrictive third party and independent laws ever seen. The combined coffers of the Democratic and Republican parties will flow from across the nation into the FSP target state. In short, the members of the FSP will likely face a political battle that will dwarf anything freedom fighters have seen since we shot at guys in funny red coats with muskets.
Am I suggesting the battle can't be won or that they should give up now? Not in the least. However, I am suggesting that if FSP members think that they can win with minimal effort and no preparation, they are dooming the FSP to failure.
At this point the FSP has two realistic ways to go. The project will launch as anticipated and 20,000 people will pack and move to the target state or organizational difficulties won't allow the project to launch at all.
For FSP to have a hope of success, all its members have to be battle hardened political warriors with all their skills fresh with current knowledge of organizational methods, campaign strategies and issues that matter to the electorate.
The FSP will arrive in the bull's-eye with the combined political might of the nation pointed right at them. The FSP can't afford to have people show up who have been politically inactive, who are slowly trying to get themselves ramped up to work again. They can't afford the time to train the inexperienced up to task. They can't afford internal fights over organizational concepts and multiple failed experiments to find out what works. They can't afford to attempt things that "seemed" to work okay in 1990 but are too dated to be effective now.
The only hope of the FSP is to have members who are ready to volunteer and are experienced in what works and what doesn't.
FSP members need to be active with their local affiliates now. They need to be able to walk into the FSP target state with a habit of so many hours per week (or day) committed to the work of liberty. They need to start with current knowledge of what works and doesn't in a functioning political organization. They need fresh experience in running for or helping someone else run for office.
There's an additional reason to pitch in an effort behind your local affiliate if you want to give the FSP a fighting chance. How many times have we heard of a Libertarian getting elected to a local office (or even state level office) somewhere in the U.S. only to have the major parties put all the pressure they could muster against them in the next election, and snuff them out? If FSP members get active locally before they head off to their target state, they would create a nationwide surge for the LP that would force the major parties to direct some of their anti-liberty resources to local flash points rather than throwing all of it at the FSP. The surge may fuel enough activity to keep momentum going at the local level even after the FSP packs up and moves.
What if the FSP just doesn't work and nobody moves? It could happen. Projects of this sort have fallen flat before. By not helping your local affiliate you are burning a bridge that may not be able to be rebuilt. If FSP fails, are you planning on giving up? If not, you had better hope that there is a viable political organization locally to carry on the fight.
In summary, the FSP is going to require more effort from its members than they were doing in their previous locality. The FSP will be in the middle of an apocalyptic fight for liberty. The FSP can only succeed if its members are experienced and ready to work. And finally, a FSP member helping their local affiliate not only prepares them for the battle ahead but also creates other targets for the Republicans and Democrats to engage.
Utopia is not an option and the hard work begins now.