Free Staters need to temper philosophy with compassion
Portsmouth Herald, July 13, 2003
All of us who live here know New Hampshire is a unique state. We try to keep our dependence on the federal government low; we have one of the lowest crime rates in the country along with one of the highest livability rankings; there is a mix of rural towns and small to moderate cities; a basic distrust of large, national unions - particularly liberal, pro-federal government unions such as the National Education Association - and, best of all, a "Live Free or Die" attitude that keeps our government small, relatively low cost and accessible to all citizens wishing to become involved in it.
It is just these attributes, bolstered by an active Libertarian Party that not long ago received in excess of 5 percent of the popular vote in a gubernatorial election, that has enticed The Free State Project to begin to think very seriously about establishing its movement here.
That movement, according to the group’s Web site, involves a plan to bring 20,000 or more "liberty oriented people" to the state where they will work within the political system to reduce the size and scope of government.
Now that has to sound appealing to anyone who lives in New Hampshire, the site of the first real battle of the Revolutionary War (the attack on Fort William and Mary to secure arms for the rebel army), and where battles from the war for independence are re-enacted yearly throughout the state. In fact, next weekend the American Independence Museum will host such a re-enactment on its grounds during a weekend celebration.
However, let’s look a little deeper into what this group hopes to accomplish.
The Web site, www.freestateproject.org, actually defines the "liberty" these Porcupines, as Free Staters call themselves, seek to enact in the state they will flock to.
"Our members’ philosophy is that being free and independent is a great way to live and that government’s role should be to defend individuals from force and fraud."
Sounds like something anyone feeling the burden of skyrocketing property taxes and increased federal intrusions into the business of the states through such legislation as No Child Left Behind, the Homeland Security Act, The Patriot Act and, now, the proposed Patriot II Act, would gravitate towards. However, there are ramifications to the approach advocated by Free Staters that must be considered as well.
Right or wrong, we have become dependent of a number of federal and federal/state programs, in some cases, for our very existence. There are, of course, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, but also the Federal Highway program that sends hundreds of millions of dollars to the state every year and supplies hundreds of jobs to our citizens.
There are federal arts grants, education grants and housing grants. Housing for the elderly and poor would virtually disappear in Portsmouth, for example, without Section 8 money.
Our law enforcement agencies are just now getting around to developing a communications system that will allow them to talk to each other thanks to a federal grant, and federal and state grants have helped us to preserve the colonial history the Porcupines are often so eager to talk about.
Matching grants that use state money to secure federal funds for our schools, our businesses and nonprofits that serve our needy, may not be available if the Free Staters have their way and the scope and size of government is reduced.
All this being said, we believe New Hampshire would benefit from an influx of people who feel the way the Porcupines feel. It would generate interesting discussions at all levels of government that could lead to innovations that would save us all money, while increasing our individual liberties.
However, if we are to break our dependence on programs on which we have come to rely there must be a feasible transition plan that will allow those who are currently receiving needed services to continue to get them. It will be the job of the rest of us to temper the enthusiasm of the Free Staters, if they eventually decide on New Hampshire as their target state, with the compassion of people who honestly care about one another.