10th Anniversary in New Hampshire

Occasionally I am asked, “what brought you to New Hampshire?” I can never seem to give a quick enough but good enough answer. Saying, “The Free State Project,” is inadequate, though true.

After moving back to California in 1999, it didn’t take long to figure out that living in California as a productive freedom-loving adult isn’t a good fit. Edi and I love California. I was born and raised there, and she spent the last half of her childhood there. But as much as we love California, it has become one of the worst examples in America of what a free society should look like, and our ability to influence the anti-freedom trajectory was nil. We were woefully outnumbered, so we soon considered leaving again.

Early in our journey out of California, we discovered the Free State Project. The FSP seeks to solve the fundamental problem we observed in California: not enough people who care about freedom and are willing to take action to preserve it. It does so using a different method than other existing efforts. There are many educational, persuasive, and political projects and organizations aimed at promoting freedom. They are not without successes, but it hasn’t been enough. The FSP was the first realistic attempt at a different type of solution: migration.

The idea that freedom advocates might congregate in one lower-population state brought hope to that otherwise hopeless situation. New Hampshire was already better off than California, but what really gave us hope at the time was the possibility that the ratio of libertarians (or similar) to population might increase to become orders of magnitude higher than anyplace else in America. We thought that offered realistic hope of slowing the decline to tyranny and maybe we could even turn it around.

Entering NH on October 25, 2004

Entering NH on October 25, 2004

In 2003, we toured New Hampshire and decided to move. Based on our tour, we decided Keene would be the best fit for us and arranged to have the house we now live in built. We arrived in New Hampshire 10 years ago, today, October 25th, 2004.

We were welcomed by those we interacted with along the way. We soon settled into a church home and began making friends and planting roots. Our goal all along has been to love God and love the people around us to the best of our abilities. The high priority we place on freedom is a result of that outlook on life. We’ve tried our best to be loving people, spouses, parents, neighbors, friends, and community members. We’re not perfect, but I hope our 10 years in New Hampshire have been beneficial not just to us, but to the people around us.

Since moving, the work I’ve done to further the cause of liberty has focused on the Free State Project organization itself. While many FSP early-movers have focused on activism aimed at more directly increasing freedom in New Hampshire, I kept working towards the the migration solution. We’re looking for 20,000 pro-liberty activists to commit to moving (we call them participants) and still aren’t there yet.

But much progress has been made. The day before we arrived in New Hampshire, there were 6,129 participants, 307 of which were living in New Hampshire. Those 307 included over 250 already living in New Hampshire at the time of the state vote. In round numbers, we were early-mover numbers ~60ish (maybe #55 and #56, but officially it’s #59 and #60). Today, there are 16,151 participants, just over 10,000 more than there were when we moved. And there are now 1,664 in state, an increase of 1,357 pro-liberty activists who have migrated to New Hampshire since we moved. On average, over 10 FSP participants have moved to New Hampshire every month for the last 10 years.

I can’t claim credit for much of that, but I’ve done my part to help out along the way. Last week, I passed 10 years of cumulative service on the FSP’s board (I think that makes me the longest-serving board member in FSP’s history). I have also served in a variety of FSP ‘doer’ positions including Director of Development, Porcupine Freedom Festival lead organizer, National Media Spokesperson, Vice President of Operations, and, on two separate occasion, President. During my tenure as President, we successfully completed the First 1000 project, which was instrumental in encouraging more people to move sooner. And I laid out the vision and set the wheels in motion for the New Hampshire Liberty Forum, which has become one of the world’s most important pro-liberty conventions.

I have done other non-FSP activities along the way. This year, I’m on the ballot for the second time, offering to serve as one of Keene’s State Representatives. I helped in small ways get the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance’s bill review process established, attended the charter meeting for the New Hampshire Republican Liberty Caucus, volunteered with 2008 Ron Paul for President campaign, lobbied for pro-liberty legislation along the way, and so on.

Not everything has been successful, and that’s to be expected. Those who are strongly attached to government solutions for every problem are increasingly noisy in their objection to our presence. And the obnoxious behavior of a few Free Staters who missed the “good neighbor” memo has ruffled feathers on occasion. But overall, I’m impressed with many of the early movers, and the things we’ve managed to accomplish over the last decade.

My sense, in 2004, about the decline of freedom in America has certainly been validated. We left California in the aftermath of 9/11, the USAPatriot act, the TSA, one of the worst Presidents in U.S. History, and well-established wars with no end game. In the decade since moving to New Hampshire, things have gotten much worse overall in America. We’ve sustained the never-ending ‘war on terror’, elected a President who, unbelievably, is even worse than the previous one, endured systematic spying of the whole world without justification, significantly increased debt and deficits, and mismanaged a string of economic crises from which we may never recover.

All that leads me to believe that the Free State Project is needed now more than ever. If any corner of America is to recover from this mess and lead the way to liberty, it will be that corner with the unique mix of characteristics New Hampshire has: an existing freedom-friendly populace, and a high and increasing concentration of effective pro-liberty activists.

Our motivation is not simply to hoard freedom at the expense of others. We hope for a society where freedom for everyone flourishes. ‘Utopia’ isn’t an option, but more freedom generally leads to more prosperity and a better life for all. Even if we don’t reap all of the benefits ourselves, I hope we can leave behind a place that will be a beacon of liberty for generations to come.

We’ll keep doing our part, as we have now for a decade in New Hampshire. If you care about freedom, you’re welcome to join us!

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3 Responses to 10th Anniversary in New Hampshire

  1. Chip Marce says:

    Interesting post Mr. Swearingen and congrats on 10 years in the Shire.

    One thing I wanted to bring up was with regard ro the “noisy objectors” that you mentioned. Frankly, I think they’re doing a great job, in their own way, of selling the FSP. No political or cultural movement that’s actually accomplishing something is going to be without their detractors. And at least with regard to Granite State Progress, they’ve done a meticulous job of gathering and providing an early history of the FSP. Including some fascinating stuff that I wasn’t aware of. Of course they portray a very one sided history of the past few years in their attempt to show that the FSP is some sort of threat. (Perhaps to the progressive outlook they espouse?) In any case, credit where its due, the objectors are doing some fine work in helping to bring freedom to NH.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Chip!

      It’s true that some of the noise does actually sell the project itself. I expected the anti-liberty crowd to get noisy and they’ve obliged. I do hope that the trivia and drama doesn’t drown out the underlying message that freedom is important and many of us are committed to protecting it. I hope we continue to attract respectful, productive people who will be effective advocates for freedom. In as much as the critics are helping to attract such people, I thank them. 🙂


  2. Chip Marce says:

    I’m not too worried about the ability to attract good people. Once more of the liberty friendly see what freedom looks like, they’ll migrate. Recent days have seen lots more interest and with that more adversaries. Gotta love all the free advertising.

    Live Free or Die. C

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