In the course of criticizing the Free State Project (FSP) and its participants, some people have claimed that the FSP is a secessionist organization or that Free Staters are secessionists.
In response, I’ll summarize the FSP’s actual position, why some Free Staters do favor secession, and why I don’t. I am a FSP participant, early mover (one of the first 100), ~10-year FSP Board member and twice former FSP President. So I’m quite familiar with the FSP’s positions and with the positions of other Free Staters.
The FSP is not a secessionist organization and doesn’t promote secession (see the FAQ). The FSP doesn’t take a position pro or con on the subject and leaves that up to individual participants to decide. Some critics like to cite Dr. Sorens’ original essay proposing the Free State Project as evidence that the FSP is a secessionist organization. Several things from that essay were never part of the project, including the pro-secession stance. The organization is not, nor has it ever been, pro-secession.
In fact, a weak case could be made that the FSP’s 2005 mission statement implied an anti-secession position. The rarely cited second sentence used to include, “restoring constitutional federalism.” That specific idea isn’t universal among FSP participants, and has since been removed, further clarifying the FSP’s secession-neutral stance.
The United States Constitution outlines various protections of individual rights and asserts limits on its governmental power, some of which are well aligned with the FSP’s mission statement. However, I don’t know even one Free Stater who thinks the the current federal government fits that vision at all. The question for us isn’t whether the federal government is fine as it is (it’s not), rather how to make it fit the idea of limited government we agreed to pursue.
Among Free Staters, there are two categories of people who generally support secession as the solution to the federal government problem. First, some Free Staters are anarchists who believe there should be no government, as we know it, at all. They would support not only secession from the United States, but also every other government-like entity. Their view of limited government is a limit of zero. Second, there are non-anarchists (minarchists, libertarians, constitutionalists, etc.) who accept a larger-than-zero role for limited government, but do not believe it will possible to achieve that goal while remaining part of the United States. These two types of people would support or advocate secession.
I am hesitant to try to estimate what portion of Free Staters support secession. The number visibly working towards that end is a tiny minority, however, I believe many more would support a viable secession movement. I don’t think it would be accurate to characterize Free Staters as overwhelmingly for or against secession. In the absence of data, I don’t think it’s safe to conclude much more.
There are Free Staters who openly disfavor secession. I am one such person. I do not believe another secession is best for the future of New Hampshire. I would not call myself a loyalist per se (to the British Crown, nor the U.S. Government), but I am not an advocate of seceding from the United States. I would characterize my view of secession as moderately negative.
I’m not absolutely opposed to secession under any circumstances. I believe New Hampshire is better off now having seceded the first time, and that could become the case again. If the U.S. Government continues on its path, and Americans do nothing to stop its tyrannical decline, I may concede that another secession is, again, the least bad choice.
I find myself in the company of some of the founders of America. Many of them did not want to secede without compelling reasons. The Declaration of Independence makes that clear:
“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed.”
The founders of America weren’t simply secessionists, and neither am I. Their reason for seceding was not a mere preference, but a longstanding objection to tyrannical government that became hopeless enough to put their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor on the line to throw off that tyranny. Secession was a byproduct of that process, not an ideal vision.
The State of New Hampshire (government) could do some things now that weren’t possible prior to the first secession, which might make it even less desirable now. Negotiation and/or nullification (ala Real ID prohibition, for example) are two options that may be very effective at restoring freedom. New Hampshire is just one of many states that are increasingly correcting federal abuse of power.
I would prefer the states to correct the federal government, and for New Hampshire to use its legal sovereignty to negotiate and nullify any leftover bits that exceed protecting individual rights. If the idea of freedom catches on again, I think this would be possible to do such a thing, and I think that would be better on balance than secession.
What critics fail to acknowledge is that New Hampshire is part of the United States precisely because it has already seceded from the United Kingdom. The only true anti-secessionists are those who believe New Hampshire should be part of the United Kingdom, and I have never met anyone in New Hampshire who fits that description. Ironically, the same people criticizing the FSP on secessionist grounds actually support secession themselves, just not another one.
I tend to agree.