Front Page Article in Keene Sentinel on Free Staters

Free State project is moving slowly
Like-minded people are still coming to the Granite State

Sentinel Staff
Published: Saturday, August 30, 2008

Nearly five years have passed since the Free State Project adopted New Hampshire as its home base and began the task of convincing 20,000 activists to commit to uprooting their lives and moving here.

They would come in droves, the plan went, overwhelming the sparsely populated state and ultimately changing the way big government works by limiting its power through free-market solutions.

There would be tax reductions; regulations such as being required to have a driver’s license to get behind the wheel of your own car would be relaxed or scrapped; power would be restored to the people and the Granite State would become the Free State, a model for the rest of the country and even the world.

That hasn’t happened yet, and only 8,558 people have committed to making the move since the project’s inception, according to its Web site.

But it’s the 558 people who have actually made the move who have spurred a slight shift in the project’s aim and kept it pushing ahead.

Realizing that some people wanted to make the move immediately, and already had, project coordinators came up with a three-year goal to have 1,000 recruits in the state by the end of this year. They exceeded that goal by more than 30 commitments.

Ian H. Bernard, a project member, self-styled “free marketer” and host of “Free Talk Live,” a Keene-based, nationally syndicated radio talk show, said the first 1,000 will be known as hardcore activists who paved the way for the other 19,000 Free Staters.

“It’s been real slow going trying to get people to uproot their lives,” he said in a phone interview Saturday. “That being said, I think the project has still been tremendous. These are the best freedom activists in the word that are coming here. The moving aspect is a good screening process.”

Free State Project Director Varrin Swearingen said in an e-mail interview that sponsoring “Free Talk Live” and taking out advertisements on the Internet and in print have helped to attract new members every year. Project members also reach out to potential members at events known to attract large numbers of pro-liberty activists, he said.

“This week, for example, the Free State Project has sent a team of people to Minnesota for outreach at the Republican National Convention and Ron Paul’s Rally for the Republic,” he said. “Also, each year, we operate two world-class pro-liberty events here in New Hampshire — the Porcupine Freedom Festival in the summer, and the New Hampshire Liberty Forum in the winter.”

Swearingen, who works as a commercial airlines pilot, moved with his wife and their two children from California to Keene in 2004, two years after reading an advertisement about the project and researching it online. He’d been a Libertarian since grade school, and felt his efforts to exact political change in The Golden State were futile.

“The Free State Project appealed to us because it represented a real opportunity to work together with a high concentration of people who really valued freedom — something that simply doesn’t exist in California,” he said.

The Free Staters who have come to New Hampshire are not directed to choose a particular city, town or county. They can live wherever they please, and engage in whatever type of activism that best suits them, Bernard said.

“The project only exists to encourage people to make the move and be an activist when they get here,” he said. “Concord is obviously a good place for politics. There is a big mix of non-cooperative activists and political activists in Manchester. In Keene, we have a larger concentration of non-cooperative, market-based activists.”

Non-cooperative activists are people who have decided they cannot change the system from within. They shun politics and do not vote. Instead of running for political office, they conduct peaceful protests meant to draw attention to a particular issue, Bernard said.

The non-cooperative activists have played penny poker in downtown Keene — gambling is illegal under state law — and plan to sell hot dogs in response to a street vendor’s recent and ongoing struggle with the city to sell his food late at night.

“They are forced to show their hand, to show that they are the violent organization of men and women they really are, or ignore us and hope we go away,” Bernard said of the police. “If they ignore us, we win. If they arrest us, we win.”

After listening to Bernard’s talk show on the Internet, Samuel E. Dodson decided to become a Free Stater and move from Plano, Texas, to Keene before the end of the year. Dodson said he was captivated by what Bernard had to say.

“The more I listened the more the message started to make sense,” he said in a phone interview Saturday. “I just kind of got hooked on it. Over the last two years, I’ve come to adopt the messages and principles of liberty into my own life.”

Eight months ago, Dodson launched the “Obscured Truth Network” on YouTube, a video-sharing Web site, in which he posts video interviews of him questioning police and other government officials about the constitutionality of their work.

Dodson said he’s had a difficult time finding other like-minded activists in his current hometown.

“I’m all alone here and it’s tough,” he said. “People are scared of the judges. They’re scared of the police. … That’s the level of fear people have of this government that’s designed to protect them.”

Once he’s moved to the Elm City, Dodson said he hopes to rent an apartment near Central Square and eventually build a cob house, which is constructed of sand, clay and straw.

“I don’t know if I’ll be able to get away with it because of the planning boards, but I’ll do it anyway,” he said. “I’ll look at land that the city has said is unsuitable for building and I’ll build my cob house there.”

Dodson may become a weekly co-host on “Free Talk Live” and aims to start up a voluntary ID system that would rival the government’s “one-size-fits-all” card and allow users to divulge information about themselves at their discretion, he said.

“There’s also a possibility of doing something with Cheshire TV and I’ve thought about taking some film classes at Keene State College,” he said.

In June, Dodson, who said he’s in his 30s but declined to give an exact age, came to check out Keene and ended up joining Bernard for a ride-along through the city with Keene police Lt. Shane C. Maxfield.

Maxfield had reached out to the Free Staters earlier this year through one of their Web sites and invited them all to ride with him in his patrol car or call him at the station with any questions they may have.

“I’m really encouraged by the fact that at least we’re communicating and sharing ideas behind the scenes,” Dodson said. “It’s not something you see very often.”

A handful of other Free Staters will be making their way to Keene this year, Bernard said, and he’s pleased by the steady trickle of new transplants, even if it wasn’t the tidal wave of change that some had hoped for.

“As far as the organization goes, the only success or failure is whether people are moving here or not,” he said. “People are moving here and I would call that a success.”

Phillip Bantz can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1409, or

Now you can subscribe to Free Keene via email!

Don't miss a single post!


  1. I half expected this to be a hyperbolic smear, but I would call it a pretty fair and positive article. It's great that he quotes Ian in using language like "non-cooperative, market-based activists". That needs to become part of everyone's vocabulary.

  2. What's with the reporter using middle initials in people's names? Is that just standard for the Sentinel?

  3. Dodson may become a weekly co-host on "Free Talk Live" and aims to start up a voluntary ID system that would rival the government’s "one-size-fits-all" card and allow users to divulge information about themselves at their discretion, he said.

    Now I thought that was my idea.

  4. Anyway, the cultural evolution has begun. This newspaper story is the proof.

  5. Are rather good article.

    I like the fact that the author actually interviewed people as opposed to just making the usual incorrect and un-researched statements that have appeared in other articles.

  6. hey Michael,

    Actually I've been thinking about a voluntary ID for a long time. I called in about it over a year ago, and Will and I discussed it at the liberty forum. I have a lot of great ideas, but my priorities have to be on other things right now.

    I thought the article was fair, and gave a good overview of what's happening in Keene. I'm still wondering where Samuel came from. . . No big deal, I did catch him at the last minute.

  7. Chalk up one more person who's had ideas stewing about voluntary identification for some time. I expect this field to explode in the next three years.

  8. Here's something the guys at or came up with:

    It's an affidavit of identity. You can have it notarized as being truly you. In a sense it's more identifying than anything the government can give you.

  9. It looks like the AP picked up the story and chopped it down to put their spin on the story. I am also pretty saddened by the comments section in this post:

  10. I think that we can do it with 1500-2000 activists, and I think that the real numbers will come about by getting more locals actively involved. That's where the real support is coming from, and it's the group we should have targeted from the outset.

  11. How come none of you talk about the state liquor monopoly, AFAIK? As a "local", that's one thing that irks me on a regular basis about this state. If you don't live in a larger town or city or tourist area you are hosed if you want to buy a bottle of scotch at your own convenience.

  12. Great issue. If you'd like to do some liquor dealing civil disobedience, we'd be behind you!

  13. Once a year, on or about the 4th of July, I set off a large amount of fireworks, of the 500 gram variety, safely, in a town that has exercised its local option to forbid them (not Danville). That's enough civil disobedience for me.

    But if you ever set up a roadside stand selling Glenlivet, at a cheaper price than the state liquor store, please let me know. 🙂

    Seriously, although the cost per bottle might be lower once you get to the store, I don't think people consider the cost of the lack of convenience and especially the cost of a special trip to a distant store.

  14. wow some places really hacked up the article.

    Curt… there are a number of issues that need to be tackled… we need more locals joining us along with more movers.

    (for me the liquor issue is far down my list)

  15. I don't think many locals will want to join you, at least not this local. It's not that I don't believe in living "free". I actually live pretty free. I made choices to ensure that, such as living on a back road in a formerly-rural town. I don't look to government to solve my problems except perhaps as a last resort.

    If you want support from the locals I think you will need to think a little more about who we are and what is important to us. I don't see any evidence of this. We're a place with a history and a culture, and I don't see any evidence that you guys understand or care about that. I don't know anybody in Keene. But when people write snarky letters to the tax collector or disrepect the local judge or whatever I analogize to people who fill those roles in my community, people who are my friends and neighbors. Maybe you think that they are misguided agents of government. I just see them as NH people being harassed by newbies who don't have a clue and don't care. When I first heard about FSP I thought it was cool that people wanted to be part of what we have in NH. But then I read of antics like people wearing guns in public just because they could, and stuff like that. And then some of the stuff mentioned on this web site. I'm not a lover of government, and I think we mostly have it right in NH about how much we need to knuckle under for the common good and how much we ought to be able just to do as we please. I have spent a lot of time reading and understanding our state constitution and laws. I think it is really cool that we have had a continuous provincial/state government since we split from Massachusetts in about 1680, and that our state constitution was written for an almost completely sovereign country. I don't have any reason to believe that you guys care about or respect any of that. If you wanted to work within the system we have, run for the general court (there's a rep on every block) or selectman or whatever, and try to keep the government small and in favor of freedom, that would be great. But insulting officials or just wasting their time on foolishness is a turn-off to me.

  16. Not wanting to take away from the subject or the comments, but I thought that there was a debate of some sort going on a few years back (I am away from regular news on a regular basis) about the free state project being in New Hampshire (or Vermont?) and Wyoming. After my next spurt of news I see that it obviously ended being in New Hampshire. Why was Wyoming not chosen? Or am I way off course on all of this anyway? Delete all of this if I am just obviously stupid and off course.

  17. It would just be nice if FreeStaters could just go back to the successful role that libertarians had in the past – that of being able to influence other party politicians and constituents in the 1930's.

    In Howard S. Katz's article titled, The 'Failure' of the Libertarian Movement', he states: "The Democratic Party (which had won office on the platform of a balanced budget and a reduction in government spending in 1932) kept moving further and further to the left, introducing many elements of the welfare state. The libertarian movement was an attempt to imitate this success – to move the major parties in the direction of liberty by raising an ideologically extreme banner."

    Unfortunately, as evidenced by our latest presidential election and the the activities of the last two presidential administrations, his later comment that "The world socialist movement is dying" no longer holds true.

    We need a coalition of FSP people who did not make the move, along with local libertarian and constitution party voters to work together in every state to once again steer the other voters away from socialism.

    By working through organizations, like Ron Paul's CampaignForLiberty and Tom Cryer's TruthAttack, and reaching out to help educate others through

    Liberty Works Radio Network, maybe we can once again have an impact in every state. It is the only way that my state of Maryland – the original 'Free State', will ever break the stranglehold of the Democrat Party.

    One can hope and pray, but it's time to roll up the sleeves and start swinging… votes, that is!

  18. Dan,

    I appreciate the sentiment, but the truth is that sacred majority of voters are indoctrinated beyond help. The country is now three generations deeply ingrained in the entitlement mentality. It's so bad right now that I see children wearing Obama hats, like he's a fucking baseball team! You can't expect me to believe a seven old fully grasps the gravity of what that men, or any politician, represents. The system has failed, and it needs to be ignored out of existence.

Care to comment?