The Water’s Fine

I attended the Liberty Forum in Concord, New Hampshire in February of 2007 to find out what the Free State Project was all about. I wanted to meet people with similar views to mine – to actually know first-hand that there were others in the world like me – and to see the state, experience what winter was like, and get a feel for the cities in New Hampshire. I decided I liked it here; there were more liberty-loving people – very active ones – than I imagined, and I thought that living amongst them would be enjoyable.

But, while I had a strong understanding of the principles of liberty and a strong opinion about the way things “should” be, I had never acted on my beliefs before. I had never passed out FIJA literature, I had never refused to cooperate with a law enforcement officer, I had always filed my taxed, etc. I hadn’t even tried to educate my family (well, I gave up after a few futile arguments). Being active towards the achievement of liberty and towards educating others about it was completely foreign to me.

In fact, I wasn’t very social, either. I had lived in a population of about 100,000 for 6 years, and I knew only two people (a couple, friends of my parents). I didn’t have any friends, didn’t know my neighbors, didn’t do anything outside of my home. I even worked from home, so my colleagues were hundreds of miles away and we only communicated occasionally.  I was voluntarily reclusive because I thought, at the time, that the odds of meeting someone I’d have values in common with were so slim that I didn’t want to exert the effort to find them. This was based on my experience in life up until that point; I had only ever met one person who shared significant values with me, so I thought it would be nearly impossible to find people like me.

When I moved to New Hampshire, everything changed. I now have numerous friends and countless acquaintances. I am doing something with friends – socially or as activism – maybe up to five times every week. Sometimes I attend two or three events in a single day. I drive hundreds of miles weekly, whereas previously I would drive almost exclusively to the grocery store twice per month. And I’m actively spreading the ideas of liberty, as well as living them.

I did move here for the purpose of being around other liberty-oriented people and trying to gain more freedom and less government, but I had no idea how easy and fun it would be.

The day I moved in, free-staters I had never met agreed to pick me up from the airport and drop me off at my new apartment at 11:00p (Thanks, Cathleen and Don!); we’re now friends. After having been here only a couple weeks, Ian asked for volunteers to help plan the Keene Freedom Fest. I had never heard of it, but I said I’d be glad to help even though I had never organized an event before. The project became mine but so many people volunteered to help that I practically didn’t have to do anything! People were eager to participate. I simply asked “Would someone like to do X?” and more than one volunteer leapt at the opportunity. Others said, “X is a good idea, and I’m going to also do Y.”

The first time I visited Taproom Tuesdays, Denis presented an opportunity to help candidates run for office. I asked Toby and Nick of Free Minds TV if I could help make their show and even having never met me, they warmly welcomed me to participate; I now do that every week. There were activists challenging the authority of government everywhere, so I had no shortage of trials to attend to support people like Kat and Lauren. When Andrew announced his marijuana protest, I volunteered to help him; so did almost 50 other activists! When the government jailed me for victimless “crimes,” friends attended the government’s arraignment for me and protested outside the courthouse, and  25 friends supported me in the courtroom when I stood up to the judge (but I didn’t stand for the judge! 🙂 ).

There is so much to do that a person has a tough time deciding what to participate in. There are movie nights, poker games, social gatherings at restaurants and bars, picnics, hikes, frisbee golf, car races, beach outings, polar plunges, pirate parties, camping, rallies, protests, trials, festivals, conventions, government hearings and votes, welcome wagon moving days (helping new movers unload their stuff in their new home), ice cream socials, Church of the Gun (shooting at Ron’s, Mark’s, or Brian’s personal shooting range), trivia contests, charitable volunteering… I can’t possibly think of everything that goes on here, but I can tell you that there’s so much that I cannot participate in every event that I want to.

One key to all this positive activity is that there is no central planning. This works wonderfully for both the social and activism aspects of life here. When someone wants to do something, they just do it, and people who also want to do it join them. There is no committee to obtain permission from first, there is no form to fill out to make sure your event doesn’t occur simultaneously with other events, there is no vote to decide whether your idea is worth doing. We, “the market,” decide by attending and participating, or not. The result is that everything that anyone wants to do is being done and you can join them (or do it yourself and others will join you).

And the benefit of decentralization to activism is that there is no “head” for the government to cut off to stop the progress of liberty. We are a Hydra. If the government attacks and jails me for planning the Free Keene Fest, someone else will plan the next one. If the government jails Andrew for his marijuana protest, someone else will possess marijuana in public next time – maybe two people! And each time the government goes overboard (like they do with Lauren, Ian, and Sam), more and more people are awakened to the tyranny and move here to participate in spreading freedom and peace.

I had no idea there would be so many appealing options available to me once I moved here. I didn’t think I’d ever have so many friends and supporters. I never thought it would be so easy to be active, or as much fun as it is. I jumped right in as soon as I moved here but I have friends who prefer doing fewer things simultaneously. There are opportunities here waiting to knock on your door; there are great friends waiting for you to know them. Whether you prefer to dive in or dip your toe in first, come on in. The water’s fine.

Now you can subscribe to Free Keene via email!

Don't miss a single post!


  1. I'm so glad you're here, Mike! Great post!

  2. Nice post. I love the I never thought theme. It reminds me of my first experience around a group of FSPers and it was at a Sat. Monthly Porc Meeting in Manchester and there must have been 60 people there.

    After talking to a number of people, it was amazing to discover everyone agreed in principle with me. Who's in charge was my first question I asked afterwards.

    And the answer was No one. Everyone just does their own thing. I was done after that. 🙂

  3. I'm glad to have met you at that first NHLF. And now you're here and doing great things.

  4. Michigan sucks and I hate it. Thanks, Mike!

  5. Mike Barskey's story sound eerily like mine here in PA. Thanks for sharing. I hope to be up in NH soon.

  6. I identify with you on many levels. By taking action, you have made yourself a role model. By staying principled, you have become a hero to people like me.

  7. This article could almost have been written by me, except for the fact that I havent moved yet. I'll be there in early september and I cant wait… Seattle sucks!

  8. GREAT POST…. You should post this on the front page of the FSP site…. or in the FSP newsletter.

  9. I want to move so bad…

  10. I can attest to the feeling of disconnection to my fellow man through the idea of being a libertarian and being surrounded by people who accept things the way they are. Even dating was ridiculous. Having a family now and soon to be married at 32 reflect the hardships of social seclusion and disillusion that the world can be better. I am a recent FSPer and find the comfort in the words of strangers more appealing than those of my one close friend and co-workers. I have set course for NH and my sails are filled with wonderment and hope for the first time. This article written here is a story we, as free-staters, should all feel personally connected to. I, for one, am looking forward to all possibilities within the idea of this project. I signed…

Care to comment?