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Moving to create a truly Free State - Open Knowledge — LiveJournal

Aug. 23rd, 2004

01:41 pm - Moving to create a truly Free State

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Via amanda42


Moving to create a truly Free State

By Jon Ward

Calvin Pratt raised a Colonial-era flag at his new home in Goffstown, N.H., in December.

LANCASTER, N.H. - Thousands of voters who say the country's two-party system has become too homogenous, bureaucratic and inept have begun a pilgrimage to New England with the dream of starting a new party that will become a national force and unite legions of the equally disenfranchised.
    "Most elections are like trying to get lunch out of a vending machine," said Philip Boncer, 41, a biomedical engineer from San Diego. "You have choices, but they're all bad for you. Democrats are increasing regulations and the strain on business, and Republicans are increasing moral laws."
    The movement, known as the Free State Project, was started in late 2001 and now has about 6,000 members. It also has an ambitious plan to more than triple its membership and become firmly entrenched in New Hampshire politics by 2011.

    For Keith Murphy, a legislative aide for Maryland Democratic state Sen. George Della, the decision to become part of the movement and migrate to New Hampshire came after a constituent he was helping with Medicare benefits died while recovering from cancer.
    Mr. Murphy, 29, said the elderly woman needed a nutritional supplement to complete her recovery at home, but federal guidelines mandated that she get her dosages at a hospital.
    She died at home in mid-December, and Mr. Murphy formally resigned the same day.
    "In our dream world, we'd like to see Medicare gone," he said. "It's inefficient, ineffective and expensive. The private marketplace can do a lot better job of providing medical care."
    Mr. Murphy said the group members chose New Hampshire from among 10 states because it has no state income tax, the local school systems are free of state mandates and it has a culture of self-sufficiency and libertarian ideals.
    "It is what America was supposed to be," said Mr. Murphy, who plans to move after earning his graduate degree in urban planning from the University of Maryland in December.
    Members also thought the state's rugged landscape, notoriously cold winters and motto of "Live Free or Die" was the ideal setting for the movement.
    "We know it's going to snow, and it's going to be a [bear] of a winter, and we don't care," said Kristine Brooks, a Free State member and Mr. Boncer's fiancee.
    Limited government
    Organizers say their primary goals are to limit government, reduce taxes and increase personal liberties. If the plan works, they say, other states will have to follow or lose residents and their tax dollars.
    After voting on New Hampshire last September, the group held its first gathering there. About 300 members met at a campground in the White Mountains for the inaugural Porcupine Festival — named after the group mascot, which they say is a gentle creature but well-prepared when others try stepping on its back.
    While there, they met with Gov. Craig Benson, a Republican, who has called the group a "friend" and has welcomed it to the state. He has also appointed members to a task force on government efficiency, but Democrats have attacked his association with Free State during this election year and he had stopped short of endorsing the group.
    Among the disaffected are Washington residents and political exiles, most of them libertarians.
    "Right now, people think there are two ways to do it — the Democratic way or the Republican way," said Miss Brooks, a Californian who plans to close her business selling hand-painted yarns. "They get so entrenched in the Washington way, and nothing really happens, and you get in this terrible situation where all this money is spent and nothing really happens."
    Two group members are already New Hampshire state representatives and new arrivals such as Calvin Pratt are making scorecards ranking each of the state's 24 senators and 400 state representatives on their "pro-liberty" voting records.
    Eight of the senators received F's, 11 received D's, one got a C, two received B's and one receive an incomplete grade.
    State Sen. John Gallus, a Republican, was the only senator to receive an A.
    Mr. Pratt and his wife, Karen, arrived in Goffstown, N.H., from Chicago in December, the day before the first Nor'easter of the winter. Mrs. Pratt, 44, quit her job as a senior executive at Merrill Lynch so the couple could move, and her severance package is paying the bills and the mortgage on their new house.
    Mrs. Pratt is the treasurer and an organizer of Free State and the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance. She calls herself more of a "nuts and bolts" person than her husband, who is a self-taught political ideologue. Her interests in government are more immediate, about how the system affects lives.
    Mr. Pratt, 53, runs his own Internet sales company and has quickly become one of the most active Free State and the Liberty Alliance members.
    The Pratts and Amanda Phillips, the group's president and spokeswoman, are among the five Free State members appointed to the committee on government efficiency.
    "Liberty is like oxygen," Miss Phillips said. "It's so important to me that I'm willing to pack up everything and move and make a career change."
    Miss Phillips favors the privatization of government functions and allowing the free market to meet all needs, but says: "I'll probably never see my anarchist utopia ... but I'm willing to ride the freedom train as far as other people want to."
    No easy road
    Despite the enthusiasm and intermediate successes, competing against the more powerful and wealthier Democrats and Republicans will be difficult.
    Miss Phillips and some Free State members — including founder Jason Sorens, 27, a political philosophy lecturer at Yale University — have no immediate plans to come to New Hampshire, and right now fewer than 100 members have done so, with most waiting until the group has reached its goal of 20,000 members.
    Miss Phillips said she intends to move to New Hampshire, but right now cannot because of her 8-year-old daughter and a well-paying financial job at a Fortune 500 company in Boston.
    For the project to succeed, the group must expand recruiting to include more traditional libertarian groups, though Tampa, Fla., lawyer Tim Condon and others know it will be difficult.
    "It's not easy to persuade people to leave home and go somewhere where it's cold in the winter, to alter their lives and change the world," Mr. Condon said. "We've got to find committed people who are excited about liberty."
    He said some libertarians have even gone as far as saying Free State members are going to "freeze in the dark."

Keith Murphy is a member of the Free State Project, a group that chose New Hampshire as the state with the least government intrusion. He plans to move there from Maryland in December.

    Refining, rehearsing
    As a result, the group has begun refining and rehearsing its message.
    "Over the last 30 years, libertarians have not had much of an impact," said Mr. Boncer, who delivered his practice speech while dressed in black boots, cargo pants and a black T-shirt that read "Extremely toxic."
    "We're too scattered, and there are too few of us who remember what freedom is about anymore," he continued, before launching into the group's mission statement.
    Miss Phillips then stood and gave a critique.
    "Great job mentioning the Web site," she said. "That's something we always want to do. And Phil mentioned it like three times."
    Miss Phillips encouraged members to use the term "we" instead of "I" or "they."
    Their attention then turned to potential new members. They made a running list with libertarians, gun-rights advocates and home-schoolers at the top. Next came groups against taxes, groups for legalizing marijuana and groups promoting homosexuality or other "lifestyle alternatives."
    After about two hours, Mr. Condon asked what has become the defining question for many members.
    "How do we respond to people who say, 'You're for incest, heroin and bestiality, right?' "
    Miss Phillips said only that members can do what they want when in New Hampshire, then returned to discussing the group's goals of moving 20,000 "freedom-loving people" to the state.
    A spectrum of beliefs
    Members hold to a wide variety of beliefs, from Mr. Boncer and Miss Brooks' atheism to Floyd Shackelford's devout Christianity.
    "The Bible is very clear that the only purpose of the state is to be a terror to those who do evil," said Mr. Shackelford, 45, a self-employed computer programmer from Troy, Ala., who will move to New Hampshire with his wife and three children.
    "It's not supposed to be a nanny to those who will not work for themselves." he said, reciting the Bible passage Romans 13 to support his position. "I guess I am a missionary at heart. If I have freedom, I have liberty to share my faith with my homosexual neighbor, with my prostitute neighbor. Under tyranny, I don't have that opportunity, because it's hate speech. ... As long as I have liberty, I can go and wrestle with other people about spiritual matters."
    Miss Phillips wants Free State to remain unattached to one cause or point of view. The group's goal is simply to facilitate a mass migration to one place with the primary goal of advancing freedom and reducing government, she said.
    Image problems
    But the broad range of views among libertarians, especially on social and moral issues, has created some image problems for the group.
    Larry Pendarvis, of Brandon, Fla., was kicked out of the group after causing an uproar in Grafton, a small town of 1,200 in the center of New Hampshire.
    Mr. Pendarvis proposed that 200 members move there and "take over" the town government.
    Once that was done, Mr. Pendarvis said, they would pull Grafton from the school district, suspend the planning board and stop enforcing drug and prostitution laws, which he called "victimless crimes."
    Most members insist they do not want to take over the government and have no plans to settle in a specific area. They say their first priority is to be good neighbors, but the incident in Grafton has made them appear otherwise.
    "If anything is going to beat us, it is going to be us beating ourselves," said Mr. Pratt, who insists he will remain the same, whether the group succeeds or fails.
    "Nothing changes for me, because I'm not leaving New Hampshire, and I'm going to abide by [Free State's] principles," he said.
    D.C. residents Adam Rick, 23, and his 24-year-old wife, Kate, also are moving, no matter what.
    After the festival, they spent a week in New Hampshire looking at houses before returning home. They hope to be settled by next summer.
    Mr. Rick is a computer programmer who does most of the work on the group's Web site, and he is trying to launch his own Web-based business.
    Mrs. Rick works as a researcher at the American Enterprise Institute, a D.C. think tank. She recently took over as Free State's coordinator for the D.C.-Baltimore region.
    Still, the couple has not invested all their hope in the group — or at least in its overnight success.
    "I'm not optimistic about seeing significant changes at the state level for a long time, at least 20 years," Mr. Rick said over homemade pizza at the couple's high-rise apartment in Northwest. "But it's OK. It's a great hope to think about any change."
    Near the door, a homemade sign peeped out from behind a shelf, a remnant from tax day, April 15, when Mr. and Mrs. Rick had demonstrated in front of the local post office.
    "Hate Taxes?" the sign read. "Move with us to New Hampshire."
    At the festival in New Hampshire, Mr. Rick looked around the campfire and said, "I see this as a long-term thing. I'm going to be living around and working with these people for the next 60, 80 years."


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Date:August 23rd, 2004 06:54 pm (UTC)
Because capitalist running dog pigs paid her such a pittance during her years in the sweatshop. Now they're just waiting for her to die so that they can make commemorative rugs out of her cats.
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Date:August 23rd, 2004 07:10 pm (UTC)
People have come to expect the government to take care of them. Because of this they don't really plan for their own retirement, and they don't take care of each other. Neighbors no longer let each other help, because it's easier (and less embarrassing, I guess) to go to the government.

Those programs are in place to help, but government "help" always ends up being more expensive and more expansive than anyone ever imagined. It is also, as Keith Murphy pointed out, inefficient and ineffective.

If people could keep more of their own money, and they weren't lulled into a false sense of security by government programs, the lady would likely have had private insurance, savings, or others to look to for real help.

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Date:August 23rd, 2004 07:53 pm (UTC)
I don't know the details, but I would guess that she's on Medicare because it's tax-subsidized, and presumably she couldn't afford pay for the level of health care she wanted by herself.

Now, what I think you're really asking is "a) If Medicare didn't exist, how would she pay for her medical care in it's absence? b) What if she can't pay for the level of care I think she deserves?"

Would that be fair to say?
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Date:August 23rd, 2004 08:23 pm (UTC)
1) Yes, via religious charities, mutual aid societies, pro bono work by doctors, teaching hospitals, etc.

2) None, that I'm aware of. However, if the following free-market reforms were implemented, I would expect to see the costs of medical care drop dramatically:

* Increase the number of medical care providers by eliminating barriers to entry into the field (e.g. eliminate physician licensing)

* Reduce the cost of drug/device development by abolishing the FDA (it currently costs $500 million to bring a drug/device to market, largely due to FDA regulations). This would also spur more competition from new companies, which are currently stunted by the high cost of entry into the market.

* Eliminate drug monopolies by getting rid of patents.

* Switch to a "loser-pays" tort system, to reduce the number of spurious malpractice lawsuits

* Lower overall taxes would reduce the incentive to compensate people via tax-favored benefits, such as health insurance. This would make patients and physicians more cost conscious (thereby reducing waste).

* Eliminating subsidies would also likely reduce risky behaviors (smoking, drinking, risky sex, drug abuse, gluttony) and increase prudent behaviors (saving money, driving carefully) since people would not expect a government safety net to catch them.

* Money wasted on government overhead ( tax collection, Medicare paperwork, disbursement bureaucracy) would instead go to more productive uses, thereby resulting in greater overall wealth.

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Date:August 24th, 2004 12:02 am (UTC)
People's behavior would change in the absence of Medicare. Right now, money that people might be saving for their own retirement/medical care is instead sucked up by Social Security/Medicare/Medicaid. In the absence of Medicare, she might have had enough money to pay for her own healthcare. In addition, as I noted above, she might have made wiser decisions in her youth, by avoiding risky behaviors and choosing prudent ones.


Pie in the sky plans? Perhaps. I would definitely agree that they are long term goals that won't be implemented at the national level anytime soon. However, I do think it's plausible that NH may be able to implement the reforms I mentioned in the relatively near future (next 20 years). After all, isn't that why we have a federal system? To allow political experiments to take place without risking the wellbeing of an entire nation?


There are reasons for physician licensing, I agree. However, I think the reasons have more to do with protecting doctor's jobs than protecting patients from fraud or malpractice. Yes, some people die due to medical malpractice. However, what evidence do you have that licensure laws save more lives than are lost due to the lack of physicians? Or that the FDA prevents more deaths than it causes (by retarding the development of new drugs/devices)?

Note that in the absence of licensure laws, certification bodies (like Underwriter's Laboratory) would arise that guaranteed Doctor X had such and such training every year. You would then have a choice about the level of risk you were willing to take.


No, money spent on government employees doesn't vanish, but it is spent wastefully. Charities have to persuade you that your money won't be wasted on overhead. If you don't like how a charity is run, you can just sending them checks. What happens if you stop sending checks to the government? How strong is a government employee's incentive to be efficient compared to the employee of the private charity?

So a job that in a private charity might have been done by one person working for a day, is instead done by two government employees who spend half the day filling out forms in triplicates. That money represents resources that might have been better spent hiring someone to actually provide healthcare, or doing something else more economically useful.

A thought experiment:

Let's assume that I decided to give you $1000.00 with the stipulation that you had to donate it to the charity or government agency of your choice. Who would you give it to?

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[User Picture]
Date:August 24th, 2004 08:50 pm (UTC)
This question creates a false dichotomy. Your implication is that the alternative to Medicare is a private market. Health care in the United States is not a "private market." It's a Frankenstein monster created by decades of political compromise, in which the producers never feel any market pressure from consumers.

Good troll, though. Looks like you caught a coupla nibbles.
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Date:August 23rd, 2004 08:39 pm (UTC)
Very encouraging article. Thanks for sharing that!
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