The idea behind the Free State Project is a noble one. Get enough people to move to New Hampshire so that the entire governmental body can be overtaken by advocates of liberty. I give the project credit for creativity and optimism but the execution of the idea has been lackluster. One of the ironies of the Free State Project, in my opinion, is its reliance on a board to make major decisions. Small groups of people having unilateral decision making power seems to be the exact opposite of what the Free State Project is trying to achieve. Yesterday the outcome of granting a small group of people power was demonstrated. Chris Cantwell, a rather fiery participant who I believes suffers a from an asshole complex, was booted out of the Free State Project by its board:
The FSP Board met last night to discuss your situation and what to do. Our decision is stated below, which includes our reasoning.
Whereas Chris Cantwell has made the following public statements, been offered the opportunity to retract, and has refused to do so: “It’s a terribly unpopular thing to say, but the answer, at some point, is to kill government agents,” and “any level of force necessary for anyone to stop any government agent from furthering said coercion [tax collection in the context of funding the salaries of all government employees] is morally justifiable…”
Whereas the FSP Board believes this view exceeds the right of self-defense
Whereas the Policy and Procedure for Removing Participants (passed 7/11/04) states:
Participants may be removed for promoting violence, racial hatred, or bigotry. Participants who are deemed detrimental to the accomplishment of the Free State Project’s goals may also be removed.
Therefore, according to the Policy and Procedure for Removing Participants, the FSP Board removes Chris Cantwell as a participant and declares him unwelcome to attend FSP-organized events.
In peace and liberty,
for the FSP Board
I understand why the board kicked him out. Anybody who advocates for violence is a potential liability:
Deep down, Free Staters know this, and that’s why they’re Free Staters. They see this injustice, they want it to stop, and so they are coming together to make a stand against it. The only problem is, now that they have come together, they have absolutely no idea what to do, because their vision of a peaceful evolution to a voluntary society is being shattered on an almost daily basis by government violence. That violence is all too sure to escalate, as the government agents of New Hampshire and elsewhere acquire more advanced and sophisticated technology to oppress these peaceful activists, and the population in general.
So what to do? It’s a terribly unpopular thing to say, but the answer, at some point, is to kill government agents. The government agents know that, and that’s why they want a tank.
Honestly, that kind of advocacy screams agent provocateur. But my main point isn’t the fact that Mr. Cantwell was given the boot, it’s the fact that a board exists to give him the boot. I’ve always been worried about the scale of the Free State Project. Bringing together the people necessary to take over the political body of an entire state is no small task. Trying to bring so many people into a single organization seldom works as intended.
I’m not a fan of large groups. Large groups tend to start off strong and end up paralyzed. Most groups start off with the best of intentions but, at some point, the group becomes more concerned about keeping itself alive than perusing its original mission. Small groups suffer from this complex less and allow member mobility. For example, were the Free Start Project a federation of smaller groups individuals not wanting to association with Mr. Cantwell could easily split off from his group to either form their own or to join another. Leaving a small group is cheaper (in terms of personal connections, group resources, etc.) than leaving a large group.
I’ve often thought that the Free State Project should be a idea, not an organization. In my vision people could declare themselves Free Staters just as they can declare themselves libertarians, anarchists, or discordians. That way individuals would have more autonomy.
My primary concern is that the Free State Project is starting to transition into the self-preservation stage of large organization. Giving Mr. Cantwell the boot does seem like the beginning of an ideological purge. Ideological purges always start small and appear to be focused exclusively on radicals within the group. As time goes on the purges become less and less focused. Eventually all but those deemed ideologically pure by the controlling interests of the organization are sent on their way and the organization effectively ceases pursuit of its declared mission. I hope the Free State Project hasn’t reached this point because I like much of the work that comes out of its members but I believe my concern is valid.