Libertarians should go (farther) west
Great Falls Tribune, April 29, 2003
Montana's been on some pretty exclusive lists in the past few years -- states with the lowest paid workers, the least restrictions on drinking and driving, the lowest taxes on gambling, tobacco and booze, and among the fewest people. Now we've made another exclusive club: the list of "candidate states" that might make good targets for takeover by libertarians.
The so-called "Free State Project" propounded by a Yale student has come up with 10 such states, places with populations below 1.5 million and residents that might be friendly to the idea of a "libertarian utopia." Libertarians come in many flavors, but the general idea is the more individual freedom and less government, the better. God for many libertarians is the free market.
The Free State movement claims 3,100 adherents so far, and they say that when they reach 5,000, they'll choose their state and start moving there -- all of them within five years. The idea of 26-year-old political science doctoral student Jason Sorens is that 20,000 activists would constitute critical mass to sway the politics of a state with fewer than 1.5 million residents. "We're not going to be a large enough group to take over," Sorens said.
Other candidate states are Idaho, Alaska, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, New Hampshire, Maine, Delaware and Vermont. Free Staters say they'll work to have their chosen state get rid of all regulation of drugs, gambling, prostitution, guns, drinking and other individual activities. One of them, an Idaho anthropologist named Ben Irvin, said the group likes the libertarian streak already evident in Montana, where "they have casinos and no one ... can remember the last time a prostitute was arrested."
But even libertarians have their limits. Irvin said the state's small economy wouldn't offer much in the way of employment for 20,000 outsiders. We agree with Chuck Butler, Gov. Judy Martz's spokesman, who noted that while Montana welcomes newcomers, "Idaho is more inviting."