Free Staters like Wyoming
Casper Star Tribune, July 25, 2003
Every man is an island, even in landlocked Wyoming. So says Keith Carlsen, a Memphis resident and member of Free State Project, who is currently touring Wyoming and South Dakota on a publicity/ awareness campaign.
"Everyone's trying to nanny you," said Carlsen of government control in general. "You have to wear a seatbelt, even though you're an adult. You have to wear a helmet when riding a motorbike, even though you're an adult."
The Free State Project encourages the kinds of changes often linked to libertarian beliefs: reduce the size and scope of government control, and expect individuals to act responsibly of their own accord. Wyoming is a favorite among Free State members, and is being considered alongside nine other contending states to host an experiment in libertarianism. Starting today, Free State organizers will send out ballots to the membership, and on Sept. 15, Free State will announce the chosen state.
Starting with an initial wave of 5,000 members, Carlsen expects a minimum of 20,000 members to eventually emigrate to the state selected. Once they establish themselves, Free State members will begin their campaigning. "We're regular people. We want to interact the same way everyone else does. Work with them, talk to them, go to the bars with them," said Carlsen.
While Keith did not rule out members running for government, the pooled influence of the 20,000 plus Free State residents will bolster the campaigns of candidates whose beliefs mesh with those of Free State. "We would form a nonpartisan group," said Carlsen. "We would rate every representative, every senator based on a certain grade -- like the N.R.A. (National Rifle Association) does right now."
Carlsen expects Free State politics to attract what he describes as the "independent personality" of Wyoming residents. "Let's say he's a salvage yard owner, the EPA will back off him a bit. If he wants to carry a gun concealed, the newspapers aren't going to be so pissed off," said Carlsen. "They're going to relax and let him carry his gun concealed."
Carlsen argues that government is inefficient, and privatization is a preferred alternative. He gives the example of Casper's skateboard park -- paid for mainly by a one-cent sales tax. According to Carlsen, all of Casper's residents had to pay for a project not everyone wanted. "Jack and Jill take money away from Bob because they outnumber him," said Carlsen.
While Carlsen said his reception has been generally positive, Gov. Freudenthal said he felt that Free State advocates was being optimistic, overestimating Wyoming residents' enthusiasm for the project. Gov . Freudenthal's comments, however, are relatively mild, Carlsen said.
"There are two governors who really haven't been supportive at all," he said. "The Idaho governor suggested we move to Montana, and the Montana governor suggested we move to Idaho."