THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 265, April 4, 2004

Boycott Verizon Communications!

The Free State Project
by L. Neil Smith
lneil@lneilsmith.org

Special to TLE

For quite a while, folks have been asking for my opinion of the Free State Project, a try at moving as many libertarians as possible into one of America's smaller states, so that they can finally have something to say about the political conditions they're compelled to live under, as well as having libertarian neighbors, libertarian schools (better yet, libertarian homeschool associations) for their children, and maybe even libertarian businesses to deal with and work for.

How very odd. Aren't those the things people were hoping to have when they moved to North America in the 17th century? When they fought a Revolution in the 18th century? When they moved west in the 19th century?

I've hesitated to write about the Free State Project until now, because it's clear to me that I've earned myself as many enemies as friends in this social and political movement in which I've spent considerably more than my entire adult life. Usually my "crime" has been speaking frankly when what was actually wanted was a comforting lie. As a result, any recommendations or endorsements I choose to make are as likely to have negative effects as positive ones. You have been warned.

Permit me to begin by establishing my credentials. At the risk of sounding a bit like Lazarus Long at a gathering of Robert Heinlein's superannuated Howard families, I have been a libertarian activist for over forty years, since early 1962, a few months before I turned sixteen.

In all of that time, for more than four decades, I have seen, and sometimes been involved in, every conceivable manner of libertarian enterprise—every attempt imaginable to discover, or to manufacture if need be, a truly free society—from sitting around listening to freedom and psychology lectures on vinyl 33 RPM LPs, to planning landfill operations on Pacific atolls, to establishing a "rational libertarian church", to the founding of our own political party in 1971.

The unvarnished truth is that, in terms of winning the quality and quantity of freedom each of us desires, these various undertakings have historically met with greater or lesser degrees of success, mostly lesser. Some even set us back. Most are long gone. A handful struggle on to this day, despite the fact that they largely failed to live up to the promise we wished and hoped they represented when they began. Perhaps for one or two of them, the whole story has yet to be told.

But now, the Free State Project has put the words "libertarian" and "movement" back together again, for the first time in something like thirty years, and I am more personally grateful than I can adequately express, because it is the Free State Project that stands the greatest chance, in my opinion, consistent with my understanding of history and human nature, of transforming the fictional worlds of freedom, adventure, and romance I have created in my novels into a reality.

I have no doubt that there are many triumphs still ahead for the Free State Movement, and no doubt that there is a future tragedy or two along the way, that being in the nature of important and historic human efforts from the Donner Party to the shuttle Columbia. But it is also in the nature of important and historic human efforts that they inevitably manage, somehow, to overcome such tragedies. That, in fact, is one of the things that make them important, historic —and human.

As long as the people of the Free State Movement remember three things, it will continue to enjoy success. First, it must always define itself in terms of the principle it stands for, rather than for any particular organizational form that was created to pursue that principle.

It must never let itself be dominated by the shriveled souls for whom tiny amounts of power over others become a substitute for a real life.

And it must never, never turn inward on itself the way so many other movements have done sooner or later, but go on spreading its message of liberty and hope everywhere it goes, as far and as wide as possible.

I believe all of that is possible, and I send the Free State Movement and everyone in it my personal best regards. I look forward to calling them my friends, my allies, my comrades for the rest of my life.

Please feel free to quote me if you think it will help.

Thank you,

L. Neil Smith
Fort Collins, Colorado
March 23, 2004



Three-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith is the author of 23 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collection of articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at http://www.lneilsmith.org. Autographed copies may be had from the author at lneil@lneilsmith.org.


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