Sunday, April 6, 2003

Idaho

Libertarians consider state for influx
Project: 20,000 like-minded residents to sway politics

Trinity Hartman
Staff writer

Coeur d'Alene _ The state of Idaho has made Libertarians' top 10 list.

Idaho would be well-suited for an influx of liberty-minded folks who would move here and re-make the state in their image, according to the Free State Project.

The Free State Project plans to choose one of 10 states and then have members move there en masse. With 20,000 new residents in a state like Idaho, Libertarians could change state politics, said Elizabeth McKinstry, vice president of the Free State Proje
ct and a Michigan resident.

McKinstry made a stop in North Idaho on Saturday to rally support for the idea. She spoke to about 20 people at North Idaho College.

McKinstry's vision of a free state would be one with less government, lower taxes and strong support for individual liberties.

Government intrusion has made living in all states a burden, McKinstry said.

"In our lifetime, we want a society where we can (raise a family) without government involvement," she said.

The Saturday event was organized by Libertarians in the region and featured a variety of other speakers, including John Beck, an economics professor from Gonzaga University.

Idaho, Montana and Wyoming all made the list of 10 potential "free states," chosen for their sparse populations and for having residents that are fiercely independent and committed to individual liberty, McKinstry said.

"Twenty thousand people influencing friends and neighbors can really turn the tide in any of those states," McKinstry said.

When a man in the audience asked whether Idaho was at the top of the list, McKinstry refused to say.

"I would say Idaho is a strong contender. Certainly it's in the top half, from what I hear from members," she said.

The Libertarian parties in New Hampshire and Maine, two of the states under consideration, have endorsed the movement and are lobbying the Free State Project to choose them, according to a recent article in the Baltimore Sun.

So far, the Free State Project says 3,000 people have signed on. The idea is that once the number reaches 5,000, participants will vote for one of 10 states.

The group's hope is that eventually 20,000 or more Libertarians will move to the chosen state. Once they become a large enough voting bloc, they would work within the political system to reduce the size and scope of government.

The Free State Project doesn't have a specific agenda for how the chosen state would operate, McKinstry said.

The movement was started by Jason Sorens, a doctoral student at Yale, in 2001. It's gained much of its momentum on the Internet. McKinstry, with her plastic hipster glasses and urban look, is young as are many of the fellow Free-Staters.

There are a lot of techies, telecommuters and small business owners who have signed on, McKinstry said.

Rob Chase, who was at the event promoting his Columbia Free State idea, which involves breaking Eastern Washington away from the west side of the state, said he was impressed by the youthful pioneer spirit of the Free State Project.

"I think we're at the beginning of something really big," Chase said.

•Trinity Hartman can be reached at (509) 927-2164 or by e-mail at trinityh@spokesman.com.


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