From the November 2002 Idaho Observer:

The Free State Project: A Project for Idaho

By Hari Heath

What is a “free state?” Whatever a free state is, it's certainly not being served and protected by regimes posing as constitutionally authorized state and federal governments. Our current government has all the trappings of a police state; they are managed through emergency proclamations, executive orders, bureaucratic mandates and judicial fiat. We are further whipped into a frenzy by the propagandists of terror who have been given unconscionable and unconstitutional license by the corporately purchased buffoons in the legislative branch. Our nation no longer bears any real resemblance to the government our founders intended.

From any direction you look at it, ethically, constitutionally, economically or politically, the regimes posing as our state and federal governments are bankrupt. A “free state?” Not hardly.

Many people talk about freedom, but few individuals try to do something about it. Regime change now has become a popular concept, but how? Anyone who has tried to organize even a local group to promote freedom issues will understand the impossible task of weaning 280 million American souls off the nipples of socialism and moving them toward liberty. The federal reptile with its countless bureaucratic tentacles, gnashing law enforcement fangs and seemingly limitless mammary secretions is just too much beast to tangle with.

So start small. Just such a “Free State Project” has already begun. Conceived in July of 2001 and organized by September, the Free State Project (FSP) already has over 1400 committed members. Under the motto of “Liberty in our Lifetime” and under the seal of the green porcupine, the FSP is for people who, “don't want to wait decades for most citizens in the U. S. to realize the nanny state is an insult to their dignity.”


“The Free State Project is a plan in which 20,000 or more liberty-oriented people will move to a single state of the U. S. to secure there a free society. We will accomplish this by first reforming state law, opting out of federal mandates and, finally, negotiating directly with the federal government for appropriate political autonomy. We will be a community of freedom-loving individuals and families, and create a shining example of liberty for the rest of the nation and the world.”

A stellar idea, but what are the plans to accomplish this? Once the membership reaches 5,000, the state will be chosen and that is where the free-staters will move. The FSP is doing extensive research on all the candidate states. Many criteria are being considered with 10 states in the running: Alaska, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Vermont, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Criteria for a Free State

States with a population of approximately 1.2 million or less are being considered as viable locations for 20,000 liberty activists to infiltrate existing government and create a free state. The FSP's numbers are based on history and a statistical analysis of other independent party politics, such as the Parti Quebecois (PQ). The PQ began in 1967 as a coalition 3rd party that was formed from dissident Liberal Party members and smaller pro-independence parties. With only one out of every 62 citizens paid PQ party members, the PQ achieved a parliamentary majority nine years after it formed.

The FSP is specifically not affiliated with any political party, but rather a coalition of “libertarians, classical liberals, constitutionalists and others who believe that, at a maximum, the role of civil government should be the protection of citizens' rights to life, liberty and property.”

The FSP welcomes any liberty-oriented people. The FSP has adopted the porcupine as its “don't-tread-on-me” mascot.

The primary goal is to first achieve a majority in the legislature and then work towards filling the other branches of government. Just as many formerly “democratic” politicians in Idaho have infiltrated and became “republicans” to join with the party in power, FSP members can infiltrate the two dominant parties and take them over or support the various 3rd parties and raise them to greater political standing. Are there 20,000 republican and democratic activists in Idaho now? Imagine what 20,000 FSP members, dedicated to liberty, could do to the dominant parties at the local and state level.

Other considerations for a state where a free economy and society will be viable include the current funding levels of the republican and democratic parties; the native political culture and its orientation towards liberty; the economic freedom index; gun control and home schooling laws. A state with a coastline and ports or a border with Canada are considered more viable for “free-market policies” than landlocked states. There is even a criteria for the “lazy” factor -- the percentage of the population that is employed by federal, state and local governments.

And there is a many-faceted consideration generally falling under the term “quality of life.” Climate, projected jobs growth, crime rates, per capita income relative to the cost of living, and population density are given a more subjective evaluation.

Federal Equations

The amount of federal land ownership in a state is being considered for both positive and negative factors. “More federal land ownership might mean an excuse for federal meddling in the state, but it could also mean a legitimate grievance for the state's citizens.”

Federal dependence, particularly whether a state receives more or less federal funding than it pays in federal taxes, is also factor being given important consideration. States that get more federal handouts than they pay for are likely to be harder to wean from federal socialism.

The federal government claims to own two-thirds of Idaho and there are considerable grounds for Idaho citizens to have a legitimate grievance. Especially when history, the current lethargic federal management schemes and the constitutional facts of life are considered. The federal Constitution prohibits the federal government from owning any lands within a state except for certain military purposes and other needful buildings. The Idaho Constitution conveyed all property of the Idaho territory to the new state upon admission to the union. But unconstitutional Presidential Proclamations usurped much of the Idaho public lands soon after it became a state (see The Big Lie,

Why doesn't Idaho resume management of the public lands fraudulently held by the federal government? Because the current political powers in Idaho don't want to rock the boat and risk losing their federal handouts. What would be the result if Free State activists assumed a majority position in state government and chose to give up all the federal handouts (which they plan to do anyway) and reassumed the two-thirds of Idaho that was unconstitutionally “taken?”


One criteria that appears to be missing from the FSP's evaluation of the states is resources. Especially natural ones. How can a state be independent and self reliant without the means to do so? The resource oversight is understandable, since many of the FSP's founders are from the eastern states, where resources are more likely to be acquired in commerce than by development.

The relative qualities and quantities of each prospective state's resources appears to have escaped the FSP's consideration. The western states typically have a much greater quantity and diversity of resources than the eastern states and have populations of people who know what to do with them.

Ultimately, a Choice

The Free Staters, or porcupines as they call themselves, will eventually have an election to choose a state. Instead of the conventional one person, one vote election, the FSP will give each member 10 votes to cast all for one state or divide among several different states. The current poll on the FSP's web site gives the following results:

New Hampshire 26%; Montana 14%; Wyoming 11%; Delaware 10%; Maine 8%; Alaska 8%; Idaho 8%; Vermont 6%; North Dakota 3%; South Dakota 25%.

FSP members will vote for a state when there are 5,000 FSP members and within three years from the beginning of the project or the effort will disband.

A Free State for Idaho?

Idaho is already under consideration to become the Free State. Under various criteria and popular choice, Idaho falls somewhere near the middle of the pack under most criteria. Idaho has more diverse opportunities than most of the other states in contention. Idaho has moderate climates, a pre-existing “liberty” culture, varied geography and economic opportunities and a quality of life that can be enjoyed from remote wilderness settings to modern, urban environments.

Formerly known as the gem state, Idaho has abundant gems, precious and industrial metals and minerals. Mining was one of the first post-European settlement activities.

Many of Idaho's native peoples have established tribal gaming enterprises. The proceeds enhance their tribal interests and provide additional revenue for schools and other infrastructures. Idaho native populations might be naturally inclined to support the FSP.

Agriculture is common throughout Idaho and is a major component of the Idaho economy.

Idaho has supplied a wide variety of forest products for well over a century. We also have wilderness areas nearly the size of New Hampshire and other forest lands. With 20,000 activists to help wean us from federal hand-outs and work to reassume ownership of Idaho's federally-occupied public lands, prospects could be good for Idahoans. An accountable state government and the teeth of our current State Constitution's corporations article, could provide excellent management of our public lands while preventing some of the past corporate abuses of Idaho's resources.

Recreation has become dominant in many areas that were formerly timber and mining areas. White-water rafting, skiing, snowmobiling, hunting, fishing, boating and hiking are now major parts of the Idaho economy and common Idaho pastimes.

Idaho, especially once you step out of the Boise beltway (where the socialists in office “work” and play), is one of America's few remaining liberty cultures. Those who have been here a generation or more are likely to have come from that independent pioneer stock. More recent migrations have seen many who wanted to get away from the big city only to bring it all with them. So Idaho now has a mix of urban/suburban comfortable living and rugged, rural lifestyle opportunities.

Idaho Politics?

Politically, Idaho has been dominated by Republicans for years. There are many reasons for this. Generally, Idaho is an independent, conservative and individualistic society. Traditionally north Idaho is the main refuge for Democrats. Those Democrats, however, tend to behave somewhat like Republicans. On the other hand, many “Democrats” joined the Republican party some time ago so they could get elected. So some of our Republicans tend to behave like Democrats.

The libertarians of Northern Idaho fielded more candidates this year than the Democrats did and several have a decent chance of winning, especially after the legislature overturned the people's initiative for term limits last year. Incumbents who voted to repeal term limits may get the boot.

Given the weak standing of the nearly DOA Democratic party, it would not take a monumental effort for the Libertarians to become the second most powerful party. That would provide the opportunity to inject Libertarian issues into the Idaho political debate. Most Idahoans are unfamiliar with the Libertarian platform. There are a lot of Libertarians in Idaho that just don't know it yet. The Constitution party has also made a good showing this year, with good potential for improvement.

If the FSP moves to Idaho, a “Liberty Party” or coalition of Libertarians, Constitution Party members and free-thinking Republicans could be put together to develop some in-state political clout and challenge Idaho's Republican guard.

Twenty-thousand liberty activists could go a long way in Idaho. Idaho uses the caucus system. In some of the smaller counties, it is not inconceivable for 10 or 20 “activists” to show up at either the Republican or Democratic caucus,' take over, run their own candidates, and knock incumbents and conventional candidates down to write-in status.

The Free State Project: A Project for Idaho

An unintended result of so many activists moving to a state with a liberty agenda would be the eventual exodus-out of dyed-in-the wool socialists. Those who want to get their good life from the taxes of others will have to move to greener pastures once the “bennies” dry up.

The wheels of socialism have been turning in Idaho like anywhere else in modern America. There will be resistance from the “there-otta-be-a-law” politicians currently in power. And the hordes of agency employees will not go away with out a fight.


Guns are a traditional component of Idaho culture. Concealed carry permits are easy to get as long as you provide fingerprints and pass a federal background check. Only convicted felons, drug addicts and the mentally infirm can be denied a concealed carry permit in Idaho. Permit holders are excluded from the federal waiting period and background checks for gun purchases. State law allows concealed carry without a permit when you are not in a vehicle or an incorporated town.

Alternative Schooling?

Home schooling is common in Idaho with some reasonable cooperation between public schools and home schoolers on some extra-curricular activities. Many home schoolers teach their children completely without government involvement. Charter schools began a few years ago in Idaho, in what is essentially a state-funded private school program. Time will tell how “private” charter schools can remain on public funds.

Climate and Geography

Idaho has a wide variety of climates, terrain and regions. Central Idaho is largely rugged wilderness and mountains that separate the other regions of Idaho. Mostly small towns and rural settings dominate central Idaho. Climate varies with the elevation from high country covered with snow until July, to river bottoms and canyons that provide good gardening opportunities.

Northern Idaho is a mix of mountains, valleys and prairies. Warm summers and moderate winters are common at the lower elevations. Climate is influenced more often by coastal weather than the central prairies. Couer d'Alene is the major city in North Idaho, which is dotted with many medium to smaller towns.

Southwestern Idaho contains the majority of Idaho's population and its political, economic and industrial base. The Treasure Valley around the greater Boise area has a climate with hot summers and moderate winters. Urban and suburban development along the Snake River is surrounded by active agricultural production.

Eastern Idaho is a mix of high desert, mountains and agriculturally developed prairies. Several eastern cities provide urban living opportunities, with many medium to small communities scattered across the mostly open terrain.

Idaho provides a vast array of rural living opportunities. High mountains, river valleys and canyons, the southern and eastern desert areas, the prairies and plains, offer many diverse relocation choices for the “porcupines” of the FSP.

Economic Opportunities?

Idaho ranks number one on the FSP's projected jobs growth analysis and their economic freedom index. Contrary to the FSP's listing, Idaho does have a port in Lewiston where many commercial products are barged up and down the Snake and Columbia Rivers. Rail service is available throughout Idaho. Idaho shares a short border with Canada.

The Case for Idaho

Consider the alternatives. If you're going to live somewhere, climate is important. It's easy to theorize about the relative importance of climate from an office in Florida or a house in California. How many FSP porcupines want to hole up in Wyoming or the Dakotas for a high-plains winter? How many would be able to brave a harsh Alaskan winter and still be there in the spring? FSP meetings may not be all that well attended come February.

If you want to attract a following it needs to be attractive for the long haul. A free state is not a one-year project. A cool but not too cold Idaho canyon like the Clearwater, the Snake or the Salmon might be more preferable in January than say, Bismarck, North Dakota.

And just what is the resource base of say, New Hampshire? How do free-staters plan to build a free-market export economy? Maple Syrup and hardwood flooring? Idaho already has diverse and productive resources in greater quantity than all the eastern state candidates combined. It also has the best economic prognosis according to the FSP's own data.

The federal Constitution only authorizes federal ownership of lands within a state for four specific types of military purposes and other needful buildings. Once this fact becomes more widely known, and the federal usurpation of two-thirds of Idaho is properly challenged by 20,000 porcupines (and a few more locals), we can “finally negotiate directly with the federal government for appropriate political autonomy.” That's a lot of Idaho to build a free state with.

The political climate of Idaho is ripe for positive change. The republican majority in the legislature has upset much of the electorate by repealing a thrice passed term limits law. The democrats are nearly DOA, and have been for years. The libertarians have made record progress and the Constitution Party is alive and well. That doesn't mean there aren't also a lot of lawyers, lobbyists and socialists, eager to maintain business as usual.

Let's get real. How many liberty-loving westerners would actually cross the Mississippi and live? Easterners may like it there, but I don't think too many westerners could call it home -- even if we were the government. I've never been there, but I'll bet “rural” Vermont looks a lot more like “suburban” Idaho with deciduous trees. Size matters. And population density too.

Easterners and westerners are two different breeds of people. Are there only 20,000 liberty-oriented activists left in America? Eastern porcupines would certainly be welcome out west, but what about a free state east and a free state west? We could alternate our annual free state convention and compare notes.

In all fairness there are a lot of good things that can be said about Montana as a choice for the FSP. Wyoming? Nevada? Maybe. But Idaho, formerly known as the gem state, Idaho and its famous potatoes legislature pushing to be known as the “tolerance” state, would make a great free state. I like it already, Idaho, “The Free State.”


Note to Marylanders: Maryland has been known as "The Free State" since the nineteen twenties, when Baltimore Sun editor Hamilton Owens proposed seceding from the federal union rather than going along with Prohibition.

Things change however, and from here in the Western States Maryland looks like nothing more than an appendage of the District of Columbia: bedroom communities and office parks supporting federal leechism.

Should Maryland still be called "The Free State" or should the mantle pass to another displaying the appropriate fruits?

To borrow from Benjamin Franklin, the moniker is yours "if you can keep it."

Idahoans and other porcupine types can register their vote in the FSP's poll at:

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