CONCORD, N.H. – Organizers of the Free State Project say they've reached their 20,000th pledge from liberty-minded people vowing to move to New Hampshire and work to limit government's interference in their lives.
About 2,000 members already have moved to the state, and the goal is to have all 20,000 moved in five years. The group is hosting its ninth Liberty Forum from Thursday through Sunday in Manchester, highlighted by a video link discussion with former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
Free State Project Carla Gericke said Thursday that the growth of social media has helped attract more interest since the first participants uprooted and bought houses in the state over a decade ago. Today, she said, members have invested in more than $30 million in real estate in New Hampshire. About 40 have been elected to the Legislature in the past decade.
"It's resonating with people who are really looking for solutions," Gericke said. "A lot of people like to sit around and complain, and what this really is, is activist-driven. These are people who have goals and want to see them achieved."
Evan Nappen, an attorney and a former vice president of the Free State Project, moved with his family in 2004 from Oakhurst, New Jersey, to Bow, New Hampshire. He has worked on Second Amendment cases and in 2010 was part of an effort to repeal laws banning the carrying or selling of knives such as stilettos, switchblades, daggers and dirks. Since then, he said, 10 more states have repealed similar bans.
"It was a small but important vote for liberty," Nappen said. "In that area, freedom has been restored and is being restored nationally from something that started here in New Hampshire by Free Staters."
In 2003, New Hampshire was chosen for the Free State Project from a list of 10 states based on their small populations, libertarian tendencies, strong economies and other criteria. Among New Hampshire's selling points are its low crime rate and unemployment, lack of a sales or income tax, and the state's motto, "Live Free or Die."
Discussions at the convention will be held on topics such as "Ensuring the Human Rights of Sex Workers by Decriminalizing Adult Prostitution," ''Anarchy: Dressing for Success," and "Math Education in the Free State."
Snowden, scheduled to speak Saturday, leaked millions of documents about government surveillance to a United Kingdom newspaper in 2013. He's been living in Russia under a grant of asylum and faces charges in the U.S.
Participants were asked for their input on questions to ask him. The most popular: "Do you think there is anything average citizens can do to reverse the State Over-reach, or are we past the point of no return and doomed?"