The Free State Project (FSP) is a thirteen-year-old attempt to get a large concentration of libertarians in one location, so that they can create a freer place to live, both socially and politically. The group can often found at freedom-oriented gatherings around the world, promoting their slogan “Liberty in our lifetime.”
In 2004, the Bitcoin-active group chose the Northeastern US state of New Hampshire to base their “revolutionary social movement.” A Trigger the Move campaign was started in early 2014, asking 20,000 people sign up and join the community. The group recently announced that the target has been met.
The signers have all sworn to move to New Hampshire, lovingly referred to as 'the shire,' within five years. There is even some financial and physical assistance to ensure that they do so. According to their website, nearly 2,000 have already moved.
“Early movers are bringing their businesses, families and charities with them to New Hampshire – not to mention disposable income. So far we’ve purchased more than $30 million in real estate alone, and I can’t wait to see what kind of larger impact will be made as a result of individual efforts within this growing and thriving community.”
- Carla Gericke, Free State Project President
Self-identifying “free staters” in the shire have also embraced bitcoin, with locals having started some of the earliest bitcoin businesses. The first popular Bitcoin ATM, Lamassu, was developed among the local community, and the first factory was in New Hampshire. Erik Voorhees’ infamous Satoshi Dice also called the state home, and was the largest source of bitcoin traffic for years, before it got shut down in the USA.
Both of these iconic businesses moved out of the country due to laws or regulations, a situation that the FSP would like to avoid in the future. Free staters gaining some amount of control over the state legislature isn't just a stated goal of the FSP, it's already well on its' way to becoming reality, long before most have even made the move.
The libertarian party has always had a large presence in the shire, so it is no surprise that there are several libertarian politicians in the state legislature already. The last election cycle in November 2014 was a major win for free staters, and 16 FSP project members have seats in the shire's house of representatives.
“Only 3,000 to 4,000 movers would be enough of an activist base to match anything that any of the other ideological factions in the state can muster, maybe even all of them put together. 20,000 movers could turn New Hampshire into the Switzerland of North America.”
- Professor Jason Sorens of Dartmouth College
Among the FSP's claimed accomplishments are electing 40+ pro-liberty legislators, reducing the state budget by eleven percent, passing medical marijuana reform, repealing all knife laws, building private liberty clubs in every major town, starting dozens of new businesses, media outlets, volunteer projects, and charities.
The FSP also hosts annual liberty festivals across the state, including Porcfest, the planet's largest annual liberty-themed gathering. This four-day outdoor event has drawn libertarians and other liberty-minded families together at a campground in northern New Hampshire since 2003.
Over the past few years the sprawling vendor area, known as “agora valley,” has become a bitcoin hotbed. Several Bitcoin ATM machines, and at least one bitcoin vending machine, have been there over the years. Some of the vendors even name their establishments with a bitcoin theme, such as “Satoshi's saloon.” Most of the vendors accept bitcoin and quite a few accept gold and silver coins, but very few accept credit cards.
The event often has programming centered around Bitcoin with several high profile speakers. Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne, bitcoin guru Andreas Antonopoulos, Chief Liberty Officer of Liberty.me Jeffrey Tucker, and Lyn Ulbricht - the mother of Silk Road creator Ross Ulbricht. At the 2015 gathering, at least 12 of the scheduled events were specifically about bitcoin.
As a result, a number of FSP members at Wednesday's announcement are bitcoin users and advocates, as you can see in the following video taken by shire resident Amanda B. Johnson, host of the Daily Decrypt webcast.
Johnson interviewed twenty people she randomly stopped at the announcement, all of which are FSP members. All had heard of bitcoin, 19 of them like it or use it personally, and seven of them actively use it in their business or charity. This begs the question of what will happen to bitcoin usage in New Hampshire once 20,000 FSP members make the move to the shire?