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Free Grafton


The Free Town Project 2.0

Written by Sharon Clark. 2.15.22


To live for a good cause is it’s own reward. I spent years behind a desk, knowing I could never feel enough horror watching the suffering of victims of police and state. It was so brutal. So blatant. And I couldn’t do anything about it. But I didn’t want to look away, because what if those people were me or my family?


Those days were hard, but with research and study I found a shining solution. Capitalism. Freedom. Self ownership. Being a logic enthusiast, the clarity and soundness of their arguments was so refreshing. It wasn’t just abstract thought. The results were consistent and spectacular. North Korea vs South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai, the United States. Where people were not kept from flourishing by the state, they thrived, and it was thrilling to think I could be a part of bringing that to a greater realization.


To be a libertarian is to be painfully aware of the oppression of democracy. Your thoughts never count, even though it’s your life, because you’re the ideological minority. Victory is almost always resigned to the laughable bin. The best we could hope for is to punish one of the two parties enough with our lost votes that they would have to take us into account.


Maybe not. Maybe there was a way to use democracy against it’s own unjust mob-rule structure. Maybe it could be used to elevate the individual and restrain the state. But that would take a majority, and the million strong libertarian voters don’t make that up in any state.


Enter the Free State Project. A simple and elegant solution to the problem is to vote with your feet and move to a small freedom friendly state. In a high enough concentration, the defenders of freedom could create a home that finally realizes self ownership. No more violent paternalism from other adults who think they know what’s best for you. No more dreams strangled by arrogant regulations. No more sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers lost behind bars when they had done no one harm. This project has been ongoing, and has been reaping marvelous successes.


The Free Town Project was the same principle, but on the town level. Grafton, a small mid-state town was chosen. It had low population and no zoning. With only about 300 voters of an already fiercely independent population, it shouldn’t take much to move in a few reinforcements, convince a few locals, and start making changes.


Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned. Grafton seemed to be the collecting site for problematic activists who had been kicked out of other circles. There were activists who were drunks, got into violent fights, and insisted on setting things on fire without a license. Ironically and sadly, police were often called to Free Stater enclaves.


One free stater told the town at the beginning of the movement what the free town project was about. At least 200 people showed up. He proceeded to give the most controversial and repulsive depiction of libertarianism that could probably be achieved. He claimed they were going to turn the town into a place of open drug addiction, prostitution, and bestiality. The locals were horrified. Imagine if they took over!


There were activists who refused to engage the legal system causing difficulty for those who did to keep them afloat. After years fighting to grant the Peaceful Assembly Church tax exempt status, the new steward failed to defend it and it was lost. This exhausted intelligent and dedicated activists, at least one of which became burned out and left the movement for some time.


There were activists who broke the law in an attempt to provoke enforcement and make videos. This put the otherwise lenient enforcers in a difficult position, who then felt compelled by the public record to enforce the law.


One activist, who had been considered effective in Keene, practiced civil disobedience by starting a fire on the side of Rt 4. When the fire department arrived, he refused to put out his camp fire, so a fireman had to take out the hose and put it out himself, costing the town a thousand dollars. This created a lot of talk and frustration among frugal locals. It also divided local activists. The Keene transplant was enraged at the hypocrisy of locals, and eventually became burned out and left.


A local who was a hateful man and wanted to be a thorn in the side of the town welcomed Free Staters to bring their trailers on his property. Many did. This man bullied these activists, insulting a kind and intelligent computer programmer to his face. He tore the roof off of a trailer when the owner didn’t pay rent. To the locals, the Free Staters were associated with this man and his problems. Not to mention this tended to discourage the activists.


I was told that there were at least two federal infiltrators in the early days of the free town project. The sad reality is that activists, perhaps especially ones that want to cut police budgets, are often faced with police informants and sabaoteurs. There is a long and shocking history of this with the COINTELPRO program. I don’t know how a free people can tolerate the government hijacking and sabotaging their political process. Even if you don’t agree with us, at least you can’t agree with police informants ruining the percent of a choice you have in your own system. That is why the town may need to be conscious of who really needs to be blamed for their harassment and misery. It reminds me of Hunger Games 2. “Katnis, remember who the real enemy is.” Maybe we are more together than the saboteurs would have us believe.


To have a bad first impression is bad enough. As each new drama unfolded, the outrage ingrained itself into the population, and they fought back hard against this “foreign invasion.” Even when the Free Staters won, their strategy generally revolved around cutting the budget. The problem was, roads, fire department, ambulance, etc, needed to be funded, or else what you are left with is necessary services that can’t perform their function.


The free town project is a cautionary tale. A book, which locals often consider to be mostly fictitious, was published about this project that demonizes libertarians to the world. “A Libertarian Walks into a Bear.” That is most of what you will find if you research the free town project before coming here. Libertarians fed the bears and the bears came and killed the kittens.


Many activists moved away. As some have said, “Grafton is where activists go to die.” Many disappeared into the woods, keeping to themselves, hiding their scarlet letter from the locals, blending in, being nice neighbors and getting on with their lives.


And yet the yearning for freedom from the brutality of the state continues to burn in the hearts of fresh activists.


The Free State Project hit a milestone. 20,000 activists committed to moving to New Hampshire five years after the full 20,000 agreed. Some thousands moved early and joined the freedom loving natives. Real progress has been made. Freedom is awakening. The five years have just passed. The 20,000, and the thousands and thousands beyond that will come to enjoy our results, are coming.


It is time to really begin this experiment. Now freedom is in our grasp, a thing rare in the stretch of human history. But we cannot expect to face no opposition. At times, the smears of paternalistic statists is a ringing endorsement. But make no mistake some battles will be hard won, and those battles start within ourselves and our allies. What do we stand for? What is our vision? Where will we compromise? Will we build bridges or fight against our new neighbors? Will we work within, or against the system? Will we bend under pressure? Will we learn from our mistakes? The future is a thing too precious for us to ignore the lessons of the past.

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