In the heady days of antiwar fervor in the 1960s, a few protesters demonstrated their opposition to the Vietnam War and the military draft that supported it by publicly burning their draft cards, a federal offense punishable by imprisonment. Last weekend's Liberty Forum in Nashua, New Hampshire featured a call for a different kind of card-burning when Saturday's keynote speaker, historian and bestselling author Thomas Woods, told the libertarian crowd that the card destined for the ash heap is a figurative "three-by-five card of acceptable opinion," containing what Woods described as the gamut of political opinion, running all the way "from Hillary Clinton to Mitt Romney."
Neither Clinton nor Romney would likely have drawn cheers from the participants at the forum, an annual event staged by the Free State Project, an organization aiming to draw some 20,000 liberty-loving people to New Hampshire, there to exercise their freedoms according to the will of each individual. It may be to start a business or to work on behalf of a political cause or causes they believe in, said forum organizer Chris Lawless. For someone devoted to Second Amendment rights, "You can work on just gun laws," he said. Indeed, the Free State Project website boasts that the least restrictive gun laws of any state can be found in New Hampshire, where open carry is allowed in all but a few public places. But Free Staters encourage people to become engaged on other issues as well, though some prefer to avoid direct political action.
"Because we have no mandate as to what people should do, we let people follow their passions, which is a huge strength for us," Lawless said.
The project began in 2001 when a network of libertarians organized for the purpose of finding a small state (with fewer than 1.5 million residents) that offered fertile ground for opportunities to pursue and promote liberty and oppose needless restrictions on personal freedom. They held a certified election via both email and snail mail, and New Hampshire won out over several other states, including Maine, Vermont, Delaware, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and both Dakotas. Lawless, a computer consultant who moved to New Hampshire from San Francisco in 2005, said the state's "Live Free or Die" motto is but a small part of its appeal to libertarians.
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