By Shem Kellogg
The United States was once a constitutional republic, and today New Hampshire is on the forefront in the battle to return the U.S. to its original principles of state sovereignty, limited federal government and individual liberty.
The year Thomas Jefferson was elected President, eleven out of sixteen states didn’t have direct popular election for President, and no state had direct election of US senators. The voters chose their state representative, a man whom they personally knew, and he then voted for the upper-level offices.
In New Hampshire, we still know our state representatives. We have 400. That works out to a relatively small 3,000 voters per representative. If you don’t like a rep’s vote, you call her up and tell her so! Our representatives serve on a practically volunteer basis, being paid only $100 per year – and chances are they’re happy to hear your perspective on a tough issue; in fact, most of them are open to the ideas of liberty if you’re willing to explain them. This is a major reason that New Hampshire is one of the freest states in the US, with no income tax, no general sales tax, and very few gun restrictions.
A pro-liberty force unique to the state that helps to keep government accountable is the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance, a citizen watchdog group. NHLA is composed of volunteers who, like the Founding Fathers’ “committees of correspondence,” get together in the poorly heated back rooms of bookstores, taverns, etc., and… actually read the bills! This makes the proceedings of New Hampshire government uniquely transparent. The organization publishes summaries and ratings of bills in its Gold Standard newsletter, which is printed and distributed to all legislators. Volunteers compile the votes of all senators and representatives, and publish them in the annual Liberty Rating, a “report card” to voters. NHLA has an active PAC, donating to candidates (of either party) with the best pro-liberty voting records (or the best survey responses for non-incumbents).
Another great source of energy and activism comes from participants in the Free State Project, an international movement to concentrate 20,000 pro-liberty activists in one state. New Hampshire was selected as that state for quite a few reasons. The Free State Project runs two annual events to attract more activists to New Hampshire, the winter Liberty Forum and summer Porcupine Freedom Festival (PorcFest). The Free State Project is the vehicle to get activists to New Hampshire; what participants do once they get here is up to them.
New Hampshire is simultaneously the closest thing to the Old Republic and the software-startup-model minimum-state future. In 2007, Joel Winters (D- Manchester), the first Free State Project early mover elected to the state house, led a successful fight against REAL ID. Also in 2007, the state banned license plate readers, and to this day is the only state with a widespread ban on the use of such technology. A bill to make New Hampshire the 50th state to legalize license plate readers was introduced this year but it in a reaffirmation of privacy rights, it was defeated.
In 2010, the New Hampshire legislature that cut the state budget by a historic 11 percent, passed a school-choice bill (that included homeschoolers), and voted to decriminalize cannabis (though that effort was thwarted by the senate). A medical bill was later passed and signed into law. Also in 2010, FSP participant Jenn Coffey (R- Andover) wiped all the state’s sharp-object laws off the books (no, we have not been plagued with a surge in drive-by knifings).
In 2012, a jury-nullification law passed that compels judges to inform juries of their right to judge the law as well as the defendant. Juries are reminded that they have the authority to personally nullify unconstitutional or unjust laws. Also in 2012, Ron Paul came in second in both the Republican AND Democrat first-in-the-nation primaries, in spite of massive spending by the establishment candidates and massive media blackout. The Paulites are still active in local Republican politics, keeping his message of peace, freedom, and prosperity alive.
Recently, New Hampshire was the first state legislature to pass a cannabis-legalization law (all other states have legalized via referendum). Unfortunately, the bill was successfully stalled once again by pressure from police union via the governor’s office. Still, momentum is clearly on legalization’s side, and those who opposed it may well fall this November. (I intend to replace one of them in the state house myself next year). Fortunately, this year’s legislature passed an NSA nullification bill that prohibits warrantless spying and was signed into law.
There is still a long way to go before New Hampshire truly returns to being the “Live Free or Die” state that is stamped on our license plates. But the early movers of the Free State Project, combined with the New Hampshire natives who still honor the Old Republic, are giving the Empire a run for its money. If you want to build a free future, where state sovereignty is celebrated and independence is embraced, New Hampshire is the place to be. Join me, and together we can bring freedom to the Galax… well, to one small corner of one small planet anyway.
Shem Kellogg is a Republican candidate for NH House of Representatives and a Tenth Amendment Center lifetime member; shemkellogg.com
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