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Opening Arguments

Meter madness

In Keene, N.H., a handful of activists are harassaing the town's two parking officers, tracking them with two-way radios, following them with video cameras and feeding expired meters before $5 tickets can be written. As partly a libertarian (on most days), I could resent the headline on the story and the general thurst of the narrative. As a matter of fact, I do: 'Libertarians trail meter readers, telling town: Live free or else" is the offensive headline.

The activists selected this New England-cute city of 24,000 for liberation mostly because it lies within that flinty bastion of Yankee individualism known as New Hampshire, where “Live Free or Die” is carved into the collective granite.

Back in 2003, a libertarian-leaning group called the Free State Project decided that this small state could be a liberty lover’s paradise if enough like-minded people settled here.

[. . .]

A dozen years in, the Free State Project is about three-quarters of the way toward achieving its goal of having 20,000 people commit to relocating to the state, after which it will “trigger the move.” The project has already influenced the statewide conversation at times — partly because of “early movers” like Ian Freeman, a Floridian who bought an old white duplex on Leverett Street several years ago and quickly set out to push local buttons.

There have been marijuana gatherings in the central square. Make-believe drinking of alcohol at City Council meetings. Leafleting outside public schools. And many video-recorded encounters in which the activists are the earnest heroes of their own narratives, holding accountable the employees of a government they do not generally recognize.

"Libertarian-leaning"? They sound like nuts and cranks to me. If we feel compelled to put any political label at all on them, "anarchic" would be a better choice.

Sometimes I push libertarian arguments to the extreme simply because the other side never relents, and only the strongest argument possible can even get their attention. But I try to keep such exaggeration to a minimum, because it can make it seem like I'm arguing for no governmenr at all. That's dangerous because it just feed into the stereotype that's already in more "moderate" political minds.

If we're going to have rational discussion about how much government to have, it's fair for the other side to ask people like me, "Well, what government services would you keep as necessary?" And it's fair for us to ask them, "Which parts of government are you willing to give up as unnecessary?"