It must have been 2002 or thereabouts when I first heard about the Free State Project. Somehow I came across it online. I was living in Brazil at the time, doing mission work and feeling increasingly frustrated about the collectivist attitudes I found there. It bothered me deeply to see people taking the view that rights are not natural, but something given (and taken away) by the government. The prevailing political philosophy in Brazil is not only that rights are flexible and a product of legislation, but also that property rights are dependent on “social justice.” Many in Brazil would love to see the wealth redistributed equally among all citizens. No one, in this view, should be rich. To me, this seems neither wise nor just.
Theft is not right, no matter who does it. Even muggers are freelance socialists, redistributing your wealth into their pockets. In Brazil it’s not just a matter of taxing people for military defense or to maintain basic public facilities. It is openly believed by most that it is right to take people’s money and give it away to others, based on “need.” The funny thing is that people don’t want what they have taken and given away, but they have no trouble accepting what is taken from others.
The biggest problem of all, though, is that Brazil’s situation is not simple. There are truly social inequalities that come from basic injustice. The laws restrict free trade, protect monopolies in the name of public good and generally keep the poor from being successful at pulling themselves up.
In any case, it was this environment that drove me to seek a solution. When I found out about a plan for 20,000 people to move to a single state in the United States and work for liberty, I grabbed hold of it. Underneath, though, there were certain nascent theological convictions beginning to work. One of these is the belief that this is God’s good, though fallen, world. Although I believed that this world would one day be destroyed, I also held to the ideal of working for liberty and personal responsibility because it allows for virtue. When the fruit of your labor is taken by force and given to others, that is a crime. When you freely give of your time and resources to others, not under coercion but by your own free will, this is virtue.
Apparently, the Free State Project hasn’t gone anywhere. It seems to have lost steam after New Hampshire was chosen to be the destination state, and although I like the state when I visited there in December 2004, something else would now have to motivate me to make the move.
Truth be told, I’m learning that wherever I am, I have to be missional. Whether Brazil, New Mexico, New Hampshire or New Jersey (too many “news” there), I am called to be a disciple of Christ. My task is to proclaim the Good News that Jesus is Lord, against all other “kings” and “lords” that may try to occupy his place, and seek to establish the reign of God in every place I find myself.
His reign must begin with my heart.