From the "how important small land area"
Here in the West our town councils and county commissioners are fully-fledged lawmakers...
That's more power than your NH selectmen in Lisbon or Merrimack. The NH legislature has all the law-making or un-making power in New Hampshire. There is only petty nuisance lawmaking in New Hampshire towns. Towns are only administrative departments of the state. They may handle local money, but the New Hampshire legislature keeps for itself the laws that Western towns and counties can make.
Hank has an excellent point here. The power of the state legislature in the New England states would make controlling that body a must in order to ensure the survival of any reforms that we enact locally (especially if they're more politically controversial). New Hampshire's legislature is positively gigantic, as would be the hurdle we would have to leap in order to gain a controlling influence there.
I've seen discussion here lately of forming a libertarian caucus in the NH state legislature. A caucus is all fine and good, and might be simple to form in New Hampshire, but we need a majority or the ability to assemble one from members of the other political parties. Granted, a caucus could be a stepping stone to reaching out to liberty-friendly legislators in other parties and uniting their efforts with ours, but, more often than not, unless you're forming a minority race-based caucus, they're generally not very effective.
And even then they're usually only good for grabbing headlines or stonewalling. Look at South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia for examples of how this has been done.
New Hampshire's legislature poses some problems that must be addressed in order for me to be convinced that we could establish a majority there, or else a majority coalition, in any reasonable amount of time.
- No term limits (yes, I know that some of us disagree as to whether they're libertarian or not, but they serve to give a broader scope of candidates more of a chance to obtain office than otherwise.
- No intitiative or referendum - in other words, no direct means for the people to affect change in government other than to go directly through an enormous legislature, which would require us to fashion an enormous majority in comparison to what would be necessary in other states.
- Legislative power to override local reforms - this is not as great a risk in the west due to the power of western counties. See Vermont's history with Act 60 for an example of what a New England legislature can do to local control. I'm not saying that New Hampshire would ever enact such a socialistic piece of redistributionist garbage as Act 60, but the power is there to interfere in other ways if they choose to use it.
Compare this to the west, specifically to Wyoming.
- We're dealing with a smaller legislature (with districts with as few as 8,000 people). Putting together a majority or majority coalition here would be simpler because it would require us to win fewer seats or fewer legislative partners.
I hear seats are relatively available in New Hampshire, so maybe we could win more of them, but then I ask: "Enough of them to sway a 400 + member body?" And if New Hampshire reduces district size even further, how many more seats will that add to the legislature?
New Hampshire also has the largest state senate districts of our 10 candidate states.
- County governments have more power to deal with the state in Wyoming. Whether it has been done in the past or not is not so much the question - the potential exists.
- Initiative and referendum - the FSP itself, at 20,000 strong, would be nearly enough to put an initiative item on the ballot in Wyoming just by itself. Even if we had only 10,000 in Wyoming, each of us getting two or three other people to sign would be enough.
There's greater potential for us to work around this legislature if we need to do so.
- Term limits - effective 2004 - will allow a broader field of candidates a greater chance to obtain seats in that smaller legislature.
New Hampshire is unquestionably a tremendously free state, and a great contrast to its neighbors, but I have to wonder if part of the reason for this is due more to a difficulty in getting things done there as opposed to the strength of the freedom element in its population (perhaps other than on the taxation issue).
Part of the ability to increase government regulation and institute a nanny state is the ability to pass laws, which would naturally require greater majorities in New Hamphsire than elsewhere due to the size of the legislature. This has evidently worked very much in New Hampshire's favor because it has kept statism at bay, unlike its sister New England states.
New Hampshire doesn't have a seatbelt requirement, or helmet requirement, or auto liability insurance requirement...all true. Perhaps because it can't pass them due to the inability to garner the required level of support in the legislature. Perhaps it still has enough representatives in favor of such things that, if the body were smaller, it could pass such laws as have been enacted in other states.
However, the merits of this aside, it should be pointed out that part of the ability to create a free state will also require the ability to pass (or repeal) laws via the legislature. Part of what has kept New Hampshire so free, the difficulty involved in controlling the legislature, could then work against us by making the process of creating a majority or majority coalition that much more difficult (at least in the "liberty in our lifetime" sense - a reasonable amount of time).
In Wyoming, the ability to obtain a majority, or else create a majority coalition, could be much simpler due to the legislature's smaller size and the tool that term limits makes available to us. And, failing that, we have the initiative and referendum, which would be simpler to enact because it would require so few signatures (relatively speaking).
Thus, I still very much believe that Wyoming offers us our best chance at a majority or majority coalition and the achievement of "liberty in our lifetime." The task involved is smaller, the tools for accomplishing it are more numerous, and the combination of those two elements in the hands of dedicated activists could be unstoppable.