My Free State Story

Representing the Free State Project at a Students for Liberty conference outside of Boston

Representing the Free State Project at a Students for Liberty conference outside of Boston

It finally happened. After well over a decade of toiling tirelessly in the dark, the Free State Project has finally reached its goal of 20,000 signers pledging to move to New Hampshire for liberty in the next five years.

This barely-funded, largely decentralized, volunteer-driven last stand for liberty has taken thousands of individuals contributing their all for a rash dream: liberty in our lifetime. I can’t disrespect all the others who worked towards this goal by attempting to speak for them. Instead, I’ll only speak for myself.

This is my Free State story.


In early 2012, wasting my time in Phoenix and working side jobs to get by, I decided to restart my old career in public policy in the liberty movement. I went to the Atlas Foundation’s global compendium of pro-free market think tanks, scrolled through the entire list, and applied for a job at each and every one that was hiring, from positions in Washington, D.C. to those in Lima and New Delhi. When I came to New Hampshire listings I noticed the Free State Project, investigated, very much liked what I saw, but noticed they weren’t hiring. I moved on to search for other opportunities, but always kept my eye on those strange rabble-rousers trying something new in almost-Canada.

Tattoo of my mover number

Tattoo of my mover number

It wouldn’t take long for me to notice that something special was going on in New Hampshire. The moment that decisively made up my mind happened in December of 2012. Cynthia Chase, government-loving state legislator from the isolated socialist stronghold of Keene, declared that Free Staters were the single greatest threat to her state, and that she wished to restrict their freedoms in hopes of making them go away. An epiphany struck that hasn’t left me since: the Free State Project was going to succeed. I didn’t suspect; I knew it for sure. With barely 5% of the final mover goal actually in the state, they had somehow managed to strike terror into the heart of the fell liberty-loathing beast. I somehow felt what I now know in concrete terms: the movement had already amassed enough industrious, selfless, effective, and relentless activists to carry the project’s momentum through to completion. I signed the pledge to move on December 31st of 2012. Except I didn’t agree to the usual pledge to move within five years of the 20,000 signers being reached. I promised to move within a year, by the end of 2013, other signers be damned.

The Move

The first half of 2013 was a time of personal and professional failure. With nothing left to lose but no prospects for building a life in my chosen destination, I packed all my worldly belongings into my two-door Civic and made the drive from Phoenix to Manchester to gamble my fate on New Hampshire’s liberty revolution. Arriving three months earlier than promised, I was mover number 1108. No plan, no means, just the urge to get there to do what I do best: fight for freedom. I figured the rest out later.

I spent the next year jumping into every form of activism available, beginning with traveling to Massachusetts to promote the Free State Project less than a month after moving. I did the same the next year (and the year after) at the International Students for Liberty conference in D.C., volunteered to help Shire Sharing feed thousands of hungry the last three years in a row, joined a podcast, protested police overreach, helped advance pro-liberty electoral projects, and, of course, wrote countless articles about the vibrant liberty movement happening here. Towards the end of 2014, one of the earliest movers, Free Talk Live host and one-man activism machine Ian Freeman, lamented to me that not enough activists practiced their craft consistently. At that moment I resolved to do something about it.

The Rights Brigade

Rights Brigade activists conduct jury nullification outreach

Rights Brigade activists conduct jury nullification outreach

In January of 2015, with the goal of mobilizing all these energetic activists pouring into the state, I founded the Rights Brigade. Under that name, dozens of activists have protested at rallies, handed out literature, testified before legislatures, defended citizens from police overreach, and represented the ideas of liberty to the people, a total of 83 separate times. The jewel in this crown of achievement has been jury outreach, where over 3,000 jurors were informed of their right to nullify bad laws in 2015 alone. While I am proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish, I also acknowledge that I have not lived up to my fullest potential in this, and resolve to do better this year. With all the new movers pouring into the state, improving on last year should be perfectly doable.

Since I moved, the Free State Project has acquired over 800 new movers, along with 4,000 more who have pledged to join them over the next five years. Considering everything the few of us have been able to accomplish so far, it’s difficult to imagine what we can do when our ranks grow tenfold. And we won’t need to imagine it all right away. We can dream up a little at a time as we make those visions a reality like brushstrokes on a canvas, not seeing the beauty of its design until we step back to see the completed work.

The Next Chapter

This is my chapter in the most promising tale of human freedom of our lifetimes. The prologue is finished. Now the actual story begins. Come join me, and be a part of history.

Movers to the Freecoast celebrate Thanksgiving together

Movers to the Freecoast celebrate Thanksgiving together

Joël Valenzuela
Joël Valenzuela
Editor at The Desert Lynx
Joël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx. He is also the founder of the Rights Brigade, a mover for the Free State Project, and a martial art instructor.
  • Awesome stuff, Joel! We’re lucky you’re here.

    • Thank you kindly. It was haphazard, and I hope it encourages others to believe in themselves to do it too.

  • gg

    Thanks for sharing your story, you seem very brave to me, courageous to traverse the country just to be a part of a movement! Welcome to the State, lifelong resident here and hope to meet you some time an learn more about Jury Nullification! Haven’t been called for jury duty, but in case I am 🙂 See you at Porcfest perhaps?

    • I don’t consider myself courageous. It was a natural progression of my life. I suppose in retrospect it was kind of crazy, but thinking of something as brave or exceptional can sometimes discourage the timid from doing it. I don’t want it to be seen as brave, I want it to be seen as something anyone can (and should) do.

  • Dave Van Wyk

    You were mover #1108? — what am I missing? — if we’ve hit 20,000, how can you be 1108? — I was a pre-stater, had a job in Boston, was a libertarian that hated moving to MA, then I determined I could live in NH and get to work as easily as when living in MA — unfortunately, we were overwhelmed with MA voters so now NH has become a big supporter of big gov’t.