Robert began, somewhat surprisingly, by talking about the Schlieffen Plan, his point being that the German General Staff after the First World War included people whose entire job was to criticise and to find the weak spots in all the various plans that other members of the German General Staff were proposing. And for quite a few years after first becoming a libertarian, Robert was himself just such a permanent critic, of all the other plans produced by other libertarians to make libertarianism a reality. He spent, as he put it, “many years doing nothing”.
All that changed early in the year 2014, when Robert heard about the Free State Project, which is based in the American state of New Hampshire. Here was an idea about how to establish and spread libertarianism and libertarian ideas that he felt happy to support. Robert decided that he would move from Poland to New Hampshire. He is not there yet, but is currently in England, and is on his way. Meanwhile, he is learning English as fast as he can.
The idea of the Free State Project is to gather 20,000 people in New Hampshire and have a real impact on the local politics of the area. Statement of Intent signers (the “intent” declared being to move to New Hampshire and join the likes of Robert Zdanowski) numbered very close to the twenty thousand that FSP has been aiming at, and that number has now been reached. It is predicted that fewer than that will actually make the move, but that enough will arrive to make a big difference to the politics of New Hampshire (about 4,000). Not enough totally to transform matters, but enough to push things in a big way towards libertarianism. The two main US political parties have only a few hundred activists each. Several thousand libertarian activists will make a big difference.
Why was New Hampshire chosen for this project? New Hampshire, said Robert, is already one of the most free places in the USA and in the world, and it has a sufficient level of autonomy to start to making autonomous changes. It has no income tax, no sales tax. Better yet, its legistators are almost entirely unpaid, and are regular people rather than the usual pack of lawyers. It is not so hard to be elected. The gun law is open carry. Town meetings decide things like local budgets directly. There is a right to revolution and a right to secession. Juries can acquit not just on facts, but because they don’t like the law they are being told to enforce.
So, Robert has chosen to go to New Hampshire and live his life there, for liberty.
After about twenty minutes, Robert came to what sounded like his finish, and we all started clapping. But this was actually only the last of a number of pauses he had made while finding the right words for what he wanted to say. He stopped our clapping. He had one more important thing to add. There was another pause. Then:
“You can help too.”
At which point we really clapped.
I want to add few words of appreciation for Robert Zdanowski and for his talk, beyond the above bare summary. He was, as he himself was acutely aware and as I have already alluded to, handicapped as a speaker by being only recently acquainted with the English language. But despite this undoubted problem, Simon Gibbs invited Robert to speak to Libertarian Home, essentially because he seemed like a good man, and because, for all that his English is as yet very imperfect, he had something of great interest to say. It was, I think, a good decision.
I agree with Simon about what a nice man Robert is. I talked with Robert face-to-face both before and after his talk, I hope not in a way that put him off his speaking too much, and the man’s sheer goodness made a strong impression on me. As Simon mentioned briefly in his introduction, Robert now works in a care home in Margate. Robert told me that his colleagues sometimes criticise him for taking too long in doing menial tasks for those he is caring for, basically because he likes also to talk with his charges as well as just do the necessary physical stuff for them.
So, as Simon said, a nice man. And being nice is no small thing. One of the central complaints that anti-libertarians make about libertarianism is that libertarianism is not nice. So being both nice and a libertarian, even if that is all that you do, is a major contribution to our cause.
Which is not at all to say that this is all that Robert Zdanowksi will do. It will be extremely interesting to see what other contributions he makes to the cause of liberty in the future. We wish him all possible happiness and success in New Hampshire, just as soon as he contrives to arrive there.