FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- In Eddie Free's ideal world, the Falls Church roads he drives on his way to and from work would be privately owned.
Though the roads' owners might hire security to enforce whatever rules they decide to implement, there would be no police force paid for out of taxes -- in fact, there would be no taxes at all in Eddie Free's ideal world, because he thinks taxes are slavery -- and so there would be no police officers hiding out near intersections, waiting to give tickets to drivers who roll through stop signs.
But given that this is reality, there frequently are police officers hiding out near intersections in this Northern Virginia suburb. And as often as he can, Eddie Free thwarts them.
"I like to stand out at the stop signs," Free said one night, while out driving around in his black Land Rover. "Wave at people and make sure that they stop. I point at the police officer. That way I'm saving people from paying the state."
Eddie Free is a voluntaryist. Think of voluntaryists as extreme libertarians.
Many libertarians believe that the state, which is to say a government as we know it, should play some sort of limited role -- in national defense, in environmental regulations, or elsewhere.
Voluntaryists would do away with the state altogether. There would be no public roads, no public police force, no public education, no Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, no Congress, no courts, no gun laws, no seat belt laws. There would be no Treasury Department printing paper money. There would be no taxes. There would be no war. There would be no restrictions on interpersonal interactions.
"Whatever people are doing in the bedroom," he says. "I don't care. Keep the state out."
Polluters would still face penalties for polluting -- because their pollution would harm others' property, and those harmed would be able to sue. Money would exist insofar as people are willing to trade items of value. Disputes would be resolved by private arbiters. Roads would be built and maintained by entrepreneurs, who would set the terms of their use. Miscreants would be kept in check by wide firearm availability.
Free imagines this would be an "efficient society. Where all interaction is voluntary. No coercion."
A paralegal in the District of Columbia, Free says his job gives him insight into the dysfunction of the legal system. When he isn't at work, he is engaging in activism, trying to bring about the stateless world he'd like to live in.
That activism takes on a variety of forms, like not registering his gun, dancing at the Jefferson Memorial (which has a ban on dancing), or selling lemonade on the National Mall to protest the over-regulation of kids' lemonade stands.
On principle, Free does not vote -- though he's considered making an exception, in order to cast a ballot for Ron Paul.
The website Fr33 Agents rewards civil disobedience: one point for going to court to support another activist; one point for refusing to take a plea deal; one point for selling lemonade without a license.
Free will get 22 points when he leaves Virginia over the summer to move to New Hampshire, getting him closer to one of the site's prizes, like a video camera. He'll be joining the Free State Project, a whole community devoted to living out the small-state ideal in New Hampshire, itself a state with no seatbelt laws and no sales tax. The group has attracted 1,000 people so far, but aims to grow to 20,000 participants.
Free would like to continue protesting in New Hampshire. He also hopes to open a deer farm.
"I want to breed a really fine stock of elk and deer and charge people to hunt them," he says. "And then slaughter them as well, for meat."
A few more acts of civil disobedience are planned between now and the move, beyond watching for cops at stop signs.
One of those Northern Virginia cops recently caught Free going 20 miles over the speed limit. He'll have a court date soon, and he says he'd rather go to jail than pay a fine or take a plea.
He's also recently started putting coins into parking meters that are about to expire. He calls it "Robin Hooding."
"I'm just saving somebody from paying the state," he says. "And it's kind of a poke in the eye to authority."
After paying the meter, Free leaves a note on the helped car's windshield. The note doesn't have his name or contact information; it just says "You've been saved from a parking ticket." Along with the note, Free leaves some pamphlets that encourage the car's owner to consider joining the voluntaryist movement.
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