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Editorial: ‘NHexit’ Next?

Published: 6/30/2016 10:02:02 PM
Modified: 6/30/2016 10:02:11 PM

As England goes, so goes New Hampshire? Less than a week after Great Britain turned the world upside down with its Brexit vote, a small group of Granite Staters hope to follow suit. Give them their due: “NHexit” is a catchy slogan, even if — as is almost certain — it never catches on.

According to the Concord Monitor, 13 people turned up for NHexit’s first event last Sunday in front of the Norris Cotton federal building in Manchester. Many a family picnic drew bigger crowds that day, but every revolution has to start somewhere.

NHexit members want New Hampshire to secede and form a republic based on the state Constitution, which NHexit founder David Ridley, of Bedford, says is not perfect, but is the “least-bad government on the planet.” Their grievances with the United States involve, among other things, high taxes and perceived invasions of privacy. Member Stephen Zeiler of Portsmouth said he advocates “personal independence — people taking responsibility for their communities and their own lives.” Why that cannot be achieved in New Hampshire, where the heavy hand of the federal government is mostly felt by those who look for the FBI and the NSA around every corner, is not clear. The Foundation for New Hampshire Independence, a nonprofit formed after President Obama won his second term, is in sympathy with NHexit. Its website doesn’t offer specifics about a glorious future for a free Granite State, but features a collection of nervous stories about coups, plots and FBI powers.

An independent New Hampshire wouldn’t be a major force in the world, for either good or ill. With 1.3 million residents, its population size is close to that of Estonia’s. New Hampshire’s GDP, by one estimate, is just ahead of the Dominican Republic’s. A free New Hampshire would likely have porous borders, but it’s hard to see how it would manage without them; a tax-hating government might have to rely even more heavily on lotteries and liquor to pay for services.

Vermont may be looking on with amusement. Fortunately, Vexit is not currently trending, even though Vermont was a republic from 1777 to 1791 and a few residents have toyed with the idea in the past. But the Green Mountain state seems to have settled in comfortably among the 50 states, while New Hampshire has long been cantankerous, perhaps aggrieved at having to rub shoulders with the likes of Massachusetts.

Those who believe in NHexit could be encouraged to work within the status quo for lower taxes and greater protections for personal freedom, but perhaps they have grown frustrated that a great majority ignore their cause. At this point, we consider NHexit as about as likely as finding out that Hogwart’s is real and Harry Potter is enroute on a broomstick — but who’s to dictate what fantasies to pursue in your spare time? It’s a free country, which is one of the best things you can say about these United States.

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