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N.H. Group Says People, Not Taxes, Should Help Needy

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N.H. Group Says People, Not Taxes, Should Help Needy

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N.H. Group Says People, Not Taxes, Should Help Needy

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It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

We're talking today about the giving season, the time of year when people all over the country come together to give food, time and money to those in need. But for one community in Manchester, New Hampshire, private acts of charity aren't just a holiday tradition. There are a display of libertarian and even anarchist principles. New Hampshire Public Radio's Emily Corwin has the story.

EMILY CORWIN, BYLINE: Fifty people are gathered in a converted office space with $6,000 worth of food and a list of needy families. Boxes of cabbages and oranges are piled high.

MIKE RUFF: There are eggs around here somewhere.

CORWIN: Mike Ruff is a 40-year-old mediator and blacksmith who helped organize the event. He's filling shopping bags with food for the hungry with help from a couple kids.

RUFF: And a thing of chili powder.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: What's chili powder?

CORWIN: Ruff has an M1911 pistol strapped to his waist. Why? He says he doesn't trust tax-funded policemen to protect him. And for the same reasons, he doesn't trust the government to help the needy. Ruff is a member of New Hampshire's growing Free State movement, which means he moved from somewhere else to New Hampshire for the state's low tax burden, its Live Free or Die mentality and to agitate for smaller government. He's not the only person here who thinks this kind of private charity should replace all tax-funded social services.

AMANDA BOULDIN: We all agree that privately funded, voluntary charity is superior to the welfare system.

CORWIN: That's Amanda Bouldin, the event's coordinator. Bouldin looks, well, tired, and also humbled by the $6,000 that was donated to buy food.

BOULDIN: So there's African, Bhutanese, chicken or turkey.

CORWIN: Bouldin is making sure her volunteers get suitable meals to needy refugees and diabetics.

BOULDIN: Chicken diabetic, turkey diabetic and Burmese.

CORWIN: Like Mike Ruff, Bouldin moved to New Hampshire to join the Free State Project. She says she doesn't blame anyone who uses food stamps or public housing, and she knows her $6,000 is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to ending hunger. But, she says, forcing the public to pay taxes to solve social problems is immoral.

BOULDIN: If you stick a gun to somebody's head and say, give me $20 to feed this guy that's dying of starvation on the street right now, or I'll kill you, have you done something charitable? No. You've committed a crime.

CORWIN: Not everybody here sees taxation in such strict terms. Merav Yaakov is an Israeli who recently moved her family from Colorado to New Hampshire to join the Free State Project. She's here volunteering with her daughter Maya. Yaakov says she's not comfortable in big organizations.

MERAV YAAKOV: There's research out there that says people function best in groups of 150 people, and I would like to organize my life in this kind of terms.

CORWIN: Yaakov says big organizations like government just don't work for her.

YAAKOV: I don't know who runs them. I don't know what their interests. I can't subscribe. It's hard for me to be part of big things like this that I don't have personal contact with.

CORWIN: Yaakov says the freedom loving people at this event are some of the most creative people she's ever met, and the strength of their relationships is striking. Twenty-four-year-old Caitlin Appell moved a year ago with her fiance, Elizabeth, to join the Free State Project. Appell says they didn't expect to make so many friends so fast.

CAITLIN APPELL: But then it was like this whole wider community that we didn't know. And over this whole year, we've just been completely, like, embraced by them. It's kind of amazing.

CORWIN: Appell is not the only one. Almost everyone at the event moved to New Hampshire in the last three years - many in the last six months. In that short time, they'll tell you emphatically, they've come to love each other and their community, perhaps even more than they dislike taxes. For NPR News, I'm Emily Corwin.

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