Five Days of Liberty: A Review of PorcFest 2011

June 27th, 2011

The freest festival in America

Ever wondered what it would be like if you lived in a world where there were no police, no laws, and no mandates from legislators? For the last five days I was in such an environment in Lancaster, New Hampshire. This event, called PorcFest, is a weeklong celebration of freedom, liberty, and a rebellion against crooked governments and statist legislation. This event is hosted each year by the Free State Project, a non-profit organization that seeks to create a libertarian community within New Hampshire, considered by many, including the prestigious Mercatus Center at George Mason University, to be the freest state in the country both economically and socially. The goal is to get 20,000 liberty activists to agree to move to New Hampshire to make it even freer than it already is. PorcFest is a yearly event that brings together people from around the world to join together under the cause of “liberty in our lifetime”, and also to be able to do the kinds of things that are illegal in their hometowns.

Being a citizen of Boston, I am sorry to say that I am used to the kinds of restrictions on things like gun rights and business freedom that would make non-Bostonians cringe, so when I arrived at the campsite, I was surprised at how far liberty could be pushed. Within minutes I encountered dozens of people carrying firearms in hip holsters, as well as vendors taking advantage of the laissez-faire spirit of the festival by selling items like pot brownies, moonshine, unlicensed massages, and even raffling off a bulletproof vest. Needless to say, I tried to indulge on as much of this as I could, knowing that a chance like this comes around only so often.

Here at PorcFest, everything was subject to free market competition, even the type of currency that was used. Just about every vendor accepted currencies other than dollars, such as silver, gold, copper, and even the new and somewhat controversial BitCoin. To help determine how much each metal was worth, some vendors (including Silver Circle) helped customers out by displaying the conversion rates for each metal, as well as exchanging federal reserve notes (or as it’s known outside of PorcFest: dollars) for the hard metal currency, usually stamped with the insignia of whichever vendor was distributing the coins. Some experienced PorcFest visitors brought liberty dollars with them, knowing that they could be used to buy what they wanted. It was an interesting display of how an economy based on sound money and bartering would function, and although it was very small in scale, it was an effective system that nearly everybody participated in, and could be held up as an example in the ongoing feud over our nation’s monetary system.

The festival even had some big players in the growing liberty movement come by, such as talk-show host and libertarian activist Adam Kokesh (“Adam vs. The Man”), Canadian philosopher Stefan Molyneux, economist Dan D’Amico, and even a brief visit by Presidential Candidate Gary Johnson. Each of these members of the liberty movement either held conferences with festival attendees or broadcast their radio shows on Free Talk Live, the ultra-libertarian internet radio channel, which aired from the festival in front of a live audience. Each discussed the future of the liberty movement, as well as commending the Free State Project and PorcFest on bringing so many people together under one banner, as well as the occasional ripping on mainstream media and mainstream political thought.

I came to PorcFest knowing about its quasi-anarchic underpinnings, which unnerved me a bit, but after meeting some of the people and experiencing this kind of community for a few days, I gained a new appreciation for small government principles and the idea of personal responsibility. While I still have my doubts about the realistic nature of anarchy as a governing concept, PorcFest is a place where personal responsibility works as a means of accountability, and where decentralized currency can work in a free market economy. If you believe in the principles of small government, and letting personal accountability rule rather than rule of law, PorcFest is your kind of place, and it is well worth the trip up for a few days of almost complete liberty.

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