28 Jun 2012

My Time at Porcfest 2012

Humor, Shameless Self-Promotion 19 Comments

On Sunday I returned from five days in Lancaster, NH at “Porcfest,” short for the Porcupine Freedom Festival. (The porcupine is the mascot, because it doesn’t attack but can ably defend itself.) My first experience was at Porcfest 2011, where I had a blast, and once again Porcfest 2012 turned out to be my favorite week of the year. In this article I’ll explain why I now save up my vacation for this event, and why it’s relevant to everyone who loves liberty.

The first thing to say about Porcfest is that it’s a lot of fun. Now admittedly, some of this comes from the fact that there are plenty of libertarians who are “Friends” on Facebook, and they only get to meet at events like this. But beyond that, it is undeniably true that Porcfest differs from most other official liberty events, because it is located at a campground. It started out as a simple gathering of liberty-minded individuals who wanted to camp and talk about these issues, and kept growing over the years so that now its total attendance in a given year breaks 1,000.

I have described Porcfest as “Woodstock for libertarians” only half in jest. There really are bands, all of whom support liberty and several of whom play music specifically in that vein (such as Jordan Page with his Ron Paul-themed songs). And where else would I have the opportunity to say this?

Yet Porcfest is more than a week-long party. As the crowds have grown, it’s made sense for the organizers to bring in speakers. For example, last year I spoke on the possibility of Stateless legal systems, while this year I was on one panel discussing Austrian Economics and gave a separate talk on what money and banking would look like in an unregulated market. This year also featured talks from economists Ben Powell on the economic analysis of sweatshops, and Dan D’Amico on prison privatization.

There’s something more, though, that conveys just how unique Porcfest is. To understand this aspect, you need to realize that Porcfest is an offshoot of the Free State Project (FSP), which has the slogan, “Liberty in our lifetime.” The FSP has chosen New Hampshire as its target site, and encourages the mobile and liberty-minded to move to the state. (Currently 1,039 people have moved to New Hampshire under the auspices of the FSP.)

Although some view the FSP as an effort to implement small government at the local level (through concentrating libertarian voters in a small geographical area), the broader goal is simply to immerse oneself in a community of people who believe that voluntary social arrangements are preferable to coercive ones. Although they know they are still beholden to the claims of the federal government, the participants in the FSP try to deal with each other through peaceful means, turning to arbitration brokered by other Free Staters rather than the police when problems arise.

Within this context, we can now talk about some of the other events at a typical Porcfest. In addition to the speeches on academic, theoretical topics, there are also very practical panels telling people how to find a job and an apartment if they move to New Hampshire, how to homeschool one’s children without running afoul of state laws, and how to navigate the legal system if one wants to engage in activism (such as protesting outside City Hall, handing out leaflets at the airport decrying the TSA, etc.).

It is because Porcfest is composed of hundreds of people who are living out their professed lifestyle, that I was so taken with the event last year. As I walked out of an event on homeschooling, I saw food vendors who accepted silver and Bitcoin, as well as U.S. dollars (or “FRNs”—Federal Reserve Notes—as the Porcfest attendees disparagingly call them). At the same time, there were dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people openly carrying guns and large knives, yet everyone felt perfectly safe. Indeed, many parents bring young children to Porcfest, where there are fun events designed especially for them. At other libertarian conferences, you can hear speeches on what a free society might look like, but at Porcfest, you see it—at least a glimpse—with your own eyes. Even though my entire career has focused on the study and advocacy of a society based on voluntary relations, I myself believed in the vision more, after visiting Porcfest in 2011.

The event is certainly not for everyone—I imagine many social conservatives would feel uncomfortable—and the Free State Project is obviously not the long-term solution to an overbearing government: We can’t all move to New Hampshire. Even so, I am a strong supporter of what the people in the FSP are doing, because they provide a real-world model of how libertarianism could work. Moreover, as any free market economist knows, as more minds are incorporated into a project, the more likely it is that great ideas will emerge.

For example, last year I became hooked on one vendor’s signature dish called a “Thai-rrito,” a Thai version of a burrito that consists of chicken curry and rice, rolled into a flour tortilla. Someone told me that at PorcFest 2010 the vendor had realized that people didn’t want to sit down with a plate to eat their curry — they had friends’ campers to visit and beer to drink! So the Thai-rrito, which could easily be eaten while walking, was developed in response to the needs of the consumer.

For a more significant development, I ran into some guys who had laminated a business card containing a U.S. pre-1964 dime. On the back of the card was a table showing how much silver such dimes and quarters contain, and what their market value was when silver was $30/oz. This technique allows people to easily engage in commerce using silver, but with little risk of the government cracking down on the operation. After all, how can the feds object if people are buying things with official U.S. coins?

Those who desire more freedom have adopted many different strategies to achieve their goals. Although it can’t be the only technique, the plan of the Free Staters is worthwhile. In any event, adventurous liberty lovers should check out Porcfest 2013!

19 Responses to “My Time at Porcfest 2012”

  1. Ivan Ivanov says:

    Is it just me, or does it seem like all the venom. pent up from reading all the Keynesians and MMTers, get released at innocent PorcFest attendants?
    There’s no justice in the world, I tell ya…

  2. Christopher says:

    Have you seen some foreigners there or is it mainly an American thing. I’d love to have a Free State Project here in Europe.

    • Toni says:

      Christopher, don’t know that they were residents or visitors – but I heard some accents. There was someone who was from Germany and someone from Scotland and there was also a man there who was from France. There may have been others, but those are the three that I saw. Be great to have a Free State Project in Europe, but gotta start with somewhere that is at least somewhat libertarian leaning.

    • Jason says:

      I didn’t go this year, but in prior years I met people who flew over from various foreign countries including South America, but mostly Europe. At the last Porcfest I attended, I went hiking with an older woman (perhaps 65′ish years of age) that flew over from Scotland just for the event.

      I thought that was interesting, that such an event wouldn’t just lure a young person over on such a long trip, but even a relatively old(er) person. *ducks as older people throw shoe at me for calling them old*

      Even odder (to me) was that she was partaking in some semi-covert “smoking related activities” with some of the younger people on the hike. What that means, I don’t know… but… lots of people are attracted to the Project for lots of reasons, I guess.

  3. Andrew says:

    If anyone is interested in reading more about Bitcoin at Porcfest, I found this article very interesting: http://blog.bitinstant.com/blog/2012/6/27/porcfest-2012-bitinstant-and-the-bernanke-bitcoin-exchange.html

  4. MamMoTh says:

    I’d rather describe Porcfest as a Star Trek convention for aliens.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      MamMoTh continues in his proud tradition of spouting strong insults on topics where he is completely ignorant.

      It’s true, if you went to a random libertarian conference from 10 or more years ago, then the “Star Trek” label would work. But it really doesn’t anymore, and certainly not at Porcfest. Indeed, the joke there is that there is too much promiscuity, not that it’s a bunch of nerdy guys trying to meet a girl.

      • MamMoTh says:

        I reckon you’ve never been to a Star Trek convention for aliens.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Not yet. Also, MamMoTh, in case you haven’t noticed the pattern, I’m deleting your comments that have actual profanity in them. On the off chance that you want to refrain from being a complete jerk, you could stop wasting my time by continually posting them.

          • MamMoTh says:

            Your opportunity costs are of no concern to me

            • Major_Freedom says:

              You alright MamMoTh? You sound like you’re having some trouble in your life. Something happen?

              • Ken B says:

                Insert obligatory Kafka Metamorphosis joke here.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                That’s an insult to the bug.

  5. Rob says:

    Economics, religion, the design of the universe, and now the theory of comedy – this blog really has it all.

  6. Ken B says:

    Ohhhh, protest songs. I LIKE protest songs. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yygMhtNQJ9M

  7. Joseph Fetz says:

    Bob, it might be easier for me to show up next year. I am currently shooting my resumé to NH employers.

  8. Ivan Georgiev says:

    @Ivan Ivanov, if you a Bulgarian and a libertarian would you please contact me at corrales@abv.? :)

  9. Anonymous Freedom Lover says:

    Dr. Murphy, I strongly recommend moving to NH if you can, or at least advocate moving to NH. We already know NH is far freer than anywhere else in America, probably the world. Free staters are doing great work to make NH more free, and with all the statism propping up everywhere else in the USA freedom lovers will soon have no other option but to move to the Shire. What do you think?

  10. noiselull says:

    So you are now a certified New World Order plant in the Liberty movement.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9lRQzrYB5c

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