After much painstaking arrangement of logistics, I managed to make it to PorcFest this year. Since becoming a libertarian in 2010 and learning about the Free State Project later on, I had wanted to attend for two or three years, but could not get it together. Finally this year, I bought the ticket early in the hopes that I would be more impelled to go. I was not able to attend the whole week because my original rides did not work out, but I did get there for three days. And those three days were wonderful, in spite of the mid-week rain.
New Hampshire is a whole different world for someone born and raised in New Jersey, a bit to the south. The people are nicer, the air is cleaner, the culture is palpably different. The bus ride from Boston to Manchester was one of the most pleasant and relaxing ever. I waited for my new friend Hans to pick me up and drive the nearly two hours to Rogers Campground in Lancaster. While in Manchester, I got lunch and was a bit shocked to see sales tax on the receipt. It turns out sales tax is only applied to services like restaurants and hotels. And its 9%. Avoid those, and what you see is what you pay!
Beyond the roadside forests that we also have in New Jersey, there were an inordinate number of WARNING: MOOSE CROSSING signs on the road, something I had heard about previously. Like many things, you have to see it to believe it. Eventually, we arrived at the campground and one of the first things I saw was a man open carrying a pistol. Growing up in New Jersey and rarely visiting the inner areas of a territory that doesnt oppose self defense, it was a small shock. It was awesome. Here I was, in one of the freest places in America.
After taking a brief tour with Hans, and meeting a few people he knew, I noticed a lot of men had beards. Being one of the only bearded, let alone seriously bearded (not close-cropped) men in my social circles back home, it was nice to feel I was among my own kind in that respect. Beyond that, I also like coming to libertarian events because I dont have to argue with anyone about fundamentals. Everyone knows the government is bad, the Fed needs to be ended, the police state is growing, etc. Its not like trying to convince my mother that states should be allowed to license insurance companies to offer competing license plates (future blog post). Even with state regulation, that still was too outlandish. So to be here at the premier event in liberty was mind-blowing.
PorcFest is best described as half political conference and half Woodstock, albeit with less drugs and more guns (some would beg to differ, but I rarely smelled marijuana). There were over 200 workshops and seminars about various topics from DIY lockpicking, knitting, and building an AR-15 to social media outreach, renouncing federal citizenship, and building a mesh network. There were also a few bands, three DJed parties, and a decent amount of food and merchandise vendors. There are more events to attend than you have time to attend, so some choices in the market have to be made. Fortunately, almost everything was videotaped and is being uploaded somewhere.
If you are looking for an unregulated marketplace where you can buy stuff with silver and bitcoin rather than federal reserve scrip (future blog post), then Agora Valley is the place to be. A dozen or so people sold food ranging from carnival fare to burgers to curry chicken, homemade ice cream, and more. Additionally, several people sold fresh vegetables, spices, even fish. Beyond the main vending area, several people set up open grills to sell food. Just about everyone offers up bacon or something that includes bacon, making the place a bit difficult and uncomfortable for Jews and Muslims. Food options were a bit limited and many did complain that prior years had more, so anyone with unique culinary skills may find hungry libertarians with bated breath lining up.
One thing completely lacking was even private regulation. How do you know your food is safe? Vendors seemed to be split about 50-50 between practicing proper hygiene and touching your food after taking your money. While probably safe when food is cooked, it would be devastating if someone died at one of these events from food poisoning. Perhaps a niche business idea for someone would be to inspect and certify places as meeting certain cleanliness standards.
Regular merchandise was a bit more lacking, with shirts being the main offering. One booth sold black and yellow flags, of which I bought two. A few sold crafts and artwork. One guy sold ice and firewood, which certainly is convenient for many. This is another area ripe for entrepreneurs, and something I hope to figure out next year.
A big event I was encouraged to spend $9 on was the One Pot Cookoff, which is a contest that anyone can enter by cooking up a large portion of food for contestants to sample and judge. Unfortunately, a lot of things had pork in them, limiting my participation a bit. Some of the food was good, but I honestly think it was not worth it. However, it was something that changed from last year and may have been better last year.
The best thing that there was on offer were all the people to meet. I met dozens of people, half of whom I already forgot. Most attendees were American, but there were a few Canadians, Mexicans, and others. In any case, I met people who have moved to New Hampshire with the Free State Project already, along with many people who plan to eventually. It is a great place to network before making the move or just to meet libertarians in general. One thing I like about PorcFest is how it contrasts with more professional events like the International Students for Liberty Conference. While that is a whole suit and tie affair, with stiff presentation and no time to lay back, PorcFest is like a festival and also like living in our end goal society.
Despite planning no accommodations, Hans allowed me to stay in his tent (he preferred his car), showing that even among us greedy bastards, charity can occur. I forgot my blanket, but did have a military tarp that served as a decent blanket, at least until the rain came. It rained all day Wednesday and the tent was pitched on a depression, causing a cold, muddy pool of water to form below the floor tarp. That night I was frigid as I was confined to a small part of the tent that was on solid land, and had to insulate against the cold of the ground, and the air. I certainly recommend being better prepared with a sleeping bag and an adequate tent. This tent had a few leaks and my laptop shorted out, costing me what will end up to be nearly $100 in repairs. I dont know much about camping, but now knowing the quality of tents sold at big box stores that all seem to be made in Bangladesh, I suggest looking elsewhere. You can also RV, which I am hoping to do with a family friend next year. Another issue is that the 1500+ attendees plus regulars backed up the sewer lines, which shut the bathrooms down. On top of that, showers were cold after Thursday (I didnt even bother *sniff sniff*). They had to rent portajohns this year to help alleviate the use, and even that wasnt enough.
All in all, it was a great experience. There was a complaint thread in the Facebook group, and there was drama (that I barely noticed), but I am not going to waste space on some minor negativities. If you have not heard of the Free State Project, look into it! Either way, consider attending PorcFest next year (21-28 June 2015). I will have a Jewish Libertarians tent, several relevant lectures, and several unrelated lectures. I am also working with a few people on a Faith and Freedom Panel. I am hoping to be moved to New Hampshire myself by then, b`ezratYah.
Help bring Jewish Libertarians to PorcFest 2015 by donating here.