Burning. Thats the smell of PorcFest (and SomaliaFest). Burning wood, burning cannabis, burning tobacco. The scents are constant, but mixed and layered in varying proportions across Rogers Campground in Lancaster, New Hampshire. They linger in your mind a few days afterward, unmistakably reminding you of the great fun you had last week. I decided somewhat at the last minute to go, after joining the boycott last year in response to the banning of Ian Freeman, the controversial activist host of Free Talk Live. Attendance declined sharply that year, and continues to remain down this year. Where there used to be nearly a dozen pancake vendors strewn about the camp, there are now only a few. Most of the campground used to be filled with EZUPs, tents, and RVs; now its more sparse.
Unlike in 2015, I didnt come to represent Jewish Libertarians. I didnt have the time to put anything together. I always buy tickets in advance (you should too, around February), and then decide later. Nevertheless, I did a little bit of outreach and ended up sharing a plot with my good friend Will Coley at Muslims 4 Liberty. It seems worth noting that Jews and Muslims might live side by side, but the two groups have never really been more in conflict than Jews and Christians. In spite of current hostilities in Israel, its not uncommon to find Muslim and Jewish shopkeepers side by side, both selling IDF and PLO shirts together and the only conflict they have is who gets the customers and who gives the better discount.
After the banning of Ian Freeman last year from “Free State Project” events, a number of prominent individuals up here in New Hampshire opted to boycott that festival. I ended up going to Europe to help with the Brexit campaign and had the time of my life. Incidentally, the man who made that possible at minimal cost to me, I met at PorcFest the previous year. Many people still wanted to have a festival, but didnt want to support PorcFest. They tried to create a SomaliaFest, first in the back corner of the campground, then considering another campground, before it fell apart. This year, somehow, it came together, perhaps more easily because PorcFest dropped from a week to a four day event. Many people still wanted a week long fest, so they just booked camping spots for the whole week. It went beyond a compromise. Even Ian was able to be around for SomaliaFest and see people he had not seen in two years. Thats one of the main reasons I went; its been quite some time since Ive seen some faces, and it was well worth it.
Thats what great about PorcFest. You get to meet people in the community up here and at large. The event might be half New Hampshire movers and residents, another half of supporters and potentials, along with a smattering of those born on the wrong side of the line, who cant make refugee status or slip in from Mexico before the wall gets built. The friendships made at PorcFest go a long way. Some have mentioned finding spouses there in the past (to be honest, most women seem to have come with a partner, unlike other events) and a few of the teenagers Ive met there seem to be in long distance relationships. But even aside from that, you can meet great people for a week who share your views in the freest and openest event in the world for libertarians. Its also the largest of its kind, but more about living liberty than learning about it in other conferences.
Living liberty is one of the best ways to describe it. In mere hours, a big open campground becomes filled with popup tents, sleeping tents, RVs, food trucks, and people. A literal tent city of libertarians immersing in the dream, if only for a week. Food, drugs, and merchandise are openly traded with so-called FRNs (dollars), silver, bitcoin, dash, and occasional barter. A kid traded me a magnet for a candybar. I wanted to trade a voluntaryism bracelet for an ancapball magnet, but by the time I thought of it, I couldnt find the girls selling them. Some girl was short 50c, and left me a lighter with a note hoping it was ok. It wasnt, but it makes a great story Ive now told over a dozen times.Talks and activities range all over the place from how to live liberty and advocate for it, to craft projects and minor sporting events. You can see some prominent speakers, such as Overstocks Patrick Byrne or Lyn Ulbricht, the mother of alleged Silk Road founder, Ross. You can learn how to set up a mesh network. You can meet people from each of the six regions of the state to decide what place is best for you. Firearms classes run several times during the week. There are things for all ages from tiny tots to fully grown adults.
The state might not actually exist here (unless you want to count the FSP Board and PorcRangers security). Indeed, two years ago, revenue agents were turned away by a couple dozen people with cameras, security, and the campground owner, who explained it was a private event and prepared food tax doesnt apply. One of the three town police showed up one day this year to check in with the owner. They know we are here and what we are about, but its their job to build a communication line. While this unnerved people, he soon went away, and one suspects any state agents would not last long before being hounded with many cell phone cameras and loud mouths at the least. Not to mention, many people walk around visibly armed. I am not sure I want to know if they would use them, but the state agents seem to know to mind their own business.
In this supposed power vacuum, commerce runs free, drugs are somewhat openly used and exchanged. Cannabis is constantly visible and passed around; you might get offered a hit every now and then. Mushrooms, ecstasy, and acid are also available here and there. Even moonshine was visibly offered in mason jars. I was asked where to get stuff by some people, and I responded “I dont know myself, but it wont take you long to find what you want.” You might see someone walking around with a bottle of whiskey or a wagon of beers for free, but charging $5 for a plastic cup, or a recommended donation. Poker tables spring up, and there is talk of blackjack next year. Rarely do any problems occur and petty thefts seem minimal, probably inebriated mistakes.
Its safe to say that if the festival didnt end, these tents would soon be replaced by plywood shacks, and more goods and services would be available. People would settle in and take root. I suspect most libertarians would be happy just to have one city for us where we could do all of this every day of every year, like old Kowloon in HongKong. Where everything would be legal, provided it did not hurt someone without their full competent consent. Just one city. Until then, we have to settle for a week in the woods of northern New Hampshire.
PorcFest (and SomaliaFest) typically occurs the last four days of the last full week in June. It is the best way to discover New Hampshire and meet the people that will help you make your move with as little friction as possible. SomaliaFest occurs during the earlier part of the week, and is less structured.