If you want to know how we got to where we are

So I’m back on Facebook.  Porcfest pulled me back in since that seems to be the default way to connect.  Jeffrey Tucker should give free accounts for liberty.me to everyone at Porcfest so we can get off Zuckerburg’s platform.  Anyway, with the 4th of July being less than 24 hours away, my feed is filled with flags waving, eagles soaring and quotes / images of the declaration of independence.

So I consider it another incident of synchronicity that in catching up on the podcasts I missed when I was up in the woods of NH last week, that I played Prof. CJ’s Dangerous History show about Shays’ Rebellion today.  I had heard of Shays’ rebellion before, but honestly I had thought it was the same thing as the Whiskey rebellion…there’s government school education for you ;-).  (For those interested, Prof CJ’s most recent show is on the Whiskey Rebellion.  I haven’t listened yet, but plan to tomorrow).

I encourage you to download / stream the podcast.  If you want to understand how we got to where we are, I think it’s more interesting to look at the end of the American war for independence that it is to look at the beginning.

Going bare(foot)

A minor epiphany last week when I was at Porcfest.  After Tuesday’s deluge, everything was wet, including my sandals.  On Wednesday, rather than walk around in them and rub my feet raw as they dried, I decided to go barefoot for the day (yes, I am becoming a dirty hippie ;-).  I go shoeless sometimes at home, especially when gardening, so my feet are accustomed to being without shoes, but nonetheless, about halfway through the day they were getting pretty sore.

The then epiphany: despite the conscious decision to go barefoot for perfectly logical reasons, I had continued to make the unconscious decision to walk on the paved roads throughout the campground, even though I could have easily made it almost everywhere I wanted to go walking on grass.  I had made a change in order to be more comfortable (not wearing wet sandals all day) but had ended up being just as uncomfortable because I didn’t change the path I took to get places.

I learned a lot about liberty last week, but this was perhaps my deepest insight.

The confederate flag and marriage equality – meaning(ful) control

While I was away on my adventure last week the world moved on without me with discussions and decisions about the meanings of both flags and marriage. The narrative on these two topics is actually more related than one might think at first glance.  Stick with me for a few hundred more words and I’ll do my best to make my case.

First, the flag. The confederate flag (also known as, at least where I come from anyway, the “stars and bars”) was the flag of the conferdreation of southern states that attempted to secede from the federal union in 1861.  Flags, like language, exist both as physical items in and of themselves, but also as symbols for something else.  A flag is nothing more than some fabric and dye at the most basic level.  At this level they are no different than any of the clothes in your closet.  But unlike that shirt you got from your Aunt Sally last Christmas (that you never wear but can’t throw away), the main purpose of a flag is to stand in as a symbol.  In most cases flags are symbols of allegience, with a particular group or of a particular ideology.  When the stars and bars was first unfurled it stood as a symbol for all sorts of things to all sort of people: the right of self determination, the emergence of a new nation, and, yes, the preservation of the morally corrupt practice of chattel slavery.

Regardless of the original meaning that that flag held for those that rallied around it in the 1860s, all of them, save one, have been lost to us. Over time, for a variety of intentional as well as accidental actions, only one meaning remains for a majority of the population.  For the purpose of communication, it doesn’t matter what any single individual believes something means if a majority of those you are trying to communicate with think it means something else.  You can still express yourself in more complete terms, not using the symbol as shorthand, but the symbol who’s meaning is not understood is no longer an effective way to communicate your idea.

So now on to gay marriage.  More than 26 million people on Facebook cheered last week’s SCOTUS decision, but I wonder if they really understood what just happened?  In order to understand the SCOTUS decision we have to recognize that marriage often exists in two domains simultaneously: it exists as a legal agreement AND as a spiritual agreement (I am trying to use a more general word than religious here – as I am thinking of it spiritual includes the subset of religious agreements).  The decision last week only has jurisdiction on the former of course.  Even after last week’s ruling, each couple will be left to determine whether they want to pursue a spiritual component and if so, where and how to do that.

When you boil away all the pontificating and bloviating from the opinion it basically says this: Homosexuals have the same permission as Heterosexuals to enter into a contract with one another.  Wow.  Thanks Supreme Court.  The obvious question (to me anyway) is: Why do two (or more…but that’s another post) consenting adults of any gender or orientation need permission from anyone else to enter into any arrangement they choose so long as it doesn’t materially harm anyone outside of the agreement?  Who owns them if they don’t own themselves?  Marriage licenses have only been around since the mid nineteenth century and I think many on both sides of the marriage equality debate would be surprised to learn their origins.

I know I am putting on my 20/20 hindsight goggles when I say that I wish I could go back in time and start a movement to get the state out of marriage altogether as an answer to not only the gay marriage question, but as a small step to role back it’s intrusion into all sorts of places that it shouldn’t be.  We have to find a way to see that all of the petty differences that divide us pale in comparison to the one issue that unites us: our individual liberty.  Our natural born rights as human beings of self determination and self ownership.  To do what we want with our property (including our bodies) as long as it doesn’t infringe on anyone else’s rights to do the same with theirs.  If we all join together to work on that, then each of our lives will get better AND we’ll all get better together.  I know its difficult for the two sides of the marriage equality debate to see through their differences, but if we can’t then the divide and conquer tactics will continue to be successful and we will all find ourselves less and less free.

Instead the marriage equality ruling actually limits freedom because it expands the power of the state.  Permission was sought and granted…and now even more people have to live under the terms dictated by the state.  Rather than freeing working to free the inmates, we expanded the prison so everyone could get 3 hots and a cot…not realizing what we gave up in exchange.

So how are the SCOTUS ruling and the Confederate flag related?  By asking the state for marriage permission, not only do we give up more personal liberty, we also cede the right to define what marriage is.  The state becomes the not only the arbiter of who can be married, but also what marriage even means.  Regardless of orientation or belief system, most couples I know get married as a symbolic gesture of public love and commitment that goes far beyond a legal contract.  In seeking the protection and benefits of the contract, will the larger meaning of marriage be lost to history?

Of course this isn’t an original idea…

“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thought-crime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten. . . . The process will still be continuing long after you and I are dead. Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller. Even now, of course, there’s no reason or excuse for committing thought-crime. It’s merely a question of self-discipline, reality-control. But in the end there won’t be any need even for that. . . . Has it ever occurred to you, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now?”

– George Orwell, 1984



Porclog day 6 (last day)

Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end.

– Semisonic

(Note: I am posting this on Monday at home since (a) the porcfest wifi completely crapped out for me on Saturday and I was driving for 16 hours yesterday to get home.  So all references to yesterday and today should be mentally adjusted to Friday and Saturday.  Carry on.)

The last day of Porcfest has arrived. Last night was a blast, but honestly seemed a little lower key than Thursday night. Perhaps everyone had gone a bit too hard on Thursday (the poker table was lively when I went to get rid of some used beer around 4 AM) or perhaps they are saving up for tonight. I guess I’ll know in a few hours ;-).

The Krav class went well with another 30-40 people learning a bit about self defense. At the start of the class a few folks approached and asked if it would be OK to video the session.  I told them sure and (somewhat snarkily) asked if it was for their youtube channel.  The guy said, “Yeah, we have a YouTube channel.  It’s youtube.com/….CNN.”  So that started off great.  I am sure that if I avoid the cutting room floor it will only be in support of a headline along the lines of “Extremist Libertarian group trains for combat in the woods of New Hampshire”.   That or something about child abuse since Kendall was my demo partner (although I may have screwed that one up for them since I had her do most of the demos on me).  After the session, Kendall and I got some good bulgogi and I ended up helping getting the fire restarted before the usual hours of meeting new and old friends and discussing everything from whether Rand (Ayn) really liked Mises or she was just looking to get laid to the best way to build a business.

I think I am finally getting used to sleeping in the tent (of course the night before I leave) since I slept to almost 8 this morning. I made some coffee, used the last little bit of cream then set about packing up all the non essentials, the idea being to just leave one tent a change of clothes and sleeping bags so we can make a fast get away in the morning. We aren’t roughing it by any stretch of the imagination although we’re not quite glamping either. Nonetheless, it has been an interesting time of practicing a bit of stoicism:

“Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with course and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: ‘Is this the condition that I feared?’”

– Seneca

We haven’t spent nearly all the money we brought, because we just haven’t needed too. Mason selling some bracelets helped too since he was partially self supporting.  Through the whole week, we’ve been really well fed, and honestly quite comfortable despite living very simply. Is this what people are so afraid of when they worry about doing with less? It’s not so bad.  And in some ways its quite good!

One of the last things packed from the non-essential pile was my book (and reading glasses…sigh).  I didn’t quite finish my book on this trip, but I did get far enough into it (only 100 pages or so left to go) to see a striking synchronicty with this trip. For this trip I picked The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell (90 second review coming when I do manage to finish it) from the ever increasing reading pile (it actually got bigger with all the books I picked up at the event…I need a month long reading vacation).

Campbell was a comparative mythologist and developed the theory of the monomyth: the idea that all mythology (and also dreams) are structured around a common story, which he calls the Hero’s Journey. It’s a fascinating read, but two warnings.  First, if you read it it will ruin almost every book you read and movie you see after you understand the structure, since you can’t help but seeing it everywhere you look.  Second, it’s a little “trippy”.  Not Tibetan Book of the dead trippy, but some of my new objectivist friends from porcfest would probably put it down after the first 20 pages.

The basic structure of the hero’s journey is the departure, the initiation and the return.  For me, Porcfest has all three elements.  To be clear, I am not calling my self a hero in any sort of self aggrandizing sense – merely the sense that almost everyone is the hero (at least some / most of the time) of their own personal narrative.

For me the call came in the fall of 2013, listening to the Bad Quaker podcast.  I was new to the concepts espoused by Ben and the others I listened to, but I was immediately hooked: the philosophy of liberty is consistent with reality as I have experienced it and was backed by water tight reason/logic.  Ben mentioned Porcfest a few times on his shows and I added it to my someday-maybe list.  A few weeks later, in a fit of “get things off my list” suddenly I was registered and had reserved a tent site.  That was last year’s Porcfest, which, in another similarity to Campbell’s book, served as the call for me to attend this year.  I had such an amazing time last year, that I had to do it again.  And this time for the whole week.

This past week at Porcfest has definitely been an initiation.  No there were no goats or paddles (and yes I was in a fraternity in college.  Don’t ask.  I can’t tell you.  It’s secret). While there I get to see with my own eyes how the free society actually works. There are all sorts of people here and all sorts of different ideas and interests…and some of them are armed. Vendors leave their stands unattended with drop boxes and QR codes posted for payments.  But there isn’t theft or physical altercation (plenty of verbal sparring sometimes though)  because the one thing that everyone there agrees on is that we are each self owners.  It’s amazing how that one simple idea changes everything, both in how you conduct yourself and how you treat others.  What Porfest makes me understand at a deep level is that all a shift to a free society need’s is for just a few more people to accept this idea.  After that everything else is just a fireside discussion.

And yesterday was the return.  Having been to the mountain, the hero often finds it difficult to return to the life he had before. In Campbell’s monomyth, however, the return is necessary, since its only by returning that the hero can bring the knowledge and insight he gained during his adventure to the regular world and affect change on a larger scale.  This is where I resonated with the book – it is hard for me to leave Porcfest. I will have to start locking my car again.  I’ll have to start using paper money again.  I’ll have to start watching what I say and to whom again.  A few things make it easier though.  First, I am heading home to see my wife who has yet to make the trip with us to Porcfest.  She’s mostly on board with the philosophy but just isn’t a camper.  Next year I am springing for a hotel room AND a camp site.  The best of both worlds.  Second, I am leaving both relaxed and energized.  I know I can make a difference if I do nothing more than try to live life each day away from Porcfest like I do when I am there.  If I can be the change I want to see as Tucker quoted Ghandi earlier in the week.  If I get a chance to have a conversation with someone and plant the seeds of liberty in their mind, so be it.  But if not, I know I can lead by example and that will have a positive effect.  It’s a natural by product of being a self actualized self owner.

And last but not least: Porcfest XIII day 1 is only 358 days away.

  The Metalith vending machine at Porfest. To me this is the perfect symbol of porcfest: everything from ammo to granola bars to pregnancy tests for sale. You can pay with bitcoin and I understand the machine itself is actually a full node in the blockchain.
Anarchist children run amok.
Burning the hog in effigy.

Porclog day 4 (and 5)

Combined day post today. Things are starting to get busy and the wifi is starting to suck.

Two highlights from yesterday. First, I got the change to shake hands and talk with Stephan Kinsella. I listened to Stephan’s podcast a lot when I was first discovering the liberty movement. He’s solid on the evils of intellectual property (a talk he’s giving in just a bit that will cause me to finish this post) and is among the best I have heard in applying libertarian anarchist principles to real world situations with a solid logic trail. Second, was the pre-screening of the movie Deep Web about the Silk Road and Ross Ulbricht’s alleged (now convicted) role in it’s creation. The popular myth is that the trial was all about drug’s, but it’s clear to me after watching the movie (narrated by Keanu Reeve’s BTW) that his real crime was disobeying. Ross’ mom, Lynn, did a Q&A afterward and she is the face of strength. I don’t know how she keeps it up. If you care at all about your digital freedom, or your freedom in general, watch the movie when it hits Netflix and Amazon in the fall and check out the defense fund site and donate if you can.

Two highlights from the day today so far as well. First was a debate between Stephan and Will (from the Atlas Society) on the topic of anarchism. I love the debate format since, when its done correctly, it really is a way to develop a deeper understanding of an issue while at the same time developing your own logic and rhetoric skills. I would say the Stephan was the winner as the position Will took seemed to have some pretty gaping holes. The biggest being that the current situation we find ourselves in is the result of competition between defense agencies (i.e. state to state warfare) so reducing that competition would reduce the violence. It seems to me that there are actually fewer states globally today than there were 500 years ago, yet the violence has only increased. I know he would call me an empiricist, but the correlation seems strong to me. The second was getting to see a real live ghost gunner turn an ordinary hunk of metal (80% lower actually) into a gun (an AR lower actually). And no, it didn’t immediately jump off the table and kill all of us that were watching.

The thing that the Silk Road and the Ghost Gunner have in common is they are practical forms of liberty activism. They are actually useful to people AND they point out to everyone that cares to look how ridiculous even trying to regulate things has become. And if they look a little further, they’ll realize it was always that way.

I’ve got one more Krav session to give this afternoon (after the IP talk by Stephan) and then one of the 2 big parties to end things up. Day 6 (last day :-() starts soon.

Porclog day 3

Porcfest is starting to pick up some steam.  The “population” seems to have doubled in the last 24 hours.  In addition to new campers (and hotelers I suppose) there are also a few new vendors.  I must admit that I am frequenting them a bit less than last year.  I think I might have this camping thing down and have a good kitchen setup in the camp sight so we’ve been snacking / eating there a lot more.

I attended a few sessions (those are also picking up steam), the best of which has to be the one-two punch of a rousing call to personal action from Jeffrey Tucker followed by a re-enactment of Rothbard’s Mozart was a Red with Mr. Tucker reprising his role as the aliased Nathaniel Branden (who comes off as Rand’s bulldog in the dramatization).

The speech was a short recollection of the change that occurred in the liberty movement in the 70s, with Rothbard emerging as an intellectual center and the Koch brothers money providing a financial center resulting in a sole focus on the political aspect.  The movement seemed to stay focused on the political domain for nearly three decades until the early 2000s when for some unknown reason (the theory was floated that perhaps it was start of porcfest) the personal element was reintroduced.  Mr. Tucker’s speech (sorry for being so formal, but he does wear a bow tie everywhere he goes so it seems appropriate) really struck a cord with me.  I have always been put off by the idea that the system can be used to reform the system, although I wish those that are pursuing that work the best.  The call to first “be the change you want to see” (channelling Gandhi) was well needed and well heard.  Look for the youtube video when it gets posted.  Same for the play.

Kendall and I headed up to get some BBQ (with Bitcoin of course).  I actually haven’t spent much junk silver this time around.  Between more vendors taking Bitcoin and the cellular network holding together (so far), it’s been Bitcoin for everything.  Mason took a break from his bracelet sales.  He said he had enough to get what he needed for the day ;-).  He also was the star of the show providing color commentary for the dodgeball game.  I wish my phone had been charged – a video of that would be priceless.

I ended the night by the bonfire, a bit later than I had planned since I ended up meeting a bunch of new folks.  Frank from Indiana, Morten (sp?) from Norway, Josiah and Mike from Virginia and Jessie from Tennessee.  Great night and day 4 starts now.

Porclog day 2

Glad that’s over. The annual porcfest deluge that is. Rain was in the forecast, but the weather guessers missed big time on the frequency and duration. The few campsites that were swamps are now many. Fortunately we were left out of that group.

Other than the weather, it was a great first full day at Porcfest. The big news of the day was Mason’s first success as an entrepreneur.  He and Kendall made Paracord bracelets and an essential oil based spray to soak them in as natural mosquito repellents. Mason did most of the work, but I’ll let them work out the fallacies of the labor theory of value for themselves.

The bigger small seed that was hopefully planted is that he can provide for himself. He can do things that others value and ask for money from them. Although I may need to water that seed a bit since he asked for money at dinner last night for a root beer float 😉 (I did tell him he should look in his own pockets first).

This morning’s wake up call wasn’t rain, but rather crows.  I wish I’d remember to bring my pellet gun. Day 3 starts now.

Campsite drying out after the deluge

Porclog day 1

Safely arrived at Porcfest yesterday around noon yesterday.  Setting the over night at Albany was a much better idea than Utica.  Having an actual reservation at an actual hotel was an even better idea.

After a little later start that I planned (blocked in by a delivery truck at the hotel), the drive up to Lancaster was incident free.  The arrival was a little more exciting with the tail end of this going on as we pulled in:

The conspiracy theorists were quick to blame it all on a false flag organized by Michael W. Dean from a remote bunker in the hills of Wyoming to scare Porcsellers into adopting the bipcot no-gov license.

I was able to keep the kids in the campsite for the first hour to help with the setup which worked out better than expected (low expectations are key!).  The few adds from last year have already come in handy, specifically the Kelty Noah tarp to cover the cooking / common area.  It’s not Porcfest unless its raining.

With camp set, I headed to Agora valley to buy some lunch.  We’re here 2 days earlier than we were last year and there isn’t as much setup yet, so the picking were a little slim, but I was able to grab some awesome BBQ and an all organic, local salad for the girl, all paid for with bitcoin.  It may just be an artifact of being here early, but the 4G is much better than last year.  The bitcoin transactions have all gone through pretty much instantly.  (BTW- the boy didn’t go hungry.  He grabbed some junk silver at the camp site and headed off with his tribe, no doubt eating something deep fried.)

Well fed, I headed down to the lower camp area where the session tents are to find the Creating Communities tent, where I was giving a session later in the day.  I found that, checked in and then it was off to Shaw’s to stock up on the essentials (Beer and Oreo’s).  Bought some ice (with bitcoin),stocked the cooler and headed to my first session, a talk by “The Worst Mom in America” about why we have become so paranoid about our kids.  Pretty entertaining and a few good ideas added to the notebook.

Had to take off a bit early from Lenore’s session to get set for my session.  I was a little nervous about turn out, but had no reason to be – there were about 30 folks there and everybody seemed to have a great time.  Stepping out of my comfort zone was a big win again.


The day ended with another trip through the Agora valley for dinner (bitcoin again) and a hempzel, a few interesting chats with some new friends and a stop at the bonfire before hitting the rack a bit earlier than I will the rest of the week.  The rain started at about 4 AM and it got loud around 6, so awake I was and coffee was started.  Good, slow morning at the campsite then hanging in the media room to get this (and a few other things posted).  Day 2 has begun.

Help fund local business (and pay a farmer or pay a farmer)

The Indiegogo campaign for the local restaurant I have been working with launched today.  Its am ambitious goal, but achievable with your help.  If you believe in local business and/or want to support locally source food / farmers then take a look and buy in.  If you want to support us but are light on cash right now, then share the campaign with all your friends and ask them to support.  Early support matters a lot for the Indiegogo algorithms, so if you are on the fence, a small donation now means more that a larger donation later.  A larger donation now means even more!