I wanted to get to posting something sooner, but had to leave for China about 10 hours after I got home last Sunday. Actually this is earlier than it would have been otherwise courtesy of a seemingly monstrous weather system across the east coast which has delayed the last leg of my flight home for at least 18 hours. I was lucky enough to get a hotel last night (expense accounts can be useful, especially when hotels are
raping you charging surge pricing), but things are still up in the air this morning, so rather than continuing to refresh my Delta app in the hopes that a direct flight will magically appear I’ll collect and share my thoughts on this year’s Free State Project Porcupine Freedom Festival, aka Porcfest.
This year was the 13th running of Porcfest, but only the third that I have attended. That doesn’t quite make me a veteran, but I’m also not a newbie. A (be)tweener maybe? Porcfest has been described a lot of different ways: libertarian burning man, libertarian paradise or a temporary autonomous zone. All of those are true to the people that wrote them. To me Porcfest is a chance to see the principles of liberty in action. To live in a free society, even for a week, to get a feel for what it would be like. This year, as in the two prior, I come away convinced that it can work, that it won’t be easy, and that most of us live with less freedom each day than we imagine.
The biggest thing I learned last year is that each one is different and this year’s certainly served to reinforce that idea. The biggest positive change was the large increase in the number of families in attendance. While the nightly festival wide bonfire is still a bit of a sausage fest, the rest of the campground was a pretty even split between men, women and children. Some I talked to likened it to when Vegas tried to go “kid friendly” (if you’ve been to Vegas lately you know they’ve long since abandoned that idea), but I saw it as a huge positive. This is one of the hopeful signs I am taking away: families are a lot more likely to stay involved over the long haul. Even more, children raised to both know and love liberty will spread it to their friends and pursue it their whole lives.
Still on the positive side, I was able to live for almost the whole week on bitcoin. Other than my trip to the Shaw’s in Lancaster to pick up groceries for the week, all the rest of my purchases were done via the stateless currency. Honestly buying firewood, bullet proof coffee, BBQ, etc. with bitcoin is enough reason to go to Porcfest in and of itself.
So now to some of the negatives. Another big change this year was a perceptible (by me anyway) drop off in attendance, energy and speakers. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining. I still had a great time and will be back again next year. But it seemed obvious to me that there were fewer people there, the overall energy level was down a notch or two from the previous could years (I actually liked it) and the speakers were not nearly as educational or engaging (something that I was not alone in noticing).
I am sure there are a lot of reasons for this, but of course the elephant in the room is the shunning of Ian which resulted in some portion of his supporters boycotting the event. I fully support both the statements that Ian made which purportedly resulted in the shunning AND the right of the FSP to shun him for those statements. I still have a huge stack of books to read before I can cite Rothbard chapter and verse, but I have read enough to know that the right of free association is pretty central to a free society. What we got to see this year is that shunning is hard and it has consequences.
While I am categorizing this is the “con” column, I think long term this rift will be a good thing. As others have said before, there is more than one path to liberty. It reminds me a little of my bees when they swarm. Eventually the hive gets too crowded and so some of the workers decide to make a new queen. When she hatches the hive swarms (after she goes around and stings all the other queens still in their cells to death…that part of it doesn’t remind me of anything in this story ;-). Half of the workers go with the new queen and half stay behind with the old queen. The new queen / workers have a tough go of it for a while, but if they find a good place to build a new hive (or are captured by a friendly bee keeper like yours truly) then in a year or so both the new and old hives are back up to full strength. The bee keeper won’t get as much honey as he would have if they hadn’t swarmed that year, but he’ll get twice as much the following year. So I think with time, the split will give us all more liberty, not less.
The question that everyone asks at Porcfest is “when can we expect to see you in New Hampshire?” After all the event seems designed to give people a little taste of what it’s like to live there all year long. I am still on the fence about getting a place in NH (not necessarily moving full time, but giving my family some options), but I have decided that I won’t sign on with the FSP. That has nothing to do with the specific issue above, but rather what that issue made clear to me: the FSP is a political organization. And I’m just not in to politics. I don’t begrudge those that want to try to achieve liberty through political means. However, I think there are far less treacherous and far more effective ways for me to achieve liberty in my lifetime. That may include spending more time in NH, but it won’t involve trying to vote my way to freedom.
Each Porcfest is different. And I’ll be back next year to see how.