I have started and then deleted this post at least 8 times today. Â There are so many ideas, so many stories, so many nextÂ actions that I think its too big for one post. Â Plus all of it probably needs some time to digest before it will make any sense. Â So instead of trying to capture it all, I’m going to simply get across the top level idea that wasÂ rolling around in my head as I made the 16.5 hour drive home from my firstÂ Porcfest yesterday.
The Porcupine Freedom Festival (aka Porcfest) was held last week in Lancaster, NH at the Roger’s campground. Â Porcfest is a project of the Free State ProjectÂ and last week was it’s 11th incarnation, although it was the first that I attended. Â It would have been tough for me to put into words what Porcfest is before I went – and its even tougher now that I have been there. Â The simplest description is that its sort of a cross between Woodstock and Burning man…except its in New Hampshire…and its organized by libertarians. Â Instead of music or art though, the central theme of porcfest is freedom – what it is, what keeps us from it and how to get more of it.
I hadn’t even heard of porcfest a year ago. Â I barely knew anything about libertarianism, classical liberalism or anarcho-capitalism. Â 12 months ago I’d never heard of Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard or Hans-Herman Hoppe, much less read anything they have written. Â Through a series of interesting circumstances, chance encounters and good fortune, all of these conditions changed. Â Not only had I heard of porcfest, but I had a ticket to attend in hand (OK, it was virtual and was paid for in bitcoin), a campground reservation, and driving directions.
Again, I am not going to try to describe everything I experienced, while I was there, much less everything that went on. Â Attempts to catalog each experience are what lead to the ‘CTL-A’ + ‘Delete’ 8 times before this. Â However, here are a few examples of what went on through the week after arriving mid-day on Wednesday (the one day it rained…all day):
- I participated in 20+ talks, workshops and panel sessions. Â And byÂ participated, I mean more than just employing active listening – porcfest is all about participation. Â Topics ranged from how labels limit the effectiveness of communication to a history of irregular conflict.
- I saw capitalism in its purest form (i.e. with no government interference). Â There was a wifi network that an attendee setup to provide better service than the campground (worked great the first few days before the attendance swelled). Â There were food vendors selling everything from bullet proof coffee to pulled pork to home made ice cream. Â There was a guy selling firewood and ice (I had to take to opportunity to buy wood for bitcoin!). Â There were even kids who got into the act – selling popcorn, glow sticks, painting nails or offering dog sitting services.
- I saw people of all shapes, sizes, creeds, ages, colors and gendersÂ mixed together in relatively close quarters (and for a time without good sanitation facilities…another post). Â Hippies, Grandmas, Â Kids, Â Nerds (or were they Geeks?), Punks, Rednecks – none of them cloistering into their respective groups, but actively engaging with members of all the other groups and doing more than just getting along – thriving, learning, building.
- I traded for food and clothes using silver, bitcoin and (when I had to) cash. Â Both of my kids decided to come with me to porcfest (subject of another post someday…short version = totally cool!). Â I would hand them a few silver dimes and they bought what they wanted / needed through the day for breakfast and lunch.
- I went to some great parties. Â (Probably not the subject of a future post…all pictures have been destroyed ;-).
- I met hundreds of “like-minded” individuals. Â The term “like-minded” individuals needs some explanation here. Â I am using it here for lack of a better word (if you know of one, please let me know so I don’t have to explain myself every time on this point).Â Like-minded is normally used to convey the idea that a group of people have the same view of a particular issue. Â That couldn’t be further from the truth in describing the group at porcfest. Â The reality is thatÂ there wereÂ all sorts of different perspectives, ideas and theories – the only universal seemed to be the non aggression principle. Â I spent a considerable amount of time talking to a few anarcho-communists (don’t worry – I didn’t know what those were a few months ago either) who have very different views from mine on a wide range of ideas, including some pretty basic things like the definition of property. Â Rather than sharing common conclusions, this group of like minded people shared a common approach. Â Everyone I encountered was ready willing and able to use reason, evidence and critical thinking to present their ideas and discuss alternatives. Â There were lots of different results – but everyone was able to “show their work” on how they got there.
After 4 days in Lancaster, the overwhelming feeling I have coming out of porcfest is simply this: Â a peaceful society based on the non-aggression principle is possible and is, in fact, vastly superior to the conditions we find ourselves in today. Â Porcfest is the petri dish (insert sanitation issueÂ jokes here) that creates the evidence that it works in practice, not just in theory. Â If you remove aggression from the equation,Â people won’t starve in the streets, rape and kill each other, or generally devolve into being ruled by the law of the jungle. Â Absent aggression, people will cooperate, find a way to (profitably) meet each others needs, and will openly share ideas and learn from each other.
A week ago, I thought all of those positivesÂ might be true. Â I wished them to be true. Â I grappled with a few theories that attempted to proved that they are true. Â Now that I’ve been to porcfest I know they are true. Â That is powerful knowledge.