Porcfest reflections from a first time attendee

I have started and then deleted this post at least 8 times today.  There are so many ideas, so many stories, so many next actions that I think its too big for one post.  Plus all of it probably needs some time to digest before it will make any sense.  So instead of trying to capture it all, I’m going to simply get across the top level idea that was rolling around in my head as I made the 16.5 hour drive home from my first Porcfest yesterday.

The Porcupine Freedom Festival (aka Porcfest) was held last week in Lancaster, NH at the Roger’s campground.  Porcfest is a project of the Free State Project and last week was it’s 11th incarnation, although it was the first that I attended.  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.  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.  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.  I barely knew anything about libertarianism, classical liberalism or anarcho-capitalism.  12 months ago I’d never heard of Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard or Hans-Herman Hoppe, much less read anything they have written.  Through a series of interesting circumstances, chance encounters and good fortune, all of these conditions changed.  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.  Attempts to catalog each experience are what lead to the ‘CTL-A’ + ‘Delete’ 8 times before this.  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.  And by participated, I mean more than just employing active listening – porcfest is all about participation.  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).  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).  There were food vendors selling everything from bullet proof coffee to pulled pork to home made ice cream.  There was a guy selling firewood and ice (I had to take to opportunity to buy wood for bitcoin!).  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 genders mixed together in relatively close quarters (and for a time without good sanitation facilities…another post).  Hippies, Grandmas,   Kids,  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.  Both of my kids decided to come with me to porcfest (subject of another post someday…short version = totally cool!).  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.  (Probably not the subject of a future post…all pictures have been destroyed ;-).
  • I met hundreds of “like-minded” individuals.  The term “like-minded” individuals needs some explanation here.  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). Like-minded is normally used to convey the idea that a group of people have the same view of a particular issue.  That couldn’t be further from the truth in describing the group at porcfest.  The reality is that there were all sorts of different perspectives, ideas and theories – the only universal seemed to be the non aggression principle.  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.  Rather than sharing common conclusions, this group of like minded people shared a common approach.  Everyone I encountered was ready willing and able to use reason, evidence and critical thinking to present their ideas and discuss alternatives.  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:  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.  Porcfest is the petri dish (insert sanitation issue jokes here) that creates the evidence that it works in practice, not just in theory.  If you remove aggression from the equation, people won’t starve in the streets, rape and kill each other, or generally devolve into being ruled by the law of the jungle.  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 positives might be true.  I wished them to be true.  I grappled with a few theories that attempted to proved that they are true.  Now that I’ve been to porcfest I know they are true.  That is powerful knowledge.