For the 17th straight year, the Free State Project organized its week-long festival, the Porcupine Freedom Festival, AKA “PorcFest,” in northern New Hampshire. The FSP was created in order to encourage liberty-minded individuals to move to New Hampshire, still the most free State in the U.S. per some indices, instead of fighting futile battles for liberty in their current States of residence. The project’s creators and participants hope that if those who believe in small government leave authoritarian States like New York or California,to move to New Hampshire, they can keep the authoritarian ideology from destroying New Hampshire as it has already done to so many other States. To date, more than 20,000 individuals have signed the pledge to move, though it’s not truly a binding contract. Almost 5,000 people who identify as ‘Free Staters’ currently reside in New Hampshire, around 2,500 of whom have moved from other states seeking more freedom.
The FSP hosts two large events annually in order to unite and update free-staters who have moved as well as prospective movers. Liberty Forum takes place indoors in the Manchester area in the winter, and the Porcupine Freedom Festival (PorcFest) is held outdoors in the north country mountains in the beautiful New Hampshire summer weather. Each summer, more than a thousand people come from New Hampshire and many other states to enjoy the festival. At PorcFest, one can enjoy a variety of intellectually stimulating lectures, participate in events including dancing, yoga, dodgeball, learn about Crypto-currency, take a shooting class at the local range, and much more. It’s where many of the most tolerant and diverse freedom-loving people get to act completely as they wish without worrying that anyone around them would judge them.
PorcFest is the place I have always felt less judged than anywhere I’ve ever been in my life. As I meet and get to know people from all (and I mean ALL) walks of life, I grow more open-minded and less judgemental by the day. I owe this personal growth to the liberty movement’s amazing community. I also appreciate the liberty community for giving me encouragement when I need it most. After battling authoritarians day after day, it’s heartening to see so many amazing pro-liberty people and activists together in one place.
PorcFest 2020 was bound to be quite different, of course. Due to the lockdowns mandated by NH’s Governor, many people were unsure whether the festival would even take place until a few weeks prior to its beginning. Nonetheless, nearly all the speakers and around a thousand attendees showed up and had an amazing time. By the time I left the festival Thursday evening, the attendance, activity, and energy levels seemed on par compared to prior years. Like Tom Woods, many speakers, emphasized the importance of attending this year, and especially made the trip to emphasize that importance. A few unofficial and impromptu activities and lectures were created, as well, for the same reason.
Upon checking in, attendees were given a yellow bracelet to signify that they have paid and registered for the festival. Every attendee was also asked whether they would like to observe social distancing and other precautions. Those who were interested in taking such precautions were given orange bracelets instead, and every member was informed that they should remain 6 feet away from those with orange bracelets. Many people were content to hug everyone they met, though a small minority chose the orange bracelets. Overall, it seemed like very little of the hysteria that politicians and big media are pushing made its way into PorcFest. Despite the many differences, including the newly-introduced yellow vs. orange bracelet dichotomy, everyone got along wonderfully without any judgement or overly-strong debates – how about that!!
While there seemed to be fewer vendors than last year, we were still able to find plenty of food and drink options. At least a few vendors were selling liberty-themed shirts, bumper stickers, and other gear. Some vendors were primarily concerned with precious metals and crypto-currency, though not as many as in past years.
Among the speakers whose speeches I attended was Carla Gericke – a superstar in the liberty movement, a former attorney, a mover to New Hampshire, and former FSP president and current Chair of the board. Gericke, who is running for State Senate in District 20, spoke about police misconduct and accountability in New Hampshire. She explained to the audience the many ways that police/government in New Hampshire unfairly and illegally violates the rights of citizens. Gericke taught us more about “qualified immunity,” the notion that the government and their enforcers are treated like they are above the law – the laws that they created themselves. From Laurie’s List, to illegal surveillance and military tanks, illegal sobriety checkpoints and frequent lockdowns, law enforcement in New Hampshire was presented as far from the ‘peace officers’ they once were.
Later on Thursday, Ian Underwood spoke about independence from the federal government. In his unique and brilliant way, Underwood, a board member of The Foundation for NH Independence, explained some interesting ways to approach the concepts of State independence and personal freedom. He used chemistry and talmudic examples to help make his points to the crowd of around sixty energized listeners. The attendees were left wondering about questions such as “Why do we let the government determine whether the government has crossed the line of their own powers?” and “If people in two different states hate the others’ ideologies and laws, why must they be forced to live under one set of laws, why not allow them to pick and choose?”
Still scheduled to speak in the coming days are Tom Woods, Kerry McDonald, Corey DeAngelis, Jeffrey Tucker, and a number of other liberty activists and FSP movers and shakers.
Of those in attendance, I’d estimate that around 15% were openly carrying firearms. Of course, many more may have been carrying concealed. As far as I know, there were zero incidents involving anything near violence at the event. In fact, everyone got along excellently and everyone I met was very friendly. In fact, I felt safer (even when I saw the black bear visiting our trash cans) because so many people were carrying at the campground.
As I mentioned, this event was diverse in so many ways. In attendance were people whose personal values ranged from ultra-conservative to super liberal and everywhere in between. There were many senior citizens as well as families with babies, toddlers, and children of all ages. There were as many women as men, from what I saw. There were Republicans, Libertarians, Voluntaryists, and independents. Many countries were also represented at PorcFest. During my 24 hours there, I met people from China, Vietnam, Russia, Philippines, France, various countries in Africa, Jamaica, England, and many others. So much for the ‘liberty-minded people are all white men’ myth!
While politicians are busy taking advantage of paranoia to infringe on one liberty after the next, those who truly support freedom gathered at their annual festival much like they have done every summer since 2004. This super-diverse collection of individuals who share the one ultimate commonality – the belief in personal freedom – got along quite well, even while a few of them chose to take precautions due to fear of getting sick. Regardless of all the threats from government and other undesirable realities of life, these dedicated activists, who all believe that “the right to be left alone” is a natural human right, continue to fight for liberty without missing a beat. Their ultimate goal? To achieve Liberty in Our Lifetime.
This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Liberty Block or any of its members. We welcome all forms of serious feedback and debate.