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The Free Staters Go Camping

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  • Dan Clore
    News & Views for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo [Has the Free State Project had any actual success at making New Hampshire more
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 7, 2012
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      [Has the Free State Project had any actual success at making New
      Hampshire more libertarian that it can poin to? Serious question.--DC]

      The Free Staters Go Camping
      What happens when you bring together politicos, voluntaryists, and
      off-the-grid farmers for a week?
      by Garrett Quinn
      July 6, 2012

      Every summer since 2004, hundreds of people belonging to and interested
      in the Free State Project, an effort to move 20,000 libertarians to New
      Hampshire, gather at a remote campground in the northern part of the
      state for a weeklong event called the Porcupine Freedom Festival. The
      outdoorsy extravaganza, more commonly known as PorcFest, is one of the
      biggest libertarian gatherings in the entire country.

      The libertarian stereotype of the nerdy, balding, middle-aged white guy
      goes out the window at PorcFest. The attendees are so diverse, one
      wonders how organizers managed to get everybody together in the same
      place without burning the forest down in a fit of rage. If you want to
      see what happens when you bring together libertarian politicos,
      voluntaryists, and off-the-grid family farmers that love raw milk for a
      week to celebrate one of the more quixotic elements of the libertarian
      movement, then you have to go to PorcFest.

      For Carla Gericke, the president of the Free State Project, this is her
      busiest week of the year. She is constantly checking on events, meeting
      with people, moderating panels, and judging contests. She views PorcFest
      as one of the best ways to convince people to become Free Staters and
      make the move to the Granite Stat. Recently her group has tried to
      attract more families, not just individuals.

      "I definitely think we had over a thousand people. We sold 650+ presale
      tickets and allowed walk-ins. We don't count children, but there were a
      lot of them. Definitely moved more to a family friendly vibe, which was
      our goal,” Gericke says in an online interview after the event. Gericke
      was so busy during PorcFest that not only did she not have time to stop
      for an interview, she lost her voice on the final day.

      In years past there have been squabbles, but this year the event was
      “drama free,” according to Gericke.

      "People tend to sort themselves according to their noise level
      tolerance. The families tend towards the quieter zones at the back, and
      others gravitate to the late night noise area. We did try this year to
      keep late night noise tolerable, with loud music ending at midnight,”
      she says.

      The divide was certainly visible to anyone that took a stroll through
      the camp on the final full day of activities. Large families gathered in
      the back of the campground away from the action while younger people
      stayed closer to the fire and the merchants row, known as Agora Valley,
      where agorists hawked their wares to festivalgoers. In Agora Valley you
      could buy a wide variety of food, books, clothing, soaps, tapestries,
      and (of course) gold and silver. Farmers offered samplings of the fruits
      of their labor while promoting deals to Free Staters on baskets of fresh
      produce and meats delivered from their farm straight to their door. Some
      agorists, like George Mandrick, took a more direct route and set up shop
      in the main hall, the Shire Society Pavilion.

      Mandrick is a full-time personal chef and home cleaner who does some
      catering on the side. Like many of the people here, he is committed to
      the ideas of agorism, a philosophy created by anarchist Sam Konkin in
      the 1970s. This is Mandrick’s second year of catering PorcFest and,
      though he sees the philosophical divides at PorcFest, he doesn’t see
      himself in any camp.

      “I am not politically active at all, I have no interest in politics. I
      am not even an activist, I am really just a businessman. I want to live
      my life as free as possible and it’s much easier for me to do that here
      because there are people that I can connect with. They also just want to
      have cash transactions with me,” he says.

      This is the first time Mandrick has had a 15 minute break all night, but
      soon festivalgoers start queuing for his burgers. Again. He tightens up
      his apron and begins to look back at his stand as if encouraging me to
      wrap up the interview.

      “For me, it’s about interactions and business dealings between
      individuals,” he says as he heads back to his grill.

      In a large tent next to the pavilion, New Hampshire Republican state
      representative Mark Warden holds court behind a makeshift bar. Warden
      left Nevada, another state with strong libertarian leanings, in 2007
      when the market took a turn for the worse. Warden says one of the
      reasons he moved to New Hampshire and joining the FSP was the natural
      beauty of the state. PorcFest, he thinks, is one of the ways to show
      that off because it is a large outdoor festival unlike other libertarian
      gatherings that tend to be held at large resort hotels (think Freedom
      Fest in Las Vegas).

      “When you’re in Las Vegas at FreedomFest there are two parts: the
      liberty portion and investments. So you have a lot of people from Wall
      Street. Here we have more Main Street, more Austrian economics, people
      that are self-reliant, people that invest in metals, in real estate,” he
      says, adding that the crowd tends to be younger at PorcFest.

      At PorcFest, you won’t see much white hair.

      “It’s very diverse. You see some dreadlocks here, you see some Occupiers
      here, you see some Tea Partiers here, you see some straight laced
      non-drinking Christian businessmen here, you see it all,” he says.

      Warden attributes the congenial nature of the event to the natural
      libertarian aversion to force.

      “Libertarians tend to be pretty tolerant. Most people here think their
      way is the best or the right way but they won’t force other people to do
      it their way. They want the competition for ideas to flourish and for
      the best way to run things to be settled on the battlefield of ideas,”
      he says, as someone offered us cigars.

      Despite the remoteness of the campground and nearly nonexistent internet
      access a web based radio station, The Liberty Radio Network, managed to
      broadcast from the site all week. The station’s program director, Ian
      Freeman, moved from Florida to New Hampshire as part of the FSP in 2006
      after growing increasingly frustrated with Libertarian Party there and
      the level of activism. Freeman is one of the more unique individuals at
      PorcFest because he has participated in activism across the libertarian

      “I do whatever activism I can do. Creating media, outreach, civil
      disobedience, noncooperation, whatever it is I can do I am involved,” he
      says sitting with me at a table inside the Pavilion on the last day of
      the festival.

      Freeman programs and hosts the nationally syndicated libertarian talk
      show, Free Talk Live, something he considers not only a job but a calling.

      “It’s business first and foremost but it has a benefit of spreading the
      ideas,” he says.

      Despite his aversion to the cold weather as a Florida native Freeman
      knew that New Hampshire was where he had to be. When Freeman packed his
      bags for the Granite State he did not stop in Concord or Manchester or
      Portsmouth, he went straight to Keene, a place many consider to be a hub
      for hardcore libertarian activists.

      “Political candidates don’t do civil disobedience so my experience had
      not been anywhere in that realm. I just thought ‘This is the most
      exciting thing happening in the liberty movement that I’ve ever seen.’
      So I had to be a part of it,” he says.

      Dan Clore

      New book: _Weird Words: A Lovecraftian Lexicon_:
      My collected fiction: _The Unspeakable and Others_
      Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      Skipper: Professor, will you tell these people who is
      in charge on this island?
      Professor: Why, no one.
      Skipper: No one?
      Thurston Howell III: No one? Good heavens, this is anarchy!
      -- _Gilligan's Island_, episode #6, "President Gilligan"
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