This year, after a four-year absence, I returned as an attendee to the Porcupine Freedom Festival, aka Porcfest. I’m happy to say that Porcfest 2019 was a success and even featured some history-making civil disobedience. More on that in a moment. First, kudos to Rodger and Jessica Paxton and their crew for throwing an excellent festival – in spite of the now-expected political bungling by the Free State Project‘s board of directors. Longtime Porcfest attendee, and Free Keene blogger Rich Paul had this to say:
The tension that has subdued Porcfest for the last few years is finally healed. It feels like 2012 again.
Before I continue my review of the event, a little background:
After its rise to being one of the most well-attended libertarian gatherings on the planet and also becoming the most cryptocurrency-welcoming event as far as its vendors are concerned, the Porcupine Freedom Festival, which is organized each year by volunteers, but ultimately controlled by the Free State Project corporation, ended up making a few key errors. Yes, it was a mistake for them to kick me and my radio show out after a few volunteers made a stink back in 2016, but I don’t hold a grudge, and at the time even published a blog encouraging people to continue attending Porcfest.
That’s one of the more obvious mistakes they made, as despite my urging of people to continue to attend, attendance did drop sharply the following year, from what I have been told. However, the other things they botched were even more damaging to the event.
For years, and from before they decided to ban me, people who’ve attended the Porcupine Freedom Festival each Summer in Northern New Hampshire have complained that its recent years have been lacking in fun, partially due to an ever-increasing burden of rules at the event and centralized decision making on the part of the Free State Project’s board of directors. For instance, longtime vendors felt pushed out of the “Agora Valley” prime trading zone by the artificial extra costs imposed by the FSP onto the RV campsites in that area.
Nearly Empty Agora Valley @ Porcfest 2019
Where did these artificial costs come from? The story of Agora Valley is one that libertarians should know well and should have seen coming, but the libertarians running the FSP failed to see it and fell into the same centralized control trap they typically argue against. In the earlier years of the Porcupine Freedom Festival at Roger’s Campground, the first few rows of the RV camping area became, through natural market functions, the most desirable real estate in the park. The reason is that all the major speakers and events are held at the Pavilion at the bottom of the hill, so most campers will pass through that part of the RV area on their way to attend Porcfest’s various events. Eventually the zone was dubbed “Agora Valley” and vendors would compete to reserve the prime spots first for the upcoming year’s event, however the cost to the vendors at the time was the normal lot fee charged by the campground.
Eventually, someone at the FSP got the bright idea that Agora Valley should be managed by the FSP’s festival organizers, and a vendor’s fee and agreement was created. When asked, the FSP’s representatives generally will defend the fees as reasonable, since they include a ticket to the event, promotion to the event’s VIPs, as well as a listing in the event’s “Whova” event program app, for a very small premium on top. They are right – the Agora Valley vendor prices are reasonable. However, the market is clearly speaking, more this year than ever before, that the fees and rules are not welcome.
However the other way the market responded during this year’s Porcupine Freedom Festival, was the creation of the “Where it’s at” zone deeper in the RV area. Longtime Porcfest vendors and attendees, fed up with paying more than they had to or simply frustrated by the restrictions for Agora Valley, decided to opt-out and setup a hot zone of economic activity in the RV rows past the Valley’s “jurisdiction”. This mass exodus left Agora Valley nearly a ghost town at this year’s Porcfest.
To be fair, according to Shawn Grissom, this year’s Porcfest vendor coordinator, there were vendors in the lonely Agora Valley that did very well this year. That said, even Grissom agreed the FSP should let go of trying to organize the campground and focus on their event production alone. Let the market self-organize again in the camp/RV area.
Heroic Open-Air Drug Market at Porcfest 2019
Aside from the centrally-planned failure of Agora Valley, the rest of the 2019 Porcupine Freedom Festival went off well and received rave reviews. The Paxtons did a great job of bringing balance back to where Porcfest wasn’t just a family vacation spot – with approximately 200 kids and teenagers in attendance – but also a great party. This year there was a naked guy down at the campfire at night on at least a couple of occasions that I saw, along with a topless young lady, plus an amazing open-air drug market.
During the final night’s Free Ross auction to benefit imprisoned liberty hero and founder of the Silk Road underground market, Ross Ulbricht, there were two vendors set up just outside on a couple of picnic tables right next to each other. One vendor offered items for sale on a whiteboard such as “not mushrooms” and “not pot” while the other seller’s blackboard offered shrooms, flower, and edibles. It even included a shout-out to #freeross.
The little things like that made this year’s Porcfest feel like Porcfests of the past, but what made this year’s Porcupine Freedom Festival historic was what happened at the end of the Free Ross auction. After two hours and well over $10,000 had been raised from bidders on dozens of donated items, two activists donated a couple of eighth-of-an-ounce containers of cannabis to the remaining auction items. The auction was run by Mancamp founder Jay Noone and since he doesn’t have a auctioneer’s license, the entire event was civil disobedience. Noone then made Porcfest and likely New Hampshire history by auctioning off the cannabis to two lucky winners including me and the his assistant, Angie. What fun! (more…)
Border Patrol Agent Salutes Camera at NH Internal Oppressive Checkpoint
On Friday, several Forkfest 2018 attendees drove an hour South of Roger’s Campground to I-93 around Woodstock, NH – the site of the repeating temporary internal Border Patrol immigration checkpoints. Based on activist reports, the checkpoint appeared to have been operating that day from noon until 7pm. As is typical of these checkpoints, they were stopping every car to ask occupants if they are “US Citizens“. They also had a dog they were walking up and down the line of waiting cars.
As it turns out, a car full of people with video cameras wasn’t welcome in their secondary screening area. After one agent orders me to pull into their secondary screening for refusing to answer questions, his commanding officer intervenes before I can even cross over a single lane of traffic, and even apologizes for not wasting more of our time with their invasive screening! In hindsight, I should have told him to apologize to all the cars without camera-toting occupants for wasting everyone’s time with their oppressive police state checkpoint. Here’s the ridiculous video:
No one in the car was planning to answer the agents’ questions, given one has a right to remain silent (that the US Supreme Court has now required be invoked in police encounters). Obedience to tyrants only encourages them. Besides, as someone who believes in liberty, I don’t believe in government borders. Peaceful people should be allowed to enter a free country. Of course, we all know by now the United States is not a free country, and in fact has been dropping on the various international freedom rankings.
Liberty-oriented campers hanging out by the LRN.FM broadcast tent, Day One of Forkfest 2018
Forkfest 2018, the decentralized liberty camping event has started small but strong, kicking off yesterday at Roger’s Campground in the beautiful White Mountains of Lancaster, New Hampshire.
Like the first event last year, this year started slow on Thursday while many are still at work. By my estimates, more are here already this year than were here last year by this time. Not only that, the geographic variety of attendees is more pronounced. This year already has visitors from Lithuania and the United Kingdom as well as a couple from Virginia. Plus many others have indicated they intend to be here no later than Saturday.
What’s happening at Forkfest 2018? Good question! Parties, athletic events, a wedding, a letter-writing event for Ross Ulbricht, a Mesh Networking session, and others have been announced by various attendees. Of course, plenty of socializing and just hanging out by a campfire. There are already a couple of competing calendars that have popped up for attendees to use to promote whatever events they’re involved with. You can find those calendars via the unofficial Forkfest Forum.
Tavern Owner Laura Hardiman Poses with the Anypay App and Cryptocurrency-Loving Forkfest Attendees
If you’re in the area, come on up to Lancaster and join us. There are no tickets to Forkfest (and no organizers or board of directors)! Your only expenses to enjoy your time with other libertarians, voluntarists, and liberty-loving anarchists are your camping costs from Rogers Campground.
Forkfest continues through Monday the 18th and is expected to grow throughout the weekend. Of course, it’s not going to be the size of the fifteen year event that it was spawned from, the Porcupine Freedom Festival (aka Porcfest), which begins on Tuesday the 19th at noon and runs through Sunday the 25th
As stated in the ACLU-NH’s motion, during these border patrol checkpoints, the Woodstock Police Department (“WPD”) and the New Hampshire State Police separately worked in concert with United States Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) to circumvent the independent protections provided by the New Hampshire Constitution against dog-sniff searches in the absence of a warrant or reasonable suspicion. Specifically, federal CBP agents used dog-sniff searches in situations where New Hampshire law enforcement would have been barred from conducting similar searches. Resulting evidence from these federal searches was then turned over to state law enforcement for drug prosecutions. (more…)
NH was one of the states that fought hard against REAL ID. That opposition was in character with the “live free or die” philosophy we’re supposed to be famous for embracing. It was in character with our reputation as a libertarian leaning state.
Somewhere along the way we stopped fighting REAL ID and meekly submitted. Sixteen years of indoctrination – a combination of fear based agitprop and training to submit to authority, changed our tune from Just Say No to We Have to do this for National Security. REAL ID means that the state maintains a database of information on people, including Social Security numbers and photos.
She’s right. This year in the state house the supposed privacy nut state rep, Neil Kurk, capitulated after years of holding firm against REAL ID, and endorsed the state’s partial embracing of the federal ID standards. One who wishes to acquire a non-REAL ID-compliant card can still get one, but according to someone I know who visited the DMV this week, the DMV bureaucrats are pushing the new REAL ID version.
NH Internal Border Patrol Checkpoint
I recommend reading Susan’s whole post, it’s well-done and there’s very little she says that I can disagree with. Until the end, that is. She says in the final paragraph:
There hasn’t been a peep out of the liberty and freedumb crowd about this. Not a word from the allegedly liberty loving Free Staters. The folks who do the wailin’ about gummint encroachment on our lives are strangely silent when it comes to “show us your papers” stops. Their interest in gummint interference extends to deregulation and tax cuts. Actual violations of privacy and civil liberties don’t interest them in the slightest.
I may not be a “Free Stater”, but I love liberty and am friends with many of them. I have seen plenty of liberty people upset about these checkpoints and they have posted their outrage online… on facebook. Which means no one hears it except those connected to the person on facebook – such posts only hit the libertarian echo chamber. Sadly, most of the people who are here are not bloggers like Susan and me. They are just as outraged as she, but fail to communicate it effectively to a wider audience. (more…)
Last year at the Porcupine Freedom Festival, Will Coley of Muslims 4 Liberty threw and was the DJ for what people have said was the best party at Porcfest 2016. This year, Will again performed at Roger’s Campground as an electronic music DJ and played for five straight hours, two hours of which was beyond the campground’s “quiet time” of 11pm! However, Will’s party was not held during Porcfest 2017 – it happened during the new decentralized festival(s) that are taking place before Porcfest happens.
Depending on who you asked, the people on the campground from Friday June 16th through Tuesday the 20th were either attending Somaliafest or Shirefest. Other festivals sprung up over the weekend as Shire Dude proclaimed that the rule of Shirefest is that every attendee has to have their own fest. Some people were having fun with this idea, and it really encompasses the decentralized nature of these friendly competitors of the longtime king of Summer camping freedom festivals, Porcfest.
Please note, this article is not intended to be an attack against the people who have run Porcfest over the years. They did their best in a largely thankless role to make the various Porcfests successful. I’m writing this to assess the question of whether centralizing Porcfest harmed the event and introduce the competition, which are not centralized.
Despite generally philosophizing about the benefits of decentralization, some libertarians have embraced centralization in the process of creating the liberty movement’s largest and most successful camping freedom festival. Depending on what needs to be done, centralization can provide some benefits. However, there are costs involved. Some would argue the centralization of Porcfest’s organization led to its decline. Let’s look closer at what happened. First, for those of you newer to the ongoing New Hampshire Freedom Migration, a little history: (more…)