Celebrating Liberty in New Hampshire

ByDevin Balkind

“You can't judge a book by its cover.” I repeated that cliché to myself as I received lukewarm greetings from a pair of armed anarchists manning the registration tent for the Porcupine Freedom Festival in Lancaster, NH. I found myself here because, three years after change came to Washington D.C., the American military forces are involved in active operation in (at least) five Middle Eastern countries, the tragic hypocrisies of the "war on drugs" have not been addressed, and the squeeze on the middle class continues.

The Porcupine Freedom Festival is an annual week long "celebration of freedom" organized by the Free State Project (FSP), a volunteer-run organization that encourages anyone interested in the radical principles of non-aggression and voluntary action to move to New Hampshire, become politically active, and help the state live up to its motto: “Live Free or Die.” Since 2001, 915 "liberty activists" have moved to the state and nearly 11,000 have pledged to move within five years of the 20,000th pledge.

After registering for the week, surveying the campground, and setting up my tent, I began to meet Porcfesters — as the Festival attendees call themselves — and lots and lots of them. On the first day, I met an EMT from Alaska, a software developer from New Jersey, a metal band from Connecticut, and a couple from New York City, all of whom were planning to achieve the FSP's goal of “liberty in our lifetime” by moving to New Hampshire in the next year. Their political histories were diverse: A few people described themselves as anarcho-syndicalists, anarcho-capitalists, or anarcho-communists, others as freedom lovers or libertarians and still others as “agorists” who view direct, unregulated trade as the most effective type of resistance against violence. This might all sound strange to those uninitiated into the world of anarchist philosophy, but I can assure you the fundamentals are simple.

Anarchists are voluntarists who believe coercion, especially violent coercion, is bad for society, and that the state uses its monopoly on violence to benefit the few at the expense of the many. They view taxation as a violent act because of what takes place if you do not pay taxes; war as a “racket” perpetrated by the state to direct money and power to the elite; drug prohibition as part of a much larger plot to militarize police departments and impose a police-state on the public; corporations as illegitimate entities because the state has given them given special, unnatural rights; banks as part of a global fiat currency system designed to steal people's property; and the mainstream media as puppets. As you can imagine, they did not have many kind things to say about my hometown of New York City.

Over the course of the week, I attended workshops in gun-handling etiquette, mediation, permaculture, silver exchange, anarcho-communism, the peace movement and hackerspaces. I heard dozens of speeches from people who were “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.” Many of them were drunk, some of them were armed, and maybe one or two were mildly dangerous — or undercover FBI agents. But once I got comfortable with the unconventional nature of the gathering, I realized how the people at Porcfest weren't passionate about anyone's political philosophy but their own. They had found voluntarism by looking inside themselves and recognizing the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I want to live in a country in which everyone has access to quality healthcare and education but no one is forced to pay for it. If that is impossible for America, maybe it is possible for New Hampshire.

Photo Credit: James Walsh