Libertarian lifestyle embraced at Porcfest

  • Kim Riexinger of Charlton, Mass., stands by her booth, called Wormtown, at Porcfest in Lancaster on Friday. LEAH WILLINGHAM / Monitor Staff

  • Two attendees attempt to use the Bitcoin machine, an alternative form of currency to American dollars. —By LEAH WILLINGHAM

  • Davi Barker, 34, stands in front of the booth were he is selling themed t-shirts and pins. —By LEAH WILINGHAM

  • Two attendees watch a talk called “How Free Staters Can Make the Case Against Gun Control.” —By LEAH WILLINGHAM

Monitor staff
Published: 6/24/2016 11:58:23 PM

Imagine a place where people use silver to pay for goods instead of dollars, taxes don’t exist and anyone can carry a gun in public without judgment.

That’s what the New Hampshire Free State Project hopes will one day exist in the Granite State. And while they admit it probably won’t happen any time soon, Free Staters and Libertarians like them can now live the dream, at least for one week a year at the Porcupine Freedom Festival in Lancaster.

Also known as Porcfest, named for the symbol of Libertarianism, the weeklong Porcupine Freedom Festival is in its 13th year. It started unofficially in 2002, when the infant Free State Project was trying to find a state that would act as its headquarters. Back then, there were only a couple hundred attendees, but in 2016, officials anticipate that more than 1,500 people will come from across the United States, and as far as Canada and Russia, to attend lectures on Libertarian feminism, take firearms etiquette classes and eat “Bananarchy” ice cream.

Almost 15 years ago, Free State Project chose New Hampshire as the ideal location over other states with low populations and taxes like Alaska, Montana, the Dakotas and Vermont because of its stable economy, high employment rate and strong commitment to the Second Amendment.

In recent years, the Free Staters have been working to get 20,000 people to pledge to move to New Hampshire, and in February, they finally reached that goal. That means that in an ideal world, all signers would make the move to New Hampshire within the next five years.

But despite reaching their long-awaited goal, FSP President Matt Philips, who moved to New Hampshire three years ago from Arizona, said the work is far from over. Now that they have completed phase one of the project, it’s time to start phase two: getting people to actually move.

Right now, the organization is embarking on an initiative to call every signer and check in to see where they are in the transition process. Philips said he doesn’t expect all 20,000 of the initial signers to actually follow through.

“Of the original 20,000, sure, some signed up 14 years ago and are probably long gone,” he said. “Or life circumstances changed and now they’re not going to move. But that’s fine. If we get a 50 percent move rate, that just means we need 40,000 total signers in order to get between those numbers.”

For now, the organization is continuing to try to recruit more signers, and offer the existing ones support moving and finding jobs in New Hampshire.

Philips said he realizes FSP is asking a lot of people to commit to moving to a state they might never have been to, but that’s why the organization relies on events like Porcfest to give out-of-state visitors a taste of what life in New Hampshire is like.

Libertarian Kim Riexinger said she is enjoying her first Porcfest. This year, she came to see what the event was about, but she said she could see herself joining the Free Staters in the future.

“I’ve been thinking about moving to New Hampshire for a long time,” she said. “It’s prettier up here, and the people are different. Of course the people in Massachusetts aren’t bad, but they’re a little more liberal than I would care for.”

Davi Barker, 34, of California signed the statement of intent to move seven years ago, but he wasn’t able to make the plans to move across the country until he finished his last semester as an art teacher three weeks ago.

He currently writes zombie books set in the small town of Thornton, and he said moving will give him a chance to focus on his writing.

“As soon as I get home from here, I’m going to pack everything in the car and start making the drive,” he said.

Others, who are not affiliated with the Free State Project, just come to enjoy the welcoming and open atmosphere. Masseuse Shalon Da-Nai was straight forward about why she enjoys Porcfest.

“The diversity, the people and the idea that we are all free to do what we want peacefully,” she said.

Hamzah Rayez, 42, of Delaware was attending with his wife and his five-year-old daughter, Asiya, with the organization “Muslims for Liberty.” He said while at Porcfest, he’s had the chance to talk to people about how the values of Islam and Libertarian work together.

“One of the similarities is that we believe that not everybody is going to believe the same thing, and that’s okay,” Rayez said. “One of the verses in the Quran, it says, ‘to you be your way, and to me be mine.’ It’s not a rejectionist kind of thing, it’s coexistence. I don’t have to dislike you because you don’t believe what I believe to be true.”

Every night of Porcfest, Muslims for Liberty has been cooking and giving out free vegetable and lentil meals to close to 250 people to celebrate Ramadan.

Philips said that community and acceptance is a big part of what the Free State Project is about.

“What we are selling to people that we’re inviting to move here is, if 20,000 people move here, eventually, over a period of years or generations, we will be able to reduce some taxes and get rid of some regulation and hopefully build the economy and live more free lives. But while that’s a good long term mission, what we’re actually delivering is what you see here at Porcfest, which is community,” he said.

“When you come here, right off the bat you are a part of this community of like-minded individuals who share the underlying same philosophy and values, and that’s what this event is really for. It’s not about whether we will eventually be successful or not, because even if we never get to repealing a single law or reducing a single tax, we still get the benefit every day of being in this amazing community of people.”

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