Porcupine Freedom Festival I, Part 1

"Are you frustrated at the loss of freedom and responsibility in America, while the growth of government and taxes continues unabated? Do you want to live in strong communities where your rights are respected, and people exercise responsibility for themselves and in their dealings with each other?

"If you answered 'Yes' to those questions, then the Free State Project has a solution for you."

Live Free or Stay Put
Our 'intrepid traveler'(1) gets down with the Freestaters at Porcupine Freedom Festival I

Logan Brandt

Part 1  (Free State Project, Porcupine Festival:  Part 1  Part 2 )

As I put tire tracks between me and the (most regrettable) Atlanta 2004 LP National Convention on Memorial Day weekend, the definite plan was to check out the Free State Project (FSP) via the first annual Porcupine Freedom Festival, in Lancaster, New Hampshire.  Recalling the sentiment:

"Next stop, the Free State Project freedom festival.  New Hampshire Freestaters are much in evidence at LP04, in fact you can feel a strong flow of positive energy in their direction.  FSP reminds me of how I felt in the early 70s about Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress(2): We'll get a bunch of young (and youngminded) brilliant, goodlooking leader types over there, declare independence from earthbound imperial bureaucrats, and 'throw rocks at 'em.'"

The Free State Project has been around since the early part of the current century when Jason Sorens, a poli-sci student at Yale, penned a "what if" proposal in L. Neil Smith's online magazine, The Libertarian Enterprise, July, 2001.  "'What if' we set a threshold number of liberty-loving pledgers who agree that upon reaching that threshold they will relocate to a relatively unpopulated and freedom-tolerant state that can be moved further toward liberty by neighborly activity?"

He received hundreds of emails in response, and worked out the basic concept in the course of the next several months.

Three issues ago, May 2004, Liberty carried an article from Freestater Tim Condon articulating the progress FSP has made since the Sorens proposal, especially through the previous year leading up to the LP national convention.  For an understanding of the basics of FSP, you can read that article, also check the main FSP website.  Through some recent browsing I discovered one of the best FSP overviews and promotions on a Backwood Homes Magazine page by Ms. Claire Wolfe, written two years ago.

Why hadn't I caught up with the FSP before?

Well, in 32 years of libertarian activism, yer humble itinerant correspondent has witnessed the "move and liberate" idea several times, seeing them all aborted … so frankly I'm not paying suitable attention, even when nonlibertarian-bud techwriter-colleague Maryjo insists repeatedly "Logan, these are your kind of (crazy) people."  Still, to paraphrase Jefferson: "we all tend to track in our own worlds while tracking is easy, resisting expenditure of precious mental cycles on filtered-out information."

The moral of this story is to periodically inspect and replace or recompose one's information filters.

Friday 6/25

As with the Atlanta convention, I'm driving to the Porcupine Festival.  Living in the greater Detroit area, I've decided to take the low road as opposed to the 200-mile-shorter high road across Canada.  I've never had problems with customs, but these are strange times, and the image of my baby (2002 Audi A4 1.8 Liter Turbo) being dismembered in front of some snarling, dead-eyed bordercrat is more than I can bear.

Perhaps a mistake this was:  Long two-day drive.

Still, inner Yoda suggests the obvious reason for circling around Toledo and Lake Erie, then down the Ohio Turnpike I-80, and up through the northwest nub of Pennsylvania to head further east along what they call the Southern Tier superslabs of lower NY state, then into Vermont, and finally crossing the Connecticut River into the Promised Land.  Obvious Yoda reason: give me the hard perceptual contrast between freedom's dying light in surrounding states and freedom's dawning day across the river.

Particularly from the view of an eastbound rational motorist, New York is the worst.  So what does New York have a prohibition or compulsion for?  In the immortal words of Marlon Brando, "Whaddya got?"  The greeting signs on the sparse, hilly terrain on the SW edge of the state declare:

  • No handheld cellphones.
  • No radar detectors.
  • Seatbelts mandatory.
  • Helmets mandatory.
  • State speed limit 55 (65 on the Interstate, by the legislature's extreme tolerance).
  • Aircraft used in speed enforcement (!)  (Like putting speedtraps in Siberia)
  • Move over for police vehicles or else.
  • Injure a highway worker (even if he jumps in front of you), "you in a heap o'trouble, boy."
  • Fines doubled in work areas.
  • Felony to transport a firearm.
  • Don't drink (Perrier?) and drive.
  • No facilities at most rest stops, so don't even think about pissing in the bushes.
  • No dogs allowed, lock down small children in back seat at all times.
  • Drunk driving, you can't afford it.
  • No one-fingered waving at police officers.
  • Do not speed up, slow down, move out of your lane, or fall asleep while reading these signs.
  • Ignorance of the law is punishable by death.

Welcome to New York, mother flockers!  You sleazy would-be miscreants!

In the welcome center, a sign posted by the greater NY benevolent association of Iron Fist Clubs respectfully asks me to support "our local donut-popping, gun totin' po-pos double-parked in the median every six-tenths of a mile along the upcoming Interstate;" they'll be sharing meaningful drug(caffeine)-laced conversation with one another about indispensable drugbusts, jovial headcracking, and all the prom queens who got away—or issued restraining orders on them.

"We Heart NY!"  And, have a nice day. Very Happy

During the stay at my journey's midway point near Oswego, NY, I learn of other major transgressions by the great state of New York.  Farm-stealing and other eminent domain incursions, historical-building despotism, etc.  Unbeknownst to me in the hotel bar that night, California's smoking ban has also made it eastward.  NY is now part of the Gang of Five (w/CA, Maine, Connecticut, and, most recently, Taxachusetts) all of whom will soon be breaking down the doors of a private, allegedly smoke-filled property near you.

I shouldn't really pick on New York—after all, Michigan and the other people's paradises in the US have their own nitpicking-to-bonecrushing family of statutes, traffic and nontraffic varieties—but it's in line with both my story and my destination.  A compendium of the various state-statist aggressions is pointless in Liberty, it's in the category of "intuitively obvious to the knowledgeable libertarian" (IOKL).  [and please forgive the comic hyperbole about cops, despite the hue of sad truth; it's way too personal]

Will New Hampshire be that much different?  This is the question.

I head into Vermont where NY7 turns into VT9.  Maybe even further down the statist road than NY, Vermont (I later was told) once was the "move-to" darling of workers of the world uniting, the Left's version years ago of FSP, or was it SSP (State State Project).  "Come to Vermont to practice universal self-immolation!"  Images of Starnesville in Atlas Shrugged come to mind.  On either side of VT9, everything seems to be a hill, a rock, a tree, an antique shop, or a sign directing me to a ski lodge.

I get lost for a while, which was instructive—I learn not to willingly return to Vermont—but to get to festival campground before dark, I have to stay on the Vermont side northbound on I-91.  By the way, Vermont road signage, to use an exact technical term, sucks.  It makes Houston, Texas, seem like a pinnacle of motorist enlightenment.

The minute I cross into NH, time stands still.

A highway placard says "Moose," and by golly I drive along slowly and see a real moose.  Near dark now, I see people parked on the side of the road with their emergency blinkers flashing actually moosewatching.  (Disney movieplexes no doubt have a hard time competing in these parts.)  Also see a wild turkey.  The most recent wrong turn takes me north several miles along a two-lane highway (NH2) interrupted occasionally by a small rural town… like riding through a Normal Rockwell painting in the Twilight Zone.

And the A4 is driving terrific!  As testament to the great riding, I've probably seen 500 big bikes today, mostly headed westbound into NY along VT9 and NY7.  But it is getting dark and I have to get to the camp so I can pitch the tent while there's still some light.  I negotiate my deal with the desk attendant at Rogers Campground and Motel, proceed to my site, and start in.  Moisture hangs in the air, but the mosquitoes are tolerable thanks to some ointment.

A darling little girl negotiates her training bike on the access road near to me, obviously having a time of it.  She falls a few times, but she's too small and too close to the ground to get hurt badly.  I say "Hi," which elicits her life story.  "My name's Sophie and I'm here with my mom and dad, and my brother is older and can already ride a bike, he has a big bike, this is a nice place, my dad can drive a car real fast, when I'm finished learning, like tomorrow, I'll ride fast like my brother, our dog is named Joe."

As a solitary man here, I feel anxious about striking up conversations or making more than perfunctory remarks toward small unescorted children.  For one thing, I don't want her to be unwary of strangers, because in the Old World where aggression is legal and commonplace, and sickos lurk—that's another thing, in the Old World, a single man talks to a small girl alone he's a sicko, it's like inviting the gendarmes to swarm down to steal your Playboy collection and throw you in shackles—she needs to be wary, but being unfriendly sends the wrong message, too.

So we do chat for a while, consisting mainly of me listening while I figure out how to put up this tent for the first time.  Her folks are with the FSP and, in fact, they're right over there in the opposite campsite.  Whew!

Nightfall now, say 2200 hours, I head toward the Friday Campfire.

[I wanted to be here yesterday, when they held a workshop and the first, probably bigger, welcoming campfire; then early today a bunch of 'em hiked up a mountain—I heard later some calling it the Trail of Tears—followed by a BBQ lunch.  In the afternoon, a general discussion was conducted specifically for freestater families.  At 1800 tonight, founder Jason and some others are joining NH Governor Craig Benson at a New Hampshire Libertarian Alliance (NHLA) dinner in Plymouth.  They aren't back yet.]

I settle in, bringing a handful of brewskis, introduce myself, try to arrange for a nametag, find a seat, and just join in the general conversation.  I'm still in long-road-journey decompress mode, which makes me more hyper and chatty than usual.  But "great, stimulating conversations among kindred souls" is what you live for as a ReasonToFreedom guy.  Several: home schooling, irrationality of drug and gun laws, transportation alternatives, private space travel, self-protection origin of the sawed-off shotgun.

I've landed in a rational universe where people let you be, at the same time eager to share their knowledge and interests, their "being."  It makes me feel proud to be human, hanging out with all these different and wonderful people.  Who are going to be successful!  This is how I felt at the LA Libertarian national convention in 1979 when we nominated Ed Clark to realize our aspirations.  Only those libertarian aspirations, at least nationally, have proven illusory.

FSP, being more life-centered (i.e. it's "Live free… "), may deliver our liberty more naturally.

Continued in Part 2

Read:  Part 1  Part 2

  1. Some may recognize this designation as a Ken Kesey appellation for one of his fellow bus riders characters in Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. back to text
  2. In this early 1970s libertarian movement inciter, a lunar supercomputer comes alive and suggests that to defeat the Earth's powerful central government, the colonists (Loonies) can use their high spot above the Earth's gravity well to pinpoint small projectiles (rocks) toward the mother planet. back to text