"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences." ~ C.S. Lewis
By Jim Davies.
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In June I had the pleasure of visiting PorcFest 2010, a friendly festival of freedom-seekers held in Northern New Hampshire; so far north that, had one traveled much further, one would have entered Her Majesty's jurisdiction. One of her subjects had in fact come south, from his freedomain somewhere near the North Pole, to enhance the Festival; and it was an honor to meet both him and several other heroes of liberty. The setting was awesome, with a wonderful vista from the campground across a broad valley to the majestic White mountains, which the Feds call the Presidential Range, perhaps on the false premise that Presidents are also magnificent, or that they rise high above plain mortals. Or perhaps that they have rocks for brains?
"Porcupine" is the informal name for a person who has signed on to the Free State Project, and it's a good one. The slogan of the Gadsden flag ("Don't Tread on Me") is excellent but the snake it portrays lacks a certain charm. A porcupine conveys the same idea of sharp resistance to intruders but is a very non-threatening animal unburdened by any legend of having originated evil. Its defense mechanism is, furthermore, multi-pointed and static, instead of being a single source of projected venom at the head. A much better image for a society of free individuals.
FSPers act on the theory that if small-"l" libertarians congregate to live in one small state, already less fascist than the rest, we can make it even more free and so help it prosper, setting a free-market example for others in larger, less enlightened states to follow. The activism to be undertaken is not specified top-down, but left properly to each member. So some engage in politics, some decline to obey selected government orders, and all help spread ideas of liberty. New Hampshire was chosen by vote, and the founders propose 20,000 should move here; more than 10,000 have pledged to do so and already over 800 have relocated. The effect is already being felt; "law enforcement" goons are being discombobulated by "good people disobeying bad laws" on purpose, and earlier in June I chanced to travel a road between Lebanon and Andover, along most of whose length there was quite a variety of dissident road signs. The biggest and best was a huge banner asking simply "Jury Service? -FIJA.ORG". No passerby, expecting soon to have to judge his neighbor, could miss it.
There were many hundreds at the PorcFest campground--more, I'd say, than the 800+ immigrants to this allegedly "Live Free or Die" State--some having traveled far for the occasion. I met a man who designed the graphics for the Ron Paul Revolution, and another who was demonstrating one of his low-cost, low-speed electric cars for short trips. Many T-shirts, banners and signs promoted lewrockwell.com and Strike The Root, and almost every tent seemed to have its own domain name. There was an abundance of freedom promoters, far too many for me to remember; the one that stuck best in my mind was schoolsucksproject.com, where one can find advice on how to obtain a real education--ideal for those who had just recently emerged from a 12-year government indoctrination course. Of those, there appeared to be a lot; for the overall average age was well under 30 and the children, of whom there was a pleasant sprinkling, were mostly pre-teens, which also suggests that their parents were 20-something. These are very promising signs for the future!
My companion noticed that there was no smell of marijuana, and he found the reason not to be that libertarians don't smoke it any more but that the campground owner had asked guests to abstain. Evidently if such an aroma had reached the wrong nostril, his business could have been closed down by the local fascisti, so everyone did as requested. I did see plenty of folk cooking up corn, hot dogs, fried Oreos and other goodies to tickle the palate, with nary a sign of food-service licenses or tax collection. There were even a few bottles of local wine on sale, in defiance of the State monopoly. And within the campground there were few road signs and no painted parking slots; yet everyone found somewhere to park tidily, without blocking his neighbor. A nice if minor example of "spontaneous order."
Several Festgoers saw my name tag and came up to say "So you're Jim Davies?"--having read some of my scribblings; and they added remarks nice enough quite to make my day. I was also delighted that those who posed questions on some aspect of a zero-government society were clearly serious and thoughtful, not sarcastic and negative. The Free State Project is a "big tent;" plenty of the participants would be happy just to reduce government without zapping it altogether, so such questions were very welcome and my attempts to reply appeared to promote pondering.
One person asked how a free society would be defended and, as I cast an eye around for inspiration, it fell on the PorcFest symbol, which was built in to the 3-D headgear of a lady who happened to be passing by. I replied that absent government, each member of the society would defend himself, hence the multiple spikes. Since an economic demand for protection services would certainly stimulate an economic supply, it would also be quite possible that companies would arise to meet it; but I suggested that for the most part, every well-armed individual would do the job--and far more effectively than ever in history. The principle is that a foreign aggressor, contemplating a possible war against FUSA (Former United States of America), would count the price. Those people really do that, always; they may get it wrong, but always there's a cost-benefit calculation. I (Shrub) will invade Iraq because (a) gaining a foothold in the Middle East will give my friends control over oil for a generation or more, (b) it will help protect Israel and so secure the AIPAC vote, and (c) it will show Daddy I'm as macho as he is. The cost will be low, because my advisors tell me we can squash Saddam like a bug in one month flat, and that ordinary Iraqis will line the streets with flowers of welcome.
Yes, okay, he got it wrong but there's no doubt: he did the sums. So do all warmakers. Now, the cost of invading a country whose residents have rejected their government and got themselves individually well-armed would be huge beyond precedent; 300 million to be repressed one by one with nobody to sign a surrender on their behalf! Having just walked out on the job of working for their own government (hence its evaporation), what possible reason would there be to suppose they would be willing to be employed by an invading one? The task of enslavement would cost far more personnel than the slaves one hopes to obtain. There is no way the benefits could exceed the costs--an invasion would be a dead loss. As I see it, that, in essence, is the Porcupine Defense. It removes the motive.
I did admit I am uncertain whether such a defense would be effective if (instead of facing Canada and Mexico) the free society were small, relative to large, hostile governments nearby; if residents of Luxembourg, for example, should chance to dispense with their government. In that case, might not those of France and Germany, and even Belgium, charge across the border to eliminate the possibility that their own subjects should catch the virus of similar, radical ideas? To them, even the cost of subduing half a million Luxembourgers with a similar number of armed thugs would be worth the benefit of discouraging Germans and Frenchmen from also leaving government service.
My questioner was quick: he then asked, "You're thinking of New Hampshire?"
I wasn't, but I should have been; he was a step ahead of me. Put it down to senility. He had put his finger on a weakness in the Free State Project. I do have a soft spot for FSP, for it represents the only strategic plan for achieving liberty that existed, before we came up with the one that aims to re-educate all quarter billion literate Americans in short order, knowing that nobody who really understands what government is will continue to work for it, and when nobody works for it, it will cease to exist. But the FSP one-state-first plan supposes that if New Hampshire became free, the other 49 would follow; and I have serious doubts about that. "Freedom" might not mean to all FSPers what freedom means to me, but it must at minimum involve an end of slavish obedience to a whole raft of laws including Federal ones, and when that happens, the thugs are going to march in, just like Hitler's into Belgium or Lincoln's into Dixie. NH has a population of 0.5% of the USA, and that's a heap smaller than the fraction represented in the CSA in 1861.
Even so, PorcFest 2010 gave a delightful foretaste of liberty, a hint of an infinitely brighter tomorrow.