Politics

PorcFest draws liberty-lovers to N.H., including some who will never leave

Kyle Peterson Contributor

More than 700 freedom lovers gathered in Lancaster, N.H. over the weekend for the Porcupine Freedom Festival. Some will stay for good.

The event, known colloquially as PorcFest, is held by the Free State Project, an organization dedicated to convincing 20,000 libertarian-minded individuals to move to New Hampshire, in an effort to affect state politics and create a new cradle for limited government.

Interested parties sign a statement of intent expressing their commitment to move to New Hampshire within five years after the tally of registered members hits 20,000.

PorcFest began in 2004 as a way to promote the idea, according to Varrin Swearingen, spokesman for the Free State Project.

“It was started as a get-together for participants and prospective participants to come and check out New Hampshire,” Swearingen said. “It has kind of evolved from there.”

The agenda for the 2010 celebration, held June 24-27, included talks about the constitution and the New Hampshire legislative process, hiking and horseshoes, lessons in swing dancing and martial arts, and discussion about the Free State Project.

“Usually several people decide to sign up and/or move,” Swearingen said.

He also said that several attendees are using PorcFest 2010 as their kickoff welcome to New Hampshire — that is, they planned their move to the state, drove in for the festival and aren’t looking back.

As a Free Stater himself, Swearingen understands the big leap. He got involved with the project early on, when there were only 400 participants (the current tally is 10,206), and made his move to New Hampshire in 2004.

“I’m originally from California,” Swearingen said. “We’ve been here five and a half years — loving it, it’s great.”

Although the obligation to move doesn’t kick in until the 20,000-participant goal is reached, more than 800 individuals have already moved to the state and are helping to reshape New Hampshire politics.

“The activity that has been induced as a result of that has been very persuasive,” Swearingen said.

Four Free Staters currently hold seats in the state legislature, and have sponsored or co-sponsored bills that have moved New Hampshire toward a smaller, more libertarian government.

“There’s a lot of examples, but I would highlight things like home school deregulation,” Swearingen said.

The state achieved “total knife liberty” in May, when legislators struck state laws that punished the sale or possession of certain types of blades.

Free Staters hope that it’s just the beginning, and look forward to the day when the other 19,200 participants call New Hampshire home.

Until then, though, the focus is on reaching the final sign-up goal of 20,000.

“The plan is to continue working as effectively as we can to recruit new participants to the project,” Swearingen said.