by Dave Ridley
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
New Hampshire has the Free State Project, which has an annual get-together called PorcFest (short for Porcupine Freedom Festival, not the U.S. Congress). New Hampshire also has an active independence movement. Dave Ridley asks: should PorcFest invite the world’s diplomatic corps to the upcoming PorcFest? — Editor
Moving the New Hampshire renaissance forward: Should we do something Medici Florence did?
Most New Hampshire independence activists are libertarians, and most seem to favor adopting a neutral foreign policy similar to that of 20th Century Switzerland. What is something we can do *now* to create more buzz and pull the state in that direction? By “we,” in this context I don’t mean the unwieldy NH government. Rather, the question is “what is something just a dozen or so New Hampshire activists could do to enhance the prospect of eventual neutrality? How do we immediately start “acting like a nation-state?” And what is within our power along these lines?
Here’s the best thing I could think of this week, based on historical precedent. Around the year 1500, one tiny nation led Europe out of the Dark Ages with a scientific and cultural Renaissance that shook the globe: It was the city-state of Florence in Italy. But as the arts and sciences leapt forward over the following centuries…politics in the West “advanced” much more slowly. You could argue that, politically, humanity is still almost in the Dark Ages. Sometimes civic transparency or liberty moves forward, sometimes backward…but things are not obviously better for liberty than they were a century ago.
As in the 1500 era, one tiny state has stepped forward to try and change this and create a renaissance. But this time it is a civic renaissance which we hope will compliment and enhance the world’s art and tech advances. Through its existing, relatively inclusive system…New Hampshire has become one of the freest places in the world and pro-liberty activists from around the planet have already migrated here by thousands. Meanwhile, the state has reduced its budgets in a time of double-digit inflation and become (or at least remained) the safest and most prosperous place in America. Next, liberty activists envision a gradual (sometimes interrupted) trend toward transparency, lower taxes and slow decentralization of power in the New Hampshire governing system. That is our careful renaissance.
During the 16th Century, Medici rulers in Florence invited governments from as far away as India to join in a great celebration of *their* Renaissance. What if we were to do something similar for *ours?* The Medici showcased the spectacular architecture and inventions they had commissioned, but what do we have to showcase? The answer is probably “Porcupine Festival with bus tours.”
PorcFest is an annual camping event which offers a perfect view of New Hampshire’s comely White Mountains but also the option of staying in motels. It’s usually sold out, and attendance tends to be around 3,000. Sometimes called “the libertarian Burning Man,” PorcFest showcases freedom itself: In contrast with the Nevada festival, government police are almost never present, drugs, guns and illegal commerce are welcome, assault rifles openly displayed. Depending on the year you can usually find devout Muslims and Israeli expats, Satanists and Christian Evangelicals, Ukrainians and Russians…all attending contentedly side by side. Housewives deliver unlicensed haircuts and live-stream the crime; children sell alcohol, illegal gambling tables spring up seemingly at random, and (late bloomer of the 20-year-old event) safely-practiced prostitution is reportedly easing its way into the mix.
Like the Woodstock festival of 1969, PorcFest has a ridiculously low incidence of harmful crime. Surely I’m missing something, but the worst event I can think of was a drunk driver who hurt no one and quickly generated a successful response from private security and our media outlets.
Forty-two percent of New Hampshirites favor a referendum on leaving the Union, according to SurveyUSA’s poll in mid-2022. And a Estonian-style “declaration of independence” went before the full NH State House the same year. But at PorcFest the numbers are much higher than 42 percent; the event usually includes a secession conference with regular appearances and visits by independence leaders from across the continent.
What if, like old Florence, we were to boost our status by sending PorcFest-secession-conference invitations to every national government in the world? Of course, attendees could also enjoy the weeklong event and join bus tours to other parts of the state.
The mere act of evenhandedly sending these invitations would be a tentative deed of neutrality. It would mean reaching out to Iran, North Korea and the Taliban (much as Ron Paul envisioned) while also requesting the presence of U.S. allies. It would be a chance for estranged nations to interact with these United States in a different way from “John Bolton.” It might “be the change we want to see in the world,” altering the current tone of international relations a bit with its re-introduction of Swiss-style neutrality. Unlike the Medici in Florence, we Ron Paul types don’t fully govern New Hampshire. But we do constitute a powerful faction here, and if the trend continues….we will eventually be the government here. Like the Medici before they fully achieved power in Florence, New Hampshire independence activists and libertarians may be group of people you want to know if you’re a foreign diplomat.
My brainstorm would be that for PorcFest 2023 we could email every national government in the world with such an invitation. For redundancy we would want to aim the invite at two different email addresses for each nation, and we would need to define what constitutes a national government. My tentative suggestion would be to include any national government that currently is recognized as such by at least one “UN member state.” For example this would include Kosovo in former Yugoslavia (U.S.-recognized but controversial) and Donetsk near the Russia-Ukraine border (Russia-recognized but also controversial). The list probably would not currently include ISIS diplomats, since it appears the group is not recognized by any UN member state. It would presumably include them in the future if that changes, and in the unlikely event they actually made it to New Hampshire we would have our chance to raise concerns about their behavior and show them a different path.
Although it would be tempting to send invitations in the native language of each recipient, this probably could not be done for all nations at this early stage. All the invitations would probably need to go out in English so that each nation is treated as equally as possible.
Disadvantages of this “invitation plan.”
1) There’s no way to guarantee the good behavior of any visitor to PorcFest. If we were to invite someone and they did something bad while in the U.S., that could be used as an excuse to harm NH liberty. Or there could be Washington-backed trickery.
2) Beijing, if it paid attention at all, would view this obviously neutral act as a provocation. Taiwan is recognized by some UN member states and would, like the CCP, need to be invited. Beijing hates anything that looks like recognizing Taiwan. But ultimately that is on Beijing. The Swiss did things that Germany viewed as provocations in 1940, but Switzerland needed to do them to remain neutral. Beijing could alternately see this invitation as an opportunity to peaceably tweak Washington’s nose. The neutrality of the porcupine has charms to match its quills.
3) The invitations might all be ignored; perhaps we are not big enough yet.
4) We’re diplomatic beginners and would make diplomatic mistakes. But that very process should make us better prepared for independence. Any Slovenian will probably tell you how important that is and how much “not being ready” cost them in ’91.
5) D.C. would perhaps try to block some nations from sending representatives…but this is likely more of an advantage than a problem. When D.C. uses its power, it usually gets weaker…and we get the publicity we seek. The lapdog presstitutes can be relied on to whine that we are being too evenhanded with some cleric at Tehran. Blocked passports might still let us have a publicity stunt on the Canadian border or in international waters…”North Korean diplomat meets U.S. dissidents off coast of restless New England province.”
6) As I understand it: During the War of 1812, New England representatives pushed for independence and met with the otherwise hostile British government. This perceived “separate peace” approach was considered backstabbing by some and is thought to have contributed to the demise of the Federalist faction in America. The groups which replaced it were arguably more authoritarian. By implementing the invitation plan….would we be making the same “mistake” in the same place?
7) Some effort might be required to determine whether outreach of this type is lawful. It seems unlikely that there is a law against individuals openly communicating with a foreign government, but if there is…it would be an opportunity for civil disobedience in front of a Federal compound. It would create both dangers and benefits which would have to be weighed before deciding what to do.
8) We’d need to invite U.S. diplomats, which would give them an excuse to legitimately be there. But D.C. is probably there anyway.
At present the main obstacle to carrying out the invitation plan is a logistical one. I don’t see myself being able to send out 500-odd invitations and perform follow-up activities by myself. Probably it would require about five of us to get started. So: I’m requesting four volunteers…regardless of your location. If they are forthcoming before November 1, 2022 (and there are no compelling arguments against this plan) we can start moving forward. If sufficient volunteers fail to materialize, that means this scheme is premature or flawed in some way. It would probably go back-burner for for a while. If you’d like to participate, respond in the comments section below…here at FreeKeene.com. No registration is required.
Photo: The Florence Duomo (Cathedral Square) from Michelangelo Hill. This file is licensed under the Creative CommonsAttribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Credit and copyright holder: Petar Milosevic.
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