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Bitcoins, Guns and Gold: Life Among the Libertarians

The Porcupine Freedom Festival, which regulars call PorcFest, is the chief gathering for Free State Project's big idea trying to attract some 20,000 people to move to New Hampshire to "create a society in which the maximum role of government is the protection of life, liberty and property," the event's Web site says.

An easier way to understand it is that a bunch of libertarians think they can convince a bunch of other libertarians to move to New Hampshire so they can stuff the ballot boxes and claim a majority in the state legislature.

As one speaker told a crowd at PorcFest's main pavilion: "Five percent can turn an election." This speaker didn't note that Free State Project's stated goal would equate to just 1.5% of New Hampshire's current population, according to data estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The festival wasn't as I expected. Stories I heard before departing for PorcFest included men and women roaming around a police-less campground armed with handguns and rifles, food that wasn't approved by the FDA, gold and silver used as currencies of choice and camping in the wild.

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What I discovered was a family-friendly weeklong event that included numerous like-minded individuals, who didn't all happen to be armed with guns. The campground had no shortage of semi- and fully-automatic rifles, many of which attendees could shoot at a nearby firing range. Most of the food came from grocery stores instead of backyard farms, and options were barely healthy: bacon weave, hamburgers and various other meals loaded with cheese. Gold and silver were available, but more folks used Bitcoin in lieu of dollars. (Despite how many libertarians cheered the idea of Bitcoin, U.S. dollars were the most used form of currency.) The camping location sat in the shadow of the White Mountains and possibly was one of the most beautiful outdoor settings I've witnessed for an event site.

I met a lot of people during my weekend there. There was the guy who sold handmade silver coins while packing a rifle and holding a megaphone that said "PEACEFUL EVOLUTION." Nice guy. In from Indiana was a family with two young kids, and parents discussing their support of anti-vaccination -- part of it, they said, was their distrust of the government's involvement in medicine.

I met a President John Tyler (who opposed a central bank) impersonator who earns a living imitating historical figures. The man told me that he performed for free at PorcFest because he supports the cause and "people are willing to listen to you when you look weird." I sat around a picnic table of middle-aged graying men named Rick, Pete and James (they wore polo shirts tucked into shorts with sneakers and white tube socks) who carried guns on their hips and slept in RVs. I also caught up with former New Mexico Governor and former Republican presidential candidate Gary Johnson, who said running again is a possibility.

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