In mid-2005 I learned of the Free State Project (FSP) from Jason Sorens, who was addressing an internship program based in DC in which I was involved. The goal of the FSP - to get liberty-oriented individuals from around the globe to relocate to New Hampshire (aka the 'shire) to work together to achieve "liberty in our lifetime" - definitely resonated. A couple of weeks later I was in northern New Hampshire at The Porcupine Freedom Festival, or PorcFest - the FSP's week-long annual fest held to showcase the growing community. The sheer size and diversity of people actually living the ideas was infectious.
Over the next few years I became more-involved with the FSP. Though I was unable to attend PorcFest in 2006 and 2007 due to working at summer seminars for college students hosted by the Institute for Humane Studies, I was involved with the Mid-Atlantic FSP group and with a FSP brainstorming group. It wouldn't be a stretch to liken me as a spokesperson for the FSP, especially to those who were entrepreneurial and doers. Think of me as John Galt and the 'shire as Galt's Gulch.
In 2008 I again made it to PorcFest, this time with Bureaucrash, the then-principled organization that's now-defunct. While there, I was able to reconnect with old friends (one who first informed me of agorism) and meet new people that I'd up until then only communicated with online. It was refreshing to be surrounded not by armchair philosophers but people putting ideas into practice.
After spending four years inside the Beltway, where it seemed almost everyone else was subsisting off the wealth created by others, I concluded that I could have a bigger impact outside the belly of the beast. My friend Jason Talley and I each dropped $8,000 to together purchase a 2000 Four Winds Hurricane. We dubbed the 30' RV MARV, the Mobile Authority Resistance Vehicle, and escaped from DC.
We traveled north to Keene, a small college town in the 'shire known for it's media creation and hotbed of activism, and spent a week further ironing-out some aspects of Motorhome Diaries (MHD), a project dedicated to "searching for freedom in America." We were soon joined by Adam Mueller (Ademo Freeman), who upon learning of MHD, had emailed and expressed his desire to join, and we together criss-crossed the country pointing our video cameras at those we thought advancing the broad freedom movement.
That summer we attended PorcFest 2009. I wasn't too surprised to find that some of those we had met on the road only a few months prior had already relocated to the 'shire. By late 2009 MARV had carried us 21,000-miles and we'd published a couple hundred videos, hosted about 60 meetups and connected with thousands in 41 states. It was clear the community was growing. It was thanks to the suggestion of a friend that we stopped by the Freedom's Phoenix workshop, where I met many activists I'm now fortunate to call good friends.
After MHD Jason and I put MARV up for sale. By that time MARV was painted black and gold and had an interior to match - lots of thought-provoking bumper stickers on the walls and an impressive guestbook on the ceiling. We made a video that included a walkaround of MARV and encouraged those interested in owning the RV to contact us. Though we received some feedback, nothing was significant enough to cause us to part ways with MARV.
A few months later I bought Jason out of his half of MARV for $6,500 and, recognizing the impact had through online content creation and in-person connections, Ademo and I founded Liberty On Tour (LOT), which sought to "advance the voluntary society." We returned to Keene for a few months to iron-out logistics for LOT and while there, became more involved with those on the ground in the area.
That summer - 2010 - MARV transported us and number of others from Keene to PorcFest. Some had bartered the ride up for their labor repainting MARV, in preparation for our pending tour. Being surrounded by so many inspirational people only underscored why it's my favorite week of the year. Not just for recreation, but for learning and deepening connections - all things critical to the implementation of a voluntary society. Shortly afterwards Ademo and I kicked-off our tour, which brought us to 13 cities in 13 weeks, from Keene to San Diego to Miami. Again, we were able to develop relationships with many awesome individuals, capture some solid content, and share ideas.
In 2011 we contemplated doing a longer tour for CopBlock.org - a decentralized site dedicated to police accountability that Ademo founded in early 2010 - but due to the uncertainty caused by multiple legal threats levied against us, it simply wasn't feasible. Instead, we did a shorter five-city, five-week route under the LOT banner called the Free State Friendship Tour. With the exception of Greenfield, MA, where we faced a multitude of charges include felony wiretapping, we traversed the 'shire to help focus a spotlight on all the going-ons in the 'shire.
MARV was instrumental in the success of MHD, LOT and to a more limited scale, Cop Block. Quite literally MARV was our workhorse, a combination vehicle, home, kitchen, and mobile command center, which allowed us to bring-together the burgeoning community united by the simple yet paradigm-shifting idea of self-ownership.
Yet realities have to be faced. Despite the fact that MARV's maintenance was covered by project budgets (advertisements from organizations, businesses and projects, and donations from individuals who appreciated our work, sometimes in exchange for a t-shirt or hood) my initial buy-in of the RV and my later buying-out of Jason represented a sizable chunk of change. At least for someone like myself, who's trying to be a full-time activist. So, earlier this year I decided to raffle MARV. I figured it much more realistic that a number of interested individuals would put-up a lesser amount for a ticket than one person would be able to buy MARV outright. Crowdsourcing. The long-tail.
Raffle tickets were priced at $20 for one or $100 for six. I created an overview video and shared it through MHD, LOT and my personal site. Others shared it as well. The raffle went live in April. Raffle details were included on the relevant page, as was a spreadsheet showing current ticket holders, and related playlists and links. Transparency was the name of the game. I sought to move 500 raffle tickets for the raffle to be live and noted that if 850 raffle tickets were sold the winner would also receive $1,000 to use for gas or whatever else. Incentives matter. The raffle was slated to end at PorcFest 2012, which was fitting since many present had been directly or indirectly involved in MARV's life.
Feedback gotten from those who knew of the raffle demonstrated the benefit of listening to market demand and feedback. While a lot of people expressed their affinity for MARV they questioned what they'd do with the RV were they to win. Fortunately someone who hoped to acquire MARV pledged an ounce of gold to the winner should they choose to buy a raffle ticket to support future projects. The fact that a $20 investment for a raffle ticket might net a $1,600 gold Maple Leaf served a powerful motivator. So too did the knowledge that the winner of the raffle could donate MARV back to me for use in a future, with the money raised from the raffle then serving as a cushion to loop-in more people to grow capacity and have a bigger impact.
When it was all said and done I moved about 420 raffle tickets, with about 1/4 of sales online and 3/4 of sales in-person. There were some takeaways from the process, not shared to dwell on the negative but to glean lessons-learned in case I or someone else does something similar in the future. After all, it was the first time I attempted to raffle off a vehicle. For example, it would have probably helped to park MARV in a busier location in/around Keene, possibly compensating a business owner for the space taken in the parking lot, just to get more eyes on the vehicle and thus more raffle tickets sold. It probably also would have helped were I to have created a few more videos about my memories with MARV, just to keep attention on the raffle.
The winner - David Blizzard who resides in northern Georgia - had purchased a few tickets online. He intends to leave MARV as-is, a rolling billboard for liberty, and use it to vacation.
A future Cop Block tour in another vehicle is a possibility. Whether Ademo will involved is uncertain; his ability to plan his life has again been made uncertain due to the claimed double-standards many unthinkingly afford to those who wear badges. He's currently threatened with three felony wiretapping charges for following-up on the rights-violating actions of Manchester Police Department employee Darren Murphy, who slammed a student's head off a lunchroom table at Manchester's West High School.
My goal is to one day live in a world where outlets like MHD, LOT and Cop Block are no longer needed, since no one claims and no one grants extra rights, and where the spontaneous community that forms for a week at PorcFest is the year-round reality.
It's bound to happen. The push for transparency will expose would-be aggressors. And as cliche as it is, the truth will set us free. Good people will increasingly collaborate in-person inside and across geographical boundaries thanks to the Internet. As A. Whitney Griswold said, "The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas" Like the FSP, MARV was merely a vehicle used to share an idea, and ideas have consequences.