The Free Market in Action… And The Tragedy of the Commons

Many people have never experienced an environment in which a free-market can truly exist. I, however, was lucky enough to be part of a week-long event where such an environment did exist. From June 20th — 26th, I was in Lancaster, New Hampshire at the Free State Project’s Porcupine Freedom Festival, shortened as PorcFest. During PorcFest hundreds of people join together to meet and mingle as well as live out a freedom lovers paradise. As attendance has risen, the number of vendors at PorcFest has grown as well, thanks in part to the wider range of attendees and most importantly, the lack of government interference.

Most of the vendors in the Agora Valley section of the campground were not “legitimate” businesses in the eyes of any government and have no store outside the PorcFest event. To the best of my knowledge, no one contracted any food-borne illnesses, even with the lack of any regulation on the nearly one dozen food vendors. All of the transactions were voluntary agreed upon by all parties involved. While most of the transactions were conducted using Federal Reserve Notes, many transactions were barter transactions involving silver, copper and/or other goods for services. The market worked so well that anyone looking for work found a “job” at a rate normally above the what would be considered “minimum wage”. Even some children looking to make a few extra dollars were successfully contracted to work, granted at lower rates that would not be allowed in the “real world.” While I am not privy to all details of contracts by most vendors, I know that at least one vendor contracted children to sell smoothies in exchange for tips – he even told the children to advertise that they worked for tips. I was able to contract several children to work for commission. Such voluntary and mutually beneficial contracts would be prohibited outside of PorcFest due to the regulations against such activity. To the best of my knowledge, no children were abused, injured, or under-compensated for their work, and they all seemed to be having a fun time with their “jobs.”

Events like PorcFest – where people are allowed to buy, sell and work without government regulations, licensing laws and taxation – prove that a free-market system works. However, events like this also prove the Tragedy of the Commons. Event organizers and other volunteers spent two days cleaning up the common areas. I have no doubt that given some thought, this problem will be solved with a free-market solution.

Update: Porcfest 2012 has already being scheduled for June 18-24.

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