The 12th annual Porcupine Freedom Festival was recently held in the Great North Woods region of “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire. It brought together freedom lovers of all stripes for an opportunity to peaceably interact without the threat of state violence (a few revenuers showed up at one point, but quickly left when they realized they were hanging out with 2,000 armed tax resisters). So, how do humans choose to associate when freed from the shackles of taxation, regulation, legal tender laws, and the other cancerous outgrowths of the state?

There were hundreds of small, agorist entrepreneurs out to match supply and demand. It was a festival self-conscious of capitalism: A profit made on a bottle of alcohol, bag of mushrooms, or plate of pulled pork was not a signal of antisocial behavior, but rather a signal of how much value was added to the festival by that person. No one complained of “gouging.” Without the tedious, grating, and typically insurmountable barriers to entry that the state puts up, without the cultural aversion to profit that’s enshrined in mainstream culture, business becomes a fun game on a level playing field.

And like any game, kids want to play. Typically, the state doesn’t let them, but here they were free to run around buying, selling, and accumulating capital. I witnessed a small group of kids between the ages of 4 and 10 make over a hundred dollars selling a vendor’s jewelry for a cut. The bigger kids were picking it up from the jewelry maker and even wholesaling it to the younger kids.

There were plenty of other children’s activities to do, there was a pool and games and an arcade and lots more. These kids didn’t need the money, they had loving families.  But the money didn’t seem to be the point. And, indeed, if you’re just trying to have fun, and help other people have fun, the money isn’t the point either. But it’s an important signal, a necessary rule/institution in the game. If this game called “the market” is “child labor”, then so is soccer or baseball by the same logic.

If you’re losing money, you’re not providing a service people want. The more you profit, the more fun you are bringing to Porcfest. But whether you’re logically examining the Porcfest economy as a whole, or just out to get your first job while being your own boss, profit and fun become synonymous. The work/play dynamic even becomes hazy. We’re so trained to think of work as boring and fun as non-profitable that it takes some time to wrap your head around the concept of having fun while making money. But these kids haven’t been forced into the work/play dynamic yet.

You’d think that, once these kids took their cut, they would run off and spend it gobbling down the various candies and confections that were around. It’s what most adults would do, after all: Consume your earnings. But nope, these kids were a little smarter. They did spend their money on candy and chips, but not to eat: To resell. They were growing their capital stock before they’d grown all their adult teeth.

This stuff literally can’t be taught in school (well, maybe it can). These kids were granting themselves their own diplomas, wads of them. In a way, it’s depressing. Outside of Porcfest, there is a very high barrier to entry for child entrepreneurship. “You must be this tall to ride the economy.” Lemonade stands are shut down by the health department, kids shoveling driveways are threatened by the cops, and the minimum wage has priced nearly all young workers out of the job market who weren’t explicitly banned by the state. I bet thousands of regulations were broken at the 2011 Porcfest when a 5-year-old sold an NPR reporter a beer.

The lesson, I think, is not that we should actively fight to repeal the state’s regulations, but that we should ignore them. But the state doesn’t ignore you: Only by coming together and providing a common, voluntary defense for your community, such as the Free State Project has done at Porcfest, can we create the free environment in which all humans, young and old, can thrive, profit, and have fun. And indeed, this idea is even enshrined into the New Hampshire Constitution: “The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.”

See you next year at Porcfest!