June 5, 2023


Music Festivals Are Real-World Examples of Free Societies

By: Brittany Hunter

There are numerous tangible examples of successful free societies all around us, even if those who are wary of liberty do not always recognize them. 

Of all the examples, my favorite comes from Las Vegas, where every year 500,000 people join together over the course of three days for the Electric Daisy Carnival music festival.

Every year, I marvel at this seemingly “radical” freedom that exists within the festival, I’ve even touched on the topic before. This year, my observations went beyond emergent order– I could see elements of a truly unbridled and free society almost everywhere. 

Community Policing

Festivals are overwhelming. Attendees must navigate their way through hundreds of thousands of people at night while flashing lights, lasers, pyrotechnics, and the thumping of bass from eight different stages commandeer their senses. In close quarters with large crowds, and cloaked in darkness, bad things can happen.

While there are police and security on the grounds during the festival, they are hand selected by festival organizers and there to play a very limited role rather than patrolling. This means the job of protecting yourself from outside threats is left up to your festival group.

Your festival crew is your community, and together you protect each other from theft and creepy behavior that can happen on each stage where tens of thousands of people congregate. You must all be hyper aware of your surroundings constantly assessing threats, something that is much easier to do in a group. If someone in your group gets a little too intoxicated, you pay extra close attention to making sure they stay safe, just as they would do for you.

Someone is always on alert to warn and watch. And believe me, crooks and creeps alike will take notice of this and leave. 

Your community is also there to make sure everyone is staying hydrated, which can be a feat in the hot desert heat. Everyone benefits from being a part of this group and everyone has an incentive to protect the others.

Harm Reduction

Yes … drug use does happen en masse at festivals. However, in the real world, drug use also happens en masse. The difference is, the festival community is prepared to deal with it in ways that save lives and keep people from becoming another casualty of the War on Drugs.

If something awful should happen, privately-contracted medics are the first to respond. Police are told to stay outside earshot so medics can ask about the substance taken without anyone fearing retribution. 

The festival medics always have Narcan–which counteracts the effects of an opioid overdose and saves lives, and “ground patrol” volunteers who walk around the festival and make sure everyone is  okay. If they see someone having a hard time, they help them out, give them some water, or take them to the med tent if they need it.

Unlike drug overdoses, some drugs, like psychedelics, do not result in physical harm, but rather people often find themselves having a mentally tough time. Zendo tents with couches are often set up where people can escape the chaotic festival setting. These calming areas are also fill with trained volunteers to help those experiencing bad trips.

Free societies recognize that people are not only allowed to choose what they put in their bodies, they also understand that many people make risky choices. Instead of punishing, they offer harm reduction strategies to foster an environment of bodily autonomy while also promoting community concern and safety.

A Lesson in Free Markets

While many attendees are young students who lean left in the real world and as such, have negative feelings toward the free market, it exists all around them, even when it comes to the festival tickets themselves.

The bathroom situation at festivals is horrifying, to put it lightly. But every ticket holder gets to choose the experience they want–if they are willing to pay for it.

I always buy a general admission ticket–the cheapest ticket there is. For me, the lower cost is worth the less-than-pleasant bathroom experience. But for those who are willing, there are two more tiers of tickets: general admissions (slightly better bathrooms) and VIP (which comes with air conditioned bathroom trailers). 

By engaging in a voluntary market transaction, everyone gets to choose their own adventure.

People Are Generally Pretty Good

Those who think order can only be achieved in a world of government control often base this belief on the idea that people are generally bad and need to be coerced into living in a civilized society.

As EDC showed me, nothing could be further from the truth. This year, my friend had a knee injury and, despite that, decided to attend the festival in a wheelchair. 

I admit I was worried about how this would play out in such a crowd, but the level of kindness and generosity was off the charts.

At every stage, strangers helped us make our way through a crowd. More than once, attendees formed a human wall to get my friend and our group to the front of the stage and through crowds of 30,000 plus people.

On two separate occasions, strangers also lifted my friend’s chair, and her with it, into the air so she could see the DJ playing. No one asked them to, but left to their own devices, they wanted to help and give back. 

While too many attendees had their phones stolen by bad actors, many people found phones and valuable items on the ground and went out of their way to return them to lost and found. Helping others made them feel good, and gave them that sense of community. It is the golden rule at its finest, they did unto others and they would have others do unto them. 

In fact, on the rare occasion when pick pockets were discovered, groups of strangers would stop and detain them until someone could get security.

All this happened without central authority telling them that they should or had to.

From the outside, an onlooker might see a festival as chaotic and maybe even a bit scary. But the same could be said of free societies. 

To those who always fear freedom and love to pose the question “what would we do without a strong government telling us how to act?” The answer is simple: We’d dance.