web site hit counter A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (And Some Bears) - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (And Some Bears)

Availability: Ready to download

A tiny American town's plans for radical self-government overlooked one hairy detail: no one told the bears. Once upon a time, a group of libertarians got together and hatched the Free Town Project, a plan to take over an American town and completely eliminate its government. In 2004, they set their sights on Grafton, NH, a barely populated settlement with one paved roa A tiny American town's plans for radical self-government overlooked one hairy detail: no one told the bears. Once upon a time, a group of libertarians got together and hatched the Free Town Project, a plan to take over an American town and completely eliminate its government. In 2004, they set their sights on Grafton, NH, a barely populated settlement with one paved road. When they descended on Grafton, public funding for pretty much everything shrank: the fire department, the library, the schoolhouse. State and federal laws became meek suggestions, scarcely heard in the town's thick wilderness. The anything-goes atmosphere soon caught the attention of Grafton's neighbors: the bears. Freedom-loving citizens ignored hunting laws and regulations on food disposal. They built a tent city in an effort to get off the grid. The bears smelled food and opportunity. A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear is the sometimes funny, sometimes terrifying tale of what happens when a government disappears into the woods. Complete with gunplay, adventure, and backstabbing politicians, this is the ultimate story of a quintessential American experiment -- to live free or die, perhaps from a bear.


Compare

A tiny American town's plans for radical self-government overlooked one hairy detail: no one told the bears. Once upon a time, a group of libertarians got together and hatched the Free Town Project, a plan to take over an American town and completely eliminate its government. In 2004, they set their sights on Grafton, NH, a barely populated settlement with one paved roa A tiny American town's plans for radical self-government overlooked one hairy detail: no one told the bears. Once upon a time, a group of libertarians got together and hatched the Free Town Project, a plan to take over an American town and completely eliminate its government. In 2004, they set their sights on Grafton, NH, a barely populated settlement with one paved road. When they descended on Grafton, public funding for pretty much everything shrank: the fire department, the library, the schoolhouse. State and federal laws became meek suggestions, scarcely heard in the town's thick wilderness. The anything-goes atmosphere soon caught the attention of Grafton's neighbors: the bears. Freedom-loving citizens ignored hunting laws and regulations on food disposal. They built a tent city in an effort to get off the grid. The bears smelled food and opportunity. A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear is the sometimes funny, sometimes terrifying tale of what happens when a government disappears into the woods. Complete with gunplay, adventure, and backstabbing politicians, this is the ultimate story of a quintessential American experiment -- to live free or die, perhaps from a bear.

30 review for A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (And Some Bears)

  1. 5 out of 5

    K.J. Charles

    Absolutely amazing. The story of a tiny remote New Hampshire town that has prioritised not paying taxes and avoiding state interference over everything in its history including, crucially, a functional fire department and bear control. This place naturally gets swarmed with libertarians attempting to demonstrate Randian principles by smoking a lot of weed and suing the government a lot, also unfettered open carry. Things go poorly. It's terrifically written, hugely readable and extremely funny, Absolutely amazing. The story of a tiny remote New Hampshire town that has prioritised not paying taxes and avoiding state interference over everything in its history including, crucially, a functional fire department and bear control. This place naturally gets swarmed with libertarians attempting to demonstrate Randian principles by smoking a lot of weed and suing the government a lot, also unfettered open carry. Things go poorly. It's terrifically written, hugely readable and extremely funny, but not poking fun at its subjects (beyond what is reasonable, anyway). Some of them are obviously just contrarian arseholes but others are people with a very strongly defined set of values where 'liberty' comes well before 'life' or 'happiness' or 'society' or 'safety'. Which, fine, their choice, if they *want* to live in an amenity-free dump rather than pay $300 a year more tax. Which they do. These are people whose value system puts individual liberty well above their own health, safety or comfort, who choose to live shittier-than-necessary lives themselves as well as letting their neighbours twist in the wind for lack of support, not just as a matter of terminal shortsightedness and paranoia but as a real principle. It's not that they're necessarily in denial of the overwhelming evidence in favour of eg fire services or funding municipal amenities, or NOT REGULARLY FEEDING BEARS DOUGHNUTS LIKE THEY'RE PIGEONS JESUS CHRIST. It's more that any sort of socially imposed restriction or demand seems to them repugnant, a profound moral wrong. I find it deeply hard to come up with a good reason to be against socialised healthcare or pandemic mask-wearing, but this book does provide some insight into that mindset. The line that really struck me was in a discussion of taxes, and how paying enough to provide a decent place to live is correlated with happy people. But, the author observes, maybe it's not that paying more in tax and getting the benefits makes you happier. Maybe it's that happier people are readier to contribute to the good of others) whereas by and large the committed libertarians in this book seem to be mostly aggressive, grating, and miserable. (And, notably, the most positive and likeable one is also the volunteer fire chief, ie someone who does in fact contribute to his community.) An absolutely fascinating read, while being hugely enjoyable, and very funny indeed.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paquita Maria Sanchez

    In pursuit of the ideal community, a chance to show the inherent superiority of their beliefs, a ton of internet-buddy libertarians force themselves on a small New Hampshire town, taking over and gutting the local government in a community surrounded by a forest teeming with bears. As trash piles up and forestry service funds and regulations run dry, things go about as you would expect, give or take a bear mauling a human, and a bunch of ostentatiously armed humans shooting up bears like they're In pursuit of the ideal community, a chance to show the inherent superiority of their beliefs, a ton of internet-buddy libertarians force themselves on a small New Hampshire town, taking over and gutting the local government in a community surrounded by a forest teeming with bears. As trash piles up and forestry service funds and regulations run dry, things go about as you would expect, give or take a bear mauling a human, and a bunch of ostentatiously armed humans shooting up bears like they're in a Scorsese movie. This is, of course, just the beginning of the troubles. And this all really happened. Recently. Sharp, hilarious, and so good, this thing reads like a Christopher Guest movie. Christ, what a country.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Donna Davis

    How much would you pay right now to laugh out loud, and laugh hard, about something that has nothing whatsoever to do with current events? Exactly. My thanks go to Net Galley and Perseus Books for the review copy. This book is for sale now. The author is a journalist who caught wind of a tiny hamlet in New Hampshire that was taken over by libertarians: “The four libertarians who came to New Hampshire had thinner wallets than…other would-be utopians, but they had a new angle they believed would h How much would you pay right now to laugh out loud, and laugh hard, about something that has nothing whatsoever to do with current events? Exactly. My thanks go to Net Galley and Perseus Books for the review copy. This book is for sale now. The author is a journalist who caught wind of a tiny hamlet in New Hampshire that was taken over by libertarians: “The four libertarians who came to New Hampshire had thinner wallets than…other would-be utopians, but they had a new angle they believed would help them move the Free Town Project out of the realm of marijuana-hazed reveries and into reality. Instead of building from scratch, they would harness the power and infrastructure of an existing town—just as a rabies parasite can co-opt the brain of a much larger organism and force it work against its own interests, the libertarians planned to apply just a bit of pressure in such a way that an entire town could be steered toward liberty.” By the time the long-term denizens of Grafton realized the extent of the mayhem that these people intended, they discovered that “the libertarians were operating under vampire rules—the invitation to enter, once offered, could not be rescinded…At the same time the Free Towners set themselves to shaping the community to their liking, the town’s bears were working to create their own utopia.” The newcomers’ idea of liberty meant no enforcement of any law, and no taxes, even for basic infrastructure and services. And when the local bear population blossomed, it was every Free Towner for herself. Hongoltz-Hetling provides a succinct history of the town, then introduces a handful of the key players. There’s a man that buys and lives in a church in order to avoid paying taxes; an Earth Mother type that decides the bears are hungry and should receive free donuts, seeds, and grains daily in her own backyard; several tent dwellers that eschew basic hygiene and food safety; and oh, so many, many bears. Some of the townspeople are identified by name, but those that prefer anonymity are identified by colorful nicknames. At the outset we see jaw-dropping levels of eccentricity coupled with hilarious anecdotes, and true to his journalistic calling, the author spends a good deal of time in this tiny, lawless burg, and so he reports events not second hand, but from his own experience. My favorite part is the showdown between Hurricane the Guard Llama and an ursine interloper looking for mutton on the hoof. Another is the conflict between “Beretta,” the resident next door to “Doughnut Lady,” who hates all bears primarily because they are fat. Eventually things take a darker, more tragic turn for some; the most impressive aspect of this story is the seamless manner in which the author segues from the hilarious to the heartbreaking, and then brings us back up for air. Ultimately, the bears are emblematic of the need human beings have for cooperation and organization. Though the material used for this story is rich and original, it takes a gifted wordsmith like Hongoltz-Hetling to craft it into a darkly amusing tale of this caliber. If I were to change one thing, I would lose the digression near the middle of the book with regard to typhus, Tunisia, and diseases shared by bears. It slows the pace and could easily be whittled down to a single paragraph. But the rest of this book is so engaging that I cannot reduce my rating by even half a star. My advice is to skim that passage, which eats up about five percent of an otherwise perfectly executed narrative, unless of course you like that aspect of it. In six years of reviewing, and out of the 666 reviews I have provided to Net Galley—and yes, that’s the actual number, until I turn this review in—I have purchased fewer than one percent of the books I’ve read, either to give as gifts, or to keep. That said, this book is going under my Christmas tree this December. If you read it, you’re bound to agree: the story of Grafton is the best surprise of 2020. Do it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    David Wineberg

    What would a town run by libertarians look like? Wild, happy freedom? Prosperity for all? In Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling’s A Libertarian Walks into a Bear, the answer is much more uncomfortable. Libertarians have issues – with every one and every thing. They are miserable in their “freedom”. Grafton, New Hampshire has always had a libertarian streak. Before they completed the US Constitution, Grafton was already trying to secede from the USA. Any hint of tax or authority set the residents off. It ha What would a town run by libertarians look like? Wild, happy freedom? Prosperity for all? In Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling’s A Libertarian Walks into a Bear, the answer is much more uncomfortable. Libertarians have issues – with every one and every thing. They are miserable in their “freedom”. Grafton, New Hampshire has always had a libertarian streak. Before they completed the US Constitution, Grafton was already trying to secede from the USA. Any hint of tax or authority set the residents off. It has been slashing budgets and avoiding services ever since. In this century, libertarians were drawn to Grafton by the promise of turning “a stodgy and unattractive thicket of burdensome regulations into an ‘anything goes’ frontier where…citizens could assert certain inalienable rights, such as the right to have more than two junk cars on private property, the right to gamble, the right to engage in school truancy, the right to traffic drugs and the right to have incestual intercourse…the right to traffic organs, the right to hold duels, and the God-given, underappreciated right to organize so-called bum fights, in which people who are homeless or otherwise indigent are paid small amounts of money to engage in fisticuffs.” This was the Free Town Project, and the pitches are from its website. It promised no or minimal taxation and no interference by any authority, of which there would simply be none. After all, New Hampshire was the home of the “Live Free or Die” license plate. The people pushing this policy had their own reasons, rather than a consistent political philosophy. They were not successful in life. Some were sexual predators trying to start over with no boundaries (or ID). They were not builders or entrepreneurs, but arguers. Freedom was about the only word they had in common. They attacked Grafton with an aim to tear it down to nothing, requiring no taxes and providing no services. Freedom from participating in the community was the goal. Every home was a castle to its owner, and private property was all that mattered. The government’s sole role in their scenario was to protect property rights. Roads, lights, fire parks, social services and police held no places in their vision. “Grafton’s municipal office deteriorated from a state of mere shabbiness to downright decrepitude,” Hetling says. Buildings fell well below code. The public library could open for just three hours, on Wednesday mornings. Its bathroom was a refurbished Port-A-Potty, bolted to a wall. Potholed roads received no attention. The volunteer fire department relied on nearby towns. Stores disappeared. So did the school. By the time this book was written, the last retail establishment was gone. Life in Grafton kept deteriorating, while the nearby towns of Canaan and Enfield, with triple the tax revenues, were blossoming, accommodating, comfortable and inviting. And growing. In Grafton, police chiefs had to work, interview people and store records in their own homes over a stretch of 82 years. The contrasts with real government were stark. One long subplot in the book involves a man who bought the old church, announced he was the new pastor, and ran it into the ground. Every year he refused to pay taxes. Every year he applied for a non-profit exemption. But as a dyed-in-the-wool libertarian, he refused to apply to the IRS for 501(3)C non-profit status. Without it, the town refused his applications. But not believing the IRS to be a legitimate institution, he would not lower himself to deal with it. Instead, he fought off annual seizures, lived like a hermit and eventually, penniless, died in a fire in the church. Such is the price of freedom, libertarian style. The town’s budget kept shrinking, and it could not keep up with normal commitments. People sued the town over everything, driving up legal costs in a budget that never even covered the basics. Grafton libertarians seemed to spend all their time griping about their freedoms, but they had none. They felt the need to be armed, overwhelmingly. They were always on guard for the slightest challenge to their so-called freedoms. One walked around with a video recorder always on to prove to one and all every little slight he suffered on a daily basis. Hetling shows how he taunted people into such situations so he could claim martyrdom. Libertarians are constantly on their guard. Graftonites got into arguments and fights. For the first time in decades, there were murders. Police calls soared. When fire broke out, neighbors rushed to help carry belongings out of the house, but then others stole them out of the fields. Sex offender registrations more than tripled in four years. A tent city took shape. Anything that required raising money for the town got voted down. Angrily. There were absurd arguments over everything. When the state recommended a tax holiday for the blind, voters in Grafton tried to shout it down, claiming every blind millionaire in the world would move to Grafton, take over and raise everyone else’s taxes. The motion passed, but no millionaires descended. Civil discourse and common sense seem to have little role to play in a libertarian society. Hetling spent four years getting to know the locals. It could be a struggle at times. Often, they clammed up simply because he was a journalist. Others because they had things to hide. They lied to him, and he knew it. The hostility was palpable: “Knocking on doors in Grafton has left me with the nervous reflex of tensing up every time the door opens. You just never know when you’re going to get Friendly Advice,” Hetling said. The tension level was far higher in the land of the free of Grafton, and with no services or infrastructure, and no prospects for work or success, residents left, making the problem worse. This also allowed the forest to reclaim it, bit by bit. This is where the bears come in, literally. Grafton is in bear country, and it was always noticeable, without being a big problem. But recently, residents started to feed them or made it easy for them to feed themselves. Where other towns enjoyed seeing the occasional bear, in Grafton they were considered a plague. Every other chapter in the book is a standalone bear story. The book tries really hard to weave a parallel story of bears into the main drama of libertarianism. But it doesn’t fit and it doesn’t work. The libertarian book stands on its own, without any reference to bears needed, or adding any value to the politics. The bear chapters make it bulky and balky. Every chapter in the book begins with an epigraph quoting someone famous, most often Shakespeare, mentioning the word bear. It is as if Hetling went through Bartlett’s Quotations, and found two dozen quotes with the word bear, and placed them at the top of his chapters. None of them connects to the chapter ahead. And none of them has to anything to do with libertarianism. They have no relevance to the bear issues in Grafton, and certainly nothing whatever to do with the politics of American-style libertarianism. It is forced, off topic, and really only supports the jokey title – A Libertarian Walks into a Bear. Hetling does a terrific job of getting under his characters’ skins. He makes readers understand where they’ve been and how they came to this place at this time. He even followed one to Arizona, where she was finally able to relax, regain her composure, confidence and strength, and surprised herself by becoming independent again and enjoying her new community. His research back to the time of independence builds a solid foundation for the deterioration to come. And he does it with humor, setting up situations and cashing with a sly remark. He also likes subtlety. Sarcasm adds a laugh or two along the way, too. Hetling tells a good story. Or two in this case. Just largely unconnected and unconnectable. The message is that Ayn Rand was very wrong. Given the total freedom they seek, Americans cringe in fear. They fear losing any part of their freedoms. They fear their neighbors. They fear any kind of authority. Their community crumbles before their eyes at their own instigation. There is no cohesion, only suspicion. The libertarian ethic is anti-everything, pro-nothing, and a horrible way to live. David Wineberg

  5. 4 out of 5

    Angie Boyter

    A honey of a tale! The title of this book raised three expectations in my mind: I will hear about rather committed libertarians; I will learn something about animals, particularly bears; and I will have fun doing it. I am pleased to report that A Libertarian Walks into a Bear met all three expectations! New Hampshire, with its motto of “Live Free or Die” and town meetings where all the residents make major decisions for the town, sounds like fertile ground for an experiment in libertarian living. A honey of a tale! The title of this book raised three expectations in my mind: I will hear about rather committed libertarians; I will learn something about animals, particularly bears; and I will have fun doing it. I am pleased to report that A Libertarian Walks into a Bear met all three expectations! New Hampshire, with its motto of “Live Free or Die” and town meetings where all the residents make major decisions for the town, sounds like fertile ground for an experiment in libertarian living. Grafton, NH, a small isolated community of about 560 households, looked like a good choice for a group of libertarians, who moved to Grafton in 2004 to “’liberate’ it from the strangling yokes of government.” The “group”, if it can really be called that, each had their individual notions of personal freedom, and it was as interesting to hear the disagreements within the Free Towners as it was to learn about the clashes with other townspeople and authorities. This book is thought-provoking, and I believe one of its strengths is that it lets the readers develop their own thoughts. This is not a book where the author tirelessly grinds his axe and portrays the situation as very black-and-white. The reader gets to see both the benefits and the warts of less government and more government, more freedom and less freedom. Many people could agree with the libertarians’ push to allow them to grow marijuana or own a gun but draw the line at allowing adults to have sex with young minors or telling people if they want the road in front of their house to be maintained they should do it themselves. At the other end of the spectrum the excessive bureaucracy of the government at times clearly stands in the way of helping the citizens. New England people have a reputation for being colorful and quirky, and there are plenty of them in Grafton. Author Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling portrays them with warmth and sympathy, no matter where they stand on the political spectrum. I was especially drawn to Jessica Soule, a Navy veteran and ex-Moonie whose kittens were snatched from her yard by a bear. And I was glad not to be in the shoes of libertarian firefighter John Babiarz, who is faced with the ethical dilemma of being called to put out an open fire built by a group of libertarians to cook hot dogs when the area was experiencing a severe drought and open fires had been prohibited. So what about the bears? Some might feel the bear theme, which plays a major role in the book (Highlighted by the presence of wonderful chapter epigrams mentioning bears from people like Charles Dickens and Abraham Lincoln) is irrelevant to the main theme, but I felt it was a brilliant ingredient. Rural New Hampshire is full of wildlife that gives the humans joy and heartache and presents beauty and danger. It is not surprising that there are differences of opinion in how to deal with this element of life and that those differences can have significant consequences. Bears are a good example in themselves and a wonderful metaphor for the broader issues. In the course of spinning the yarn of the Free Town of Grafton , Hongoltz-Hetling takes a number of side trips. Some were closely related, such as the story of how the elite community of Hanover, NH, site of Dartmouth College, handled its bear problem. Others seem less relevant, like the story of Nobel winner Charles Nicolle, a French doctor working in Tunisia who discovered the toxoplasmosa gondii pathogen. In the hands of a less skilled writer, I tend to get impatient at such deviations from the main storyline, but these were reliably both fascinating, informative, and relevant. Who would enjoy this book? A major factor in helping me decide how much I enjoyed a book is how many friends I want to recommend it to, and in this case the list is long. My libertarian-leaning friends (No, I doubt any of them would have moved to Free Town. ), my liberal friends, history-loving friends, friends with a sense of humor. As a matter of fact, I would recommend this book to anyone who likes books that make you think without hitting you over the head with the author’s thesis. As a matter of fact, if I were not somewhat libertarian-inclined myself, I might even call it required reading.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cait McKay

    Something this dire - a town of people so opposed to paying taxes that they become a country-wide hotspot for bear attacks - should not be this funny. Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling carefully walks the line between Bill Bryson and a VICE documentarian while spinning this wild story of a Free Town and the beasts- man and animal alike, within. This collection of people, carefully and deliberately documented by Hongoltz-Hetling, shoot themselves in the foot so many times and with such ferocity that it is Something this dire - a town of people so opposed to paying taxes that they become a country-wide hotspot for bear attacks - should not be this funny. Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling carefully walks the line between Bill Bryson and a VICE documentarian while spinning this wild story of a Free Town and the beasts- man and animal alike, within. This collection of people, carefully and deliberately documented by Hongoltz-Hetling, shoot themselves in the foot so many times and with such ferocity that it is amazing the whole town of Grafton isn't just a smoking hole in the ground. I know Grafton, as I know New Hampshire; I have been an accidental resident of the Granite State for the last 14 years. I went to school down in Cheshire county and stayed; I've lived and worked allover the place, from down on the MA border to way out in the Great North Woods. I got married here, I have a home here, and my career is here- none of which was really planned. I happened to be here, so I continued to follow opportunities further and further away from my Tri-State Area upbringing. When I lived nearer to Grafton, not long from when this account takes place, I used to drive that stretch of Route 4 on the regular; the dilapidated sign for The Ruggles Mine is still stamped in my brain. Grafton is a lot like many other small rural towns in the North East; boarded up stores, countless "for sale" signs, handmade "private property" posts, ramshackle buildings, dead cars, and people working in their yards with firearms strapped to their hip. People who want to give you, as Hongoltz-Hetling experienced many times, "friendly advice" while flashing a threatening smile and the butt of their gun. New Hampshire is full of towns that flourished pre-Civil War; Grafton itself housed kilns, mills, and farms that all dried up as people and industry moved west. Many of these towns left old stone walls, schoolhouses, and maybe a church dotting the rapidly reforesting landscape, but Grafton had something else: lots of bears, and a town worth of Libertarians! Hongoltz-Hetling paints a bizarre and often hilarious picture of a small town besieged by both bears and Libertarians. He uses bits of historical anecdote and research to illustrate the terrible destiny of Grafton; even pre-America folks out in those woods would do anything to avoid paying taxes- and would get continuously mauled by bears! The area has long been a magnet for self-styled free thinkers, and this account holds our hand and introduces us to the thinkers, movers, and shakers of the Free Town experiment. In the early 2000s, a handful of Libertarians from allover the country rolled in to town and began to dismantle the already sparse infrastructure of the town, focusing on the freedom to protect one's own property and not much else.  Things went, as I am sure you can imagine, off the rails in a stunning way. I took copious notes while reading this book, as it is full with baffling story after baffling story. I laughed a lot, and gasped out loud in shock in equal measure. I had quotes on quotes saved up to share here, but no- you have to read this for yourself. You have to let Hongoltz-Hetling guide you through this mire of anti-government invaders, old-home townsfolk, and the bears that terrorize and delight them all.  A few words of warning; since we are talking rural New England and bears, we are definitely talking about graphic situations. There is mauling, poaching, and the eating of pets aplenty. All of these instances are documented with care, but they are gruesome none the less. There are also descriptions of ideas held by people both within and outside of the Libertarian party that are pretty extreme; Hongoltz-Hetling handles them with grace and refrains from veering into the salacious, which is a difficult feat considering the actions and ideas of said people!  This is required reading for anyone with a spark of curiosity; I have a list of people in mind that need to read this book, and it will be going out to many for the upcoming holiday. Now is the best time to read a book from the safety and comfort of home- why not read a book full of humor, horror, and top-notch reporting?  *I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

  7. 5 out of 5

    David

    This book – in which libertarians have literally a title role – was researched, written, fact-checked, edited, probably re-edited (if it's like most other books), and generally endured all the torturous gyrations that any book must go through, all long before the current COVID-19 pandemic came along to blight our lives. But now the pandemic is here, and, try as I might, I see now everything through the lens of pandemic. So, even though this well-written and entertaining book was formed without r This book – in which libertarians have literally a title role – was researched, written, fact-checked, edited, probably re-edited (if it's like most other books), and generally endured all the torturous gyrations that any book must go through, all long before the current COVID-19 pandemic came along to blight our lives. But now the pandemic is here, and, try as I might, I see now everything through the lens of pandemic. So, even though this well-written and entertaining book was formed without regard to pandemic, here is my pandemic-influenced view: As there are allegedly no atheists in foxholes, “There Are No Libertarians in an Epidemic”, opined The Atlantic recently (March 2020). Libertarians replied (here, here, and here, among other places) that there were still plenty of libertarians in this pandemic, thank you very much. The problem is: the (to be clear: NOT sarcasm) principled libertarian intellectuals who write closely-reasoned defenses of their conception of liberty – like those cited above – have roughly the same relation to the libertarians portrayed in this book as the singing bears in Disney movies have to the actual reality-based New Hampshire bears who, at best, are daily flinging your garbage around your property in search of a snack and, at worst, are snatching defenseless kittens from your back porch and ripping them open with their claws as you listen, helpless, to their anguished kitten death-throes. (This last actually happens and is described in disturbing detail early in this book.) If I remember correctly, at least one of the principled libertarian intellectuals cited above includes law enforcement as an essential role of the state to which libertarians have no objection. However, this book says the actual rank-and-file libertarians who heeded a call to move to the village of Grafton, New Hampshire, to establish a model libertarian town, while perhaps not disagreeing to the idea of law enforcement in principle, invariably ended up being, according to the author's characterization a “small army” of “suffering victims of bullshit traffic tickets, alimony burdens imposed by unsympathetic divorce court judges, and school systems that were unfair to their kids” (Kindle location 2996). They also have no trouble with menacing the author with not-so-veiled verbal threats and possibly-illegal displays of ammunition and firearms when he snoops around persistently in pursuit of those suspected of illegal bear killing. The Grafton libertarian leadership also had a occasionally problematic relationship with the law, as it initially contained a man whose interest in liberty included “a long-standing belief that minors could consent to sexual relationships with adults”. To be fair, let me include the following: “When a 2010 audio clip of him stating that view – specifying that a six-year-old could give consent – was publicized in 2016, ...” he was disowned by his Grafton cohort “(though he remained a prominent figure in libertarian circles)” (location 3005). In case you get the idea that this book is just libertarian-bashing, let me say that, although libertarians are definitely bashed in this book, the author also points out the shortcomings of non-libertarian New Hampshire-ites (Hampshireans?) as well, particularly, the prosperous, wildlife-loving, and more politically-savvy residents of Hanover, home of Dartmouth College, who successfully lobbied for the state to trap a garbage-loving ursine named Mink, and her cubs, and relocate them, at public expense, to a remote area close to the Canadian border, where they would be somebody else's problem. Kindle location 3149: A bear's life in Hanover is threatened, and the state moves heaven and earth to find it and treat it in accordance with the wishes of the public. A bear threatens a woman's life in Grafton, and the state makes a halfhearted effort to capture it before the incident quickly fades from the public imagination. Still, libertarians come in for most of the bashing in this book. Attempts to establish a community free of self-defined excessive state interference result in a community that cannot fight its own fires or deal with it bear problems any better than the pampered “statist” (a favorite libertarian form of derision) of university towns. Attempts to live “off the grid” are rendered laughable by the arrival of those who define “off the grid” as “not paying for the electricity to power the wide-screen cable television that I cannot live without”. Grafton becomes an impoverished and dysfunctional black comedy before the whole things collapses and is abandoned. The writing in the book is generally very good, but I wonder what got into the author, and what the editor (if any) was thinking, when it was decided (at Kindle location 2148) that citing scholarship by a real-life Oxford history professor named Daniel Butt was a good occasion for several closely-following occasions of the scholar's name paired, often after tortured syntax, with the words “wipe”, “cracks”, and “whole”. You can call me a humorless and pandemic-vexed grump if you wish, but I stopped thinking that puns of this caliber were funny when I graduated elementary school, which was some time ago now. Returning to the book as a whole: movements and their philosophies should not be judged by their most embarrassing practitioners, but they often are. The pronouncements of vapid movie- and pop-stars are used to condemn US liberalism, and the public antics of morbidly-obese Confederate sympathizers stand in for people of good will who think the world is going to hell in a hat-box. For a long time, libertarianism seemed too much of a fringe movement to attract the critical mass of foolish hypocrites who bring shame to other political points-of-view. But no longer. The pandemic has thrown into high relief the occasional need for whole-community action in a time of crisis. If a small group of people disregards government regulations installed to protect the weakest of us, the whole community can suffer. But some deliberately fail to understand. As a veteran of New Hampshire-libertarian inflighting says in this book, “They don't get the responsibility side of being a libertarian” (Kindle location 1636). Read a May 2018 article that the author wrote about Grafton's bears and libertarians here. Most of the information in the article appears in the book, in a different form. I received a free advanced review copy of this book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Farah Mendlesohn

    Good book to read the day the election results concluded. Died laughing. Turns out that taxes pay for things you might need. But in between the levity this book has fascinating things to say and I learned things about the state of New Hampshire.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    I grew up in Harrisville, New Hampshire -- a tiny town located just east of Keene. From what I can remember from my childhood, there wasn't a lot to do in Harrisville. I do remember there were a lot of dirt roads, fields, and moose. Today the population of Harrisville is still under 1000 people, and there is only one school -- an elementary school servicing grades K-6. So reading Hongoltz-Hetling's book about a similarly small town a bit farther north felt familiar. I recently visited a college I grew up in Harrisville, New Hampshire -- a tiny town located just east of Keene. From what I can remember from my childhood, there wasn't a lot to do in Harrisville. I do remember there were a lot of dirt roads, fields, and moose. Today the population of Harrisville is still under 1000 people, and there is only one school -- an elementary school servicing grades K-6. So reading Hongoltz-Hetling's book about a similarly small town a bit farther north felt familiar. I recently visited a college friend whose family lives on top of a giant hill in Grafton. On my way up the winding, pot-holed filled path shrouded by looming trees, it was like entering another world as my phone slowly lost service connecting me to my GPS. Even at her house the wi-fi signal was nearly non-existent. There are many towns like this, I'm sure, across America, but what Hongoltz-Hetling captures in his book is the strange sense that living in New Hampshire, emboldened by the "Live Free or Die" motto, guarantees that ones rights to complete and total freedom are sacred. Let's just clarify that the motto was not established until the 1940s (well before H-H tells of Grafton residents' persistent demands to have freedom at all cost), AND it almost didn't become the state motto at all (other options included ““Strong as Our Hills and Firm as Our Granite” and “Pioneers Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow”). Not to mention that living free and not dying is not exactly new. I think the French Revolution would have some words to exchange with New Hampshirites in the 1940s about their originality. Even today some people in New Hampshire think that they have inalienable rights protecting whatever they choose to believe -- toting guns, wearing seat belts, donning face masks. Hongoltz-Hetling takes the reader through the history of Grafton and its freedom-seeking ways to illustrate how it was the perfect hub for this libertarian movement. From the establishment of the town, Graftonites denied law protecting Native lands, defied orders from England, and refused to pay taxes. So when local officials realized the human population had a bear problem, they couldn't exactly force people to take care of it. What about their rights?! Instead, officials found ways to incentivize the slaughter of bears, disguising the policy they needed in capitalistic gain. Interwoven between the history of the town are chapters that focus on different Graftonites in recent years (mostly tax evaders and people who have had run ins with bears) and the team of men who brought the social experiment "Free Town" to Grafton. Free Town was the (mostly) unsuccessful attempt to grow the Libertarian party, who belief in individual rights over all. Hongoltz-Hetling illustrates how the gun-toting, bear-killing, tax-evading people of the Revolution are not that different than the gun-toting, bear-killing, tax-evading people of modern Grafton. I did struggle with the structure of this book because I needed to make a lot of connections myself. I found myself wondering why certain stories were being told, and often times it felt as if H-H was including them to fill space or because they were marginally connected to the main narrative. Each chapter started with a literary epithet that I thought didn't add much to the overall text. This book has something for every nonfiction reader -- politics, sociology, history, animals. You'll find yourself laughing. A lot, which surprised me for a book such as this. The portrait of characters (especially Doughnut Lady and her epic llama, Hurricane) add to the deftly humorous prose. While I think this is beyond the level of my students, I can see a few of my students enjoying this odd little text. 3.5/5

  10. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    What do you get when you cross a group of libertarians intent on eliminating government, a small New Hampshire town with seemingly plenty of space for new residents, a steadily increasing bear population, and doughnuts? One of the best books of the year. Quirky characters. Furry animals. A woodsy backdrop. A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear would have all the making of a fictional bestseller if it wasn’t all true … and just plain bizarre. Journalist Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling explores the fascinating What do you get when you cross a group of libertarians intent on eliminating government, a small New Hampshire town with seemingly plenty of space for new residents, a steadily increasing bear population, and doughnuts? One of the best books of the year. Quirky characters. Furry animals. A woodsy backdrop. A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear would have all the making of a fictional bestseller if it wasn’t all true … and just plain bizarre. Journalist Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling explores the fascinating story of the Free Town Project, a political experiment hatched by a group of libertarians with the idea of taking over a town and installing a system of self-government. In 2004, with some support from residents, they came for Grafton, New Hampshire with a simple formula: lower taxes and less overreach would surely equal more freedom. Like many political groups, there were multiple factions of belief. But in general terms: don’t want to wear a seat belt while driving? Don’t. Want to hunt without a permit? Fine. Wanna traffic organs? Knock yourself out. They just didn’t count on all the bears. New Hampshire’s bear history is as rich as its political history, though, and Hongoltz-Hetling has found a way to combine both of these into a compelling narrative. Crafting an ethnography, mixed with political analysis, mixed with journalistic observation can’t be easy, and yet he makes it seem effortless. Maybe it’s because his writing is light and welcoming, with a keen understanding of how to respectfully explain the people and situations he’s discussing. Maybe it’s because he’s wickedly funny, mining every absurd moment with a wink and nudge. Or maybe he just tapped into a story that’s that good. Probably all three. Hongoltz-Hetling often spirals into various tangents. One second, he’s exploring how a man bought a local church and installed himself as pastor in order to stop paying taxes. The next, he’s off considering an unprecedented bear attack that resulted in a severe hand injury for one woman. At first glance, this bouncing style almost reads as chaotic. And yet, everything does somehow feel connected. While Grafton slid into tumult marred by no money and even fewer rules, a similar shift was occurring in the wilderness. Though stemming more from coincidence than solely political actions, both town and country were changing from a lack of control. Fascinating, funny, and as wild as a hungry bear spotting a doughnut, A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear offers up a unique look at what happens when ideology and nature collide. Note: I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Review also posted at https://pluckedfromthestacks.wordpres...

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Katz

    3.5. A very pleasant, often humorous, and always warm look at a town in New Hampshire that became a laboratory for libertarians. Other reviews will explain what that means and make useful distinctions between events in Grafton, NH, and more serious libertarian thought. The many people who populate the book are exactly the interesting, slightly (and not-so-slightly) idiosyncratic sort who would find themselves in books by Bill Bryson and Tony Horwitz, for example. Spoiler alert: the libertarian e 3.5. A very pleasant, often humorous, and always warm look at a town in New Hampshire that became a laboratory for libertarians. Other reviews will explain what that means and make useful distinctions between events in Grafton, NH, and more serious libertarian thought. The many people who populate the book are exactly the interesting, slightly (and not-so-slightly) idiosyncratic sort who would find themselves in books by Bill Bryson and Tony Horwitz, for example. Spoiler alert: the libertarian experiment was less than successful. On the other hand, the bears had a field day. (Well, actually that's not quite true: There were so many of them killing livestock, attacking people, and even coming into people's houses, that steps had to be taken.) And as it turns out, I've actually been there a couple of times, albeit many decades past. Over all, it was an engaging diversion from the news, and time well-spent. I recommend it without hesitation.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kim Scripture

    I laughed out loud so many times in this book - kitten mcnuggets. And the ironies abounded in the book but the author wrote them so cleverly you almost miss them sometimes. Which made it even more funny. Maybe part of what I enjoyed was confirmation bias because it certainly didn't dispel my opinion of libertarianism. My take away? Taken to its natural conclusion, a libertarian society pushing the limits on "every person for themselves" and "taxes are always evil" becomes a charity case for the c I laughed out loud so many times in this book - kitten mcnuggets. And the ironies abounded in the book but the author wrote them so cleverly you almost miss them sometimes. Which made it even more funny. Maybe part of what I enjoyed was confirmation bias because it certainly didn't dispel my opinion of libertarianism. My take away? Taken to its natural conclusion, a libertarian society pushing the limits on "every person for themselves" and "taxes are always evil" becomes a charity case for the communities around them that pay the taxes to have nice things and essentials like....fire service. I would read the book that proves that wrong....haven't found it yet. Just theory...no success in practice. As a friend said to me..."libertarianism = astrology for white men".

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    One of the first libertarians we meet in this book goes to great pains to explain how libertarians are just more logical than other people. Their superior rationality is why they recognize the dangers of even the smallest government imposition and thus why they seek to live in places where they can cast off the tyranny of fire safety codes and wildlife management practices and live free, as god intended. Strangely this enhanced insight doesn't prevent them from being mauled by bears, killed by pr One of the first libertarians we meet in this book goes to great pains to explain how libertarians are just more logical than other people. Their superior rationality is why they recognize the dangers of even the smallest government imposition and thus why they seek to live in places where they can cast off the tyranny of fire safety codes and wildlife management practices and live free, as god intended. Strangely this enhanced insight doesn't prevent them from being mauled by bears, killed by preventable building fires, and descending into chaos. It must be because they weren't libertarian ENOUGH.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Clint

    I love this portrait of Grafton, NH; primarily about its recent history but also including much earlier 1800s and early 1900s happenings that made it appealing for the experiment in governing that would befall it. So many hilarious characters make an appearance, and while their idiosyncrasies and oblivious hypocrisies are often presented with humorous deadpan, Hongoltz-Hetling balances those depictions with thoughtful humanity and insight into why they seek what they do, preventing most of them I love this portrait of Grafton, NH; primarily about its recent history but also including much earlier 1800s and early 1900s happenings that made it appealing for the experiment in governing that would befall it. So many hilarious characters make an appearance, and while their idiosyncrasies and oblivious hypocrisies are often presented with humorous deadpan, Hongoltz-Hetling balances those depictions with thoughtful humanity and insight into why they seek what they do, preventing most of them from just being one-note caricatures of political radicals or quirky locals. A hilarious, understated gem about nuanced political issues that avoids polemic, composed from years of the sort of original, local reporting that is quickly disappearing. “‘I will resist you by every means at my disposal,’ Goat Man told Goat World magazine. ‘If the sheriff comes, you’ll have to shoot me.’” “‘There’s nothing explosive, a big boomerang coming out and chopping you, or anything like that,’ he said, in the tone of a man who has made certain compromises.” “The law says this has to be at least fifty feet away from the building if it’s a campfire.” “It’s not a campfire,” offered Kanning. “What is it?” “I am burning debris,” replied Kanning, who at that very moment was roasting a hot dog over the flames. “The situations that had been so easy to problem-solve in the abstract medium of message boards were difficult to resolve in person.” “Grafton was awash in a sweaty, boiling anger that was stupid in its willingness to cast blame indiscriminately and pardon no one for their faults.” “When I bring up the subject...he gives me a staple of Grafton’s small-talk playbook: Friendly Advice.” “Graftonites may have thought they had a bear problem, but you could equally say it was a problem caused by the retreat of their sworn enemy: taxes.”

  15. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC. This was an unexpected gem of a book. A mix of natural history, small town ethnography, and politics, A Libertarian Walks into a Bear is about a village in New Hampshire suffering from two infestations: libertarians and bears. Gafton, NH already has a long history of tax avoidance. However, as the town becomes a libertarian utopia experiment, humans aren't the only creatures who come calling. The story serves as a fascinating microcosm for decli Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC. This was an unexpected gem of a book. A mix of natural history, small town ethnography, and politics, A Libertarian Walks into a Bear is about a village in New Hampshire suffering from two infestations: libertarians and bears. Gafton, NH already has a long history of tax avoidance. However, as the town becomes a libertarian utopia experiment, humans aren't the only creatures who come calling. The story serves as a fascinating microcosm for declining public services versus nature. I can't convey how well written this book is and how it so skillfully weaves together multiple topics. The tone is broadly irreverent yet quite respectful to the various characters who makes appearances. I wasn't expecting this to be a page turner, but it absolutely was. (I found out later that Mr. Hongoltz-Hetling is a Putilzer-Prize finalist and a George Polk Award winner. Getting to observe a master at their craft is a treat.) I thought the toxoplasmosis theory and its lead-up felt a bit indulgent, but this is a small quibble. Highly recommended.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Diane Hernandez

    This is what happens when A Libertarian Walks into a Bear. Grafton, New Hampshire, has always been famous for its bears. The bears snatch food, chickens, cats, and even children occasionally from the townsfolk. When a group of Libertarians decide to make a model town with minimal government right there in Grafton, no one takes the bears into account. This action leads to a bear apocalypse. Wow, this book is definitely not doing the New Hampshire tourist board any favors! I have only seen bears in This is what happens when A Libertarian Walks into a Bear. Grafton, New Hampshire, has always been famous for its bears. The bears snatch food, chickens, cats, and even children occasionally from the townsfolk. When a group of Libertarians decide to make a model town with minimal government right there in Grafton, no one takes the bears into account. This action leads to a bear apocalypse. Wow, this book is definitely not doing the New Hampshire tourist board any favors! I have only seen bears in zoos—usually as I’m walking to the more marquee animals like the giraffes and elephants. I live in a literal desert. I really have no interest in bears at all. After the Trump administration, Libertarians look almost quaint by comparison. So, unfortunately, A Libertarian Walks into a Bear did not hold my attention. However, I’m sure other people will like it more than I did because it is well-written. 3 stars. Thanks to PublicAffairs and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Frost

    Read if: You live in NH NH politics make you shake your head NH politics make you laugh Yankee solutions amuse you You have WMUR in your phone as entertainment You totally don’t get libertarian thinking You totally get libertarian thinking You think anarchy is a viable solution for modern problems You have ever thought of living off grid in the woods You have ever encountered a bear where you live You have had a bear chase you You have chased a bear Your S.O. has no respect for bird feeder season limits Read if: You live in NH NH politics make you shake your head NH politics make you laugh Yankee solutions amuse you You have WMUR in your phone as entertainment You totally don’t get libertarian thinking You totally get libertarian thinking You think anarchy is a viable solution for modern problems You have ever thought of living off grid in the woods You have ever encountered a bear where you live You have had a bear chase you You have chased a bear Your S.O. has no respect for bird feeder season limits You enjoy local history You know about Vermin Supreme You work in a small town library You live in a city and don’t understand why small towns often go without public services and adequate funding You want to have your cake and eat it too.

  18. 5 out of 5

    David

    Listened to this one as an audiobook, while fire crackled in the hearth and the wife took to her knitting. It's the whimsical, fascinating tale of a New Hampshire town and its dealings with an influx of libertarian utopians...and their impact on the population of local bears. Well told, it explores the peculiarities of American libertarianism with an eye both critical and sympathetic. Are there some digressions that seem to go on for a bit? Sure. Do you care? Not really. Hongoltz-Hetling knows ho Listened to this one as an audiobook, while fire crackled in the hearth and the wife took to her knitting. It's the whimsical, fascinating tale of a New Hampshire town and its dealings with an influx of libertarian utopians...and their impact on the population of local bears. Well told, it explores the peculiarities of American libertarianism with an eye both critical and sympathetic. Are there some digressions that seem to go on for a bit? Sure. Do you care? Not really. Hongoltz-Hetling knows how to balance the big picture with the personal, and the book was well worth the hours of listening and reflection. Fine narration, I might add. A four point three. Good stuff.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Camille Plemmons

    This is it, this is what I’m going to be recommending to everyone who will listen to me for the next several weeks until my next favorite comes along. It’s exactly up my alley, because I love weird small town history. This book has everything: - Bear facts! - A llama fighting off a black bear - A Goat Man (man who hoards goats) - At least one religious cult - Survivalists (of all varieties - libertarian, gun nut, communist, and more!) - A boatload of bizarre stories that ACTUALLY happened. Aside from t This is it, this is what I’m going to be recommending to everyone who will listen to me for the next several weeks until my next favorite comes along. It’s exactly up my alley, because I love weird small town history. This book has everything: - Bear facts! - A llama fighting off a black bear - A Goat Man (man who hoards goats) - At least one religious cult - Survivalists (of all varieties - libertarian, gun nut, communist, and more!) - A boatload of bizarre stories that ACTUALLY happened. Aside from the stories themselves being entertaining enough on their own, the writing is wonderful and adds so much. This author is seriously talented and I will be on the lookout for more books from him.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Molly Huff

    At turns hilarious, edifying, and sobering, A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear is an illuminating and entertaining look at the political and socioeconomic divides that score this nation. While the author’s writing style wasn’t for me, his ability to truly empathize with an explain his research subjects lent a warmth and familiarity to his work that made me feel truly invested in these characters and place. This book is a light-hearted and witty romp through life in rural New Hampshire and libertari At turns hilarious, edifying, and sobering, A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear is an illuminating and entertaining look at the political and socioeconomic divides that score this nation. While the author’s writing style wasn’t for me, his ability to truly empathize with an explain his research subjects lent a warmth and familiarity to his work that made me feel truly invested in these characters and place. This book is a light-hearted and witty romp through life in rural New Hampshire and libertarianism all in one.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lucas Johnston

    An easy read that both catalogues and makes fun of the 'Free Town Project' in New Hampshire, that, due to their allergies to (state) government, become overrun with bears, which ultimately signalled the downfall of the libertarian fantasy. As is so common with libertarian and freedom-fetishists, the Free Towners seem to confused 'independence' with 'freedom' where the former just means that no one tells you nothin', and the latter means the ability to actually do the things you want to do (like An easy read that both catalogues and makes fun of the 'Free Town Project' in New Hampshire, that, due to their allergies to (state) government, become overrun with bears, which ultimately signalled the downfall of the libertarian fantasy. As is so common with libertarian and freedom-fetishists, the Free Towners seem to confused 'independence' with 'freedom' where the former just means that no one tells you nothin', and the latter means the ability to actually do the things you want to do (like not be attacked by bears).

  22. 5 out of 5

    Vagabond of Letters, DLitt

    As an anarchocapitalist who moved to New Hampshire from Chicago, you already know my review.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ajgrands

    An absolute delight

  24. 5 out of 5

    Chris Esposo

    This book can be thought of as either a quasi-serious cautionary tale written by a gonzo-journalist, or a fairly hilarious dark comedy on what happens when Libertarian-as-practice is applied in reality to actual governance (of both). I add the modifier “as-practice”, because many ‘principled” Libertarians will state that the people in this book do not represent “true” Libertarianism, and therefore, cannot be counted as a failure of their ideology applied to actual governance. However, I would c This book can be thought of as either a quasi-serious cautionary tale written by a gonzo-journalist, or a fairly hilarious dark comedy on what happens when Libertarian-as-practice is applied in reality to actual governance (of both). I add the modifier “as-practice”, because many ‘principled” Libertarians will state that the people in this book do not represent “true” Libertarianism, and therefore, cannot be counted as a failure of their ideology applied to actual governance. However, I would counter that if the measure of “true” Libertarianism” includes having read Ludwig Von-Mises and Hayek, or possessing some modicum of familiarity with the strictures of it’s intellectual canon, then most people in America who claim themselves Libertarian, aren’t actually true Libertarians. That being said, this book outlines the quixotic journey of a group of freedom-loving Libertarians who sought to build themselves a ‘haven of liberty’ in a small New Hampshire town of Grafton, and by doing so, were promptly overrun by New Hampshire black bears, and through their influence on the state of New Hampshire outside of Grafton, enabled further encroachment of black bears across the state. The book follows several ‘townies’ as well as outlines the checkered history of the movement’s ‘founders’, which has had many fits and starts with respect to the enterprise. Some of these founders are very interesting and had “colorful” pasts, including one progenitor who was credibly accused of pedophilia (the same person who also wanted legalize prize-fights among the homeless), though he was ran out early on from the project. More recently, an alumni of the broader “free town” (and later “free state”) movement was made internet-famous as the “crying Nazi”, of the “Unite the Right” marches in Charlottesville fame.. Though to be fair, the majority of the town’s troupe, and it’s associated political movement, were more likable, like “Donut Lady”, so named for her initial habit of feeding the black bears donuts (to her eventual dismay) -though she was just a townie, not a libertarian. As can be expected from a town founded from such principles, one of the first orders of business was to “starve government”. Unfortunately, in an area where there are more wildlife than people, this eventually led to an overrun of the later by the former, and led to a prevalence of black bears coming into the town. Other initiatives, including minimizing police and the fire department led to a marked increase in lawlessness and crime, and fires. Though, the town’s solution for this was to establish a for-profit fire department. Unfortunately, this fire department was relatively unsuccessful at putting out fires. Some of the more interesting elements of this book were the author’s hypothesis that the more rambunctious mannerisms exhibited by some of the town’s resident could be due to the penetration of a Eukaryotic parasite toxoplasmosis t-gondii, who’s primary transmission vector includes cats, which were prevalent household pets in the town. According to the author, the parasite can lead to increased risk-taking behaviors and aggression in people, as well as other characteristics commonly observed in people who espouse to be libertarians. What’s more interesting though is that because the black bears of Grafton were fond of hunting and eating the town’s household cats, the observed increased adventurism of that population could also be attributed to this pathogen. I’m not sure about the veracity of these claims, only that I wasn’t expecting them, and the introduction of this element in the book helped make it stand out more for me as the reader. Overall, the book is well written and enjoyable. I wouldn’t be surprised if this story wasn’t being optioned to be turned into a dark-comedy movie or mini-series. The premise was also interesting, and sort of reminded me of the “Vault” concept in the Fallout PC game series, where different Vaults in the post-nuclear world were essentially social experiments to see which mode of social organization would prevail relative to the others. In this case, the Libertarian “vault” of Grafton didn’t make it. Recommended.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Scott Johnson

    This was entertaining for a while, but did start to wear as it went on. I could definitely do without the stupid quotes/excerpts at the beginning of each chapter. It's a fascinating glimpse into the libertarian gun nut mindset. I cannot fathom how these people want life to be the way they want it to be. How do you want to have to go everywhere armed, needing to be ready to defend your life at a moment's notice? There is a hilarious ignorance at work here. These people want to be "free" and have "n This was entertaining for a while, but did start to wear as it went on. I could definitely do without the stupid quotes/excerpts at the beginning of each chapter. It's a fascinating glimpse into the libertarian gun nut mindset. I cannot fathom how these people want life to be the way they want it to be. How do you want to have to go everywhere armed, needing to be ready to defend your life at a moment's notice? There is a hilarious ignorance at work here. These people want to be "free" and have "no government", but then are confused to find out that governments maintain their infrastructure and so many necessary things to their way of life. They don't want to participate in the economy...but they still need to buy food and still want electricity and tv and the like. They fail to grasp the complexity of modern life. This may have been possible 200 years ago when you had a self-sufficient farm, but not when you require modern amenities and modern infrastructure. People are too often unaware of just how complicated the simplest thing in their life can be. The cup of coffee you're drinking while reading this probably required over a year of work by 40-50 people who were directly involved in its growing, processing, shipping, distributing, roasting, and final sale to you. That's ignoring the thousands more necessary when you factor in all it takes to create the ship that carried the container the beans were sent in, the thousands involved in extracting the oil and refining the fuel required at every stage of the process, the thousands involved in getting that machine onto your counter, the countless thousands involved in bringing you electricity..... This way of life is simply unrealistic. The modern world is too interconnected to simply unplug yourself. Of course, you can do that...if you give up every modern convenience you're used to. Otherwise, you need to accept that the smallest detail of your life involves more people than you can imagine. Unfortunately, that requires government to make it all work. There need to be regulations in place to protect the end consumer who can't always protect themselves (and it's been demonstrated that we can't trust industry to regulate itself in this way). There need to be trade agreements in place so those coffee beans can move from where they're grown to where you live. There need to be public infrastructure in place to support it all. And there need to be laws to prevent chaos through it all. Without that, we get the town described here. We get bears who get piles of doughnuts from one house and gunshots from the next and have no idea what to make of humans as a result. We get a hundred different people behaving as they see fit with no thought of how their actions affect others, or the environment at large, wondering why this chaotic, conflicting combination leads to things like invading bears. I recommend this to anyone who would love to see how hilariously inept and out of touch the libertarian world is. This entire town is that meme about the guy poking a stick into his own spokes on his bike incarnate, and it's a train wreck worth slowing down to look at.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brenden Gallagher

    It's hard to imagine a book more up my alley than Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling's "A Libertarian Walks into A Bear." I ordered the book while listening to Hongoltz-Hetling's interview on "Chapo Trap House," literally checking out before he had said goodbye to the hosts. "A Libertarian Walks into A Bear" is about a lot of things, but fundamentally, it is about how libertarianism doesn't work when it is taken outside the fractured minds of talk radio hosts and put into practice. It turns out that in a It's hard to imagine a book more up my alley than Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling's "A Libertarian Walks into A Bear." I ordered the book while listening to Hongoltz-Hetling's interview on "Chapo Trap House," literally checking out before he had said goodbye to the hosts. "A Libertarian Walks into A Bear" is about a lot of things, but fundamentally, it is about how libertarianism doesn't work when it is taken outside the fractured minds of talk radio hosts and put into practice. It turns out that in a society that tries to rip out as many elements of society as possible, things don't work very well. Though it is delightful to be retroactively proven right in Facebook arguments with my former high school classmates and feuds with Twitter's Andrew Yang supporters, "A Libertarian Walks into A Bear" does a lot more than just chronicle the hilarious failures of political weirdos. Hongoltz-Hetling gets into the psyches of the town's residents, exploring why they wanted to be a part of the "Free Town Project," in Grafton, New Hampshire, and grasps for any kernels of sense or even beauty in their warped worldview. On its surface, the conflict of "A Libertarian Walks into a Bear" is that between the residents who have stripped Grafton of its society and the bears that have taken advantage of the town's decay. But really, the book is about the tension between our ideas and their execution, and that between the thing inside of us that urges us away from the troubles of other people, and the reality that humans are social animals. The book is ultimately about how no matter how far we run from civilization, society will catch up with us, because, unlike bears, humans are not meant to live in the wilderness. "A Libertarian Walks into A Bear" is a hilarious, thoughtful, smart, and lovely book that might just, oddly, restore your faith in humanity. But if it doesn't do that, it will at least give you ample opportunity to laugh at people who think that logic and reason are a reasonable substitute for real, human connection.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Gerrib

    I have long felt that libertarianism was one of those ideas that was "simple, obvious, and wrong." This book should be Exhibit A in support of that proposition. In 2004, a group of libertarians moved to Grafton, New Hampshire, a town of barely 1500 people, with the avowed intention of taking over local government and making it a libertarian showcase. They succeeded, and it is a showcase of the failure of libertarianism. To be fair, Grafton was somewhat quirky before the libertarians arrived. For I have long felt that libertarianism was one of those ideas that was "simple, obvious, and wrong." This book should be Exhibit A in support of that proposition. In 2004, a group of libertarians moved to Grafton, New Hampshire, a town of barely 1500 people, with the avowed intention of taking over local government and making it a libertarian showcase. They succeeded, and it is a showcase of the failure of libertarianism. To be fair, Grafton was somewhat quirky before the libertarians arrived. For example, it's fire department wasn't created until after WWII, decades after other communities had fire departments. But still, the pioneering libertarians took this quirkiness and dialed it to 11. This book is the entertaining but sad story of that transformation. Let's talk about bears. New Hampshire, or so I learned, had always had a bear problem. Given the collapse of New England agriculture (94% of Grafton's farmland had been allowed to go wild) bear population was on the rise. But the libertarian culture made things worse, whether it was from people living in RVs with non-bearproof garbage cans to people actually feeding bears. (One of the characters in the book, the "doughnut lady" was feeding bears in her back yard, including doughnuts as treats.) This lack of control has not gotten anybody killed yet. Not for lack of trying on the bear's part, mind you. They are no longer scared of humans and so there have been several bear attacks. Just due to sheer luck, no human has died from an attack, although several have been seriously mauled. The subject of this book, a self-induced collapse of a town, is not a light subject and so it's not entirely a light read. It is an interesting read, and well-constructed.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    Take a reporter, a small town in western New Hampshire (Grafton), a libertarian utopian project (Free Town Project circa 2004-2019), mix in brooding forests, plenty of bears, and a whole mess of folks, and you have this book. It is a tale of free wheeling, radical idealism run amuck in rural New Hampshire where oddly enough, similar concepts seemed to be part of its history. So set back, grab a doughnut or two, plenty of beverages and dive into this world of bears, bears, and strange folk. Matthe Take a reporter, a small town in western New Hampshire (Grafton), a libertarian utopian project (Free Town Project circa 2004-2019), mix in brooding forests, plenty of bears, and a whole mess of folks, and you have this book. It is a tale of free wheeling, radical idealism run amuck in rural New Hampshire where oddly enough, similar concepts seemed to be part of its history. So set back, grab a doughnut or two, plenty of beverages and dive into this world of bears, bears, and strange folk. Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling breaks the story into three books (Verge of the Wild; Rugged Growth; and Boundless Ruins) with multiple chapters in each book. He has an interesting cast of characters telling bits of the story what with a logical libertarian, a very strange pastor, a bear fighting firefighter, a former Moonie, plus assorted other libertarians and townsfolk. Not to mention the bureaucracy of bears out in the woods eating doughnuts, stray cats and dogs, plus the occasional chicken. The story winds between the present and the past in the same manner that the roads of Grafton manage between clearing and forest. A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear is the tale of a utopia gone awry as they so often do in the Northeast and the rest of America. Grand plans are all too often crushed when reality refuses to bend to wishful thinking. And even true believers will succumb to guilty pleasures such as paved roads, decent schools funded by local taxes, and bear patrols. But if you are interested in reading about libertarianism in the wild and the muck-up that ensues, be sure to pick up this title and enjoy yourself!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    Another book I would give 3.5 stars to. A somewhat rambling portrait of small town New Hampshire through the lens of a group of libertarians seeking very limited government and interference and the habits of bears. In the style of narrative non-fiction, the author seeks to give the reader the feel of the people and communities while offer insight through history, science and even literature. It doesn’t take sides per se and offers a rather balanced perspective; letting the people and events spea Another book I would give 3.5 stars to. A somewhat rambling portrait of small town New Hampshire through the lens of a group of libertarians seeking very limited government and interference and the habits of bears. In the style of narrative non-fiction, the author seeks to give the reader the feel of the people and communities while offer insight through history, science and even literature. It doesn’t take sides per se and offers a rather balanced perspective; letting the people and events speak for themselves. Perhaps, this just reinforced my own perspective but I was struck how useful libertarian thought is at the federal level and how unhelpful it is the lower you move down the scale. Local communities need infrastructure and services to be livable. Few people actually enjoy living with few rules and very little support. But that could be driven not by the structure of government but by the people involved and the choices they make. The other theme that runs throughout the book is the question of what you would do if you were faced with the specter of interaction with bears. Would you feed them? Shoot them? Ignore them? If you were in charge of managing bears what approach would you recommend? There are few easy answers as nature seeks to reclaim what was lost and adapts to humans. I think I would have enjoyed this book more if I had read it in a couple of days instead of spread out over weeks. I was juggling a handful of review copies and this kept getting pushed to the back because of the publication date. So make of that what you will.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Amit

    A fascinating read. Especially for an ex-Ayn-Rand fanatic (fan would be too mild) like me who had swallowed the libertarian ideas of defeating "statist" politics, and gotten high on the romance of "Galt's Gulch", in my early twenties. Even then, I knew something didn't add up, but this dissection of a social experiment of libertarian overtake (Free Town) of a New Hampshire town named Grafton, trying to minimize/abolish "statist" government. Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling has taken non-fiction narratio A fascinating read. Especially for an ex-Ayn-Rand fanatic (fan would be too mild) like me who had swallowed the libertarian ideas of defeating "statist" politics, and gotten high on the romance of "Galt's Gulch", in my early twenties. Even then, I knew something didn't add up, but this dissection of a social experiment of libertarian overtake (Free Town) of a New Hampshire town named Grafton, trying to minimize/abolish "statist" government. Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling has taken non-fiction narration to its rarified best, in this tragi-comic, almost absurd story of free-towners and bears, throwing light on the inherent problems of Libertarian politics. Long treatises on politics are however no match for this cautionary tale based on historical facts. If anyone's still starry-eyed about libertarianism and the utopic ideas of Ayn Rand, this may be the book you need (although I know you won't read it, or read and "shrug" it off -- because I'm sure in my early twenties, I'd probably have found ways to deny it). Everyone else should read it not just for the case that it makes against libertarianism, but against a story well told. Just like David Foster Wallace's "Consider the Lobster" essays, this is non-fiction pushed to levels that many fictional writings struggle to achieve. Also, I listened to the audiobook, with an impeccable reading by Kevin Stillwell (reminding me a bit of Paul Hecht's pitch-perfect reading of At the villa of reduced circumstances by Alexander McCall Smith). 4.5 for the book. +0.5 for the audiobook narration.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.