Boing Boing

Libertarians exit, pursued by bears

Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling has a new non-fiction book out called A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (and Some Bears) that tells the story of a small New Hampshire that gets overrun by a roving band of wild Libertarians, whose steadfast commitment to anti-Statism ends up leading to another take over by a roving band of wild black bears.

I haven't read the book yet, but I did read Patrick Blanchfield's delightful feature-length review at New Republic, which is a wonderful read in its own right. But even his descriptions of Hongoltz-Hetling book make me crave the full experience:

Hongoltz-Hetling profiles many newcomers, all of them larger-than-life, yet quite real. The people who joined the Free Town Project in its first five years were, as he describes, "free radicals"—men with "either too much money or not enough," with either capital to burn or nothing to lose. There's John Connell of Massachusetts, who arrived on a mission from God, liquidated his savings, and bought the historic Grafton Center Meetinghouse, transforming it into the "Peaceful Assembly Church," an endeavor that mixed garish folk art, strange rants from its new pastor (Connell himself), and a quixotic quest to secure tax exemption while refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of the IRS to grant it. There's Adam Franz, a self-described anti-capitalist who set up a tent city to serve as "a planned community of survivalists," even though no one who joined it had any real bushcraft skills. There's Richard Angell, an anti-circumcision activist known as "Dick Angel." And so on. As Hongoltz-Hetling makes clear, libertarianism can indeed have a certain big-tent character, especially when the scene is a new landscape of freedom-lovers making "homes out of yurts and RVs, trailers and tents, geodesic domes and shipping containers."

and

What was the deal with Grafton's bears? Hongoltz-Hetling investigates the question at length, probing numerous hypotheses for why the creatures have become so uncharacteristically aggressive, indifferent, intelligent, and unafraid. Is it the lack of zoning, the resulting incursion into bear habitats, and the reluctance of Graftonites to pay for, let alone mandate, bear-proof garbage bins? Might the bears be deranged somehow, perhaps even disinhibited and emboldened by toxoplasmosis infections, picked up from eating trash and pet waste from said unsecured bins? There can be no definitive answer to these questions, but one thing is clear: The libertarian social experiment underway in Grafton was uniquely incapable of dealing with the problem. "Free Towners were finding that the situations that had been so easy to problem-solve in the abstract medium of message boards were difficult to resolve in person."

Blanchfield also goes in-depth into bear conservation, and the unique problems and solutions that government wildlife officials in places like New Hampshire must content with. Of course, from the perspective of the Free Town Libertarians, the existence of government wildlife officials is the greatest problem of all. But the bears disagree.

A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (and Some Bears) (Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling)

The Town That Went Feral (Patrick Blanchfield)