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A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian…

A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American… (edição: 2020)

de Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling (Autor)

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864246,911 (4.07)5
Título:A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (And Some Bears)
Autores:Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling (Autor)
Informação:PublicAffairs (2020), Edition: 01, 288 pages
Coleções:Sua biblioteca
Etiquetas:owned, shelved

Detalhes da Obra

A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (And Some Bears) de Matthew HONGOLTZ-HETLING (Author)


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Exibindo 4 de 4
Interesting Story, Superbly Written - Yet Too Much Conjecture. This is an extremely well written book that takes a look at the Free Town Project, an initiative that seems to have splintered from the main Free State Project. Indeed, it is this very point that shows Hongoltz-Hetling playing loose with the timeline, as throughout the text here the author tries to claim that FSP came after Free Town, even as he is quite clear that Free Town began in 2003 - *after the creation of FSP*. Instead, the author details an entertaining tale of a wild cast of characters in the New Hampshire wilderness while constantly belittling the very people he is portraying and ascribes to bears much more critical thinking capacity than he documents actual scientific research to support. When he does mention another major center of the FSP - Keene - it is only very late in the book and he tries to portray FSP's influence there as negligible at best, despite the wide prevalence of the Project there. Overall, the author's preference for the bears over many of the people he is writing about is quite abundantly clear, and it ultimately tarnishes the aftertaste of the book as a whole, even with the entertaining bear stories. Perhaps this would have been better suited as a novel, rather than the nonfiction it purports to be. Recommended. ( )
  BookAnonJeff | Jul 11, 2021 |
This is a well-written book about New Hampshire local (and to a lesser extent, state) politics, libertarians on a mission focused on one tiny town, quirky individuals, and the increasing NH bear population. It's full of humor, conflict, humanity and bruinity.
My only criticism is a lack of an index and notes to tie the text to the excellent bibliography.
If, like me, you're already convinced that libertarianism is fatally flawed because it ignores the simple fact that humans are a deeply social and communal species, this book will confirm that conviction. ( )
  bookboy804 | Mar 5, 2021 |
In 2004 a group of Libertarian-minded citizens in the small town of Grafton, New Hampshire (then, mostly known mostly for it’s old mica mine, which drew tourists and those of us with children) came up with the “Free Town Project” which had the goal of freeing the town from its government (which nearly worked). This is their story, but, included here also, is the story of the town’s bear population, and one cannot truly say the two are entirely separate issues.

Told in comfortable reading style often with a bit of humor, the story is both entertaining and a bit frightening at times (too many guns and a few borderline personalities), and despite the bears, it’s a very human story. Those us who live or have lived in small towns may sense more than a little familiarity. Those readers who live in cities may think themselves exempt, but then one thinks of a certain recent President and, well, at least you don’t have the bears.

A bit of general background: Grafton is just one of the many, many small towns (population in 2000 was about 1200) that make-up most of New Hampshire. Town government budgets and local statues still are decided by way ‘town meetings,’ a gathering of the town’s eligible voters (or those who bother to attend) which were first used in New England in 1623 and is considered “purest form of democratic governing.” Yeah, and our state motto is “Live Free or Die” adopted in 1945 but originates in a toast given in 1809 by NH's most famous Revolutionary War soldier, General John Stark.

And more than a few of us in Northern New England have bears that come through our properties, or a succession of bears. Most of us try NOT to feed them. ( )
1 vote avaland | Nov 29, 2020 |
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 ( )
3 vote DavidWineberg | Jun 28, 2020 |
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