Review: A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear
Title: A Libertarian Walks into a Bear
Author: Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling
Page Count: 288
Publication: September 2020
[Amazon | Indie Bound | BN | Find it at your local library]
I hate libertarians.
When I say “hate,” I mean I want to throat punch their selfish asses. 90% of libertarians I have met or come across tend to cling onto the Ayn Rand (a hack), The Federalist Papers (if they are “academic” libertarians who like writing by dead white guys whose concerns rejected the notion of equality for anyone not white or male), and the 1st and 2nd Amendments. The premise of libertarianism seems a bit, not much but a bit, sane enough: limited interference by the government with self-rule at the helm, images of Orwell’s salient 1984 dancing like sugar plums in their heads to keep them on the straight and narrow. Socialism, democracy, republicanism, and every other ism is a pox upon humanity. Man, as Rand was known to wank, is only so much free as the property they own and living by their own moral aptitude or as we know it, capitalism.
So we find ourselves in Grafton, NH, a free hold for libertarians of all kinds who come to live in the near wild state of New Hampshire with the promise of limited government. Townies, I think at first a bit amused and then horrified, find their town and its services gutted after motion after motion by the now majority libertarian council and town folk reject proposal after proposal. Potholes are not filled, water sanitation becomes sketchy, schools are severely underfunded, and let us talk about the fire department. Oh, yes, they even gutted the fire department BECAUSE TAXES with the ideology that someone, anyone, will step up and buy the truck, train or hire the fighters, because that is what life is like in Grafton: Being selfless is for wussies, bring on the selfish!
I’ve spent nearly 300 words raging against the movement and not so much the book itself, which I would decry, is very good. A Libertarian Walks into a Bear was recommended to me by Brendan who sent me to read The Town That Went Feral, a review of the book over at The New Republic (which, tbh, reads more as a long form article then a review but who am I to judge?). Intrigued, I libraried the book and here we are.
Hongoltz-Hetling takes you through the foundation of Grafton as a freehold, it’s more colorful characters, and then there are the bears! We’re introduced into a brief history of bear activity in New England, specifically into NH, and how with management by the DNR, black bears have started to grow and flourish once more and they love Grafton. Especially the Doughnut Lady who started out leaving donuts for the bears and then it turned into feeding frenzy of bears waiting, docile even, for her daily feedings, but with grains now and doughnuts on top. Bears, at the most, were known to stay away from human life but with people in the area actively feeding the bears, the bears have grown bolder to stealing farm and domestic animals, even while the humans are still standing there.
There was even a bear attack on a human, which is thought to have been rare, but now is no longer.
The freeholders in Grafton dove tails nicely with the story of the overrunning bears as each runs on a parallel path towards the same goal: destruction of a once quirky town where there hellbent on living free, doing what they like, and who gives a fuck at the outcome?
Well, we should give a fuck even if the freeholders do not.
A Libertarian Walks into a Bear is a wonderfully constructed tale of a two utopias gone absurdly wrong and a larger parable of what happens when we stop caring.