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

Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling

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Political science & theory

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, Grafton, NH, a barely populated settlement with one paved road, turned that plan into reality.

Public funding for pretty much everything shrank: the fire department, the library, the schoolhouse. State and federal laws didn't disappear, but they got quieter: meek suggestions barely heard in the town's thick wilderness.

The bears, on the other hand, were increasingly visible. Grafton's freedom-loving citizens ignored hunting laws and regulations on food disposal. They built a tent city, in an effort to get off the grid. And with a large and growing local bear population, conflict became inevitable.

A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear is both a screwball comedy and the story of a radically American commitment to freedom. Full of colorful characters, puns and jokes, and one large social experiment, it is a quintessentially American story, a bearing of our national soul.

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