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Wed Sep 2, 2020, 08:20 AM

Anti-Govt Libertarian Take Over of Small NH Town Didn't End Well: Individual Freedom Above All Else

'Libertarians Took Control of This Small Town. It Didn’t End Well.' New book shows the troubling consequences of Grafton, New Hampshire’s anti-government experiment. Elizabeth Austin, Washington Monthly, Sept. 2020. Excerpts, Ed.:



From his book’s very title, it’s clear that Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling sees his story as one great big joke. As he describes it, 'A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear' tells the “strange-but-true story of Grafton, New Hampshire, a small town that became the nexus of a collision between bears, libertarians, guns, doughnuts, parasites, firecrackers, taxes and one angry llama.” It was inspired by the Free State Project, a libertarian-adjacent organization founded in 2003 with the goal of taking over New Hampshire and transforming it into a tiny-government paradise. After more than a decade of persistence, the project persuaded 20,000 like-minded revolutionaries to sign its pledge to move to NH and finally force the state to live up to its “Live Free or Die” motto. (Only about 1,300 signers actually made the move. Another 3,000 were already NH residents). The project’s political successes peaked in 2018, when 17 of the 400 members of the NH House of Representatives identified as Free Staters—although all but two were registered Republicans.

The Project set its sights on Grafton in 2004 because of both its small size—about 1,200 residents—and its long history as a haven for tax protesters, eccentrics, and generalized curmudgeons. The Free Town Project leaders figured that they could engineer a libertarian tipping point by bringing in a few dozen new true believers and collaborating with the resident soreheads. Over the next decade or so, Free Towners managed to join forces with some of the town’s most tightfisted taxpayers to pass a 30% cut in the town’s $1 million budget over 3 years, slashing unnecessary spending on such municipal frills as streetlights, firefighting, road repairs, and bridge reconstruction. But eventually, the Free Town leadership splintered and the haphazard movement fizzled out. The municipal budget has since bounced back, to $1.55 million.

But even though the Free Towners’ full-scale libertarian takeover of Grafton never fully materialized, they fanned the flames of a community culture that prioritized individual freedom above all else—whether the individual sought the freedom to smoke marijuana or feed daily boxes of donuts to the increasingly aggressive local bears. The libertarian battle cry of “Nobody tells me what to do!” drowned out all other political debate, at least temporarily, and the results of their blindly anti-government, anti-authority mind-set were both troubling and predictable. The author presents a rollicking tale of colorful rural characters and oddly clever ursines. The Free Towners’ wacky political views, like their eccentric clothes, their rusting pickup trucks, and their elaborate facial hair, present him with seemingly limitless opportunities to display his own cleverness.

For years now, reporters and pundits have chosen to focus on the style, rather than the policy substance, of the growing libertarian right. We read stories of rural rubes clad head to toe in MAGA swag, hunched over chipped cutlery in dingy diners, wielding biscuits to wipe the last of the sausage gravy from their oversized plates while vociferously proclaiming that taxation is theft and inveighing against the nanny state. But had the author not chosen snark over substance, his book could have served as a peculiarly timely cautionary tale, because the conflicting philosophical principles that drive this story are central to understanding American politics today. The differences between the libertarian stumblebums who moved to Grafton and the staff of the Koch-funded Cato Institute are mostly sartorial. And the sad outcomes of Grafton’s wacky social experiment are now being repeated in American communities every single day. In Grafton, we find a microcosm of the constant American tension between “Don’t Tread on Me” and “E Pluribus Unum.”...

Read More,
https://washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/september-october-2020/libertarians-took-control-of-this-small-town-it-didnt-end-well/

* (Wiki, FREE STATE PROJECT: More States Than NH)..In September 2003, the state vote was held and participants voted using the Condorcet method[clarification needed] to choose the state. New Hampshire was the winner, with Wyoming coming in second by a 57% to 43% margin. Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Vermont were also on the list. New Hampshire was chosen because the perceived individualist culture of the state was thought to resonate well with libertarian ideals. However, the Free State Project has drawn criticism from some New Hampshire residents concerned about population pressure and opposition to increased taxation. On the other hand, some Republicans have responded more favorably to the project...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_State_Project



'A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town' (and Some Bears) by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling PublicAffairs, 288 pp.

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Reply Anti-Govt Libertarian Take Over of Small NH Town Didn't End Well: Individual Freedom Above All Else (Original post)
appalachiablue Sep 2020 OP
beachbumbob Sep 2020 #1
OAITW r.2.0 Sep 2020 #2
appalachiablue Sep 2020 #12
MuseRider Sep 2020 #3
blm Sep 2020 #4
central scrutinizer Sep 2020 #5
GemDigger Sep 2020 #6
appalachiablue Sep 2020 #11
Aristus Sep 2020 #7
2naSalit Sep 2020 #8
Aristus Sep 2020 #9
2naSalit Sep 2020 #10

Response to appalachiablue (Original post)

Wed Sep 2, 2020, 08:23 AM

1. lol, who could have predicted?

 

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Response to appalachiablue (Original post)

Wed Sep 2, 2020, 08:38 AM

2. I think the golden age of Libertarianism was probably the Stone Age.

Seriously, has any society succeeded when the political organizing principle is "you can't tell me what to do"?

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Response to OAITW r.2.0 (Reply #2)

Wed Sep 2, 2020, 12:51 PM

12. Agree, this anti- govt, 'individual' ideology can't work

in modern societies, not for long anyway. Selfish, dangerous, cruel and backward. Lookin' at you Ayn Rand and the rest.

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Response to appalachiablue (Original post)

Wed Sep 2, 2020, 08:58 AM

3. While the book is apparently amusing

I can see why there is concern later in the article.

Still, it seems that most people can see the funny stuff and still think how awful and destructive this experiment was, where ever it was tried and written about. After all, it certainly failed spectacularly.

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Response to MuseRider (Reply #3)

Wed Sep 2, 2020, 09:14 AM

4. ✔️

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Response to appalachiablue (Original post)

Wed Sep 2, 2020, 09:36 AM

5. The Kansas experiment also failed

People learned that there are important functions provided by government. Duh!

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Response to appalachiablue (Original post)

Wed Sep 2, 2020, 09:45 AM

6. according to Wiki they are in more than just NH

In September 2003, the state vote was held and participants voted using the Condorcet method[clarification needed] to choose the state.[19] New Hampshire was the winner, with Wyoming coming in second by a 57% to 43% margin.[19] Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Vermont were also on the list.[15] New Hampshire was chosen because the perceived individualist culture of the state was thought to resonate well with libertarian ideals.[20] However, the Free State Project has drawn criticism from some New Hampshire residents concerned about population pressure and opposition to increased taxation. On the other hand, some Republicans have responded more favorably to the project.[21]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_State_Project

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Response to GemDigger (Reply #6)

Wed Sep 2, 2020, 12:21 PM

11. Thanks much, I'll add this info. to the post. No doubt about

a wider presence in the U.S.

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Response to appalachiablue (Original post)

Wed Sep 2, 2020, 09:49 AM

7. As much as I want to visit New England someday,

I think I'll steer clear of New Hampshire. Sounds like a bunch of kooks who would be more at home in East Cornpone, Arkassippi than the cradle of American democracy.

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Response to Aristus (Reply #7)

Wed Sep 2, 2020, 11:20 AM

8. Don't pass New England by because of a few whackos...

NH is incredibly beautiful and well worth a visit, just avoid Grafton. A few communities have suffered such wannabe take overs but for the majority, it's a place worth visiting.

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Response to 2naSalit (Reply #8)

Wed Sep 2, 2020, 11:23 AM

9. Oh, no question.

I'm dying to visit Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Maine.

I really want to visit "Lovecraft Country" in western Massachusetts.

And Lovecraft's hometown, Providence.

I want to visit the historical sites of Boston, and the site of the 1919 Molasses Flood.

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Response to Aristus (Reply #9)

Wed Sep 2, 2020, 11:28 AM

10. There's really so much there.

I grew up in the region and have an affection to this day. It's just too crowded and low elevation for my health at this point, though I toy with the idea of moving back there from time to time. I do miss being near the ocean and many of the flora/fauna that we don't have in the Rockies but I haven't committed to doing it yet.

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