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

Wednesday, September 16th, 2020, 7pm Eastern. Online only via Zoom. Registration required: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/119111458579/

Did you miss this event? You can watch the recording on our Youtube channel: https://youtu.be/HPkmojPiGrw

Journalist and author Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling visits Gibson's Bookstore virtually to present his new book, A Libertarian Walks Into A Bear:  The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (And Some Bears), in which he details the true story of how Grafton, NH became the location of a Libertarian plan to civically take over a small town... until bears derailed their plans. Matthew will be joined in conversation by Gloria Dickie, a freelance journalist specializing in environmental reportage, whose forthcoming book examines human relationships with the eight bear species of the world (coming 2021).

Once upon a time, a group of libertarians got together and hatched one of the most ambitious social experiments in modern American history—the so-called Free Town Project: a plan to take over an American town and completely eliminate its government. In 2004, they set their sights on Grafton, NH, a flyspeck town with only one paved road, buried in the woods of New Hampshire’s western fringe.

When freedom-focused libertarians across the US—from as far as California to as near as Massachusetts—descended on Grafton, state and federal laws became meek suggestions. Soon the wilderness-thick town lost public funding for pretty much everything: fire department, the schoolhouse, library, and perhaps most importantly wildlife services. As the people were ignoring laws and regulations on hunting and food disposal, their newly formed off-the-grid tent city caught the attention of some unruly neighbors: the bears.

Armed with a pen and journalist’s notebook, Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling—a seasoned journalist who has covered everything from Maine's stately Governor's Mansion to the mud hut of a witch doctor in Sierra Leone—was drawn to Grafton in hopes of uncovering the truth behind this fantastical tale of bear vs. libertarian. Hongoltz-Hetling details how this tiny town became a radical social experiment—until the bear attacks started. Along the way he meets a band of interesting characters: Jessica Soule, a Vietnam-era veteran who became an acolyte of the controversial Reverend Sun Myung Moon; Adam Franz, a poker-playing communist who dreamed of founding a survivalist community; John Connell, a Massachusetts factory worker on a mission from God; and, of course, John Babiarz, the firefighter libertarian who opened Grafton’s doors to the Free Town Project and then spent the next decade trying to explain it to his nonlibertarian neighbors.  

This book is a sometimes funny, sometimes frightening tale of what happens when a government disappears into the woods. Complete with gunplay, adventure, and backstabbing politicians, this is a quintessentially American story, a bearing of our national soul.

Event date: 
Wednesday, September 16, 2020 - 7:00pm
Event address: 
45 South Main St
Concord, NH 03301
A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (And Some Bears) Cover Image
ISBN: 9781541788510
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: PublicAffairs - September 15th, 2020

A tiny American town's plans for radical self-government overlooked one hairy detail: no one told the bears.