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

Some ideologies are just bad. That’s not a controversial statement, but it absolutely will become one once you elaborate on which ideology you had in mind when you uttered the statement, particularly if you and the person you are speaking to don’t share the same corner of the ideological compass. For me, I could never wrap my head around Libertarianism in even the slightest. It has always felt like a political philosophy for those who enjoy buzzwords and not thinking things through. Yes, we know you want Freedom. We all do. If this post gets any traffic at all, I imagine there will be more than a fair share of hate around what I am going to say. Frankly, I am OK with that.

You could easily file A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear into the ‘fiction’ section of a bookstore and anyone who came across it would have no reason to doubt that it belonged there. That isn’t meant to be a disparaging comment towards what is really an excellent book, but a comment on how utterly comedically ridiculous the events the book goes into truly are. It follows what happened in a small New Hampshire town when it became a sort of home base for a group of libertarian leaning individuals, who ultimately summon many more of their kindred spirits to settle down there. Without spoiling to many of the events, let us just sum it up with ‘high-jinx ensue’, and as one can gather from the title, it has a surprising impact on the local bear population.

We live in an era where we all feel not only that life is stranger than fiction, but that whoever has taken to write our reality is either a hack or off his medication. Handling that is pretty hard, Hongoltz-Hetling manages to not let the absolute ridiculousness of his subject get him down by peppering the book with a whole lot of humor. They clearly learned the strategy for getting over things when you find yourself in trying times: attack with humor. The author seemed to have a knack for both finding humorous bits in what he was describing (or perhaps, for being able to describe what are at times a pretty off-putting events in a humorous way), and inserting his own humorous description into the tale.

But virtues of the book aside, there was a pretty bitter-sweet side to it when you consider the events that it goes into. It never got so bad that it was hard to read, but there were moments wherein I mostly felt bad for the people involved. There is something difficult about reading of people feeling the consequences of poor politics. But perhaps this is what is needed to help move the needle back towards more reasonable politics.

Frankly, I have no idea. And I am happy this way.

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