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New Hampshire built a utopia without laws and taxes: it was destroyed by dreamers and bears

The history of the American city of Grafton goes back more than two centuries. Its inhabitants were distinguished by a particular hatred of paying taxes, which attracted the attention of modern libertarians. They decided to build in Grafton the ideal anarcho-capitalist society without unnecessary regulation. But they did not take into account that there will always be black bears nearby. "".

Photo: Shutterstock

This is the story of how a group of dreamers killed a city that existed for two and a half centuries, in just over fifteen years. And, of course, about bears.


Tracy Colburn came home from work in the evening tired. She decided that before she fell off and fell asleep without her hind legs, she needed to feed the dog. Therefore, I began to warm up the meat stew. When the dog asked to go outside, the woman decided to let her out. But, opening the door, she found three bears on her small porch. Before Tracy could do anything, her dog Kai ran out onto the porch and immediately pounced on the largest animal. A scuffle ensued in which the bear and the dog rolled down the steps from the porch. A wild animal tried to hit Kai with a paw, and he deftly dodged and bit his ass.

The woman knew that usually bears are afraid of loud screams, and therefore she screamed with urine. In a normal situation, this might have helped, but the bear had no alternative: there was a biting dog in the back, and Tracy in front. The animal rushed at her. Tracy raised her arms to defend herself, and with one powerful blow of its clawed paw, the bear cut one of her arms open and severely scratched her side. The woman fell to the side of the door, and she slammed behind her, leaving alone with an angry predator.

Then everything happened as in slow motion, but finally, the bear runs away into the forest, chased by the dog. Kai returned happily wagging his tail, proud of the feat he had accomplished. Tracy was far from happy. She lost a lot of blood and definitely couldn't wait until morning.

One of the distinguishing features of the city of Grafton, in which these events took place, was that there was no mobile connection. Therefore, the woman could only limp to the car and get behind the wheel. She was unable to leave because the vehicle was equipped with a manual transmission and her right arm was torn to shreds. The only thing that remained was to press on the signal with your left hand, hoping that someone passing or passing by would notice it.


The history of Grafton and the New Hampshire black bear population go hand in hand. When the first colonists came here at the end of the XNUMXth century, the animals received this event with a certain enthusiasm. They watched with interest how the white monkeys fry pieces of beef on the fire, and when they became especially hungry, they did not mind eating both beef and the white monkeys themselves. Animals did this more than once, and people responded with violence, but neither side won.

The British crown did not care about Grafton and the bears, but it did not care about the taxes that city residents were required to pay to the treasury. Therefore, the colonists greeted the revolution with enthusiasm, not expecting, of course, that the new government would rid them of the bears, but believing that they would definitely not have to pay taxes.

Their expectations were not met, and the indignant Graftons began to write petitions to the federal authorities, the meaning of which boiled down to two theses: "we do not want to pay taxes because it is very difficult for us to live" and "we will not pay taxes." And they didn't pay. Moreover, in 1781, the then independent state of Vermont invited them under its wing, promising not to stutter about taxation. The townspeople happily voted to disconnect from New Hampshire.

The point in this matter was put by George Washington, who reached the news of what was happening. He announced that he would "suspend the fight against the common enemy [British Empire]" and turn all his forces to "raze this state to the ground." Grafton had to give back, but the desire not to pay taxes remained a feature of the Graftons throughout history.

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Villaribo and Villabaggio

The neighboring town of Canaan was in much the same situation as Grafton. Not to say that taxes are very fond of Canaan, but the townspeople and local authorities somehow made their choice. They decided that public infrastructure was a necessary thing, and they spent money from the city budget on its creation. Grafton did the opposite. In the "fat" year of 1881, the city council voted to completely abolish the payment of taxes by residents.

Nevertheless, for some reason, everything did not go along the path that they saw in front of them. Until the 1930s, there were no firefighters or a fire station in the city, despite the fact that Graftons were regularly killed in flames. There was no police station, and law enforcement officers had to conduct interrogations at home. And it is worth noting that all this was not exactly due to the will of the Graftonians, who voted with enviable persistence against any spending from the municipal budget. The lack of infrastructure also did not attract new residents from outside.

By 2010, it turned out that the council tax was not much different in the two townships: the owner of a $ 150 home was paying $ 930 a year in Canaan and $ 673 in Grafton. Indeed, despite the significantly higher costs of public infrastructure, the Canaanite population was larger than the Graftonian population and had an elementary school, several churches, restaurants, banks, a gift shop, two bakeries, and so on.

Utopia and "battles of homeless people"

But in the early 2000s, people who liked the Grafton approach were found. These were the four new settlers: John Babiarge, Tim Condon, Larry Pendarvis, and Bob Hull. They were all adherents of the libertarian ideology described by Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged. All of them dreamed of a society in which there are practically no regulations and taxes, everything is ruled by the “invisible hand of the market,” and the individual motives of the individual are always above the social ones. This was the kind of society they intended to build in Grafton, which they had chosen for obvious reasons. This was the beginning of the Free City project.

If everything went as planned, hundreds of their like-minded people would rush into the settlement, who - by joining forces through democratic elections - could cancel a bunch of stupid and unnecessary regulations that enslave ordinary people (this is how Pendarvis described the initiative in one of the libertarian forums in the Internet).

Among the inalienable rights, the activist listed the opportunity to have more than two non-working cars on his private territory, the right to arrange gambling, the right of students to skip school, the right to transport drugs and engage in incest. The libertarian also demanded permission for the transportation of human organs, duels and, finally, “homeless battles” - when two citizens could give money to homeless people to fight each other. And, of course, cannibalism.

At first, the locals perceived the newcomers positively - in general, they had a common way of thinking: both of them did not like taxes. However, it soon became clear that the violent activities to create a cell of the libertarian party in Grafton did not like the Graftons, and the wild statements about cannibalism, duels and fights of the homeless further turned them away from the newcomers. Having received a tough rebuff from the townspeople, the founders of the Free City project did not despair. They only decided that only their opponents came to the meetings at which they tried to push their ideology. But surely the majority who support their initiative just sit at home and wait for everything to work out.

It was decided to stay in Grafton rather than seek a better location for the project. So, a trickle of libertarians flowed into the city, inspired by the appeal that the four founders of the initiative had left online. Some of them came with money and families, ready to buy a house and settle down. But for some reason, most of them ended up being single men without a penny. They settled on the outskirts of the city, in a trailer park, in tents and the cabins of their mobile homes. WITHAmong them, however, were not only libertarians - there lived "preppers" (people preparing to survive after the apocalypse), and communal anarchists, and God knows who else.

All this motley company was united by a love of absolute freedom and hatred of the state. The fight against regulations in Grafton has been serious - although, it would seem, how much further. Libertarians demanded to recognize their right to pollute their property as and what they please, to make fires in a fire hazardous zone - again, if this is their property - and in general to do whatever their heart desires. In addition, many of them got into the habit of carrying weapons for show, irritating the locals. This is not to say that in the city it was possible to surprise someone with a pistol, a gun or even a machine gun. However, the unspoken code of the grafton did not allow them to flaunt. The weapon was intended for utilitarian purposes. If a bear came, a person needed to have something with him with which to give an answer to the animal if he had sudden complaints.


Libertarians sued for any reason - and there were plenty of reasons. They believed that everything was going more or less well, they just needed to achieve even more freedom, for which it was necessary to get rid of the latest regulations. But among them there were also people who tried to reason with especially extreme-minded individuals.

One of them was John Babiarge. In the early years, when there was no one to service the only fire engine in the city, he became a Grafton firefighter. Moreover, one day he came to a call to one of his comrades-in-arms and poured water over a fire, which he burned in the wrong place despite the dry weather. This was unheard of, and the anarcho-capitalist community began palpably to burst at the seams.

On the subject: Aggressive bear burst into a house in Colorado: he has been terrorizing the county for several years

The kindness and folly of the Donut Lady

While the lovers of freedom tried to mold their utopia out of Grafton, the bears realized that the people's dreams had really come true - only for them, and not for people. If at first the new settlers did not notice them, then gradually the presence of bears became more and more noticeable. They began digging in trash cans and trash cans, ravaging beehives, and licking grease off backyard grills. Besides, they fell in love with cats - not stroking, but eating.

At that time, there was a drought, which, by the way, also affected the bears. Food became scarce, which means that the animals began to look even more carefully for it from people. One libertarian woman who fed the birds with sunflower seeds found that the bears were destroying the feeders. Once she saw a bear in her yard - he was very skinny and haggard.

So the woman, who many later knew by the nickname Donut Lady, began to take out another bucket of grain for these animals. But they very quickly dealt with him, and therefore she soon began to put out two, three, four buckets. The animals were hungry, and the Donut Lady could not refuse them. She also added a couple of dozen cheap donuts to buckets of grain - for which she earned the nickname. It is not surprising that the bears began to day and sleep at the feeders.

Other libertarians also deliberately fed bears. When the US Federal Fish and Wildlife Service fined a man named Charlie Vandergoe $ 20 for feeding the animals, the libertarians were outraged.

“They do not think about protecting animals, they exist only to fine people who love animals,” one of them said at the time.

The first thing that came to mind for the "preppers" and other inhabitants of the tent camp was to install a poster "Bears are not allowed to walk" near the garbage dump where they dumped garbage. It is unlikely that the bears knew how to read, but what the hell is not kidding. However, the poster helped to raise spirits in the camp. Many "survivalists" stocked up with large-caliber pistols and, looking at the inscription, convinced themselves that it was not they who were in the territory of bears, but the bears - on their land.

Shooting in the forest

Tracy Colburn became the first victim of a bear attack in Grafton in a century. In the weeks and months that followed, both the indigenous Graftons and the residents of the Free City searched for the culprits.

In the meantime, the city, whose power structures were almost entirely deprived of funding by libertarians, plunged into chaos. Attempts to burglary and drug trafficking and drug use have increased. Soon, the first murder in a long time was committed in Grafton. The donut lady and other libertarians continued to feed the bears, and there was definitely something to be done with their population. Several hunters then gathered and conducted an illegal raid on the dens. But it didn't help for long.

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The bears soon returned, but the number of libertarians was greatly reduced. Tracy Colburn, who was saved by a passing John Babiarzh, who heard her press with her good hand on the signal, left the city as soon as her wounds healed. The others followed her. Not all have survived to this day. Someone was shot dead, flaring up in an argument, someone burned down in their house without waiting for the firefighters from Canaan, and Bob Hull, one of the first settlers, died of cancer.

A sad fate befell the eccentric libertarian pastor John Connell, who bought a church from the Methodists for a pittance. For a long time, he refused to pay taxes on it - and he could have done it with a clear conscience by submitting a petition to the US Internal Revenue Service to recognize the church as a non-profit organization. ABOUThowever, the new pastor could not afford this, as he believed that transactions with the authorities were unacceptable. The premises were almost taken away for debts, but the absence of a fire service played a bad joke: the church burned down with him a few days before the deadline for his eviction.

End of the tale

All this played a role, but the new Free State project influenced the death of the Free City project even more. If earlier Grafton attracted everyone who wanted to feel like an Atlantean, straightened his shoulders, now, thanks to other libertarian activists, the entire state of New Hampshire has become it.

One new attraction for libertarians was Keene, which had a municipal property tax three times higher than Grafton, but had a baseball team, tennis, baseball and playgrounds, a historic colonial theater, trimmed lawns and trees in parks. and the outskirts, home to entertainment and educational institutions funded from the pockets of taxpayers. Gradually Grafton was empty.


In 2019, a group of scientists from Baylor University conducted a study on people's attitudes towards taxes. It turned out that in states and cities where residents were inclined to pay higher taxes, the level of happiness of the population was significantly higher than where citizens who did not welcome high taxes lived.

Scientists noted that when states contribute to a public good, it often brings people closer together, giving them common platforms to interact with. This serves to strengthen social bonds, leading to “general welfare”.

However, the researchers noted that there was another possibility. Government spending on space improvement is associated with happy citizens, but it is quite possible that something else is also true: happy citizens tend to pay higher taxes. If so, then the misadventures of the Graftons were ultimately not due to low taxation. It is more likely that a city with low taxes has attracted unhappy people throughout its history.

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