The fist book I finished in 2021 was Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling’s A Libertarian Walks Into A Bear. It’s an account of two seemingly disparate issues — the dream of the Free Town Project to turn one town into a libertarian utopia and the management and control of the bear population of New Hampshire — and how they both came together in Grafton, New Hampshire.

The Free Town Project spun off from the much more ambitious Free State Project, but had the same aim: move enough libertarians to an area to create a voting bloc that would be large enough to dismantle almost all regulations and thus create a truly libertarian space. Hongoltz-Hetling explains how they came to choose Grafton over other communities and why the history of Grafton made it a good choice for this sort of experiment. New Hampshire (the “Live Free Or Die” state) has a tradition of anti-government and anti-tax sentiment, and Grafton was particularly ornery in both regards, reluctant to commit to anything but the barest minimum of spending. At one point Hongoltz-Hetling sets out a history of the town’s reluctance to support firefighting which is eyebrow-raising in its repeated account of how getting even the most basic infrastructure required extensive pressure. …


When he takes office on January 20th, Joe Biden will become the oldest ever US President. And, assuming Donald Trump doesn’t rage quit the Oval Office before then, it’ll also mark the second time in a row a US President has handed over to a successor who’s older than them after Trump replaced the younger Obama in 2017.

That got me wondering about how different Presidents and their successors have been in age over the years. Because time remains stubbornly linear, and no one has yet lived to be the 289 years old they’d need to be older than George Washington, we’d expect that it would be more likely for a President to be replaced by a younger successor than an older one. …


A map of the route of the Langdale Half Marathon, including an elevation profile.
A map of the route of the Langdale Half Marathon, including an elevation profile.
You can see the map on the event website

In my memories of doing cross-country in school PE, it’s always raining. I’d trudge round the fields, woods and boggy lanes getting progressively wetter and then be one of the last ones to get back and try to get warm in two minutes in the showers.

Thirty years later, I was sitting in my car in a muddy field at Dungeon Ghyll watching rain that was heavier than any of my cross-country memories and wondering just what I was about to do.


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Photo by Elliott Stallion on Unsplash

With voting having started in the US Presidential elections, scenes of people waiting in line for several hours to vote have been circulating around the world. This prompted me to ask Twitter a question:

I was interested in other people’s experience, because in my time as a voter, candidate, election agent and campaign manager, I’ve never experienced people having to wait a significant time to be able to cast their vote. I’ve seen queues at polling stations, most recently during the 2017 general election which gave me the first clue that something unexpected might be about to happen, but never ones that would mean a wait of more than a quarter of an hour at most to vote. …


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Photo by Marko Horvat on Unsplash

It’s my turn to tell a story, is it?

Then I shall have to share one of my uncle’s tales, for I have no new stories this night. I have talked before of my uncle, haven’t I? The one who wandered the world in the times before, and brought back to us wonderful tales of places we would never see. We would all be gathered around the fire –

What’s that? Yes, we would sit around a fire in the dark, for the nights were still cold back then. You young ones, you will never feel cold in your bones.

So, we would sit around the fire, getting warm and after a while when we were all relaxed he would tell us another one of his tales. He saw so many places, walked so many miles! …


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Yesterday, I delivered my first speech at a federal Liberal Democrat conference, so I thought I’d share it here for posterity. This was part of the debate on the “Save the BBC” motion. The video of yesterday isn’t yet up on the Party Conference YouTube channel, but I’ll add a link when it is available.

Conference,

I should start with a declaration of interest — I used to work for the BBC.

Yes, if you were listening to Five Live in the middle of the night around the early 2000s, you would have heard me present the Travel News.

And conference, having worked for the BBC, I’m fully aware of its flaws. …


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This is a follow-up to my previous story on Liberal Democrats and factions, as there were some comments and questions about it that got me thinking and it felt worthwhile to expand on them in a linked post rather than letting them disappear into the Twitter ether.

One of the main objections and challenges people had to the previous post is that they’ve seen how bad factionalism has been in the Labour Party, and so because of that they don’t want to see any factions in the Liberal Democrats. …


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I’m posting this in the interregnum between the latest Lib Dem leadership contest ending and the result of it being declared. So for the first time in what feels like a significant portion of forever, we’ve got a moment of relative peace when what I’m going to write isn’t an intervention to sway your vote or triumphant gloating/sour grapes losing (delete as appropriate when the result comes in).

The problem with the Liberal Democrats is that the party doesn’t know how to have an argument with itself.

This may sound somewhat odd coming at the end of a leadership contest, but that contest followed the same unwritten rules as every other Liberal Democrat leadership contest or internal debate. Everything comes with a side order of “we’re all liberals” or “we’re all part of the Liberal Democrat family” and there’s a taboo against anyone being too confrontational, challenging or partisan in their campaigning. Some of the biggest arguments I’ve seen during this contest haven’t been about the candidates and their proposals but rather people complaining about the tone and style of other members because they’re too confrontational (and even “too political”). There’s an air of relentless positivity at times, which exhortations that whoever wins we all must instantly rally around the new leader and quite often a sense that for some this is a job interview as much as it is a political contest. …


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What could have been? (picture: The Times)

There’s nothing people in British politics like more than refighting old battles, and so we continue to discuss the 2017 election three years and one election after it happened. On one side it’s the argument that Jeremy Corbyn was just 2,227 votes (or similar) away from becoming Prime Minister (which appears to have started with this article), on the other it’s “well at least we don’t have Corbyn in charge during Covid” or similar.

There’s no question that 2017 was a close election, and like first past the post elections, you don’t have to shift many votes in key constituencies to put the parties into a very different position on the Friday morning. …


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By Mchytrowski — Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 pl,

There are many ways to become the owner of an eerie yet structurally-sound mansion. It may have been left to you in the will of a relative you only heard mentioned in whispers between your father and his family. You might have seen it advertised at a ridiculously cheap price and rushed to purchase it from an oddly well-spoken estate agent who still hasn’t sent you the historical records he promised. …

About

Nick Barlow

Many, many things. PhD student at QMUL. Councillor. Ran the 2019 London Marathon for Brain Research UK. @nickjbarlow on Twitter.

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