Movie Review: Libertopia

On the road to the Free State ___ 8.5/10
Liberty as compassion
Review by Brian Wright

LibertopiaMatt Simon: The thing about being an individualist, and acting as an individual in a free society is that people have an interest in cooperating with one another, without any force whatsoever. It’s one of the constants of human experience: any time there’s a problem or a threat to the community, individuals band together, they cooperate for the greater good. They do it all the time.

But where we bristle is when we’re forced to cooperate, where somebody else’s good idea is so important that it needs to be paid for with the money that each of us works hard to earn. And when you go into ideas that are just morally objectionable, like, oh, invading and occupying a sovereign nation [based on lies–ed], or waging drug prohibition, we very much resent that our money is spent to propagate those policies.

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Directed by Christina Heller

Will Buchanan … Himself
Brooke Buchanan
… Herself
Andrew Carroll … Himself
Matt Simon … Himself
Jason Sorens … Himself


Ultimate Road Movie

Ultimate in the sense that the destination is one’s own freedom. Libertopia recounts the adventures of a number of immigrants to the Free State of New Hampshire—at greater length, three individuals: Will Buchanan (with support-team/S.O. Brooke), Andrew Carroll, and Matt Simon. The image on the DVD jacket shows Mr. Buchanan trekking thru the hinterland on the featured journey of the film. In many ways Will is a strikingly ordinary fellow—grew up in Indiana, went to Duke University, worked as a computer programmer, lived all over the US including Hawaii, got with Brooke, moved to Oregon, heard about the Free State Project—then one day: Eureka! “I’m walking to New Hampshire (the Free State) to make my life there… esp. if Brooke will be with me.” Geek and Girl Set Out on Epic Walkathon!

Andrew Carroll is a bit younger (18), but cut of the same mold. Both are extremely determined to stand up (or move across the country) for what they believe in. What’s that? Well, the prime in the Prime Mover is the ideal of liberty itself: they’re 110% committed to the Freedom Philosophy, the nonaggression principle [1]—in economic as well as personal affairs. They have figured out early and often that the economic system we’ve been sold is selling them down the river… and everyone else who’s honest and productive. In his high school econ class, Andrew prepares a thorough expose of the Federal Reserve System and what can be done about it.

In the old days (early 1970s), the discussion re: liberty usually “began with Ayn Rand.” Today it usually begins with Ron Paul: Buchanan sports a ‘Ron Paul for President’ hat as he finally crosses the Connecticut River into New Hampshire; Andrew is a tiger with Dr. Paul’s passion for disappearing the Fed. Libertopia follows both men as they arrive and acclimate into the Free State. Ron Paul is a major inspiration. [Very soon after arrival, immigrant Carroll deviates from Paul’s preference not to disobey unjust laws—albeit working to change them—by publicly holding in his hand a small quantity of marijuana in Keene, NH, in the presence of law enforcement, and being arrested and prosecuted.]

The Human Side

Director Heller concentrates on the human element. The average viewer sees Buchanan as a quixotic yet fully formed adult. But Carroll is just out of high school in Whittier, CA. He’s a wiz at free market monetary policy, plays soccer, plays piano, puts together a band, has a girlfriend, not to mention a mother, and a father who realize they have to let him go. He states his reasons succinctly:

“In California, my experience so far has been that cynicism runs rampant and everyone’s just, ‘Every politician is corrupt. They’re all bad. And there’s no hope.’ I mean there’s a lot of bad things, but I’m not ready to turn to cynicism yet. I wanted to see different places. I wanted to go out and do something. And it seemed like if I stayed here, I’d just sit around the rest of my life complaining that something needed to be done.”

But it’s difficult for them, Mom especially, as she tears up in the car driving him to the airport: “… I wasn’t surprised he would go that avenue. I was surprised that he would go so far away.” Pop is more stoic, but a trained ear hears the throttled sadness: “He’s going to go to college, get a job, and work the Free State Project, and try to do and fulfill what he wants out of life, which is to run for some state assembly and try to change the world for the better.” [And you can just imagine their anguish as their absolutely drug-free, cleancut, Dudley Do-Rightly son does a civ-dis[2] vs. the absurdity of the drug laws, and the state factotums willy nilly do their automated-bonecrusher power dance (tho with some restraint considering the situation and its notoriety).]

Interspersed in the footage of the Buchanans in transit and that of Andrew the Boy Wonder are interviews with a number of other ‘ordinary’ Free State immigrants. Perhaps a half-dozen mini-stories, then a visit to the 2008 Porcfest at the Gunstock Mountain Resort in Gilford, NH. As an Early Mover in my own right, I recognize fondly half the settings and half the people. Occasionally, Free State ‘concept-originator’ Jason Sorens [speaking of boy wonders, Jason is a full professor who, to me, will always look like Harry Potter… in the first movie] makes a few humble points:

My name is Jason Sorens. I’m a political science professor at SUNY-Buffalo. They call me the founder. I wrote the article that started the Free State Project. I proposed this idea of moving people to a particular state and so I sent it to this online journal The Libertarian Enterprise and the editor asked to sign up, so I thought that I might be on to something.

Libertarians have a lot of good ideas, but those ideas haven’t filtered down to the general population, simply because Libertarians are such a small part of the population everywhere. So the thinking was, if you concentrate a bunch of libertarians in a single state, they’ll raise the percentage of the population that’s libertarian, and those people if they’re active, that’s going to increase the relevance of these ideas, and I was optimistic that people once they learn about these ideas are going to be attracted to them.

The FSP isn’t some sort of separate community. We’re not all separating ourselves from society and living in a compound. We’re just ordinary people living in ordinary neighborhoods within the broader society.[3]

Again to the human quality and quality of life argument for the project and the natural movement of people who seek the mantle of freedom. It’s important to realize that the three men featured in this movie are but a miniature representative sample of the hundreds, soon to be thousands, of remarkable individuals making their own unique moves—literally—for freedom. This is a radically different movement where ‘ego’ takes a back seat (most of the time and in the long run): nearly everyone’s a hero and nearly everyone pitches in. The Free State espirit de corps is palpable… to strangers, even.

Matt Simon and the Thrill of Compassion

Libertopia reaches and touches me deepest via its sensitive, intelligent capture of the work and life of Ultimate Zen-Warrior-Humanitarian Matt Simon. Born and raised in Parkersburg, West Virginia, Matt came to the Free State in 2006-ish and has become THE voice of compassionate care for the medical marijuana community. [For a few months, I shared a house in Amherst, NH, with Matt and pre-Free-State-NH liberty stalwart, Jack Shimek. I take some satisfaction that his reading of my early excerpts from New Pilgrim Chronicles (NPC) had a hand in his decision to make the move. (In one film comment he refers to the land mass outside the Free State as a ‘{vast} authoritarian wasteland (VAW),’ which I coined in NPC to describe the broader genus of my specific origin state of Michigan.) :)]

You can make a good argument that Libertopia is the Matt Simon Story, where he represents the more representational and incremental approach to realizing liberty—with iron-man determination. The scenes from the capitol in Concord bring back a flood of warm memories while I was directly engaged there; the film follows Matt and his legislative-action team as the House debates, then votes overwhelmingly to pass HB 648 FN to make medical marijuana legal. I won’t tell you everything that happens to that point or after, because you need to watch this part of the film, especially, yourself.

Leading up to the vote, a medical marijuana user Clayton Holton, victim of Muscular Dystrophy, comes to town for a news conference. If you’re flesh and blood, you’ll be crying as you watch Clayton describe his condition and why marijuana is his only hope for relief and even success against the disease. Matt:  “It’s just obvious, irrefutable proof that marijuana works as medicine for many people. When I meet somebody like Clayton, who has to smoke marijuana to be alive, why do we even have to ask? Why isn’t this just easy for everyone to just say yes, we need to protect these people. We need to not put cuffs on them and throw them in jail.”

“If we’re going to have a war on drugs we need to get people like Clayton Holton off the battlefield.” — Matt Simon

I’m so glad Libertopia concludes with so robust a treatment of the cause of liberty as it applies to the simple human decency of letting people decide what they want to put in their bodies. What Matt and so many others are doing with NHCompassion.org is revolutionary… and it won’t be stopped. They won’t be stopped. We won’t be stopped. The Free Staters are generally like other cause-oriented persons, only instead of baby seals or international bankers, we care so deeply about real people that we shall help to create the only necessary condition that enables real people to flourish: liberty.

The film winds up fittingly with a song by Matt, off camera, doing open mike, probably Harlow’s Pub in Peterborough. Good voice, perfect ending. Obviously a pro-liberty tune of his own creation. As if to announce to the world: “When the work is done, time to ‘revel wildly in pure benevolence.’ Party friendly.”

[Final reviewer note: In a lower-budget film like this there are bound to be some technical nits: why wasn’t the camera here or the microphone there, who are those people at the dinner table, is there any way you could possibly make so-and-so look less attractive, etc. But when push comes to essentials, the production team hits its targets: “This is real, the freedom people are special, and we need to have more of them come out, QUICKLY.” If I’m an average sensitive human with an IQ higher than borscht, I want to be part of so blood-stirring and earth-shaking an endeavor.]

Note from the director: Here is the link for buying physical DVDs. We’re also trying to direct people to the iTunes link. I am developing another liberating idea: post-scarcity human ecology, kind of the ultimate do-it-yourself live long and prosper film called You Are God. Check it out here.


[1] Please accept the reviewer’s references to some of his own works on key subjects.

[2] civ-dis = civil disobedience

[3] This year’s Free State Porcfest is being held at Rogers’ Campground in the scenic White Mountains, June 18-24. Why not make the move in 2012?! Put your VAW police-state turdblossoms in the ol’ rearview. As I mention in NPC, it’s extraordinarily exhilarating being among so many liberty-minded people in a widely prosperous, clean, and healthful country. Live Free and Flourish! If you’re not here, you’re missing out.

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