Manlife: The Last of the Lawsonians

If you haven’t heard of Lawsonomy, a “philosophy of life” created by aircraft pioneer and professional baseball player Alfred Lawson in the late 1920s, that’s because the government doesn’t want you to know—according to Merle Hayden, the winsome 90-year-old subject of this documentary. A dedicated Lawsonian, Hayden recounts how his family latched onto the physical, moral, and economic ideas Lawson laid out in his many books (especially Direct Credits for Everybody, which proposes that the U.S. government abolish interest and eliminate taxes). One can easily see why Lawson gained a following during the Depression and why Hayden remained loyal to his populist message even after a series of IRS investigations and Lawson’s death in 1954 began to drive members from the group. Director Ryan Sarnowski shows a similar respect for Hayden through the detailed documentation of Lawsonomy’s history, merits, and flaws, as well as the little onscreen moments Hayden shares with the women who was his high school sweetheart.