Seeking Galt's Gulch

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by Jeff Thomas International Man

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We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force. ~ Ayn Rand

For those who are unfamiliar with Galt’s Gulch, it is a fictional location in the US, created by Libertarian author Ayn Rand in her prophetic book, Atlas Shrugged. In the book, the business leaders of the world finally get so fed up with the endless restrictions placed upon them by the powers-that-be that they simply walk away from their factories and move to a valley (Galt’s Gulch) where they establish a capitalistic haven.

Atlas Shrugged was written in 1957, and, at that time, Rand’s supporters were not numerous, although future Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan was a pal and agreed largely with her philosophy. (How things change.) However, in the last fifty years, the book has proven to be amazingly prophetic, even in some of the details, as to where the US, and by extension, the First World in general, was headed.

If ever there were a time that a Galt’s Gulch should be created by those seeking an escape from bureaucracy, it would be now. Certainly those of us who reside outside Europe and America are seeing an influx of people seeking to escape the countries that were at one time regarded as "the best place in the world."

So, what we are seeing is individuals and families that are, in effect, economic refugees, each hoping to find a better place than they are leaving. The concept of a purpose-built community for libertarians is, however, a less likely development; yet, some do exist.

One is Cafayate, an upscale community that is being created by Doug Casey in Salta, Argentina. For those who may not be familiar with it, it is well away from the capitol, Buenos Aires, and therefore, hopefully, removed from much of the political influence of Argentine governments, which have been serially corrupt and dysfunctional. Plans for Cafayate include golf, polo, good restaurants and locally-made wines. An upscale community hoping to attract like-minded people.

Another community is developing in Chile and seems to have a strong focus on self-sustainability – organically-grown meats, fruits, and vegetables, plus grapes for the making of wine. It is based on a large, existing farm and house lots are now for sale.

We can’t say at this point that such communities are a way of the future, but, if so, they are a worthy concept. Surely, if an individual seeks to expatriate himself, he is likely to want neighbours who share his point of view and choice of lifestyle. If such communities are to be successful over the long haul, they will need to either include locals, or, at the very least, have a symbiotic relationship with locals – an interplay in which both groups benefit significantly. (History has shown that isolation from indigenous people breeds resentment.)

Are these communities a good thing? I would say, emphatically, YES. The more, the better, and the more varied they are, the better.

Will such communities come to represent a significant percentage of the world’s population in the future? I would guess that this is unlikely, particularly as the determination to maintain the present concept of the nation-state is so prevalent and so heavily enforced. These are communities for the independently-minded, and, truth be told, most people seem to gravitate toward the concept of being ruled by others.

Some have suggested that such communities are a regressive move and represent a return to the Middle Ages. However, modern communication and transportation could make such communities vibrant. Most people today see the Middle Ages as a period in which kings reigned in their castles and communities of huts surrounded them – small fiefdoms separated from each other, with relatively little interplay. However, in the latter part of the Middle Ages, towns sprung up, many of which revolved around manufacturing.

For example, the town of Perouges, near Lyon in France, was a walled town on a mount, whose population of one thousand or so was almost solely involved in weaving. A modern version of this could conceivably develop in which entire communities would be constructed that manufactured widgets. Assuming that the power of the nation-state was diminished, it is entirely possible that such a community could establish and maintain its own moral values and legal system. Such communities would not only offer a far greater variety of jobs and lifestyles; they would, as a by-product, create a tremendous expansion of freedom in general.

The greater the number of choices of different types of communities, the greater the freedom of all individuals. If one were to try one "Galt’s Gulch" and find it not to his liking, he could then try another.

If the next stage of the development of the world was to be in this direction, not only would each person have a greater range of countries from which to select his home, but an additional development would occur: the developers of the prospective destinations would learn that to attract new residents would mean that they would need to offer options – rights – that would appeal to prospective residents. If this was to happen – if countries needed to compete for residents the way businesses in the free-market system compete for customers – those who seek freedom would indeed experience a new awakening.

Reprinted from International Man with permission.

Jeff Thomas [send him mail] is British and resides in the Caribbean. The son of an economist and historian, he learned early to be distrustful of governments as a general principle. He began his study of economics around 1990, learning initially from Sir John Templeton, then Harry Schulz and Doug Casey and later others of an Austrian persuasion.

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