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This article by David MacGregor is a practical application of the principles first suggested in my article, "Atlas Shrugged: A Model for Individualist Revolution".

Going For Galt's Gulch

by David MacGregor

Galt's Gulch is a high-tech retreat in Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged—a place where all the "disappearing" productive people can meet, relax and recharge.

John Galt, the hero of "Atlas", is a brilliant engineer who has decided he will not support a corrupt system. He will not allow his mind, his talent, or his efforts to prop it up. He plans a strike like no other—a strike of all those who are the engine of civilisation, the creative producers in every field. His mission is to persuade each and every one to disappear, to simply remove their support, and thereby bring about a collapse of the existing society.

Galt's Gulch is their private hideaway spot—an anarchic, free community hidden in the mountains. It's protected by a high-tech invisibility screen, which is designed to prevent the place from being found.

It's a "retreat for the rational", a place to reenergise and spend time with like-minded people.

If you haven't read Atlas Shrugged, then I urge you to. It has the power to revolutionise the way you see the world—and more importantly, your place in it.

Galt's Gulch portrays what could be possible in a rational society—and in each new generation of readers it inspires hope, and shines like a beacon pointing to a different world.

It has also inspired speculation as to how such a society may be created in reality. Usually, this has lead to ideas like how to create a new country, or sovereign territory. Many such ideas have been floated—and come to naught. The main obstacle being the impossibility of achieving sovereignty over any existing territory. It's all spoken for. Sure you can buy land and build a city even—but you cannot buy the actual sovereignty, or true independence.

This vital ingredient of freedom is apparently not for sale. Every existing nation jealously guards its existing sovereignty, and has managed to seize every piece of real estate on earth.

You could go off-planet of course—like in Robert Heinlen's novel—The Moon is a Harsh Mistress—where an Earth colony on the moon rebels, and declares its independence. And that is still a possibility—although probably far-off.

This leaves us in a quandary. Freedom-loving individuals would simply love a place to call their "own". Trouble is, such a place does not exist—and appears to be impossible to create, under the existing notions of national sovereignty.

It could be possible to "lease" sovereignty from some existing nation—say a poor nation in need of cash. But such a move is very likely to draw the wrath of the nation state club— particularly if it were to buck the system in other ways. However, this option is also very unlikely, as the only places that may even consider it are probably a bit of a hell hole.

So, where does that leave a motivated freedom-seeker—an individual who is serious about claiming his birthright, and not content to just put up with the status quo?

A clue lies in the physical specifications of Galt's Gulch. Much has been said about the nature of that private society, but the novel is more properly concerned with the big picture—about transforming the world as a result of the "strike". However the nascent free society, that is Galt's Gulch, is able to exist because of one essential fact—the privacy shield that lies overhead.

The sky shield creates the illusion that there is nothing in the valley below—so any spying aircraft flying overhead will not see it. It is designed specifically to hide the existence of the place and to allow it to survive and achieve its purpose—that of offering a refuge to those who are on strike, until it is time to return to a transformed society.

This is where the internet comes in. The internet is like an alternative society—a place outside the normal societal structures. It's a place which is effectively uncontrolled by government. In other words, it's a place which has moved beyond the sovereignty of any individual nation. Sure, some nations try to control elements of the internet—like the USA stopping its people from gambling offshore, or China stopping its people from visiting BBC.co.uk—but at its core, the internet is free space.

It's also a very public space. But it has the capacity to be as private as you want it to be.

More importantly, the internet is the basis of a new type of community. You can see this by watching how it has developed. Whereas you used to just read newspapers and news from the official news channels—now you can read/create blogs, start your own podcast service, create and sell your own book, start your own newsletter. Then there's the buy/sell communities like eBay and others—where vast amounts of private business are transacted. And of course, the internet is littered with every type of interest group—political, economic, hobbies, sexuality. You name it and there's a group for it. It's also revolutionised how people find work, arrange travel, book hotels, and do banking. In fact, the internet has become the global, no barriers, free market. And for now, it's not taxed!

It is in this cyber-environment that a private society can be born. Any group of people can create a virtual community with its own privacy shield. Privacy, on the internet, is created by technological means. You can shield your email communications using PGP. You can shield your internet movements using an anonymising service. You can shield certain types of financial transactions using alternate value-exchange systems like e-gold. In other words, you can create a virtual privacy shield.

You can, potentially, move entire chunks of your life into this private space—if you choose. You can communicate, you can do business, you can play, you can inform and be informed. You can even find love.

The one thing you can't do is live in a physical free space—at least not yet. However, this in no way downplays the significance of what can be achieved on the net.

At its root, the net is quite subversive of the present order. It provides proof of alternative means of organisation—without the use of force. The more people interact with the net, the more they are confronted by self-organising systems—whether business or private—where order is developing, evolving and functioning.

The significance of this "education" should not be minimised— because it is allowing individuals to discover a world that works without the gangster class called government. It is a prime example of what can be achieved when people work together for their mutual benefit.

This re-education is a crucible for change. It has the power to fundamentally alter the social order—to cause a mind shift.

Let me give you just one example. The net is full of business opportunities. Now, many of these end in tears. But look at the larger picture. Many of these provide valuable learning experiences—opportunities for people to actually come to grips with the idea that they, as individuals, can create their own wealth—that they are not entirely at the mercy of someone else who may or may not want to employ them.

Now, this type of education is NOT available at school or university—but it is available on the net. And people are soaking it up.

Take another example—my own private cyber-community for those seeking more practical freedom—SovereignLife.com. On the face of it, this may not seem like a revolutionary hotspot—but in fact it is. You see, by attracting like-minded individuals it sets in process a "meeting of minds", and allows for interchange between those wishing to expand their life options. Somebody joins up and wants to learn more about how to open an offshore bank account, or how to get another legal passport, or how to start a business online. At once they are able to communicate, in private, with others on the same road. This community allows for exchange of ideas, inspiration, new strategies, advice on common pitfalls—all of which is invaluable, and which can shorten the learning curve that would normally be expected.

In being part of such a community, a member is exposed to a variety of thought-provoking ideas, and given the freedom to respond, ask questions, make suggestions and take action.

Over time, this type of freedom community builds a commitment to the very idea of personal freedom. It strengthens the foundations of each participant's desire to lead a freer life. And each of these people know other people, who talk to other people—and so are ideas are spread.

Of course, to read your average newspaper, you'd think nothing was happening—that the world is as it has always been. But that's because the average newspaper, TV channel and politician are living in a bubble. You only have to listen to any leader of any nation to realise they're either stupid or ignorant—or both. And certainly, they have no idea what is really happening beneath the surface of their perceived world. They may believe they are the movers and shakers, but the reality is quite different.

Desire for freedom starts in the mind. It then looks for actual expression in the real world. The real world is much more than what you hear on TV. It is emerging and evolving at the cutting edge of social change—the internet.

Like when the Berlin Wall collapsed—bringing to an end the totalitarian monstrosity that was the Soviet Union—the present order is not nearly as robust as the purveyors of nonsense would have you believe. Change can happen—and it can happen fast. All that is necessary is a catalyst—a sudden event that can shake the foundations of the present order. If that happens, and you already have alternative social organisational systems in place, then the resultant social transformation could be sudden and profound.

The internet provides the type of space for a virtual Galt's Gulch—and place of respite from the silliness of political pontificating; a place to recharge your life battery in the company of like-minded souls—and a place to learn the strategies of making your life as free as you want it to be.

Don't underestimate the power of ideas—or the capacity of individuals to self-organise to achieve their goals.

P.S. Why wait for the "big bang". Get started now, be prepared. Go to: http://www.sovereignlife.com/kickstart.html

Copyright 2005—SovereignLife.com—

All Rights Reserved.

This essay is reprinted with permission from the author and may be re-posted elsewhere as long as credit is given and the SovereignLife.com hyperlink is included--JMeganSnow

Edited by JMeganSnow
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I am fairly new to objectivism, and don't know who David MacGregor is, but I've read Atlas, poked around this site, and checked out the ARI. A few parts of this article seemed to be inconcistent with the message of Atlas and Ayn Rand's philosophy in general.

Galt's Gulch is their private hideaway spot—an anarchic, free community hidden in the mountains. It's protected by a high-tech invisibility screen, which is designed to prevent the place from being found.

Galt's Gulch wasn't an anarchy. It had no elected officials, no economic restrictions, no written laws and no taxes, but it was definitely not an anarchy.

Anarchy

1 Absence of any form of political authority.

2 Political disorder and confusion.

3 Absence of any cohesive principle, such as a common standard or purpose.

If you look closely at Galt's Gulch it doesn't fit any of the three definitions. While there was no elected government the Judge (must appologize, I'm horrible at remembering names) was put in charge of arbitrating a solution to any conflict that arose in the Gulch, and was a sort of Judicial Branch in and of himself. The quality of people living in the Gulch were such that no mediation was required, but he was still there and would hold authority if such a situation ever arose. The Judge definitely didn't support anarchism in any way, which was shown by his writing of a new constitution at the end of Atlas, as well.

The significance of this "education" should not be minimised— because it is allowing individuals to discover a world that works without the gangster class called government. It is a prime example of what can be achieved when people work together for their mutual benefit.

While current Governments are definitely less than perfect, and could be called "gansters" in some instances, I don't believe that calling government the gangster class is quite appropriate and seems to tie into the pro-anarchy theme of this article.

Anarchy, as far as I have read, is fiercely looked down upon by Objectivism.

Anarchism is the most irrational, anti-intellectual notion ever spun by the concrete-bound, context-dropping, whim-worshiping fringe of the collectivist movement, where it properly belongs.

The very reason that the internet may appear to be anarchic is also the very reason that, I believe, will never let it become an actual Galt's Gulch: it's lack of physicality.

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If you look closely at Galt's Gulch it doesn't fit any of the three definitions.  While there was no elected government the Judge (must appologize, I'm horrible at remembering names) was put in charge of arbitrating a solution to any conflict that arose in the Gulch, and was a sort of Judicial Branch in and of himself.  The quality of people living in the Gulch were such that no mediation was required, but he was still there and would hold authority if such a situation ever arose.  The Judge definitely didn't support anarchism in any way, which was shown by his writing of a new constitution at the end of Atlas, as well.

Galt's Gulch had no political authority. Judge Narragansett was able to function as an arbitrator because no one got INTO the Gulch without possessing the kind of personal character that would make any use of physical force abhorrent. He was, in fact, on the level of an ombudsman. A political authority is one that has the authorization and ability to ENFORCE it's edicts.

In essence, legally, Galt's Gulch was in the state prior to any need for an organized government; the inhabitants all lived essentially alone, without significant contact. The largest businesses employed two, three people. A government was not necessary or wanted; they'd come, after all, to rest FROM the arbitrary edicts of the governments outside.

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In essence, legally, Galt's Gulch was in the state prior to any need for an organized government; the inhabitants all lived essentially alone, without significant contact.  The largest businesses employed two, three people.  A government was not necessary or wanted; they'd come, after all, to rest FROM the arbitrary edicts of the governments outside.

I see your point, and it makes a lot of sense, but I still have a couple of questions.

The Judge was mostly a symbol of Judicial authority, and the quality of the people in the Gulch kept it that way. The way I read it, though, and bear with me please, I've only read it once, the Judge did have an almost unspoken authority in matters of that type. I realize that the Judge couldn't, physically enforce any ruling he made, but didn't the respect everyone held for him act as a sort of authority that would make actual physical enforcement unnecessary? The people in the Gulch would all be able to recognize and appreciate the fact that the Judge was the most brilliant judicial thinker in the world. In a way, it would be an honor to have him rule against you.

What if the Judge was called upon to rule on something, and someone decided to not abide by the decession he made? I realize that this wouldn't have happened in the fictional Gulch, but in this world people never act as they should at all times.

The heat screen provided protection from the outside world without redistributing wealth, or pork barrel spending. Was this a symbol of how a government should opperate? or am I reading too much into it. It performs one of the most crucial functions that a government is required to perform without hampering business or restricting liberty in any way, but then again it could just be there to help the story make logical sense.

Rand's fiction is very straightforward, and dosn't try to hide it's meaning in page after page of pomo babble, but I still find myself grasping for symbols when I read her. I don't know if this is good or bad, but at least I have a place to bounce my interpretations of off now :thumbsup: .

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Galt's Gulch had no political authority.  Judge Narragansett was able to function as an arbitrator because no one got INTO the Gulch without possessing the kind of personal character that would make any use of physical force abhorrent.  He was, in fact, on the level of an ombudsman.  A political authority is one that has the authorization and ability to ENFORCE it's edicts.

In essence, legally, Galt's Gulch was in the state prior to any need for an organized government; the inhabitants all lived essentially alone, without significant contact.  The largest businesses employed two, three people.  A government was not necessary or wanted; they'd come, after all, to rest FROM the arbitrary edicts of the governments outside.

Law of the Excluded Middle: Either A or non-A. Either Galt's Gulch had a political authority or it did not. If it had no political authority, then it falls under the definition of anarchy. On the other hand, if Judge Narragansett was more than a mere arbitrator and had the power to enforce laws within the valley, then he was a one-man government (which seems the likelier of the two possibilities, given that the Judge owned the Gulch).

For my money, I'd much rather live under a Narragansett autocracy than any form of popularly elected government. The fatal flaw of all democracies, even those limited by "iron-clad" constitutions, is that politicians will inevitably use their monopoly of force to buy the votes of the “have-nots” with the wealth of the “haves.” I’d like to think that the constitution that Narragansett was working on in the final chapter called for a radical retreat from representative government.

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Law of the Excluded Middle:  Either A or non-A.  Either Galt's Gulch had a political authority or it did not.  If it had no political authority, then it falls under the definition of anarchy.  On the other hand, if Judge Narragansett was more than a mere arbitrator and had the power to enforce laws within the valley, then he was a one-man government (which seems the likelier of the two possibilities, given that the Judge owned the Gulch).

For my money, I'd much rather live under a Narragansett autocracy than any form of popularly elected government.  The fatal flaw of all democracies, even those limited by "iron-clad" constitutions, is that politicians will inevitably use their monopoly of force to buy the votes of the “have-nots” with the wealth of the “haves.”  I’d like to think that the constitution that Narragansett was working on in the final chapter called for a radical retreat from representative government.

Midas actually owned the Gulch, but I still think that Judge Narragansett had at least a measure of political authority (he was appointed arbitor by Midas).

I'm having trouble finding a sufficiently complete definition of Anarchy to know whether or not a pre-governmentental city would completely fit under the Anarchic umbrella. If anyone can help out with that I would apprciate it.

My guess on the contents of Narragansett's constitution is that it would erect huge walls between the government and business's (no interstate commerce clauses that let the government in places where it has no business being, and protections against anti-trust laws). I believe that it would also set limits as to what taxes can be spent on (defense, judicial system, police, possibly roads although private sector could handle that...not sure if I'm forgetting anything, but that would go a long way towards keeping our country safe and running smoothly while minimizing government). In short, I think that it would keep the government small and promote an environment where a truly free economy can run free.

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Midas actually owned the Gulch, but I still think that Judge Narragansett had at least a measure of political authority (he was appointed arbitor by Midas).

You are correct; Midas was the owner of the Gulch. However, this does not invalidate my point that as a proprietary community, Rand’s Atlantis was an autocracy. If residents did not like the laws of the owner/ruler, they could vote with their feet.

I'm having trouble finding a sufficiently complete definition of Anarchy to know whether or not a pre-governmentental city would completely fit under the Anarchic umbrella.  If anyone can help out with that I would apprciate it.

Why not work in reverse from Rand’s definition of government? “A government is an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area.” Anarchy, then, would be the absence of such an institution in an area.

My guess on the contents of Narragansett's constitution is that it would erect huge walls between the government and business's (no interstate commerce clauses that let the government in places where it has no business being, and protections against anti-trust laws).  I believe that it would also set limits as to what taxes can be spent on (defense, judicial system, police, possibly roads although private sector could handle that...not sure if I'm forgetting anything, but that would go a long way towards keeping our country safe and running smoothly while minimizing government).  In short, I think that it would keep the government small and promote an environment where a truly free economy can run free.

But eliminating the commerce clause from the body of the constitution won’t prevent it from being added later in the form of an amendment. Moreover, it is impossible to conceive of a document that is unamendable. For example, any clause declaring that the document may not be amended would itself be subject to amendment. Thus a constitution is only as good as those who maintain it and enforce it. Voting majorities tend to shift the burden of paying for government (and other needs) to the wealthier minority, and no constitution is so unmovable as to prevent them from doing so.

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You are correct; Midas was the owner of the Gulch.  However, this does not invalidate my point that as a proprietary community, Rand’s Atlantis was an autocracy.  If residents did not like the laws of the owner/ruler, they could vote with their feet.

I didn't mean to imply otherwise. In the Gulch, a person put in a position by Midas would have the same authority that Midas would of had if he had personally filled the position.

Why not work in reverse from Rand’s definition of government?  “A government is an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area.”  Anarchy, then, would be the absence of such an institution in an area.

That definitely makes sense. I believe I was simply outthinking myself in this area.

But eliminating the commerce clause from the body of the constitution won’t prevent it from being added later in the form of an amendment.  Moreover, it is impossible to conceive of a document that is unamendable.  For example, any clause declaring that the document may not be amended would itself be subject to amendment.  Thus a constitution is only as good as those who maintain it and enforce it.  Voting majorities tend to shift the burden of paying for government (and other needs) to the wealthier minority, and no constitution is so unmovable as to prevent them from doing so.

I don't believe that it's impossible for a document to be unamendable through legal means, but such a document would, no doubt, eventually be changed by force.

The whole a constitution is only as good as those who maintain it and enforce it really is the key problem with politics, and in Atlas it was the strike as opposed to the Judge's constitution that dealt with that issue.

Which brings up another question: How long do you think Atlas's post-strike world would remain free from the corruption of the second handers? I know that a post-strike free market world would be the most prosperous ever seen, but how long would it be before people took to wanting what they hadn't earned again? Any popularly elected government would run the risk second handers taking it over, but what other form of government could people be truly free under?

It might be possible to keep taxes of the best earners if the government earned money by charging fees for it's services, but people could just raise the fees on services that wealthy people would be more likely to utilize.

As long as there are people there will most likely be second handers, and as long as their are second handers I don't know if any government can truly live up to its name.

EDIT: On the topic of the commerce clause. I realize it is technically possible for the Supreme Court to reverse its extremely liberal interpretation of the clause, but is that something that is even really possible to hope for, or would an amendment be the only feasible, although highly unlikely, way to restrict that aspect of the governments power?

Edited by LaVache
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... as long as their are second handers I don't know if any government can truly live up to its name.
Doesn't there have to be a significant number of second handers? Why would this be true if second handers were a small proportion of the population, and not an increasing proportion?

In fact, suppose you assume a "spreading tree" of intellectual-influence, with a few philosophers who originate good or bad ideas, who teach their ideas to a slightly larger group of intellectuals, who then convince a slightly larger group of "opinion makers", who then influence the larger population of men. Then, would it not be true that all one needs is for a significant percentage of the philosophers to be non-"second-handed"?

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I don't believe that it's impossible for a document to be unamendable through legal means, but such a document would, no doubt, eventually be changed by force.

Yes, by the same token we could say that today’s gun control statutes are unconstitutional (and therefore illegal), but they are nevertheless the law of the land. So even if Narragansett's constitution had erected “huge walls between the government and business,” the President, Congress, and Supreme Court could ignore those walls with the same insouciance presently employed in pretending that there is no Second Amendment.

The whole a constitution is only as good as those who maintain it and enforce it really is the key problem with politics, and in Atlas it was the strike as opposed to the Judge's constitution that dealt with that issue.

Which brings up another question: How long do you think Atlas's post-strike world would remain free from the corruption of the second handers?  I know that a post-strike free market world would be the most prosperous ever seen, but how long would it be before people took to wanting what they hadn't earned again?  Any popularly elected government would run the risk second handers taking it over, but what other form of government could people be truly free under?

The answer is, not very long. Remember, the American Republic only six years old when Washington betrayed the ideals of the Revolution by violently suppressing the Whisky Rebellion. Americans hated and resisted the excise tax on whisky for the same reason they hated and resisted the British Stamp Tax of 1765.

It might be possible to keep taxes of the best earners if the government earned money by charging fees for it's services, but people could just raise the fees on services that wealthy people would be more likely to utilize.

Precisely! There is indeed no such thing as a “neutral tax,” and as long as taxing authority is placed under control of popularly elected officials, taxation will tend to be progressive.

EDIT:  On the topic of the commerce clause.  I realize it is technically possible for the Supreme Court to reverse its extremely liberal interpretation of the clause, but is that something that is even really possible to hope for, or would an amendment be the only feasible, although highly unlikely, way to restrict that aspect of the governments power?

Article I, Sec. 8 gives Congress the power to levy taxes, borrow money, regulate commerce, coin money, and establish a post office among other things. However, the Constitution does not require the Congress to exercise any of those powers.

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