Utopian communities: They’re not just for hippies anymore.
Take Glenn Beck. The former television host and new-media entrepreneur has a dream. A dream that involves neither dusty chalkboards nor conspiratorial spiderweb charts.
Drawing inspiration from objectivist author Ayn Rand and Mickey Mouse godfather Walt Disney, Mr. Beck recently announced plans to build Independence, USA, a $2 billion, self-sufficient, libertarian city-cum-theme park that would mark “the rebirth of our nation through its own principles.”
When it comes to utopian visions, Mr. Beck isn’t alone.
PayPal co-founder and venture capitalist Peter Thiel already has pledged $1.25 million to the Seasteading Institute, a group that plans to establish sovereign, libertarian-minded nations on giant mobile platforms floating in international waters, a kind of “Octopus’ Garden” for the Gone Galt set.
Meanwhile, renewed national debate over gun control has brought media attention to the Citadel, a proposed walled community — think medieval stone castle, not suburban mechanical-arm security gate — of up to 7,000 residents centered around a firearms factory and inspired by survivalist philosophy and the writings of Thomas Jefferson.
“Marxists, Socialists, Liberals and Establishment Republicans will likely find that life in our community is incompatible with their existing ideology and preferred lifestyles,” says the Citadel’s website. “If Liberty has been missing from the life of your family, consider the Citadel for your new home.”
As President Obama begins his second term following an electoral victory that surprised many conservatives, two things seem clear: (a) most on the political right are unhappy; (b) a few are unhappy enough to want to take their ball and go home.
Home, in this case, being the middle of the ocean. Or Mr. Beck’s Tomorrowland. Or a fortresslike city in northern Idaho that will feature “no recycling police and no local ordinance enforcers from City Hall,” but will require all residents to “maintain one AR15 variant in 5.56mm NATO, at least 5 magazines and 1,000 rounds of ammunition.”
“In the 1960s, you had ‘tune in, turn on, drop out,’” said Larry Rosenthal, executive director of the Center for Right-Wing Studies at the University of California at Berkeley. “There is a parallel tradition on the right. You could call it a right counterculture. This participates in that. It has a quality of dropping out.
“At the moment, if you read the tea party blogs closely, the sense of defeat and nowhere to turn is pretty strong. People have largely given up on the Republican Party, which will do nothing but nominate the likes of Mitt Romney, John McCain, Bob Dole. [These communities] are a way of saying, ‘We will no longer compete with a world that is completely stacked against us because of liberal elites,’ as well as the elites within the Republican Party.”
Visions of Division
Of the three visions of a liberal-free enclave, the Citadel appears to be the most developed. Though organizers are not responding to interview requests, the project’s website invites both reporters and the curious to check out a fairly elaborate plan for up to 3,000 acres of land in a mountainous region of Benewah County, Idaho.
According to organizers, residents of the Citadel will be bound by “patriotism,” “pride in American Exceptionalism” and agreement that “being prepared for the emergencies of life and being proficient with the American icon of liberty — the rifle — are prudent measures.”
A conceptual sketch of the community shows schools, homes, a farmer’s market, a public amphitheater, a firearms museum, a firearms factory, inner and outer walls and nearly two dozen defensive towers.