Atlas Shrugged readers remember Galt's Gulch as the rural refuge where Ayn Rand's Real Men of Genius spurned American socialism for their own anti-leftist paradise. Some inspired libertarians have set up a real-life Galt's Gulch in Chile. Unregulated capitalism, though, is presenting some problems!
In Rand's weighty tome, America's bravest, wisest industrialists and inventors—the kind of job creators we lowly leeches suck dry of lifeblood—quietly leave an increasingly collectivist and crumbling American society and follow their capitalist working-class hero, John Galt, to form a completely transaction-based community in the Western wilds.
Plenty of Rand-y acolytes have dreamed of fleeing Obama's (and Clinton's and Carter's and Johnson's and Kennedy's) America and entering the warm, dopamine confines of their own Galt's Gulch. Last year, one group appeared to have succeeded with a settlement in Chile—"a fully self-sustaining community" that would enable individualistic immigrants (with sufficient funds) to fully renounce "the oppression of the over-regulated, over-taxed, war-riddled and welfare-riddled society consuming the world." They take Bitcoin and everything.
But all is not so sweet. Wendy McElroy, a "Canadian individualist anarchist" of some note, bought a 1.25-acre plot in Galt's Gulch Chile last year, or so she thought. She wrote a blistering post Monday suggesting that the Real Men of Genius behind the settlement are grifters, or incompetents, or both:
Shortly after purchasing, I received an unsigned email through the webform of a site I maintain. It informed me that GGC was a fraud. One reason: GGC lacked water rights. In Chile, purchasing surface land and water rights are two separate processes. GGC is desert terrain, rather like California, and water rights are absolutely necessary for a community to be established.
The emailer was apparently an ex-employee who demanded payoffs from Galt's Gulch's two main developers. Which, according to McElroy, he got, after "many unpleasant details," and after GGC did get some land that included water rights. But then, the whole thing deteriorated into a power struggle and lawsuits over "maze-like transfers of cash and authority," and at some point McElroy learned that she didn't actually own her plot, because the development wasn't authorized to sell lots that small:
I had the opportunity to ask a question of the salesman who showed my husband and me "our property." I claimed it because I fell head over heels for the most beautiful tree I've ever seen. I felt an instant connection as though the two of us were old souls who had found each other. I could believe it, I could see it... waking up each morning and having coffee under that tree, telling it about my plans for the day. Months later, in a Skype conference, I asked the then-GGC-alienated salesman, "When you 'sold' us the property, when you printed out a photo from your phone that read 'Wendy's tree,' did you know you could not legally sell us the lot you were offering?" He said, "That is correct."
That silence you hear? That's the sound of Atlas shrugging.
The upshot, McElroy learned, is that Galt's Gulch also "owes hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars to hardware stores [and] service providers" in the nearest town, "ordinary Chileans who are acutely harmed by the project's malfeasance."
Even so, GGC developers will still sell you a 1,200-acre "Master Estate" for a mere $500,000. As long as you're also willing to extend GGC developers a $2 million "Founders Club" loan along with that $500,000, which they'll totally pay back, they swear.
In other words, Galt's Gulch Chile sounds exactly like the sort of plan you would expect from a a bunch of fans of a crotchety old millionairess who wrote a book called The Virtue of Selfishness.