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Going For Galt's Gulch

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.

Yours in freedom

David MacGregor

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