Throughout history, there have been a number of attempts to build a “Utopia”. I covered some of the sexier 19th century social experiments, such as Nashoba and Oneida in “The Religious Wrong (pt 3: The Great(?) Awakening)” and several of the Mormonite attempts in my “Mormonism: The Big Con?” series. (Shameless plugs #74828 & #74829)
As the population grows, there are fewer and fewer places to get away from the heathen and set up your own magic kingdom on planet Earth. But, leave it to some Libertarians, they’ve found one.
Or, have they?
Too avoid the upcoming world-wide financial collapse and make some bucks, a couple of Libertarian entrepreneurs decided to take a page (actually several) out of Ayn Rand’s book “Atlas Shrugged” and came up with “Galt’s Gulch Chile”. Which is actually kind of funny since the man (Ken Johnson) whose idea it originally was, has never read the book. “Watched the movie and skimmed the Cliff’s Notes, though. Good stuff.”
The other major player in this set piece is one Jeff Berwick, a self-described “Anarcho-Capitalist. Libertarian. Freedom fighter against mankind’s two biggest enemies, the State and the Central Banks.” (Jeff makes his money promoting bitcoins, gold and himself.)
Jeff originally hired Ken to market “the many businesses I operate”. Ken turned out to be a great salesman, but the “manager from Hell”. He seemed to have personal relationship issues with anyone that he wasn’t trying to get money out of.
In 2012, Ken flew down to Chile to inspect some land that might make a good Utopia.As you can see from the pic, it’s kind of pretty. A mild Mediterranean climate. 160 acres of lemon trees and another 86 of other crops. Secluded, but just 10 miles off the main highway. An hour out of Santiago in one direction and ocean resorts in another. And the price was right, just $1,500,000 for 11,000 acres of land.When he got back, Galt’s Gulch Chile (GGC) was born. Ken and Jeff formed a 50/50 partnership. Ken, the “marketing manager from Hell”, would take over operations and on-site project manager duties. Jeff, the “business genius” would stay in the U.S. and go out and market the lots. (What could go wrong with a situation like that?)
Ken wanted to sub-divide into 3000 plots, but after they bought, they found out that it could only be zoned for 12 lots. Oh, and that $1.5 million for the land, was just for the land. It didn’t include water rights. It seems that in Chile, land, water rights and mineral rights are separate purchases. They couldn’t buy more water rights, because of Chile’s environmental regulations covering the area.
They decided to sub-divide the non farm land into 430 lots ranging from 1.25 acres to 25 acres. Problem is, due to those same pesky environmental laws, no lots under 10 acres were allowed.
Most of the time, these issues would throw a monkey into the gearbox. But, remember, these are Ayn Rand fanboys. (Even if they haven’t read her books.) Ayn didn’t approve of laws getting in the way of profits and neither did they.
Ken went down to Chile to supervise and Jeff hit the right-wing media circuit. A few months later GGC committed to purchase some adjacent land for $6,000,000. Full payment was due in three months.
Ken hired a sales staff to sell lots on the new land. They had to sell $6,000,000 worth, even though they didn’t own them and the property wasn’t zoned for them.
They didn’t make it! In fact, after a year they had only sold about 50 lots in total.
One of the reasons was that the entire sales crew, except one, quit on the manager from Hell. In the same time period, there was a 99% staff turnover. (Those pesky personal relationship issues again.)
Bills stopped being paid. Staff started missing paychecks. The local laborers also stopped getting paid. (Now, who’s gonna pick those lemons?)
Last month, the (bad) word got out. The website ceased to exist other than as a photo album. Ken Johnson is who knows where and Jeff is trying to cover his ass. GGC seems to have stopped operations, at least till the lawsuits and possible criminal charges are taken care of.
If this is an example, Libertarian business ethics seem to be the moral equivalent to Ferengi Rules of Acquisition. (Except, I think the Ferengi are a bit more honest.)