You've been driving off the beaten trail, appreciating the beauty of the wilderness scenery. You've been going for miles on a dirt road, curving between mountains, when suddenly you find yourself in a little town nestled pretty much in the middle of nowhere.
It's a nice looking little town, but you quickly get the sense that there's something different about it. Instead of being the usual carbon copy of any generic American town, this place has a wide variety of types of buildings, in all shapes and sizes--everything from geodesic domes, to what look like hobbit homes burrowed into the sides of hills, to more traditional looking homes, big and small. You notice several wind turbines in the distance, and a solar array on a nearby house. Instead of the cookie-cutter property layout that looks like a big piece of graph paper, there are small lots, big lots, farms, driveways heading out of sight into the surrounding mountains, and so on.
You pull into what looks like a convenience store, though it doesn't bear the name of any of the familiar giant chains. You walk into the store, and are greeted and welcomed. There are several people having lunch at the tables in the corner, who also greet you. You wander around the store a bit. In addition to the usual snack and food items you expect, you see all sorts of other things for sale--everything from music CDs, clothes, camping equipment and artwork, to ammunition and a couple firearms in a glass case. You're checking out a wood-carving of a mountain lion, which you think would look cool on your mantelpiece, when you notice that the price tag says "1.7 oz." You ask the store-keeper what that means.
"Ounces of silver," she answers. "Everything here is priced in ounces of silver." Your expression tells her you don't carry silver around with you. "Oh, we do except the fiat stuff, if that's all you have," she says with a smile. She glances at the price tag on the wooden mountain lion. "In federal reserve notes, that would be forty-five dollars." Not bad, you think, for what is obviously hand-carved, detailed work. "If you're planning on being here a while, I can convert some more of those," she says, pointing at the green paper in your hand "into real money for you."
You decide right then that this place is interesting enough to at least stay the night. You ask where the motel is. "Well," she says, "we have a place that's probably what you're expecting, just down the road, which is an ounce of silver for a night--just over thirty bucks. We also have camping sites, with utilities, for next to nothing. Or, if you're more of an outdoors kind of guy, you can park in the lot out back and go camp up in the hills for free."
As she's talking, someone walks into the store behind you. You turn to see a middle-aged man with a rifle slung over his shoulder. Your face must show a hint of surprise, because the man apologies. "Just back from hunting," he explains pleasantly, "not here to rob the place." He greets the store-keeper, and the others in a corner, and takes a seat with them. You make some comment about not needing to call the police.
"Actually, he is the police--well, the closest thing we have to it," says the store-keeper. "There are no cops here. There are a few men who have agreed to be on call in case of trouble. But they're just regular folk. They don't have badges, and they don't have any special authority. They're just who we call to come running if there's trouble, which around here is not very often."
You ask what the crime rate is like, since they have no real police. "Almost non-existent," she answers. "It's a little enough town that most of us know each other, which helps a lot, both because we don't usually rob each other," she says with a smirk, "and because we help each other out, and keep an eye on each other. The last actual crime I can remember was a young kid stealing something from here, last summer I think it was." You ask if they even have a jail in town. "No, and we've never needed one. They caught the kid, and let everyone know what he had done. Eventually the kid agreed to work around the store long enough to pay back double the value of what he stole. After that, everything was Even Steven again."
You ask what would happen if some really nasty people came into town. "First of all, they'd have to go pretty far out of their way to get here, as you probably noticed on the way in. Second, if I was a robber, this is the last place I'd want to come. There are a bunch of hunters in town, and we have a shooting range--we have a few ex military folk here, with some interesting toys, if you know what I mean. If I hit the panic button I have, which I've never needed, help would be here in a big hurry, coming from both directions."
You ask her how much she trusts the guys who would come running--are they responsible and capable? "They wouldn't have the job if we didn't trust them. Unlike the cops out there," she said, pointing over the mountains, "these guys actually work for us. We know them; they're our friends. They're not bullies on a power-trip, like a lot of badge-wearers are." You comment that it seems like a nice tight little community, self-sufficient and personal, and you jokingly use the phrase "hippie commune."
"Bite your tongue," she says with a smile. "One thing we're not is a commune. Yeah, we're mostly a pretty close-knit community, but around here, you don't mess with a man's property. People on the outside talk about local government being better. Well, we take it to the logical conclusion. Around here, every man, and woman, is king of himself, and king of his property. You can do anything you damn well please with what is yours, but you don't lay a finger on what is someone else's without his permission. That one rule is why we can get along so well."
"Don't get me wrong," she adds, "people around here are quick to lend a hand to those in need of help. But we do it all privately. Those who give of their time and effort can feel good about it, and those who receive help are genuinely appreciative--there's no entitlement mentality around here. You want help, you ask for it. There's no big brother here to beg for free goodies, and no tax man to redistribute the wealth." You ask if they really have no taxation at all.
"When I say every man is king here, I mean it. You can't charge a king a fee for living in his own castle, or for being productive, or for trading with others. We act like equal, responsible adults around here--no rulers and no subjects. We settle our own problems, and find our own solutions, like thinking, moral adults. No nanny state to hold our hands, no police state to tell us how to live--and that's just the way we like it. For the people who want someone to bow to, they have the whole rest of the world to choose from. But here, we deal with each other like equals."
You comment that they seem to have a nice little society, isolated away from the rest of the world. "Well," she responds, "we're isolated in every way we want to be, and connected in every way we want to be. Some of us here choose a very simple existence, just living off the land, and others have the latest gadgets and technology. If the grid out there falls apart, we'll be just fine--we can make just about everything we need right here, including our own energy. But we also have phones, internet, and satellite communications. And here we have the full range of education levels, income levels, different races and religions, different professions--pretty much everything except politicians, bureaucrats, tax collectors and cops."
You say it sounds interesting, and you'd like to learn more of the details of how it all came to be, and how it all has worked so far. She's says if you come back the next day, she'll tell you whatever you want to know. So... will you come back?