In their brilliant, but short-lived, science fiction role-playing game “Star*Drive” (1998), authors David Eckleberry, Richard Baker and R.K. Post depicted a far-future where humanity had spread across our arm of the Milky Way and established numerous “Stellar Nations.” One of the more interesting of these nations, which each embodied a different potential future for our species, was Austrin-Ontis Unlimited. The Austrins were gun-nuts, simultaneously fusing a love for firearm-based “liberty,” hyper-individualism and the concept of corporate democracy. Austrin-Ontis was not only a nation, but also a massive corporation where its people were employed. It was the largest arms dealer in the galaxy, thriving off of selling weapons to any belligerent, and the Austrins were not only its citizens, but instead its stockholders. All Austrins were required to bear arms and sneered at the defenseless. Thus the concepts of citizenship, stockholderhood and the right to bear arms were one in the same.
It is the combination of the corporate and hyper-individualist gun enthusiast worlds that differentiates Star*Drive’s Austrins from similar sci-fi peoples, such as the gun-toting, freedom-loving Martian libertarians in Robert A. Heinlein’s Podkayne of Mars (1962). This is also the peculiar mixture that brought it to mind today, some 15 years after its flash-in-the pan existence, when a peculiar article was sent to me by a friend. Aware of my interest in intentional communities and green living, this friend thought I might be amused by a proposed settlement in the Idaho Panhandle called “The Citadel”. The Citadel aims to be:
a planned community where residents are bound together by: Patriotism, Pride in American Exceptionalism, Our proud history of Liberty as defined by our Founding Fathers, and Physical preparedness to survive and prevail in the face of natural catastrophes — such as Hurricanes Sandy or Katrina — or man-made catastrophes such as a power grid failure or economic collapse.
The Founders continue:
The Citadel is not your typical planned community where the developer’s objective is selling cookie-cutter homes at the highest possible profit-margin. The Citadel is not profit-driven. The Citadel is Liberty-driven: specifically Thomas Jefferson’s Rightful Liberty. Marxists, Socialists, Liberals and Establishment Republicans will likely find that life in our community is incompatible with their existing ideology and preferred lifestyles.
While the scope of their fortifications is unique—“the only real fortified castle & town in America”—I see it as a nostalgic throw-back. What has really attracted my attention is their planned source of revenue. In order to fund their community (which will certainly not have onerous graduated income taxes), they have founded an arms company, “III Arms,” which currently sells assault rifles, pistols and accessories online. They note that it is “unique in the world of firearms companies in that all profits generated are donated to the Citadel to help build our community.” Their website openly courts the survivalist right-wing fringe—those who fear a black “socialist” president and harbor fantasies of the glorious day when the Feds will show up at their doorstep and they can use their arsenal. While it is vague as to who exactly owns III Arms, it is intended as the centerpiece of the community, with its castle-like factory dominating the town’s landscape and its budget dependent upon the business’ success. Moreover, the community itself will undoubtedly be governed (like most gated communities) under the condominium business model of stockholder “democracy.” Shades of Austrin-Ontis.
As America grapples with the question of the role of firearms in our society, it is worthwhile to examine the fantasies of the staunchest defenders of this murderous vision of liberty. Their language is filled with the glorification of the individual and the lauding of freedom, but their narcissistic conception of liberty is ultimately based upon the existence of the corporate arms dealer. It should be of no surprise that eventually some of them should realize this and themselves seek to become the arms manufacturer themselves. Across the globe, some of the most extreme of the neoliberal states are slowly fusing themselves with multi-national corporations—such as Dubai, where the Emir is both head of state and CEO. On a smaller scale, but with no less seriousness, a community of “liberty lovers” is creating a community/arms corporation which, like the Austrins of recent science fiction, will rely upon the fear and violent tendencies of others to guarantee its economic prosperity—and their ability to slaughter their neighbors as a guarantee of their “liberty.”