I met Sandra at a Ron Paul rally and it was love at first sight. When she and I finally took the plunge, we knew exactly where we wanted to go on our honeymoon: Ayn Rand World, the new libertarian theme park.
The day after our nuptials, we landed at Milton Friedman International Airport, picked up our bags without any fascistic TSA agent handling our family jewels, inhaled the intoxicating air of personal freedom and headed over to the car rental counter.
“Yes, sir,” said the agent, “here are the keys to your Ford Explorer.”
“Ford Explorer?” I asked. “I wanted something with better gas mileage. Don’t you have a hybrid?”
“Hybrid?” she chuckled. “Oh, sir, we don’t offer those big government-backed creations. We only offer vehicles that the free market supports.”
Reluctantly, we drove our SUV to the hotel and checked into our room at the Fountainhead, a magnificent piece of architecture where we enjoyed our freedom from government-mandated low-flow toilets and shower heads. Our room rate was $10 less than a similar room outside the park, since it didn’t include an expensive sprinkler system. As I expected, the desk drawer contained a copy of not the Gideon Bible, but The Fountainhead.
The next morning, we drove to the park, giddy with anticipation. As we arrived at the turnstiles, just past the animatronic Ayn Rand at the entrance, I was startled by the appearance of the man in front of me and pointed him out to a park guide.
“Oh, yes, sir,” he answered. “Here in Ayn Rand World, we believe the right to bear arms is one of our most sacred rights and shall not be infringed.”
“Yes, I understand,” I replied, “but he’s carrying a bazooka!”
We began our visit by racing over to the park’s most popular ride, Deregulation Mountain. The top of the ride progressed slowly and carefully, as the “regulations” forced us through a narrow pass at a modest speed and an unchallenging grade. However, as the “regulations” loosened up, we went careening down the hill at an ever increasing speed, down an ever more severe grade, until it felt like the ride was out of control. When we finally arrived safely at the bottom, our hearts were in our mouths but we had a better understanding of how deregulation would electrify the free market.
Next, we headed over to the casino to play a round of Health Care Roulette, an exciting card game where the player tries to match the best combination of good health and sufficient insurance coverage. Because Sandra and I didn’t bring much money for gambling, we ended up with “Chemotherapy” and “No Coverage,” one of the worst possible combinations. Fortunately it was only a game of chance!
We skipped the children’s section – if I have to hear that annoying song, “It’s a Small Government After All,” one more time I’ll scream! Soon we arrived in the most popular section of the park, Second Amendment Land. We knew we wouldn’t have time to take the shuttle over to the Hunting Range, which is well stocked with game, but we fully intended to spend time at the shooting gallery.
One of the exciting things about Second Amendment Land is that, upon entrance, every visitor is given a pistol – filled with blanks, of course! Random tourists are confronted unexpectedly by park employees disguised as muggers and you get to test your skills at self-defense.
Sure enough, after a few minutes, a guy tapped my shoulder and said, “Hey, buddy.”
I pulled my gun from my holster, swung around and aimed it at the forehead of a nerdy guy with an overbite and thick Coke-bottle eyeglasses.
“Whoa, whoa,” said the nerdy guy. “Calm down! I just wanted to tell you that you dropped your cell phone.”
“Oh, I-I’m sorry,” I stammered, picking my phone up from the ground. “Thanks a lot. Sorry for almost shooting you.”
“That’s OK,” he replied. “But a word of advice: turn off your phone. It’s useless here.”
“It is?” I said with surprise. “Why?”
“Because the Feds can track your movements by your cell phone. That’s why there is no cell tower anywhere near Ayn Rand World. They won’t build one until all phones are untraceable.”
Sure enough, I looked at my phone and it read, “No signal.” I thanked him and shut it off.
As Sandra and I strolled hand-in-hand to the next section of the park, we were startled by a gunshot.
“What was that?” I asked a park staffer as I dove to the ground.
“You must be a first-timer here,” she giggled. “That’s our pest control technician. He’s always shooting at the pigeons who try to poop on the Ron Paul statue.”
The excitement in Second Amendment Land reminded me of the growling in my tummy. “Are you up for lunch, Sandra?”
We walked into the first restaurant we saw but were startled by the sight of a rat running along the wall.
“Ew!” I declared. “Why hasn’t the health inspector shut this place down?”
“Ha!” sneered the maitre d’. “No health inspector is allowed in here. We allow the free market to decide what is healthy and what isn’t.”
“Well, this free marketer is taking his business elsewhere,” I snorted, and we returned to the sidewalk. Soon we arrived at Chez Roark, a bright and clean-looking establishment which defined its cuisine as “laissez fare.” We were led to a table near the window and handed our menus.
“Sea turtle soup is on the menu?” I asked the waiter. “Isn’t that an endangered species?”
“Sir,” he replied, “the only endangered species in 21st century America is the free man.”
Sandra ordered the chicken salad a la Rand Paul (“all white meat topped with a little nuts”), while I stuck with the John Galt all-you-can-eat shrimp. It was so filling that I was afraid I would have to unbuckle my belt. We paid our bill and rejoined the strolling tourists.
We took a brief break to use the restrooms. Usually, stopping to take a leak is merely functional, but I admit to getting real pleasure from pissing on a urinal cake that read “IRS.”
As we approached the Business District, the air was filled with an acrid black smoke.
“What is that horrible stench?” complained Sandra.
“That’s from the smokestack over at the manufacturing plant,” answered a smiling park guide.
“Why don’t they clean it up?” I asked, holding my nose.
“I like the smell of coal burning in the morning,” he replied. “It smells like … industry. It smells like the Federal government not butting in, spending our tax money and stifling business.”
We turned our heads to the right, hoping to avoid the odor, only to see an embarrassing eyesore: tents, tin huts and broken-down cabins, surrounded by people in ragged clothes.
“What the heck is that?” I asked.
“That’s Shantytown,” replied the guide. “Unfortunately with laissez-faire capitalism, there are not just winners but also losers. Since we no longer tax the winners’ hard-earned wages to provide a safety net, these people have to fend for themselves.”
“Can’t you provide them jobs?”
“A lot of them do work at the manufacturing plant. But since we have been freed from having to provide a minimum wage, some of them don’t earn enough to pay for proper housing or three square meals a day.”
“But that’s terrible!” I cried.
“Oh, they’re fine,” responded the guide. “Fortunately, they are all within walking distance of Charityville.”
We also experienced a few unpleasant moments on the States’ Rights Midway, which is divided into fifty sections, each with its own set of rules. As we walked from “Indiana” to “Kentucky,” my feet were not expecting the sudden change from a cobblestone surface to flat, slick cement and I tripped and fell face first, skinning my knee and elbow.
Moments later, as we entered “Mississippi,” I witnessed a security guard harassing a couple for a public display of affection and chasing them out of the state. I couldn’t hear if the objection was because they were interracial or homosexual.
“I thought libertarians were for personal freedom!” I said angrily to the security guard, pointing a finger in his face.
“We are,” he replied. “But our bigger objection is to the federal government’s interference with the state’s right to discriminate.”
I realized that the harassed visitor was the only non-white face I’d seen in the park. I approached him and asked him if he had noticed it too.
“Oh, yes,” he answered. “My black relatives and friends are all dismissive of the libertarians. They insist that if the libertarians had been in charge of the government, we never would have gotten civil rights legislation passed. States would still be allowed to discriminate in education, housing and employment. Children born into poor families would be at an even greater disadvantage than they are now.”
“But you don’t think so?” I asked.
“Hell, I don’t care,” he said. “I’m rich!”
We took in a few minutes of the daily Main Street Parade. Several of the floats were spectacular, especially the Free Will Diorama, but the one dedicated to Objectivism seemed a little ponderous. I’d prefer a lighter touch.
One of the most popular rides in the park is the Federal Budget Roller Coaster. Each rider is given a sword and as you swoop down and around different displays representing part of the massive Federal budget, you are encouraged to “slash the government.” The rider who slashes the most is given a prize. The challenge is that your opportunity to slash each section is brief, and the coaster moves so rapidly that your slashes can end up being indiscriminate.
As we rolled past a series of wall “cabinets,” I knocked down the one marked “Education,” but I also unintentionally demolished the one marked “Defense.” (My bad.) In her haste to slash “Social Programs,” Sandra inadvertently decapitated the animatronic “Poor Person.” I was also frustrated by my inability to slash “Foreign Aid;” it turned out to be a smaller target than I had hoped. Needless to say, I didn’t win. I’ll have to work on my ninja skills for my next visit.
We bypassed the Legalize Drugs section; pot smoking triggers Sandra’s asthma. The crowd there was the largest in the park – a lot of them seemed to be blitzed – and we realized the Rand World creators were wise to put it near the exit. If visitors came here first, they’d never circulate to enjoy the rest of the park’s offerings. I did enjoy one slacker’s T-shirt which read, “A libertarian is a conservative who smokes pot.”
Finally, we reached the last – but certainly not least – section of the park when we entered the Nanny-Free State, where visitors can ignore the nagging of the do-gooders and the health Nazis. Sandra and I rode motorcycles without helmets on Gary Busey Avenue, and it was exhilarating to feel the wind against our faces, though it also made the rest of the afternoon a “bad hair day” for Sandra. Park employees perform the roles of nags, and visitors are encouraged to retaliate. Sandra gleefully shoved a bacon cheeseburger down a vegan’s throat, while I forced the “Surgeon-General” to smoke an unfiltered cigarette.
On our way out, we stopped in the Ayn Rand World gift shop, which offered an impressive array of tchotchkes. We bought a pop-up book of Atlas Shrugged, so we can indoctrinate our future children on the importance of thinking for oneself, and a bumper sticker that read, “Sex With a Libertarian is the Gold Standard.” Which reminds me: their gift shop is the only place I’ve seen that allows you to pay not just with cash or credit, but with gold.
Sandra and I drove back to our hotel, exhausted but also informed and empowered. We’ll need a good night’s sleep tonight because tomorrow we will fly back to the real world and I’ll return to my job at the bank. After all, those houses aren’t going to foreclose themselves!
(From my book, “Send In the Clown Car”)