Who says fantasies don’t come true? Conservative talk show host Glenn Beck has already parlayed his rabble-rousing into libertarian website The Blaze, his own denim line and a march on Washington called the Rally to Restore Honor. Those projects didn’t cost $2 billion, nor did they require a total suspension of disbelief. Still, Beck is betting big on his new real estate venture: a self-sustaining city and theme park calledIndependence, USA, intended to offer visitors refuge from a country that is “going away from the values of freedom, responsibility and truth.”
Beck introduced his high-concept oasis during a Blaze TV program, complete with a blueprint and drawings. Independence would showcase live events, small businesses, educational projects, charity, entertainment, news and information, all built on free-market principles. Residency would not be required for participation.
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The conceit has obvious roots in utopian societies like Israeli kibbutzim and the Oneida Community, but Beck attributes much of his inspiration to Walt Disney. Beck co-opted Disney’s original plan for Disneyland — that it be a place for “happiness, courage and hope.” And it sure sounds quite a bit like the original plans for Disney’s EPCOT center: EPCOT was supposed to be a 20,000-resident controlled community of fully-employed innovators, “a showcase for American industry and research, schools, cultural and educational opportunities,” and nearby Celebration, Fla. is a hyper-planned Disney Company residential development.
Independence would imbue its values into its architecture (the front gate is modeled after the one on Ellis Island), its agriculture (plans include a working ranch where visitors can learn how to farm and work the land) and its economy (free-market and laissez-faire, naturally). For instance, a downtown “Marketplace” would be the centerpiece of commerce. “The Marketplace would be a place where craftsmen and artisans could open and run real small businesses and stores,” Beck explained during his presentation. “The owners and tradesmen could hold apprenticeships and teach young people the skills and entrepreneurial spirit that has been lost in today’s entitlement state.”
Beckster’s paradise would also be multi-denominational, with a mission center modeled after the Alamo and a Disney-inspired Development center where people could innovate, educate, and create.
Most important, for Beck at least, would be the Media Center, where his production company would film scripted and unscripted television that would challenge viewers without resorting to a loss of human decency, and where aspiring journalists would learn how to be great reporters, just like him.