Is This Community the “Last Free Place in America”?

By Clint Sharp | United States

The United States of America has always been considered a country rich with liberty: so much so that many call it “the land of the free” from the national anthem. However, with ever-increasing unjust laws, regulations, and control, the country is only free in a relative sense. There is, however, a place in America that still remains free; where the heavy iron fist of government does not land and people are free to do as they choose. That place, of course, is Slab City.

What does living without laws in Slab City really look like
Slab City’s East Jesus sculpture garden

Situated about 150 miles northeast of San Diego, California, in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, Slab City stands as a monument to those who wish to experience freedom in its most pure form. The community attracts a wide array of individuals, from anarchists to outlaws to aging hippies and retirees. For all, Slab City offers a simple, off the grid lifestyle free from the influence of society.

The History of Slab City

Slab City’s history begins in the late 1950’s during the height of the Beat Movement in America. Immediately following World War II, the U.S. Marine Corps began to abandon Camp Dunlap. Eventually, they fully demolished it in 1956, leaving nothing but a maze of concrete foundations in the desert sand. These concrete “slabs” are what gave Slab City its name. It was only a matter of time before beatniks, hippies, and the homeless discovered it and set up camp. Since, the vans, RVs, and tents added up, until the people established the settlement that we know today.

Life in Slab City requires one to be self-reliant, to a certain extent. The only running water, electricity, and sewage systems are what the inhabitants build themselves. Most settlers with electricity use solar panels that drink their fill of California’s limitless and scorching sun, providing a cheap and clean form of energy for the lawless settlement. The only form of sewage lies in the innumerable outhouses and latrines that litter the landscape. To get water, they must either go to a nearby canal or the neighboring town of Niland. Inhabitants usually also obtain groceries in Niland. However, many residents manage to get their food from other sources such as farming and hunting.

Slab City » Dominik Wojtarowicz Blog
A camper in Slab City

It is important to note that Slab City is not without its problems. Theft is a very prevalent issue in the area, and the Niland police rarely make appearances. Thus, the residents provide most of their own law enforcement, which has been a general success. In the rare instance of vigilante justice, the group tends to shun the perpetrators.

A Land of Freedom

What the citizens of Slab City may lack in the realm of personal comfort and amenities, they make up for in pure, unfiltered freedom. There are no taxes, no rent, and no mortgages. The community does not prohibit drug use or nudity if one so desires to partake in either. Each individual in Slab City can do as they please as long as they do not harm another individual’s person or property. In effect, their unwritten code of agreement is quite similar to the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP). This unregulated and fence-less way of being paints a beautiful picture of life as it is intended to be: peaceful and pleasant existence without control from someone hundreds of miles away.

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Slab City’s Salvation Mountain

The only other problem that the people of Slab City face is the ensuing wave of boredom that comes from living in the desert. One way to beat it is to visit one of Slab City’s many attractions. There’s East Jesus, a sort of art district complete with a sculpture garden, Salvation Mountain, a three story tall hill covered in paint, as well as The Range, a nightclub centered in an amphitheater where bands play concerts weekly. Additionally, the citizens of Slab City throw a huge “prom” every year for the whole community.

Slab City serves as an experiment of anarchy. Without a doubt, they prove that people can live together beyond laws or rulers without it turning into a Mad Max film. So next time you’re in California or are sick of the government, head on over to Slab City and hang out with the Slabbers in the “last free place in America”.

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