The year is but young and already I have managed one significant achievement… watching the full three seasons of Deadwood in three days. The first season was great, but I found the subsequent seasons a bit ordinary. Except of course for the great Al Swearengen.
The interesting thing about Deadwood is the political angle. The plot follows the trials and tribulations of the gold-rich town of Deadwood in outback America… but the town exists outside of American jurisdiction and has no government or enforced laws. Many of the episodes explore how the community sector and the market are able to solve everyday problems, and how it is possible for people to live together without formal government. And it’s all based on a true story.
In one episode some of the major businessmen get together and pitch in some money to buy a small-pox vaccine and set up a tent hospital. People are constantly noticing new needs and setting up businesses to meet the needs, including a postal service, newspaper, medical service, bank & credit, school, hardware store, and entertainment options — mostly prostitution, drinking, opium & gambling. The community deals with an orphaned child, helps another to overcome drug addiction, provides care to a person left in the bush to die, helps look after a person in a vegetative state, and provides money, food & jobs to those people who need them.
Of course, Deadwood is no utopia. The most obvious problem was the violence — both in the real town and the TV series. But even then it was interesting to see the various ways that people lived without government security, and created non-government security alternatives. It was quite similar to what I experienced in Cambodia, where the government law enforcement is effectively non-existent and yet people have found ways to live with each other.
Both Deadwood and Cambodia would benefit from better security… but both also offer interesting case studies in how people naturally tend towards voluntary and (relatively) peaceful interaction, and how markets and the community are able to solve many problems of life.