Bringing the Wild West back to Alaska

Amid Alaska’s deep recession with no end, it is the city of Anchorage that suffers the most. Beyond losing jobs and longtime residents on a sharp curve downward, Anchorage has just catapulted to becoming the American city most afflicted by serious crime, including violent crime. Downtown Anchorage is dying slowly with no cure in sight.


That is quite a conundrum for a place that fate seemed destined to reward as beautiful and prosperous forever, given what the natural world already provides.

This is the second article in a series from the Alaska Liberty Corner that seeks to find a path back to prosperity for Alaska in each of its three largest regions. The remedy suggested in this article for Southcentral Alaska is one that has brought sudden massive economic growth to places far less likely to succeed than Anchorage is.

The solution recommended is allowing people with the money to do so to enjoy a peaceful hedonism that most nations still prohibit in theory. The Anchorage Strip would be just one district of the city. There, casinos, brothels, cannabis clubs, liquor and other human passions will be met for the going price.

Of course wild west hedonism in the big city is nothing new to Alaska, though largely suppressed now. Back in the day, 4th Avenue was wilder than anything found in Las Vegas. But the big party did not bring visitors to the city largely on its own. It was the fur, gold and oil that brought the money to Anchorage to spend.

So, what has changed since then that would make an Anchorage Strip a real success? Just addicting a large sector of the local population to gambling, etc. is no plan for success, but failure instead.

The difference today is global travel on a large-scale. That modernization combines with the shape of the globe to make Anchorage an ideal location for a good party interrupting a long flight across time-zones.

Each day many Americans are flying from the East Coast to Japan, China and other points in Asia. The same is true for the traveler in reverse coming to Boston, New York or Washington, D.C. And these are the people who have the money to truly spurge a trip to the new Anchorage.

When Asia-North America flights to or from the East Coast used to require a stop for refueling, hundreds of thousands of passengers would pass through the North Terminal at the Anchorage airport with only handfuls of people ever leaving the terminal on the ground. This is because the globe is much more quickly flown across its top.

The shape of the globe still makes the Anchorage airport today the global hub for airborne trade shipments of goods of every sort. Anchorage lies no more than a 10-hour flight from 90 percent of the industrialized world economies.

There are still lots of big passenger planes that do not fly routes over 4000 miles. They follow the money. There are lots and lots of well-off people on long trips who would make a stop in Anchorage for something new entirely, if given the chance.

In Japan and China brothels remain unlawful, unlike many parts of Asia. Both nations ban cannabis. Both are true for the East Coast, too.

Gambling is outlawed in China. Yet, the Chinese love to gamble. In 20 years the Macau gambling resort, located a one-hour ferry ride from Hong Kong, has already become twice the size of Las Vegas in amounts wagered.

Traditionally illegal in Japan, a new casino district with restrained rules is coming online soon there to compete with the all-powerful gangster class. The new gambling district near Tokyo will be no match though for the appetite of the most gambling prone populace in the world, the Japanese.

So, let the flood of air passengers to the Anchorage North Terminal resume, this time with most getting off their plane to enjoy a new Alaska. Because the good times are rolling anew in Anchorage, like nowhere else.

Pass the few new laws needed to see if the casinos and high rollers come on their own. There is little cost to this high reward plan.

• Stephen Merrill is an Anchorage attorney and an author on sociology and politics making the case for libertarian government. Merrill served as a Navy JAG Corps officer and then as a top-secret cleared intelligence officer in the Naval Reserve. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenMerrillAk.


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