And some Kansas City anarchists haven't found any reason to believe otherwise after dealing with the Jackson County Land Trust.
This past winter, the anarchists formed a committee to raise at least $15,000 to create a library and community center -- a headquarters for radical politics similar to the Autonomous Zone in Chicago or CAMP (the Community Arts and Media Project) in St. Louis. But first they needed a building.
In March, Nate Hoffmann started the search by calling the Land Trust -- an agency that is supposed to maintain and sell all the deserted buildings and empty lots that nobody buys at tax-foreclosure auctions. A Land Trust employee answered the phone and told Hoffmann the office had no idea which buildings it owned.
"They basically told us to drive around and look for buildings that look like they're abandoned, then write down the address and they'd look it up for us," Hoffmann says. "They said they had been running on a budget of zero for six months to a year."
Hoffmann and his comrades probably could have given the Land Trust some pointers on how to be unorganized without a budget, but apparently nobody there thought to ask. (The Land Trust's problems might stem from the fact that it's run by not one but three bureaucracies. It's overseen by a board of three members -- one appointed by the city of Kansas City, one by Jackson County and one by the Kansas City School District.)
Undaunted, the anarchists were determined to get some help from the government agency. They wanted to end the oppression of being forced to meet in coffeehouses, restaurants and basements.
Meanwhile, they decided on a catchy name -- the Revolutionary Education Community (REC) Center. Once the center opens (within a year, they hope), people will be able to come in and kick back with the writings of, say, Howard Zinn. (Zinn's books aren't in abundance on the shelves of Kansas City's public libraries, which makes us very, very suspicious.) The REC Center will also house groups such as Food Not Bombs, which gives away vegan food made from restaurant freebies. As they made their plans, committee members tried to ensure that nobody would be in control of the project. After the center opens, the committee will disband. The various groups housed in the center will then rotate members in and out of a "spokescouncil" that will make all decisions. If there's a disagreement about an issue, the spokescouncil will "talk it to death" until it reaches a solution, says committee member Florella Fisher.
After much persistence, the committee finally obtained a list of properties available from the Land Trust. But it was confusing, with no zip codes or physical descriptions of the properties. Last month, they started driving around to check out spaces; a fund-raiser with music and poetry readings is tentatively set for late August.
Even though they don't believe anybody should be in charge of anything, the anarchists were appalled at the disarray of the Land Trust. At one point, committee member Jeremy Wilson went to the agency's office to get some answers.
"Oh, my God. It looked like a tornado had gone through there. And officially, there's nobody running it," Wilson says. "It's just this very odd, sort of defunct program."