More Micronations!

On Tuesday I wrote about sea-steading – establishing new countries on man-made islands. Turns out this isn’t the only way of setting up your own nation. Independence has also been proclaimed for:

The Kingdom of Lovely: A flat in London belonging to Danny Wallace.

KIngdom of Lovely Coat of Arms
Kingdom of Lovely Coat of Arms and its Latin motto, which translates as
‘Have a nice day’.

Hay-on-Wye: was a small town in Wales, now an independent Kingdom.
The Conch Republic: also exists as the town of Key West, in Florida.
The Grand Duchy of Avram: a farm in Western Tasmania.

The Principality of Sealand: an abandoned WWII gun platform in the English Channel.

The United Federation of Koronis: conveniently located on the Koronis family of Asteroids. (This one, oddly, has sound claims to statehood under existing international law. Citizenship application is free: click here)
The Aerican Empire, diversely comprising a reservoir near Alberta, Canada; 2.9 square kilometres of Mars; half of Pluto; and both Springvale and Dandenong, in Victoria, Australia.

Many of these guys mint their own coins, issue passports and proclaim their own public holidays (January 2 is Procrastinator’s Day across the Aerican Empire). Sealand has a court ruling that it is not part of England, and de facto recognition by Germany. Meanwhile, the Kingdom of Lovely held a Grand Prix in 2006, using Scalectrix slot cars.

OK, so this sounds like fun. But the sea-steaders are for real. You don’t want chaos. How do you set up rules for your own country?

Even the most excitable anarchists know you need property rights to have a functioning economy. So that’s your first step.

You need enforcement, so you need police, laws, judges and jails, and therefore taxes.

For taxes you need representation. Chances are you go with democratic representation and need to make rules about citizenship and enfranchisement; electoral process and limits on the power of rulers. You need to make laws to protect the electoral process from fraud.

If you’re going to have laws at all, it’s worth extending them to prohibit rape assault and murder. You’d need to manage foreign relations. You’d need a public service, and laws to govern its operation. It’s all starting to sound familiar, no?

What about local ordinances? Should you be able to keep a dog? Two dogs? Ten? Will you have to pick up your litter? Road rules? And given that the point of all this freedom is that you can get off your face, will you be allowed to drive on a cocktail of ecstacy, LSD and gin?

I was reading the arguments about all of this on the Sea-Steading Institute website, where there is a heart-warming belief in mankind’s ability to solve its own problems.

But the website’s contributors fall into a trap. In talking about how to deal with criminals they say things like ‘banish them’ or ‘hang them’ or ‘make them walk the plank’. (They’re not necessarily nice, these Sea-Steaders). But there’s an assumed subject in these sentences – ‘The Powers That Be’.

The point of the libertarian experiment is that that subject is no longer assumed. You have to make the decisions yourself. A little thought experiment will help:

If I believe someone has killed my neighbour, can I hang the perpetrator? Do I need to ask a neighbour to help me? Or a majority of the Sea-Stead population? How many people are needed?

What is the enforcing power? And if it is not codified, what stops the murderer from justifiably attacking me in his own self-defence? Or from kiling both me and my friend if we come to hang him? If he claims he’s innocent, why shouldn’t he have the right of self defence?

Is he supposed to meekly submit because he knows we are there to punish him because of his crime, rather than for our own amusement?

There need to be standards of evidence. That requires a polity, rather than rough justice administered by some or all of the mob. Non-standardised ‘justice’ will only serve to amplify crime.

The libertarians haven’t thought this through. They have idealised the concept of being free of government as though it means absolute freedom. But they also make very strong arguments for the power of freely-associating people to arrange harmonious societies without coercion.

They have a problem because they draw this incredible distinction between ‘government’ and self-governance. One is an evil noun, the other a tiny, adaptable, even cute verb. Wackos.
Compromising with 200 other people won’t make you a million times happier than compromising with 200 million other people.

I think the best micronations are the theoretical ones. Do you have a holiday house, a traffic island or a bedroom in a share house that you could secede? What would your micronation be about? What sort of titles do you feel like bestowing? What’s banned? What’s compulsory? Any plans to squeeze in a few more public holidays?

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Thomas the Think Engine is the blog of a trained economist. It comes to you from Melbourne Australia.

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