Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Finding Frontiers, Building Utopias

In the research for The Patriots of Mars, I was struck by how widespread the human yearning was for a world other than the one we live in. That is to say - a world other than the one we've (largely) made for ourselves. Ponder that irony for a moment or two.

Many of the characters in Patriots express a profound longing for a new world. From a speech by Dr. Charles Hammer, delivered May 7, 2051:

“Exploration, on any meaningful scale, has always been linked to the expansion of commerce and profit. With exploration comes frontier, and as frontier expands so does personal liberty. 
“I don’t want to turn this into a political or philosophical forum, but I do want to make a few closing observations. It’s clear to me that we live in a world where the hand of government reaches deeply into nearly every human endeavor. The U.S. is moving steadily toward a de facto one-party system, which in turn is controlled by enormous multinational corporations and a handful of individuals far more powerful than any king who ever wore a crown. The rest of the world is in even sadder shape than we are. For the average man, there’s very little frontier left anywhere. 
“Thomas Jefferson wrote that, in the course of human events, times come when governments become oppressive and must be altered or abolished. Those are fine and famous words, but what’s forgotten is that Jefferson never did alter or abolish the government that was oppressing him. The plain truth is, he and his fellow colonists were in no position to reform the British Empire. They were outmanned, outgunned, and outmonied. But they were able to get beyond the king’s reach and begin again. And we – all of us today, the entire human race - are immeasurably better off for that legacy.
“It is human nature, unfortunately, for institutions to grow corrupt and overbearing, and for ideals and dreams to grow weary and stale. It is also human nature to find new frontiers and refresh the soul. History tells us that when one oppressed man - one single man - is freed, all men eventually benefit. So you see, it hardly matters whether those of us gathered here today go on to the moon and Mars, or if others do so after us. What matters today is that, after so many false starts, the day of change has finally arrived.”

And from the New Australian leader, Longbow:

Making the world new and starting over the right way is a powerful idea. It transcends all eras and the boundaries of religions and cultures. All types of men, as well. You’d be surprised how broadly and deeply it reaches.”

If you consider the desire for a new world in the broader context of its manifestations, such as escape through portals of literature, education, art, wealth accumulation, drugs, TV, online communities, games and sports - not to mention war, exploration, isolation, or religion - it becomes evident that we as a species spend most of our worldly existence in a rather futile attempt to escape the constraints and madness of this world.

To that end, human history has seen many attempts to found new, independent nations. When one sees them in toto, as in the entries below, and realizes that pretty much all of them have failed miserably, one appreciates the miracle of the birth of the U.S.A.

From WIRED (January 2009) - the essential primer on this subject:

Live Free or Drown: Floating Utopias on the Cheap
“…the attendees gathered here [in the Mendocino Room of the Embassy Suites Hotel in Burlingame, a San Francisco suburb] are chasing a dream so grand and exotic… the people here want to start a nonmetaphorical revolution by creating their own independent nations. In the middle of the ocean. On prefab floating platforms…
[They] are not the first band of wide-eyed dreamers to want to build floating utopias. For decades, an assortment of romantics and whack jobs have fantasized about fleeing the oppressive strictures of modern government and creating a laissez-faire society on the high seas.. [trying] everything from fortified sandbars to mammoth cruise ships. Nearly all have been disasters. But the would-be nation builders assembled here are not intimidated by that record of failure.
[Patri] Friedman [grandson of Milton - see next entry] launches into… "my standard rant" — a spiel about government's shortcomings and why they're so hard to repair. In his eyes, government is a sclerotic monopoly that can count on high customer lock-in thanks to inertia and the lack of alternatives. "Government is an inefficient industry because it has an insane barrier to entry," he says. "To compete with governments on existing land, you have to win a war, an election, or a revolution." He points to the democracy that emerged from the American Revolution as the last successful rollout and attributes the subsequent dry spell to the lack of uncolonized space on the map. "We've run out of frontier," he says. 

From Chicago Magazine (August 2011):

Milton Friedman's Grandson to Build Floating Libertarian Nation
"The ultimate goal," Friedman says, "is to open a frontier for experimenting with new ideas for government." This translates into the founding of ideologically oriented micro-states on the high seas, a kind of floating petri dish for implementing policies that libertarians, stymied by indifference at the voting booths, have been unable to advance…
Creating a New Country: MicroNations & Principalities
Why a New Nation? In April of 1939 the New York World's Fair, "Building The World of Tomorrow," opened on what was once a marshy wasteland in Flushing Meadows, just east of the great metropolis. From its inception to its closing ceremonies, the Fair promoted one of the last great metanarratives of the Machine Age: the unqualified belief in science and technology as a means to economic prosperity and personal freedom.  Wedged between the greatest economic disaster in America and the growing international tension that would result in World War II, The World of Tomorrow was a much-needed antidote to the depression and confusion of the times. It provided the one saving grace which all of America needed - it provided hope.

A heaping sampling of indy-nation wannabes: 

Operation Atlantis, created by Werner Stiefel in the late 1960s. Stiefel devoted his life to creating a sovereign society with the freest markets imaginable. He started with a ferro-cement boat that made a single successful voyage on the Hudson River. He erected a system of seabreaks near the coast of Haiti but was run off by president Duvalier's gunboats before he could put land on it. He bought an oil rig and tried to anchor it between Cuba and Honduras, where it was destroyed by a storm. Stiefel died in 2006 with little more than a sporadically published newsletter to show for his efforts. 

• In 1971, real estate millionaire and committed libertarian Michael Oliver dumped large quantities of sand on two coral reefs in the South Pacific and dubbed it the Republic of Minerva, a land with "no taxation, welfare, subsidies, or any form of economic interventionism." Minerva was soon invaded by the nearby kingdom of Tonga, and it dissolved back into the ocean shortly thereafter.

The World: Residences at Sea is a privately-owned Norwegian yacht (the largest of its kind) whose (approx) 200 passengers claim it as their residence.

• The Oceania city project, a plan for a vast floating settlement off the coast of Panama, emerged in 1993. The founders took out a two-page ad in Reason, a libertarian magazine, promising to free prospective residents from governments "entangled in bureaucracy, corruption, and the free lunch philosophy." The project was disbanded the following year due to lack of interest and funds. "The Libertarian party is small in number and too few members have the financial resources to bankroll their beliefs," founder Eric Klien wrote on Oceania's Web site

The Empire of Atlantium (founded 1981) is a micronation based in New South Wales, Australia. Micronations: The Lonely Planet Guide to Home-Made Nations describes it as "a refreshing antidote to the reactionary self-aggrandizement of so many micronations" and "an extremely sophisticated nation-state experiment, as well as an entirely serious claimant to legitimate statehood". The book's entry on Atlantium notes its espousal of "progressive, liberal policies" and characterizes it as a "secular humanist utopia". 
As of 2006, the group reportedly had 903 ‘citizens’ in over 90 countries. Atlantium says its citizenship does not supersede previously existing citizenships, and that they are all dual-citizens. Atlantium actively encourages its members to participate in the political processes of their resident countries. However, Atlantium makes no secret of its attempts to redefine existing paradigms, and claims that doing so is a fundamental motivation for the group's existence.
No established nation has recognized Atlantium's sovereignty claims, and it has no reciprocal diplomatic relations. 
Atlantium has a news blog, prints paper money & stamps, and mints coins. (from Wikipedia)

The principality of Sealand is an unrecognized entity located on HM Fort Roughs, a former World War II Maunsell Fort in the North Sea 10 km (six miles) off the coast of Suffolk, England. 
Since 1967, the facility has been occupied by the former British Major Paddy Roy Bates; his associates and family claim that it is an independent sovereign state. However, it is not currently officially recognized as a sovereign state by any sovereign state.
Its claim to sovreignity is based on a 1968 decision of an English court, which held that Roughs Tower was in international waters and thus outside the jurisdiction of the domestic courts.
An Austrian documentary film called Empire Me focuses on the micronation movement and covers Sealand.
The film Hetalia: Paint it White features Sealand as a minor character with a functioning sea fortress, stating that if it "helps the other countries, maybe they'll accept Sealand as a real country." Sealand also appears at the end of the movie, no longer a "noppera".
It has been reported that a film about Sealand is in production. (Excerpted from Wikipedia)
“Hunkered down on a North Sea fortress, a crew of armed cypherpunks, amped-up networking geeks, and libertarian swashbucklers is seceding from the world to pursue a revolutionary idea: an offshore, fat-pipe data haven that answers to nobody.”

• The United Micronations Multi-Oceanic Archipelago (UMMOA) is 11 insular possessions with no indigenous population, and an inhabitable area of 34.3 km² (13.3 mi²). Since 2008, the islands (formerly known as the United States Minor Outlying Islands) have been claimed (from the U.S.) by a quasi-federation of Fourth, Fifth and Sixth World nations on the basis of International and Cesidian law. On 22 July 2008, the UMMOA was recognized by all governments and nations members of the International States Parliament for Safety and Peace.

• The Republic of Rose Island was a much-publicized but short-lived attempt at micronation sovereignty. It was a 400 square meter platform funded and built by Italian engineer Georgio Rosa in a section of the Adriatic Sea 2 meters deep and outside the Italian territorial waters. The island contained a number of commercial establishments, including a restaurant, bar, nightclub, souvenir shop and a post office (which issued its own stamps). Some reports also mention the presence of a radio station, but this remains unconfirmed. The purported currency of the republic was the "Mill" and this appeared on the early stamp issues, but no coins or banknotes are known to have been produced. 
The Republic proclaimed independence on 22 June 1968, but on 16 August, the Italian government seized the platform. In the Spring of ‘69, the platform was destroyed with dynamite charges by the Italian Navy, making it one of only three nation-states in recorded history to be wiped from the map by a single military action (The other two being Carthage and Danzig). (More in this Wikipedia piece.)

• The Duchy of Bohemia (from their website) is an independent and sovereign micronation under the governance of the putative Duke of Bohemia and Lord of Rozmberk. The Duchy operates as a government in exile, its rightful hereditary territories presently under occupation by the Czech Republic. The Duchy's present government in exile and its current territorial enclave is located within the United States of America.

• The Principality of Hutt River is an independent sovereign state that seceded from Australia on April 21, 1970 and is of comparable size to Hong Kong (not the New Territories). 

Government of Antarcticland: The Antarcticland is the oldest territorial domain of the Antarctic continent. It includes all the lands and islands in section extending from the South Pole to 60° S latitude between longitudes 90° W and 135° W, with a total area slightly less than the combined total of Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and Switzerland. It is administered by the Government of Anatarcticland and the head of State is the Regent and Grandmaster of the Sovereign Order of the Antarticland, Sir Giovanni Caporaso Gottlieb. There is no indigenous nor permanent resident population. The country has its own legislative system, with legal, economic and postal administrations. Any person may become citizen simply by applying and swearing allegiance to its Constitution. Revenue from administrative fees and the sale of postage stamps makes it financially self-sufficient. The government is in negotiations with several groups of investors to develop the first ice hotel and city in the Antarctic.

 The New Atlantis: Vent-Based Alpha will be a permanent, self-sustaining manned outpost 5,000 feet beneath the ocean's surface. The deep-sea mining colony is the dream of Phil Nuytten, a renegade explorer whose widely used inventions include hard diving suits and submersibles that can descend thousands of feet while maintaining a single atmosphere of pressure. "Essentially, it's like taking a cruise ship with several hundred people and parking it at the bottom of the ocean," Nuytten says. "After three or four generations, inhabitants would ask, Are there really people who live on the surface?"

Other indy-nation projects that are even more hypothetical, conceptual, farfetched or lunatic (quite literally, in the first instance):

• The Artemis Project is a private venture to establish a permanent, self-supporting community on the Moon. 

• The Freedom Ship, a mile-long floating tax haven, will come into being as soon as its organizers can drum up the $10 billion needed to build it. The concept of failed aquatic libertarian havens has even entered the pop consciousness, providing the setting for the blockbuster videogame BioShock. (See also the similar The World: Residences at Sea, which was noted earlier.)

A Futures of Utopia conference was held at Duke University in 2003. Kim Stanley Robinson was among the speakers.

The Independent Kingdom of Hay-on-Wye (excerpted from their literature): In a world ruled by impenetrable bureaucracy and self-interested big business organizations, the Kingdom of Hay was created as an alternative to embrace the good-humored common sense of ordinary intelligent people, which of course ought to be the basis of good government everywhere, always! More a publicity stunt than an actual secession, the little Welsh village of Hay-on-Wye (located in Powys County in Wales and bordering Herefordshire County in England) proclaimed "independence" on 1 April 1977, establishing Richard George William Pitt Booth, owner of Europe's largest second-hand bookstore, as Richard the First, King of Hay. The publicity stunt appears to have done wonders for the village's economy, and is now the site of an annual book fair.

• The Living Universe Foundation (formerly called The Millennial Project): The Millennial Project 2.0 is a comprehensive plan for space development, beginning with the terrestrial cultivation of an environmentally sustainable civilization and Post-Industrial culture and culminating, far in the future, in the colonization of our immediate stellar neighborhood.

Village Piertopia is 'a model  experimental society based on Project Piertopolis ideals and philosophy. The goal of Piertopolis is to serve as a model which would inspire others to emulate it.  Piertopolis wants a world based on individual freedom, voluntary cooperation, mutual aid, humanistic decision making, eco sustainability, equality between all people, and a fair distribution of the world’s resources.'

• In the 2nd season of the animated FOX comedy Family Guy, Peter Griffin declares his house to be the micronation of Petoria. This lasts until about the end of the episode.

• The Principality of New Utopia proposes to build a new city-state in the Caribbean Sea, upon piers on the top of a submerged mountain. The nation will be a principality, regulated by a formal declaration of sovereignty and a constitution, somewhat resembling the Principality of Monaco.

NASA had some pretty wooly visions for space colonies back in the 1970's.

Nova Roma (from its website) is an international organization dedicated to the study and restoration of ancient Roman culture. From its founding until it ceased to be the center of imperial authority Rome laid the foundation for our modern Western civilization. Founded 2,750 years after the Eternal City itself, Nova Roma seeks to bring back those golden times, not through the sword and the legions, however, but through the spread of knowledge and through our own virtuous example. The Nova Roman Republic is legally incorporated as a nonprofit educational and religious organization.

• The Kingdom of TorHavn (from its literature, as relayed from is a self-declared "new nation" currently buying land and seeking to gain sovereignty and independence. Originally created so that the micronational community would have a say in the UNO's Sustainability Project, it has acquired a life of its own, and now exists to bring like-minded nations and multi-national ecology groups together. Is TorHavn a real country? Depends on what you call ‘real’. Once we have land, TorHavn would exist within the territory of the United States as a state within a state, much like the Navajo Nation does.

• The Principality of Freedonia is a Libertarian (minarchist) new country project utilizing a unique system of constitutional monarchy to ensure the preservation of freedom. (They are still searching for a location from which to do this.)

• Libertocracy, Where Freedom is the Law (from their manifesto, according to A polycentric free enterprise government and socio-economic system whereby sovereign individuals join together by mutual consent in a civilization that respects and defends the freedom, dignity and rights or all human beings equally. Where people live by the rule of sovereign individual freedom, where a person is free to do anything that one chooses as long as its not imposed on others and doesn't infringe upon the equal right of other individuals to the same freedom. Libertocracy is built upon a solid foundation of libertarian principles and provides practical answers to solve social problems. There is nothing that the state does that a Libercratic system can't do better in every way, and we can do far more than the state is capable of doing to provide the services that people really want, tailored to fit individual needs while respecting individual sovereignty -- and we can do it all without taxes.

Related links:

• The Free Nation Foundation is a libertarian think tank which sponsors a limited program of scholarship about the critical institutions which make free nations possible. FNF was founded in 1993 by Richard Hammer (no relation to Patriots’ Charles Hammer, so far as I know).

• The Greenia Project is “a nation of people who wish for something better”.

• Around 2008, wealthy PayPal founder Peter Thiel made a half-million-dollar down payment toward establishing the Seasteading Institute, a series of city-states in the open ocean. "There's a history of a lot of crazy people trying this sort of thing, and the idea is to do it in a way that's not crazy," said Joe Lonsdale, the institute's chairman and a principal at Clarium Capital Management, a multibillion-dollar hedge fund. (Related Wiki article on Seasteading.)

The Nations You Didn't Learn About In High School researches states, including Artificial Islands, Pirate States, Microstates, New Nations, and odd Kingdom and Republics. Plenty of hard-to-find information on this site.

• The MicroFreedom Index: An Index of MicroNations is a collection of links to active websites concerning micronation, new country, new nation and homeland projects, as well as governments-in-exile, seditionist / independence movements and tribal sovereignty. Much more on this subject than is contained here.

• Finally, here's a list of micronations, instructions for how to buy a private island, and a fruitful Google search result on this subject.

Of course, these listings don’t include the vast array of virtual online communities (some with their own currencies) that keep growing in popularity, because we’re focused here on micronation initiatives that are more tangible (even if, in some cases, they’re only marginally more tangible).

from The Patriots of Mars [Postscripts & Essays]



  2. We all long for [Eden], and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole still soaked with the sense of exile. (Tolkien)


  4. Liberland: