I’m in one of those moods. I want to try something insane and I need you to be on board for it to “possibly” work. We are going to attempt to start a country together. Why? Because just the thought of it is amusing and fun and the fact that there is a possibility of it even happening is worth the try. So, to begin this journey, or any journey for that matter, research has to be done…Wait! I’ve taken the liberty of doing said research and I have come up with some steps which we need to follow very closely.
Step 1: Know the rules
In order to form a micronation and create our own rules, we must follow established rules and conventions. Much of the basis for current nation building comes from the 1933 Convention on Rights and Duties of States, also known as the Montevideo Convention. These are the basic rules set out in Article 1 of the Convention:
The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications:
- A permanent population
- A defined territory
- The capacity to enter into relations with the other states
- The balance of the first ten Articles go on to explain that the existence of a state is independent of recognition by other states, and is free to act on its own behalf—and that no state is free to intervene in the affairs of another.
- Note that these are not laws in the conventional sense. We are free to declare ourselves a country, anytime, and anywhere. However, nobody will take us seriously, which translates to the simple truth that we will have no legitimacy as a nation (this can change…keep reading).
Step 2: We need to find a territory for our micronation
I won’t lie to you, this is going to be the hard part. Just take into account the fact all existing land has been claimed by existing countries. Wait. Except for Antarctica. Even then, should you brave the weather and lack of “population appeal,” Antarctica is managed by the most powerful countries in the world, and it’s unlikely they’ll let you just plant a flag and say, “Mine!” Still, there are things to try, to get around this dearth of available dirt:
- Conquer an existing country. There are many small island nations dotting the Pacific, and it’s unlikely they have much of a defense force. Sure, it’s crazy—but crazy enough that it might just work! All we need is an army, a navy, and the support of the world community—many of whom protect these small nations from intruders. This has been attempted in the Cormoros, Vanuatu, and the Maldives, but ultimately failed.
- Buy an existing country. If we are serious about this, we can club our money together and buy a private island (it’s cheaper than you think) in fact I once proposed this to a group of wealthy investors as an investment option in one of my projects (but I won’t discuss this here), though it’s unlikely that the host nation will just cede sovereignty to us. A more corrupt or destitute country might be more easily swayed, but even that is difficult: a pack of libertarians tried to buy Tortuga from impoverished Haiti, but were rejected. There are some things money just can’t buy.
- Find a loophole. The Republic of Indian Stream, for example, was founded on land between the U.S. and Canada that was poorly defined in the 1783 Treaty of Paris. It lasted from 1832 to 1835, when it was annexed by the U.S. I don’t know about you, but I really can’t be bothered to go through years of treaties to find a maybe loophole where we end up getting annexed. No thanks.
- At this point, you might be thinking there’s no hope, but I’ve saved the best for last. As land has become scarce, but the human need for new land continues apace, creative (and financially abundant) individuals have begun taking to the sea. Keep reading!
Step 3: Build an Island!
The ocean, as they say, is the last great frontier. International waters are owned by no nation, and this has spurred interest and activity. Here are some micronations that have done just that:
- The Principality of Sealand. Sealand, initially created as a military base in the North Sea, off the coast of England during World War II, is a football-field-sized structure that housed troops and weapons to strike at German invaders. After the war it was abandoned until 1966, when a rogue DJ named Roy Bates—tired of battling the British government over his pirate radio station—moved there to set up shop. The station never went back on the air, but he declared the floating fortress the Principality of Sealand. He raised the flag, named himself Prince, and his wife Princess Joan. Sealand withstood court challenges, and remains an independent nation to this day. Although not recognized by the “international community”, Sealand intrigued me. I mean all in all I think it’s tacky trash in the middle of the ocean, but the concept blew my mind. I would make it look so nice. So I decided to do a little more research on Sealand and I smelled a scam somewhere…Yes, it is in it’s own right a mini-country but they do not have the right to dish our Royal Titles left, right and center. I mean they are offering the public to become Counts, Barons, Baronesses, I mean sure it sounds cool, but according to true aristocracy, you cannot actually sell titles. It has to be your right by blood linage. They are making crazy money out of this because the story of Sealand is so awesome (we can think about this, but differently).
- The Republic of Minerva. One millionaire activist piled sand onto a reef located in the Pacific Ocean south of Fiji and created an artificial island to start the Republic of Minerva.But since we’re not rich enough to make land, then we can just make it up—some of the more lighthearted micronations claim land on imaginary continents or planets. Anything goes when it comes to micronation creation.
- In addition to the traditional territory-based nation, there exists a largely untapped, unregulated, and unexplored territory that is virtually limitless—because it exists only virtually. Call it the cloud, call it the web, or borrow from William Gibson and call it cyberspace, people are spending more and more time connected emotionally and interactively with their friends and colleagues through the internet. Virtual worlds such as Second Life and Blue Mars create 3-dimensional habitats, have their own currency, and their own constitutions (aka “Terms and Conditions”).
Now we’re talkin’! Some of these options are seriously viable. We can create an online nation if we fail at building our own real Island, so that’s that.
Step 4: Invite our friends
One of the key requirements for a nation—aside from territories—will be a population. If the land we conquer or build doesn’t come with an indigenous people, we will have to bring our own to the party. So, let’s invite our friends and family to join us in this venture, and we will have a small, but dedicated population.
- These days, if you’re serious about anything (and creating a micronation can be serious, indeed), then we will have a website. We will use this to find like-minded people, and give them good reason to populate our new Republic. It could be for work and money, or the freedom to have many wives, or simply the opportunity to be part of the birth of a nation.
- We will need to decide what we require of our citizens. Do they have to pass a citizenship test, or abide by certain laws? What form of identification will they need—a passport? Driver’s license? Subcutaneous RFID?
So, I’m going to take this opportunity to get the ball rolling from the get go and invite you all (my lovely Twitter/Facebook followers) to join my experiment in creating an awesome micronation. Whether it happens or not, this could potentially turn into a viral discussion topic across the globe in which we can still benefit in MANY ways. If you are interested in being a part of history, then sign up below:
Step 5: Establish a government and a constitution
The success or failure of our venture will be determined, in large, by our leadership in governance. Consider the success of the United States, rooted in a Constitution that is at once clear and defined, yet open to interpretation and growth. Without that, it may have fallen into disarray and dozens of small nation-states rather than an arguably united whole. Our government, and our constitution, should be guided by the principles we wish to establish from the start. Here are some examples of various micronations, and their founding principles:
- Nova Roma, dedicated “to the restoration of classical Roman religion, culture and virtues”.
- The Aerican Empire, based on a strong sense of humor and a love of science fiction, fantasy, and games.
- Political simulations or political movements. These micronations tend to have strong political views and are often controversial. In the past, some of them have managed to attract media or political intrest, although this is rare. Despite their relative obscurity, they are some of the most common types of micronations.
- Cultural missions. These micronations, similar to historic projects, exist to promote a particular culture and tradition. There are many Germanic micronations such as Domanglia that attempt to recreate the culture and traditions of the former German Empire. Many of these also include nationalistic and patriotic projects.
- Secessionist entities. By far the most serious form of micronation, secessionist entities are often much older then other forms of micronations. Notable secessionist micronations include Sealand, the Hutt River Province, and Freetown Christinia.
Can you see how much fun we’re going to have? The possibilities are endless, but I’m definitely not going to do it myself. We have to work on this together!
Step 6: Declare our independence
Since its founding in 1945, membership in the United Nations has become the gold standard of international legitimacy. When you are admitted to the U.N, thats a form of approval, Talmon says. Its like a stamp [that says] you are now a full member of the international community.
Applying for U.N. membership is a breeze. According to U.N. rules, all you need to do is write a letter to the secretary-general requesting membership. These letters are remarkably short and simple. For a handy template, check out the successful application of Montenegro.
We can then simply mail our application to:
The United Nations
First Ave. at 46th St.
New York, NY 10017
Now comes the hard part. The Security Council must refer us to the General Assembly, which must determine by a two-thirds majority that we are a peace-loving state that can carry out the duties of the U.N. Charter.
Its probably not even worth trying this unless we’ve already made a massive name for ourselves via social media. A number of unrecognized states have applied for U.N. recognition over the years, including American-Indian tribes, but without the credibility bestowed by bilateral recognition, these applications are usually just filed away.
The biggest obstacle to U.N. membership is power politics. Neither North nor South Korea got U.N. membership until 1991 because of vetoes by one bloc or another during the Cold War. Even today, Russia’s veto on the Security Council will probably prevent Kosovo from gaining a seat at the table anytime soon. The Republic of China, a.k.a. Taiwan, was one of the founding members of the United Nations and once had a permanent seat on the Security Council. But Taiwan was booted out in favor of the Peoples Republic of China in 1971, after U.S. President Richard Nixon decided to cozy up to Beijing. The Taiwanese government has applied for membership every year since 1993, but to no avail. The United Nations didn’t even bother to open Taiwan’s most recent letter.
As you can see, the point at which a territory officially becomes a country is very much in the eyes of the beholder. International recognition can be an elusive prize. The good news? The longer we wait, the better our chances become. In international law, which is often based on custom, the longer you can maintain your de facto sovereignty, the more likely you are to be accepted. (Unless, of course, you’re Taiwan.)
The strength of Kosovo’s bid for independence from Serbia is based largely on the fact that it has, for all intents and purposes, been independent for almost a decade. In a more extreme example, the 900-year-old Sovereign Order of Malta has diplomatic relations with 100 countries and observer status at the United Nations even though its entire territory is contained in a few buildings in Rome. So we shouldn’t be discouraged. Starting our own country isn’t impossible. Its just going to require a lot of patience and the right friends (which I have).
Step 7: Establish an economy
If we’re not trading in dollars, Euros, or other currency, we will need to create our own financial system. Sealand has actually pegged their currency to the US doller, which I thought was odd. While our word may count among our friends, for national debt, we will need some serious collateral for that to be of any use. If we stick to established currencies, we will still need to determine how to fund our government, and the best way to do this may be anathema to the very reason we start your own country: taxes. Through taxation, our government will be able to provide essential services such as a power grid, water lines, a necessary bureaucracy (as minimal as we like), and an army. It’s a fundamental obligation for every state (small or large) to be able to defend its citizens from enemies. Whether this is a standing army, national guard, compulsory service, or some other defensive solution, this will be something to consider when creating our constitution. Of course if we choose to do this online, maybe we’ll set up a password or something
Step 8: Be recognized by the world community
Barring any untoward issues resulting from the founding of our country (see above), we will want to become a player in the world. To do this, we will need other nations to recognize us. This will require us to become adept at international law, politics, and diplomacy. If these are not among our strongest skills, we would be wise to recruit a cabinet of skilled politicos to take on this task. This is perhaps the most difficult step of all. Some nations, such as Palestine, Taiwan, and Northern Cyprus have all the checkboxes checked—but are still not recognized by many countries. There are no rules here—every country has their own standards by which they determine recognition. Things that could have an effect on the outcome are issues such as where we stand on al Queda, or communism, or capitalism. They might hinge on our approach to human rights, or control of natural resources. In the United States, the decision to recognize a nation is made by the President. Our request will hinge on who occupies the White House at that time, and their policies and preferences may swing wildly every four years. Don’t know what Obama will have to say about us, but he’ll definitely hear about us.
Step 9: Manage our branding
Every country needs a flag, of course, and ours will be no different. This is the most prominent of national symbols, but there are other symbols that will help establish our identity as a nation:
- Money. What will our currency look like? Will it have my profile boldly embossed on gold coins, and in 3D hologram on paper money, or will we use a symbolic icon such as Lady Liberty or Charlton Heston? Will we go full-tilt modern, or attempt to hearken back to a time when each piece was carved by hand?
- State Seal. We can create a faux-Latin phrase such as E Succubus Opes or some other fancy-sounding phrase, and add some florid graphics with a shield, all to suggest we’re descended from royalty (Sealand did this)—or we can state our mission clearly in our own language, and have a graphic designer create a logo. A good logo can be worth more than the crown jewels of England!
- Official correspondence. With all the letters we’ll be writing to the President, the UN, the Prime Minister, and other heads of state, we’ll want a nice letterhead on high quality paper, embossed with our seal.
Step 10: Go out there and do it!
The world isn’t getting any bigger, and governments aren’t getting any smaller (no matter what they promise), so the sooner we get out there and stake our claim, the sooner we can declare ourselves Prince, King, Emperor, Ayatollah, Supreme Ruler or President for Life of [insert our imperial dynasty here].
I hope you enjoyed this lengthy read and got somewhat motivated by the idea of creating our own country! I know a lot of you will read this purely for your leisure, which is always fine, but I’m hoping there will be a dedicated group of you that will actually join me on this experiment even if it doesn’t work out. I mean we really don’t have too much to lose, except for maybe time, but then again, I can promise you it will be an exciting learning process. We will probably come out of this with a second MBA and will have something VERY cool the next time we’re out at a party. I bet you’ve never met someone we TRIED to start their own country.
As always, I want to hear your ideas, so please leave your comments below and we can get a discussion started. I look forward to seeing some of your sign up!