Is Starting Your Own Country GOOD or BAD?
A Czech politician just created a new nation called Liberland. A good call? Motherboard debates.
Image: Flickr/Quinn Dombrowski
Have you ever just had it up to here with those clowns in [insert democratic parliament of choice]? Well, if you have, and you're like the many, many people out there who dream of ruling a nation, you could just start your own.
A ton of people have done it. Most recently, a libertarian Czech politician named Vit Jedlicka stuck a flag in a disputed patch of land near the Serbian and Croatian border and called it "Liberland," an event which immediately caused an internet-wide content firestorm. Why? Because it's fascinating. Just imagine for a second that you're the type of person to do this kind of thing.
But this isn't just a joke. There's some real money behind the country-starting business. Take, for example, the Seasteading Institute, which was founded by the grandson of economist Milton Friedman and PayPal founder Peter Thiel. The idea of startup nations has powerful supporters.
But is starting your own country GOOD or BAD?
STARTING YOUR OWN COUNTRY IS GOOD
What kind of person declares their backyard a new country, wears a towel like a cape, and declares themselves a monarch? I'll give you three guesses.
Vaguely maniacal Lex Luthor wannabes? Sometimes. Libertarian tech bros with a cryptocurrency fetish? They've done it, yeah. But who's the most likely person to do this sort of thing, really? Think about it. It's kids. Children. Because starting your own country is a dumb thing that kids like.
Do you hate children? No, of course you don't. And even if you do, fine, let them start their own country where the water fountains spew Mountain Dew and the stamps are made of macaroni art or whatever and they can leave you alone for fucking ever, you monster.
Some of the first and longest-running micronations were started by kids with weirdo imaginations, like the Aerican Empire, which was founded by a kid named Eric in 1987 and claims a few houses in Montreal, a patch of land in Australia, as well as Mars and Pluto as its territory. This is its flag:
A fucking smiley face on a Canadian flag. It's not even centered properly.
This thing isn't real. It's a harmless internet joke, like most other new countries that are really nothing more than a website and unfounded, unserious claims to land. Take, as another example, the Grand Duchy of Broslavia, which was founded in 2014 and claims a small part of Albequerque as its own. It's an "absolute monarchy," according to its website—which is, like, can you chill?—ruled by His Majesty Grand Duke Jacob Felts. It also has a claim to Pluto, so watch out, Aerica! Broslavia might just towel-whip you into submission while pounding Natty Light if its monarch wasn't totally underage:
Maybe he could get some of his serfs to pick up a case?
Now here's something sure to warm your cold, dead heart: the Kingdom of Talossa was started by a 14 year old kid named Robert Madison in 1979 in Milwaukee, and it's still around today, except now he's got his family in on the joke. Officially, it's a constitutional monarchy, which I guess makes it a pretty progressive fake country compared to some of the other ones out there, like His Majesty Grand Duke Jacob Felts' authoritarian dystopia.
Just look at this guy address his "country" 30 years down the road. This is his life's work. Something that gives him and his family joy. And why wouldn't it? It's totally make believe. It's exactly the kind of thing that kids would love. And, by the way, his kid is now the king of Talossa, with Madison serving as the prime minister. Hopefully this isn't one of those Putin-style deals.
You could make the argument that there's something kind of fucked up about kids pretending to rule over serfs and peasants as dictators or monarchs, sure. Maybe there should be a Socialist Republic of Nopantslandia. Why not? But the point is that most micronations are just kids' jokes on the internet. Even from the very start. Yes, some deluded people have created micronations with a secessionist bent because "AUGH THE GOVERNMENT!!!!" Like this one in Florida, naturally, because Florida is a pit where reality and sanity go to die—but seriously, this is kids stuff.
Starting your own country is just fine. For kids.
- Jordan Pearson
STARTING YOUR OWN COUNTRY IS BAD
There are 196 countries on planet Earth* right now. Some of them are big, some of them are small, some of them are autocratic and shitty, and others are humble and pretty chill (lookin' at you, oh, let's say Luxembourg or something). I submit that starting your own country is BAD; your techno-utopian paradise is not needed and is doomed to fail.
Countries come and go: They are formed as a result of often centuries' worth of conflict, oppression against specific religions and ethnic groups, genocide, rebellion against colonization, bloody coups, and other terribly depressing things. This type of country formation is something I am not academically qualified to discuss.
But I do know that successful, real countries are not formed by dudes (and it's always a fucking dude) who want to see if Bitcoin works as a national currency as a THoT X-periMenT.
You may find a few—A FEW—like-minded rich white people with internet connections who want to live on your North Atlantic barge in an anarcho and/or libertarian, illuminati-free nation, but that doesn't mean it's going to work out.
I understand that many of the people who do this are doing so to make a point, not to actually engage in international affairs and grow into a land that snags a seat at the UN. The thing is, there are plenty of countries where you can actually make a point.
For decades, Chile didn't give a shit about its weird Nazi child-abusing enclave. Bolivia has a whole fucking community in which an epidemic of mennonite men raping women and then blaming it on ghosts has gone essentially unchecked. If those places can exist in the world, you can find some existing country in which to promote sustainable farming or whatever, and you don't have to risk being invaded by former Soviet states while you do it.
Yes, being mayor of some weirdo town is less glamorous than being supreme leader of hippieland, population: six burnouts. But it's infinitely less obnoxious and infinitely more likely to actually work. If you crave international power, become president in a normal way: by becoming a convictionless zombie purchased by corporate interests and selling out over the course of a lifetime. We'll all be better off for it.
*Major Caveat: If you are going to start a new country on the moon or on Mars or a cloud city-state on Venus, PLEASE DO. I am all for it and you may consider this my express written permission to proceed.
- Jason Keobler