Tired of the crazy politics and government interference or social permissiveness? Has your tax burden become more than you can bear? If you’ve ever thought that if people just did it your way, things would be much better…we have good news: you can start your own micronation! It’s not easy, but it’s also not impossible, and we’ll show you how to do it. We’ll also show you some successes, some failures, and the very real future of nation building.
1. Learn about your country.
It makes sense to learn about your country before you go off making a new one
2. Make your plans.
3. Know the rules.
As Bob Dylan said, “to live outside the law you must be honest.” The same thought holds true for forming a micronation: to make your own rules you 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. You are free to declare yourself a country, anytime, and anywhere. However, nobody will take you seriously, which translates to the simple truth that you will have no legitimacy as a nation.
4. Find territory for your micronation.
This is the hard part. With two exceptions, existing land has all been claimed by existing countries. The main exception is 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!” Second, there is Bir Tawil, a tiny plot of land between Egypt and Sudan, which neither claim. However, there is very little appeal to this country, due to it being only a patch of sand. Still, there are things to try, to get around this earth 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 you 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 Comoros, Vanuatu, and the Maldives, but ultimately failed.
- Buy an existing country. If you’re wealthy enough, you can buy an island, though it’s unlikely that the host nation will just cede sovereignty to you. 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.
- Look for regions that are otherwise unproductive for the local government. Chances are that the local authority won’t have any interest in keeping a disputed, resource consuming territory that is otherwise economically/politically unproductive.
- At this point, you might be thinking there’s no hope, but we’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.
5. 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.
- 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.
- Palm Island Group. While not a nation, the Palm Island Group off the coast of Dubai is indicative of the direction that holds the most promise for nation builders. Extending out into the Persian Gulf are 3 palm tree-shaped man-made islands that opulent living for the world’s millionaires and billionaires.
- The Seasteading Institute. Founded by the grandson of Milton Friedman and PayPal founder Peter Thiel, this would-be libertarian utopian foundation believes in bringing the free market to bear on government—a start-up for democracy. Their hope is that experimental, innovated governments will be able to generate new ideas of governance that will change the world. They are fostering the goal of building sea-based platforms with loose building requirements, no minimum wage, and limited restrictions on firearms. Proponents see this as a the key to the next generation of free enterprise. Critics suggest that loose building codes and low-wage workers with lots of weapons, being run by a bunch of would-be John Galts as a recipe for disaster. While the politics of the Seasteading Institute may or may not be your cup of tea, it’s a fair bet that the ocean is truly the new frontier.
- 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 if you’re not rich enough to make land, then just make it up—some of the more lighthearted micronations claim land on imaginary continents or planets.
- 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”). Flatter worlds such as Facebook (aka Social Media) encourages groups of like-minded people around the world to work together for the common good—as defined by the particular group. Like the ocean, virtual nations will have a growing impact, and may result in very real, separate national identities within the next 100 years.
6. Invite your friends.
One of the key requirements for a nation—aside from territories—will be a population. If the land you conquer or build doesn’t come with an indigenous people, you will have to bring your own to the party. Invite your friends and family to join you in this venture, and you will have a small, but dedicated population.
- These days, if you’re serious about anything (and creating a micronation can be serious, indeed), then you will have a website. Use this to find like-minded people, and give them good reason to populate your 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.
- You will need to decide what you require of your 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? Other form of ID?
7. Establish a government and a constitution.
The success or failure of your venture will be determined, in large part, by your 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. Your government, and your constitution, should be guided by the principles you 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 American 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 interest, 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.
8. Declare your independence.
Now that you have territory, a population, and a government with a constitution, it’s time to declare yourself. One of three things will happen, depending on what you have prepared for the world:
- A collective yawn. The world may look at your declaration of independence, and promptly go back to watching a rerun of Star Trek.
- A welcome into the community of nations, an invitation to a seat at the UN, and requests for ambassadors and embassies.
- An armed invasion. If your nation runs afoul of borders, existing treaties, human rights, or other legal protocols, you may receive anything from a knock at the door by Rent-a-Cop Officer Friendly informing you that the “Independent Nation of 1234 N. Raynd Avenue” is in a covenant-controlled community that does not recognize your sovereignty, and that you must to take your flag off the roof or be fined, to an all-out invasion by a United Nations coalition ordering you to stand down and please get into the bullet-proof Mercedes SUV, where you will be whisked off to The Hague to stand trial for crimes against humanity. Alternatively, your micronation could suffer the same fate as the Republic of Minerva: soon after libertarian millionaire and activist Michael Oliver created a landmass by pouring sand onto the Minerva Reefs south of Fiji, and subsequently proclaimed sovereignty, the island was invaded and annexed (with international support) by Tonga.
9. Establish an economy.
If you’re not trading in dollars, Euros, or other currency, you will need to create your own financial system. Will you base your nation’s wealth on gold, on securities, or on a whim and a prayer? While your word may count among your friends, for national debt, you will need some serious collateral for that to be of any use. If you stick to established currencies, you will still need to determine how to fund your government, and the best way to do this may be anathema to the very reason you start your own country: taxes. Through taxation, your government will be able to provide essential services such as a power grid, water lines, a necessary bureaucracy (as minimal as you 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 your constitution.
10. Be recognized by the world community.
Barring any untoward issues resulting from the founding of your country (see above), you will want to become a player in the world. To do this, you will need other nations to recognize you. This will require you to become adept at international law, politics, and diplomacy. If these are not among your strongest skills, you 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 you stand on Al Queda, or communism, or capitalism. They might hinge on your approach to human rights, or control of natural resources. In the United States, the decision to recognize a nation is made by the President. Your request will hinge on who occupies the White House at that time, and their policies and preferences may swing wildly every four years.
- Also, membership to the UN requires that none of the five powers US, UK, China, Russia and France veto your membership. In other words, you will have to have neutral stands on controversial issues like Palestine, Taiwan, Crimea, etc.
- If you live near or in Europe, try applying for membership to the European Union as well. This will ensure your sovereignty in world politics.
11. Manage your branding.
Every country needs a flag, of course, and yours will be no different. This is the most prominent of national symbols, but there are other symbols that will help establish your identity as a nation:
- Money. What will your currency look like? Will it have your profile boldly embossed on gold coins, and in 3D hologram on paper money, or will you use a symbolic icon such as Lady Liberty or Charlton Heston? Will you go full-tilt modern, or attempt to hearken back to a time when each piece was carved by hand?
- Official correspondence. With all the letters you’ll be writing to the President, the UN, the Prime Minister, and other heads of state, you’ll want nice letterhead on high quality paper, embossed with your seal.
- National Anthem. You’ll want a national anthem to play at important events.