Sunday, May 20, 2012

Starting your Own Country: A Users Guide


      They exist all over the world. International organizations and larger governments recognize none formally, yet these nations continue to exist and in some very notable cases thrive. So what can the micronations teach the world of sovereignty and indeed what it actually means to be a country? These quirky little nations are comprised of little to no land, no official recognition, a handful of people, and a lot of spunk.

     The year is 1967; Pirate Radio operator Paddy Bates has just declared Roughs Tower to be an independent nation—free of any other rule. Styling himself as Prince Roy I of Sealand he is determined to keep his nation independent. He fights his battle on the sea where there were several instances occurring with the Royal Navy in which Prince Roy fired warning shots towards a British warship. The case was taken to court where it was ruled that the British had no jurisdiction over the fort, and what had been achieved was a sort of de facto recognition. So what effect, the reader may ask, does this have on political philosophy and, indeed, the validity of nations? The fact that a nation can have a sort of de facto recognition is a large step forward in undermining the traditional view of what a state actually is.

     Now that the definition of micronationalism is established, and a good example of the circumstances of the creation of a micronation has been given: where do these states exist? How do they come to occupy the land that they do? According to an article that appeared in The Futurist, a micronationalist has more or less three options to obtain land for his country. He can either claim it, as is the case with Sealand and Molossia (whether or not that land is already claimed by another entity is an entirely different question). A second option of the micronationalist is to rent an island where they can have the realm to themselves “until the bill arrives that is” the article states. The third and final option the article has to offer for those wishing to be involved in micronationalism is to build islands as is being done in the Red Sea. Dubai—according to an article in The Futurist entitled Own your own Island Nation—looks to profit handsomely from the activities associated with building islands. Indeed other countries can learn much from the country that helps to establish up and coming nations as completely independent entities. Industry in Dubai would also profit nicely from all of the necessities that would have to be imported into these new countries. One option that is not mentioned in The Futurist is the possibility of online nations and nations without borders similar to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, though these seldom have the same influence or prominence that territorial nations have. So clearly the idea of micronationalism is not totally worthless. The idea of creating artificial land for a home is not a recent idea either. Since the times of the Ancient Greeks and Romans, people have created artificial lands for protection against hostile tribes or rival city-states, writes McKinley Conway for The Futurist in an article titled The Case for Micronations and Artificial Islands.

     An important document in the arsenal of any micronationalist is the Montevideo Convention, a document which states what a state ought to have in order to exist. In article 1 it proclaims, “The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.” It also claims in article 3 that “The political existence of the state is independent of recognition by the other states. Even before recognition the state has the right to defend its integrity and independence, to provide for its conservation and prosperity, and consequently to organize itself as it sees fit, to legislate upon its interests, administer its services, and to define the jurisdiction and competence of its courts.” Because of this many micronationalists have found a sort of loophole in which by a technicality their countries are allowed to exist. A notable example of this loophole in action is the Republic of Molossia in which President Kevin Baugh has declared his Nevada home to be an independent sovereign nation. He refers what would normally be taxes as foreign aid, saying, “Have you seen their [the United States'] roads?” But what does it actually mean to be “sovereign”, one may ask. According to Gene Owens writing for The New American, states are sovereign within their own realm. As it was defined in the Montevideo Convention, states have the right to exist and defend their existence regardless of outside recognition.

    Even with the Montevideo Convention, larger nations refuse to recognize these small entities for various different reasons. The largest of these is that Micronations are not recognized nations. For recognition to be obtained by a new state it seems as though a country should already be recognized. This does not stop their creators, which seem to be driven by a multitude of factors. Some of these nations who have been snubbed by the government as is the case in Australia where Prince Leonard of Hutt River declared independence over a wheat quota. The interesting thing about his case is that a commonwealth law allows people to declare independence if such a case were to arise. So the Principality of Hutt River is now “the second largest country on this continent” (PrinceLeonard).

    At this point the reader may think that the idea of micronationalism is a silly escapade driven by eccentrics who have nothing better to do. This may be true; however, the micronation makes about as much sense as any “macronation”. The idea of an omnipresent federal government breathing down the necks of people of a specific region can be seen as outrageous, which can drive some to create their own model states. For some reason the idea of a micronation is ridiculous to most people, and even still the idea of a similar entity on a larger scale is not. All of this raises an important question regarding micronationalism: does the modern state matter anymore? With increasing interdependence and globalization, modern states have, to an extent, lost their borders, and cultures have become diffused. The micronation seems as valid as any; if the idea that a political entity can draw a line in the sand and that will be the border of the country is somewhat absurd, one only needs to look to Africa to see how arbitrarily drawn lines have divide cultural groups and caused genocide. For this reason we are forced to conclude that the micronation is just as valid as any other nation that is recognized.

    Micronations arise for many different reasons, be it economics, or boredom. We can now safely conclude that the micronation is as valid as any of the larger nations because of recent globalization. They inhabit all parts of the world and beyond as some of the micronationalists have claimed parts of space in attempt to find more unclaimed territory to validate their nations. Will these entities ever be recognized? The answer is almost certainly no. However, for the time being, the micronationalist in all of his endeavors may find peace in the very simple fact that the micronation to a large degree is just as valid as any other recognized nation, provided they could establish themselves in agreement with the Montevideo convention as well as establish a semi-independent culture from the country they broke away from. The micronationalist should not be concerned with recognition, he should be concerned with enjoying the pursuits of having a very tiny nation and use it for an excuse to take part in such whimsical activities like throwing a dinner party or creating a sports team all in the name of one's own nation, in the name of fun. One is limited only by their own creativity in terms of events to put on and fun to have. That is the aim of true micronationalism, that is how to establish your own country.




Just think, this could be you!

-Grant


Hello, I'm Grant and I'm probably one of the least sarcastic people you could ever hope to meet. That aside I play the saxophone and piano and enjoy composing music. I enjoy discussing philosophy, especially existentialism which is not as depressing as you might think.

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