This blog is highly personal, makes no attempt at being politically correct, will occasionaly offend your sensibility, and certainly does not represent the opinions of the people I work with or for.
How to start your own country, a note on auto-determination

Classical start: dinner with another PhD student, and in the middle of it, sudden shock: realizing that she didn't believe me when I said that one can create their own country. I then spent the rest of the dinner trying to understand why she was claiming that if somebody or a group of people were to try to build their own countries, that other countries would automatically try and destroy the new ones. All my attempts to explain that I was talking about newly created lands on international waters went unsuccessful...

But then, to her credit, I realised that she comes from one of those eastern european countries which was at war not so long ago on the issue of land ownership... So it became obvious to me that the problem wasn't her ability to think, but simply that I had reached an emotional subject of discussion. Anyway as it usually happens, I then sent two emails... I give just a fragment of the first one and the second one.

(... Various examples of people creating, their own countries, notably the example of the Principality of Sealand .. )

As you can see so far, this has been done. The most successful ones are the one where the piece of land has not been taken from another country but made on existing water.

The main rule is
  • Occupy an abandoned fort in international waters.
  • Claim ownership.
  • Shot at people who come nearby without your permission.
  • Take a foreigner into custody and don't release them before a diplomatic representative is sent to you (say from Germany).
  • Issue and revoke passports.
  • Start a casino.
  • Ignore claims that you are not a recognized country.

nb: It's difficult to overstate the importance of "Shot at people who come nearby without your permission". In fact most countries in the world might think that they exists due to their brillance of their constitutions etc, but really it just come down to one single thing: shoot first, ask questions later.

Before I leave the office, I want to say something important related to country building.

The closest we have been in history to the actual creation of a new country was probably the United States and Canada. Ignoring for a moment the fact that the european pilgrims basically stole the land from native americans, the US has had to wage war on its own soil only three times. And the most important one was obviously the independence war from the British; when they decided not to be a British colony anymore and be their own country.

Of course, the British didn't like it, because it represented an enormous loss for the British empire, but the point that I am making here is that in this age of control and surveillance, there is still a fundamental principle underlying human behaviour which has shaped most of the past few thousand years of history (sometimes in bloodshed) ; which is the principle of auto-determination.

The only reason why the notion of sovereignty (of a country) makes sense, the only reason why France, for instance, can claim the piece of the planet we call "France" is because they exercise their own auto-determination of being whatever they want wherever they could secure a place to be. History is full of episodes where people have tried to overstep other people's rights at auto-determination, but all those wars only reenforced the very idea that humans are free to do whatever they want as long as they are not stepping into somebody else property.

Peter Thiel ( Pay Pal founder and early Facebook investor Peter Thiel has given $1.25 million to an initiative to create floating libertarian countries in international waters ) is simply exercising this right. He obviously cannot take a piece of land from an existing country (unless he has the capabilities to enter into war with this country and win it), but if he "creates" a new piece of land, then the reason why the notion of "sovereignty of other countries" makes sense is because he has the right to exercise this right for himself.

Well, turns out that international waters (meaning most of the planet) is potentially unclaim lands (if you can bring it out of water).

So now, I have never said that those experiments of creating new countries with exotics forms of governments are all good, I do not say that those new countries can all defend themselves against pirates (as you pointed out), but the ability to defend yourself against aggressors or not, doesn't change the fact that you were exercising a right that everybody else recognises.

Again, international waters (and the possible lands one can create) do not belong to anybody, so a bunch of humans can exercise their right at auto-determination and create a new country. If I do it, one day, I would make sure that my interests are aligned with the interests of a powerful player on the international scene (they could provide me with military protection against something we would offer them -- but I enter into details here).

A very bad example of creating a new country on existing lands is obviously Israel, but had we had the technology to give them a country somewhere on water, the all middle east crisis would never have occurred. And they would get the military protection from the US for free... But stupidly the Jews would have said no. They wanted to go to Palestine mostly for religious reasons.

The second email is definitively not as well formulated as it would have been had I woken up one day and decided to write on the subject...