Sunday, March 16, 2014

How to Start Your Own Country


Long before admirers of Ayn Rand dreamed of creating their own “Galt’s Gulch” secret retreat, adventurers and utopians started or tried to start their own independent communities.  California’s Utopian Colonies by Robert V. Hine described many. However, a subtle difference separates those who dream of their own nation. How to Start Your Own Country by Erwin S. Strauss is a taxonomic review of several modern ventures. 

Realize, though, that an entire subset of numismatics is given over to micro-nations just because so many of these ventures are known from the 19th century forward.  Many issued their own stamps, coins, and notes.  Indeed, the “Pine Tree Shillings” of Massachusetts, all dated 1652 because no king was on the throne, are evidence of that colony’s intention to make itself an independent nation, invading even New Hampshire (temporarily) and taking Maine from France (until relinquished to the USA in 1820).   Here in Texas, the local banner flies no higher than the flag of the USA, but can be much larger.  So, if you want to start your own country, you are not alone.

How to Start Your Own Country is a classic.  Published first by Loompanics in 1979, a second expanded edition was produced in 1984, copyrighted to the author and published under the banner of “Breakout Productions” though still geo-linked to Loompanics.  Strauss is best known to science fiction fans.  His father was a diplomat who got the family out of Nazi Germany before the ax fell.  Strauss grew up in Washington DC and claims a feel for the way diplomacy works.  He attempted his own “Jolly Roger” scheme to launch a gambling ship on the high seas, free of government interference, but abandoned it as ultimately unworkable. 

Obverse of "Republic of Minerva" coin.
Gold and silver.
The Republic of Minerva was defeated
by a boatload of natives with at least
one rifle.
To fund that venture, Strauss signed on as an engineer on an Alaska Pipeline in 1972.  Clearing the decks for that action, he sold his vitamin business to Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw.  His degree in electrical engineering from MIT was jeopardized when he was suspended for a year for contracting the publication of standard textbooks in Hong Kong so that he could undersell the campus bookstore, in part because he was not paying copyright royalties to the professors.  No one could be friendlier to libertarians and Objectivists – and no one could be harsher.  In one parody, he was cast as “Mr. Strauss” the “Mr. Spock” of a starship Free Enterprise: he is ruled by logic, and not influenced by emotion.

 Of all the ventures, Sealand was and is the most successful because they had a workable business plan.  As a “pirate radio” station they had a service to sell and an audience to sell to advertisers.  Contrary to that, many libertarians thought that just wanting to be free and gathering freedom-loving individualists would be enough to ensure success.  It was not, empirically never has been, and logically cannot be.  Most of this book consists of an anthology of tragicomic operettas of brave libertarians tripping over their shoe laces.

Except for Sealand.
That worked.

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