Republics of Choice

Date: 14 Jan 2005 - Author: Oliver Kochta / Amorph!03

The Internet has provided a practical and cheap platform for a great variety of communities of interest: from big bellied men to ufo freaks, from space colonizers to donkey lovers etc. Micronations are just one among those communities, but they differ in one important aspect. They boldly suggest that the whole concept of national identity might be shifted from an imposed territorial to a voluntary non-territorial mode.

To become a citizen of a nation which does not have a territory, that would make it possible to develop alliances which would exceed borders and linguistic barriers. It would be rather original, carrying hope for humanity.

(Frédéric Lasserre:: Les hommes qui voulaient être rois - Principautés et nations sur internet, Analyses et perspectives No 1, 2000)

Three features of non-territorial micronations are important. Citizenship is voluntary, that means that the option of exit is given at any moment, which leads to a competition between the different governments. The third feature is the option, that anyone dissatisfied with all existing choices can start their own micronation.

Such ideas have been formulated long before the Internet era, for example by DePuydt (1860). His text was largely ignored but later re-discovered by Max Nettlau (1909) and made public under the heading Panarchy.

DePuydt and Nettlau suggested that the law of free competition does not only apply to the commercial world but would have to be brought also into the political sphere. They lamented, that the fundamental freedom is missing, the freedom to be free or not free, according to one’s choice, the absolute right to select the political society in which one wants to live and to depend only upon it.

In each municipality a new office would be opened for the POLITICAL MEMBERSHIP of individuals with GOVERNMENTS. The adults would let themselves be entered in the lists of the monarchy, of the republic, etc. From then on they remain untouched by the governmental systems of others. Each system organizes itself, has its own representatives, laws, judges, taxes, regardless of whether there are two or ten such organizations next to each other.

There may be people who do not want to fit into any of these organisms. These may propagate their ideas and attempt to increase the numbers of their followers until they have achieved an independent budget.

Freedom must be so extensive that it includes the right not to be free. Consequently, absolutism for those who do not want it any other way.

There will be free competition between the governmental systems. "You are dissatisfied with your government? Take another one for yourself" - without any revolution or unrest.

(Max Nettlau: Panarchy- A Forgotten Idea of 1860, 1909)

In the classic of libertarian literature Anarchy, State and Utopia Robert Nozick describes a libertarian vision of Utopia. He of course has to reject the idea of the classical utopia, of a unified system of order. He therefore projects a meta-utopia, in which each person is allowed to choose her own version of an ideal community from a broad menu of possibilities. This is Nozick’s own list of the range of communities that might flourish in a meta-utopian world:

Visionaries and crackpots, maniacs and saints, monks and libertines, capitalists and communists and participatory democrats, proponents of phalanxes (Fourier), palaces of labour (Flora Tristan), villages of unity and cooperation (Owen), mutualist communities (Proudhon), time stores (Josiah Warren), Bruderhof, kibbutzim, kundalini yoga ashrams, and so forth

Within Nozick’s framework for utopia, it is also possible to design and create your own utopia if you can convince a sufficient number of people to join you.

Such colourful mix of communities was intended to exist within the framework of the minimal state, or the invisible state, which should only appear to protect citizens from violence, theft, and breach of contract. Nozick was at pain to demonstrate, that a minimal state would inevitably arise from a supposed anarchy (or state of nature) without violating anyone’s rights. He furthermore tried to prove, that any extension of state power, for example by taxation for welfare purposes is breaking individual’s rights and therefore can not be justified.

A more recent project taking up similar ideas is the Transnational Republic (TR), which also participated in the Helsinki Summit of Micronations. The TR was proclaimed in March 2001 in Munich. They suggest to create transnational governments which would work more like transnational corporations. They say that we should learn from Coca-Cola how to represent citizen interests on a global scale. There would be many different transnational republics competing for citizens by providing the best solutions to global problems. Their approach has some similarities to the open source movement, but instead of improving the system software of a computer it’s about designing a better political system of governing the world.