Four hundred years ago an oppressed religious minority, after escaping England and after a sojourn in the Netherlands, arrived on the shores of New England to start a life in the New World.
Certainly there was no shortage of people who were oppressed for their religion in those days. In recent memory, Protestants and Catholics had fought against each for control in England. But there were also the minority sects within Protestantism, the dissenting churches, who faced various legal liabilities for their non-participation in the established Church of England. Among these were the Puritans, who sought to reform the established Church to eliminate what it saw as remnants of Pagan and Popish ritual.
But among the Puritans was an even smaller group, the Separatists, who saw the Church in England as irredeemably fallen. They were a minority of a minority. They wanted to remove themselves from this corruption and start again in a new land. These families were the Pilgrims who settled in Plymouth Colony in 1620, and their separatist colony is a historical metaphor motivating the need for, and the prospects for success for micronations, in William Otey’s new book, The Micronation Revolution: How the Creation of Small, Free and Sovereign Nations Will Peacefully Transform Government on Earth.
Otey’s book is in four parts, the first of which makes the argument for why a divorce is necessary, why the U.S. government is irredeemably fallen, and why no amount of internal reform can fix it.
The second part describes how the liabilities outlined in the first part can be addressed by the “clean sheet” approach of a micronation. Part of the argument is that a micronation, by doing well, would tend to provide a form of competition that might exert pressure on other states to reform.
The third part looks at some specific modes by which a micronation might come about. Seasteading and the purchase of land from a money-poor/land-rich nation are given as the two most promising approaches.
The fourth and final part recapitulates and summarizes the argument.
There is much here to like and agree with, and also much I might want to question. I think this largely comes down to whether you are an optimist or pessimist. I’m the latter, and Otey the former. For example, Otey is optimistic about the ability of the press and public opinion to keep large nations from predatory behavior toward micronations:
[I]f large, violent and corrupt governments want to try and stop seasteading illegally and through brute force, they will have a galaxy of cameras pointed directly at them and the images will be broadcast across the entire globe.
I tend to expect the worst. I’d give even odds that the “free” press is actually the lackey of the state, and that large social media companies can and would bury stories at will. And all a government needs to do is allege (no actual evidence needed) “child abuse” or “sex trafficking” in the micronation and the press will fall in line behind the government. Remember Waco?
And as far as a classical liberal micronation being a beacon to other countries, inspiring their citizens to expect more, and demand more from their own governments, I think this is a double-edged sword. Alexander Dubček was such a beacon in Czechoslovakia in 1968. Many thought his reforms would inspire change in neighboring states. It did motivate change, of a sort. “Prague Spring” ended with tanks in the streets, when Czechoslovakia was simultaneously invaded by the Soviet Union, Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary, and Dubček removed from office. Evidently, not all states welcome competition.
That said, Otey’s argument is worth hearing and making your own judgement about. It is an important topic, one we should be thinking about and debating. For this reason, I’d recommend getting a copy of The Micronation Revolution and giving it a read.