Build Your Own Utopia

Over the past century, there have been a number of attempts by libertarians to create their own nation. The most famous was the Republic of Minerva, when the real estate millionare Michael Oliver turned a reef into an artifical island and attempted to create a nation with no taxation or subsidies. It was scuttled by the nation of Tonga, which didn’t take well to this new nation forming so close to them.

More recently, Peter Thiel, the founder of PayPal and major backer for Ron Paul, has helped to fund the Seasteading Institute. The Institute wants to create floating cities in international waters which Thiel hopes will provide an escape from politics and political meddling in the economy.

To these so-called micronations, we can add one more, although it has yet to be named. Michael Strong, CEO of a company called the MKG Group, plans to build a number of semi-independent cities within Honduras. The idea is that the cities will have no taxes on income or capital gains, although there will be property tax for the Honduran government.

FoxNews is focused on the libertarian aspects, quoting Strong as he gushes about the coming of the free market,

“Once we provide a sound legal system within which to do business, the whole job creation machine – the miracle of capitalism – will get going,” [...] “Our goal is to be the most economically free entity on Earth,”

In contrast, The Independent is focused on what this brings to Honduras, a poor contry with perhaps the world’s worst murder rate. While Strong is promising to bring jobs and stability to the area, some people are worried that this is a return to the era of “banana republics,” when American companies dominated the government,

…. Honduras which, along with neighbouring Guatemala, was dominated by the Standard Fruit Company and United Fruit Company for much of the 20th Century. The two corporate rivals built much of Honduras’ modest infrastructure, including railways to transport banana harvests to Caribbean ports. Yet they have been lambasted for interfering in national politics – including pushing the Eisenhower administration to orchestrate the infamous 1954 coup against Guatemala’s social democratic government, which led to decades of brutal civil war.

Strong is actually a board member at the Seasteading Institute, but this plan seems much more modest than their floating city model. This isn’t Rapture or Galt’s Gulch. Still, the basic idea of creating a free-market haven without government interference is the same. We’ll just have to see if he can get it to work.

  • The Vicar

    Prediction: no, he won’t. He’ll abandon the project after no more than a decade when it becomes obvious that it’s not just a failure but a money pit. Some of the cities will be reclaimed outright by Honduras, the rest will decay as their embattled remaining Libertarian residents, who will largely be regarded as lunatics by everyone else in the world, struggle to keep up the pretense that their miserable existences are better than what can be had under a government. (Oh, except for the ones which naturally evolve a standard government of their own, which will be proof that a lack of government is the longest and most painful path between government and government.) And then most of them, being less than 100 meters above current sea level, will be swallowed up when the ice caps melt, because right-wingers are damned stupid about global warming and will naturally choose locations stupidly.

  • FO

    If I understand correctly, there will be a Corporation to decide what is good and what is evil.
    This doesn’t sound good.

    I just hope they will not damage the nearby population (who will probably be attracted there by money) and that all who live there do so by their own choice.

  • vasaroti

    So, if I give up my US citizenship and “live” in a mailbox or a closet in this place, I can enjoy tax-free income and capital gains from all sorts of instruments and locations, as long as I don’t stay anyplace long enough to become a taxable resident alien. I trust they will be registering ships under their flag.
    I don’t see much prospect for job creation, apart from a brief flurry of construction and a flock of receptionists to keep the brass plates polished.

  • Custador

    People who think taxes are evil are selfish, dangerous idiots, worshipping the cult of greed. People who think that corporate entities can EVER be trusted to make impartial, ethically sound decisions based on what’s right, fair and just are self-deluding, dangerous idiots who ignore corporate history.

  • smrnda

    Either it will go under, or it will be a haven for rich people who want a more isolated country club where nobody except them can get in and there’s no concern for the rights and welfare of anybody who isn’t rich. As usual, the country club ‘takes care of its own’ and says fuck you to anyone else.

    The usual libertarian bullshit is that there’s no compulsion without government, but it’s just the ‘rich white person’ perspective where the rich white person wishes they had all of the power instead of just most of it. I mean, ‘freedom’ for corporations always comes at the expense of workers. It sets up systems of authority and control where some people have it, and others don’t.

    The other things I don’t get is this ‘we need to stop the government from meddling in the economy.” As if corporations meddling in government isn’t a bigger problem. I know that the standard libertarian argument for that is that without a government, there’s nothing for corporations to meddle in, but that just means there’s nothing to stop them from imposing their will on others.

    I wish every libertarian jackass could get shipped to China or some other nation and spend a decade working doing manual labor, then they can talk about the glories of ‘economic liberty.’

    • vasaroti

      There have been times in history when corporations essentially had their own armies of thugs and did battle with each other, or hired agencies like the Pinkertons to subdue their unruly workers. For corporations operating without government interference, we could look to the colonial era.

      • Yoav

        You don’t have to go that far back, just a couple of months ago a coal company in the US had forced their employees to act as set decorations for a Mittens political event, without pay.

  • Matt E

    There already is a libertarian utopia with no government regulation, taxation or any other type of interference: it’s called Somalia. I don’t see why they don’t all rush there? Oh, that’s right….

    • trj

      Bad example. Libertarianism is far from being the same as anarchism. Libertarians may want to minimize legislation, but they don’t want to completely abolish it. Nor do they seek to abolish the judiciary or the police.

      • Troutbane

        This is kinda my main beef with libertarianism. It becomes an issue of special pleading why CERTAIN elements of government are good whereas others are bad. Honestly, that’s my main beef with the Tea Party as well:
        GUBMINT BAD! SMALLER GUBMINT GOOD! Except for the military, police, fire departments, the road system, water and sewer infrastructure, copyright laws, preventing teh gays from marrying, farm subsidies, oil subsidies, immigration control, illegalizing abortion, and the drug war. UH, UH GUBMINT BAD (except…)!

    • Brian K

      I have to respond that while Somalia is not fun right now, it was definitely not much better under the glories of the Siad Barre regime, a dictatorial govenrment that played off, at various times, both sides of the Cold War while enriching connected politicians. I would also point out that “Somalia” was an artificial state created by Colonial powers with little regard to underlying ethnic or cultural histories or boundaries. I would finally point out that many of Somalia’s miseries can be tied to interference from adjoining states, including (proxy) invasions by Ethiopia which killed thousands of people.

      So…this liberal talking point has some serious problems. Especially given the hundreds of years of examples of very bad tyranical states. A Somali might (rationally) respond “If you love living in States so much, then you must really love the “order” and “discipline” and “patriotism” and “unity” of North Korea.

      • Yoav

        Your post is a perfect example of the biggest issue I have with many self-described libertarians, an absolutist view of the concept of government. The choice isn’t between no government and a tyranny where your every act is controlled by the government, between John Galt and Joe Stalin. There is a whole continuum between these two extreme ends and even on this continuum it doesn’t have to be one size fit all. Different aspect of society require different level of government involvement, the government should have very little involvement in the manufacturing of cars (other then setting safety standards etc.) but be heavily involved in the building of highways, it should have no say as to the contents of books but strongly regulate the contents of medicines and so on and so on.

  • kessy_athena

    The US has a long and storied history of crazy people setting up their own little ideological paradises, from Christian sectarians in the 18th century to hippie communes in the 1960′s. I’m sure this experiment will turn out ever bit as well as all those others did.

  • peicurmudgeon

    I may be extremely cynical, but it seems suspiciously like a way for Strong to bilk money out of the wealthy and naive. Donate your money for this enterprise. Whoops didn’t work. Just had enough money to build myself this palace in the Honduras.