Lost islands and crypto-states: a journey through libertarian fantasies

michael oliver was a young survivor of the Nazi concentration camps who, liberated by the United States troops, moved to that country in 1945. Imbued with libertarian ideals, with stimuli like the novelist ayn randHe radicalized his vision during the sixties: in the heat of the countercultures, but with a self-employed perspective that questioned government control and interference, he decided to undertake the creation of an independent state.

“There they proudly planted the flag of the Republic of Minerva: an autonomous State, which came to mint coins”

already from Robinson Crusoethe islands represent the fantasy of building a world with other rules. After several exploratory trips to the Caribbean (Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, Suriname), Oliver finally settled in 1972 along with his partners on some tiny reefs in the Pacific Ocean, between New Zealand and Fiji, some rocks that seemed to have no jurisdiction. There they proudly planted the flag of the Republic of Minerva: an autonomous State, which came to mint coins, financed by investors and by the 30,000 settlers who would settle on plots of about 10,000 square meters. Property rules were combined with Oliver’s doctrine: “Collectivists, criminals, nihilists and anarchists” were excluded even if they could pay. The experiment did not last long: only a few months passed until the king of Tonga, to whom that portion of the reefs belonged, claimed authority over the ocean territory. He himself came to the place in a boat with four prisoners and four musicians, and evicted the pioneers of Minerva.

The Republic of Minerva, in the South Pacific, the “new country” that ended quickly but came to mint coins and raise its flag half a century ago

In great detail, the historian raymond craib (specializing in Latin America at Cornell University) tells, in a recent book, the failed story of Oliver and several more attempts at “libertarian escapes.” Published last month in English, Adventure Capitalism: A Story of the Libertarian Exit from Decolonization to the Digital Agefocuses on the cultural pillars that shape these fantasies of self-regulating micronations thought of as “moral experiments” and, above all, on their missteps. The volume reaches back with its analysis to the recent experiment of the Seasteding Institute, created a decade ago by the grandson of emblematic liberal economist, Milton Friedman, together with a powerful exponent of Silicon Valley investors, the charismatic and audacious Peter Thiel (co- PayPal founder with Elon Musk). Is it so master plan is to colonize open water spaces on the high seas and install homes or autonomous communities there. Graib’s journey plunges into the human curiosities of those “exiters” and his exit attempts. Where utopias of freedom intersect with tax aversion and financial fantasies with land property laws.

Adventure Capitalism: Adventure Capitalism, the book by Raymond B. Craib, which traces a journey through the "libertarian outlets" the last century
Adventure Capitalism: Adventure Capitalism, the book by Raymond B. Craib, which traces a journey through the “libertarian exits” of the last century

The update of the matter, has, in its digital aspect, absolute validity. In the same week another book dedicated to the “Network States” (network heritage). Available for free on the internet is a proclamation, a militant manifesto, about the opportunity to create new states: “Technology has allowed us to start new companies, new communities and new currencies. But can we use it to start new cities, or even new countries? This book explains how to build the successor to the nation-state, a concept that we call network state”, explains its author, Balaji Srinivasan, an entrepreneur linked to cryptocurrencies and investment funds who, with a provocative and creative tone, not only seeks to establish the technological protocols that allow these initiatives (an emphatic and well-founded defense of the technologies block chain) but also to base the social and human need for them, now detached from the ties to geographical limits.

The Network Estate, Balaji Srinivasan's book published weeks ago, asks if technology can be used to start new cities, or even new countries
The Network Estate, Balaji Srinivasan’s book published weeks ago, asks if technology can be used to start new cities, or even new countries

The vision of cryptography, also necessary as a cohesion factor for these new states, networks or communities, becomes foundational when there is neither God nor Country left. After developing theses on the value of new information technologies regarding history in the registration and traceability of events, Srinivasan offers his vision of a current world ordered in what he describes as three digital poles that affect billions of people: the one of the USArepresented by the dollar and the acronym NOW (by The New York Times), the capitalism of Chinese Communist Party and the stateless capitalism of the bitcoin and the web3. Democracy, Totalitarianism and a contemporary approach to digital governance. Although he warns that it is a simplistic scheme, he argues that this scheme is necessary to establish the foundations of future states. From the circulation of currency outside the financial circuit monopolized by the countries (cryptocurrencies) and the decentralization of organizations and control of information, the libertarian utopia, he maintains, seems to be closer.

The call Satoshi Island is touted as the first housing community crypto. It owes its name to the anonymous creator of Bitcoin, promotes itself as a sustainable city and is marketed through NFTs. This same Monday the pre-sale of land begins; the yield of neighborhoods and buildings can be seen on the internet. The uninhabited island is called, strictly speaking, Lataro, and it is just over 3 square kilometers located in Vanuatu, in the South Pacific, very close to the failed experience of Oliver and his friends in the Republic of Minerva. They learned something: unlike those good savages, the new occupants sealed an ambitious legal and financial agreement with the local government.

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