This article was published in the Summer 1996 issue of Formulations
by the Free Nation Foundation
 
Life Without Lice!?
The FNF Work Plan
 
by Richard O. Hammer

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Outline
--introduction
A Scenario in Three Steps
Life Without Lice!? - Doubt Holds Us Back
Doubt, The Need For Step 1
But Is Step 1 Necessary?
The Flexibility and the Necessity of Step 3
The FNF Work of Step 1 Serves Other Purposes as Well
How FNF Work Differs From Other Libertarian Activism
--Notes
 

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We in FNF work on a task that few people understand. Even many libertarians hesitate. Questions raised at our recent Forum remind me that, once again, I should lay out the reasoning which shows how our work can advance formation of a free nation.1

Most of our work is abstract, philosophical even. It is far removed from the nuts and bolts of leasing land, or building an island, on which to establish our home. Many people lose patience with us because they want to get on with it. But I think our academic work takes us closer to the formation of a free nation.

We have no more strength than cooked spaghetti. But surely, even with our feeble force, we can find some point at which we can apply ourselves. The FNF work plan gives us a fulcrum.

First, to show the context of the FNF work plan, let me lay out a scenario for formation of a free nation.

 
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A Scenario in Three Steps

I describe the goal (step 3) first, because, by presenting the steps in reverse order, I hope to convince you of the necessity of FNF work (step 1), which I describe last.

Step 3: The Goal, Creation of a Free Nation

Representatives of the founding organization negotiate a lease for 99 year rental of real estate large enough for our small nation. The host nation, leasing the land, is probably a third-world nation with an impoverished government.

The down payment offered by the founding organization seems huge to the host nation; it is perhaps 30% of their government's budget for a year. The continuing payments, for 99 years, likewise seem big enough to the host nation to make them want to keep friendly terms with the free nation.

The land leased, habitable but sparsely populated, has never been vital to the host country, since the overwhelming majority of its population lives in centers elsewhere in the country. The land leased has never brought any significant tax revenue to the host. To the host the lease offers free money for no effort.

The founding organization signs treaties, promises of non-aggression, with, not only the host, but also nearby nations and two first-world powers. From the start the founding organization has a national defense, small but respected.

After signing the lease with the host country, the founding organization holds an auction to sublet land in the new free nation. Shares to bid in this auction are issued in proportion to the amount invested in the founding organization. In this capacity, the founding organization has acted like an investment management company. It has helped investors place their assets in what should become a profitable venture.

Step 2: The Founding Organization

An organization, intending to form a free nation somewhere on earth, assembles assets and commitments from people. The assets are placed in escrow, callable by the founding organization upon execution of a suitable lease. Investors entrust the specific terms of the acquisition to the founding organization.

The founding organization stands as a respectable force. It includes, for instance, either:

a handful of people of vast wealth and power, such as multibillionaires, retired heads of state of first-world nations, world-famous military generals; or

a million people of middle class means, each having committed perhaps $20,000 in assets (for a total of $20 billion).

Thus we see that the founding organization, when mature, has the strength of a little nation already, in terms of financial backing, diplomatic connections, and ability to defend itself.

The action of this founding organization, in the overall scheme, mimics the way a couple shops for a house in America. The couple knows that houses can be purchased by qualified buyers who show evidence of ability to pay. So, before starting to shop, the members of the couple work to get themselves qualified; they do things like get jobs and save money. Similarly, before starting to shop, the founding organization must command enough assets to attract the interest of sellers.

Step 1: FNF Work, The Gathering of a Movement

A group of people work to advance the day when the founding organization, of step 2, will start of cohere, by working to clarify the vision of a free nation. These people discuss, debate, and publish, proposals which describe all important aspects of the free nation. The most vital aspect which these people study and describe is security, since few people will take the idea of a free nation seriously until they know that they and their investments will be safe in the free nation.

Eventually, many people who read the proposals begin to believe that indeed a free nation can be formed. Doubt recedes. Those who know that they would like to live with strictly limited government begin to believe that they can get it for themselves.

 
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Life Without Lice!? Doubt Holds Us Back

Apes, from what I learn watching nature shows, spend many of their hours picking lice off one another. Our early ancestors, I assume, also lived with lice. They took for granted these things on their skin. Part of life.

Who, in those years of yore, would think there might be such a thing as life without lice?

"Yes!" proclaimed the prophets.

But most people did not join. They did not believe it. They could not imagine life without lice.

The FNF work plan stands upon this thesis: it is possible. We just need to learn new habits of hygiene. These habits seem alien at first, because they differ from any discipline we have ever practiced.

"What will I do with myself, with my time, my hands and my eyes," one doubter asked, "if not fill my leisure with this ritual [nitpicking] which my ancestors have practiced since the beginning of time?"

Yes, I admit, it could be tough.

 
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Doubt, The Need For Step 1

I believe that steps 2 and 3 should be possible if only people believed that they were possible. When I ask myself what keeps people from starting step 2, I conclude that not enough people take the idea of a "free nation" seriously. People who might join a founding organization are held back by questions, such as:

These questions add up to doubt. And doubt is a job for a think tank, for the Free Nation Foundation. As we subdue the doubt, I believe we set the stage for step 2 to proceed.

 
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But Is Step 1 Necessary?

Last year an organization called Laissez Faire City International Trust broke into the news. They announced plans to form a free nation. It seemed to me that if they had substantial financial backing, as they claimed, they might advance to their goal. And they might do it without lingering over step 1. Their announced plan, in my view, started with step 2.

I tend to believe that a group of sufficiently wealthy and powerful people could start with step 2. I think such a group would discover as it proceeded that it needed some work of the sort I suggest for step 1. But much of this step-1 work could probably be completed on the fly. And the group, if it had sufficient strength, could patch up its errors as it proceeded.

But for me, and perhaps for you, I must recognize that I am in no position to start work on step 2.

 
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The Flexibility and the Necessity of Step 3

In step 3, I described one way that the founding organization might acquire land. That way, of all the ways I have considered, seems most plausible to me.

But other ways suggest themselves. To list just a few:

establish a freeport with much, but less-than-complete, political separation from the host;

purchase an existing little democracy by promising to pay every inhabitant of that nation $10,000 on the day when they use their existing constitutional process to modify their constitution to conform to our specification;

negotiate for some influence in constituting the new government in an orphaned fragment of a nation-state that is falling apart;

purchase an island outright;

build a floating island.

Step 3 is essential. We would be fools to work on step 1 or step 2 if we could not imagine getting past step 3. But personally I worry less about step 3 than about step 1. I believe that if step 1 can be completed, if a clear vision of a free nation can be built, then step 2 will become relatively easy. And I believe that a strong founding organization, as described in step 2, will find a way: it will not be denied its step 3. As such I have not focused on formulating step 3, it seems to me an afterthought.

But many reasonable people do not share my confidence that step 3 would become easy once steps 1 and 2 were complete. These people wait to be convinced of the plausibility of step 3. Therefore, I hope we will start to publish more formulations for step 3. I invite readers to submit their ideas. It would be good for us to know a range of ways that a new nation might be established.

But let us not get ahead of ourselves. Remember that we are nowhere near starting step 3, or even step 2. We need confidence that we can complete step 3 when we get there. But for now the challenge, unless you are a billionaire, is step 1.

 
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The FNF Work of Step 1 Serves Other Purposes as Well

We in FNF work on step 1 because we have our eye on the goal of step 3. But, I have observed, the work of step 1 serves other purposes. I seem better able now, after a years of immersion in libertarian theory, to connect in conversation with my statist neighbors in America. I have discovered new arguments. This is ironic, since I decided to undertake FNF work because I doubt that persuasion will draw a majority-rule polity, such as exists in America, back to constitutionally-limited government.

So, even though it not our goal, people who participate with us probably become more persuasive to statists. And I believe, if we complete step 1 and thus create, for all who care to look, a convincing vision of life in a free nation, this vision alone seems bound to change things.

 
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How FNF Work Differs From Other Libertarian Activism

Perhaps you now see how FNF work stands out, distinct from almost all other libertarian activism. We do not try to convince statists. And we are not deterred by the distrust of statists. We do not need statists, except as trading partners when we get to step 3.

In the usual paradigm for libertarian activism it is essential to persuade statists to accept libertarian principles, because this paradigm assumes working within an existing majority-rule democracy. I have worked many years myself in this usual paradigm, and continue to support many good organizations which strive to convince statists. It might work. But I am not sure.

If you too doubt that persuasion will work, do not despair, but join FNF. This is the habit of hygiene which I mentioned earlier. You do not need to blow fuses in your brain trying to force sense into statists. Just let them be. Join us who are not caught in that tangle. Join us libertarians who, hindered only by our own doubt and disorganization, are moving directly toward our goal.

By supporting the free nation movement you hedge your bets. You increase the likelihood that the future will hold, somewhere on earth, a free-nation home for you. D

 
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Notes

1 Many of the ideas in this article were expressed in "Toward a Free Nation," the eight-page booklet which I used in early 1993 as a prospectus in seeking collaborators to form the Free Nation Foundation.

 

Richard O. Hammer, of Hillsborough, NC, for the time being works full-time on the Free Nation Foundation. In the past he has worked as a residential builder and engineer.

 
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