Originally published as an 8-page booklet in January, 1993.
This became the founding prospectus for the Free Nation Foundation
 

TOWARD A FREE NATION

by Richard O. Hammer
 
 

(to essay outline)

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OUTLINE

A free nation?
How?
The biggest problem credibility.
Why so radical a proposal?
Hasn't this been tried before?
How does the Free Nation Foundation fit in the libertarian movement?
How will the Free Nation Foundation relate to others, outside the libertarian movement?
What will the Free Nation Foundation do?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A free nation?

A thought recurs as government encroaches more on me and as I meet with others who suffer under the encroachment of government I think again:

We who want liberty should build our own nation.

This idea will stun some, and make others laugh. But it seems possible to me.

We have the resources. On this planet there are enough people who want liberty to populate a nation. And there is enough capital held by investors who want the benefits of free markets, but who need to be assured of the security of their investment.

This booklet says more about pursuing the goal of a free nation, and comments upon the movement I hope will unfold.

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How?

Nations come and go. World events show this. How could a libertarian nation be started? Surely there are many ways, but here, to tempt you to believe that it might be possible, I will tell one scenario.
    A movement comes together and, over time, builds credibility. It gathers a long list of supporters. It collects options on assets to invest in the new country. Then it watches and waits for the right opportunity.

    The government of some poor, third-world country, struggling to stay in control, indicates willingness to deal: to lease an underpopulated, but habitable, corner of itself. The lease provides for sovereignty as a separate nation, for 99 years, and includes promises of mutual non-aggression.

    The new nation signs treaties with neighboring states, and with a few major powers. From its birth the new nation has a small but respectable national defense.

    On start-up day an auction is held for real estate within the new nation. Shares to bid in this auction are issued in proportion to the assets contributed in payment of the lease.

If this is done properly it should be possible to gather the assets to pay the lease, because these assets are not given away, but rather invested in what should become a strong business climate.

While this scenario seems to me as likely as any, we can envision other scenarios if we take a broader view. Most governments, it seems, have lives which someday end. But the death of a government does not mean that the land has sunk into the ocean, or that the people have all died.

Some new political order always comes in on the old piece of land. During this time it often happens that boundaries change, and it often happens that the number of nations on a given piece of land changes.

We libertarians can aim to influence this process. After we have organized and done our homework, I believe, in the right moment, we can negotiate for some land on which we establish our own style of self government.

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The biggest problem credibility.

Most people will not buy these ideas. Naturally they doubt that this can be pulled off.

But take a little trip of the imagination with me:

If you believe, as I do, that there would be an ample supply of both settlers and investors, then you may agree with my point here. This movement does not lack either people or capital. It lacks credibility, believability. If credibility can be built, people and capital will follow.

To build credibility, I propose to create and manage the Free Nation Foundation, a forum for meeting, publishing, debating.

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Why so radical a proposal?

Imagine you are on a ship and there are no lifeboats. A hole breaks in the hull. Water gushes in. Many people bail. They yell to you, "bail, bail!" But you can not tell if bailing will save the ship. You look around and see materials which might be made into crude lifeboats. Do you bail, or build?

Albert Jay Nock, in Our Enemy the State, foresees unstoppable growth of the American government. This growth, he says, brings corruption, enfeeblement, and eventual collapse. I do not know if he is right, but in my view the evidence seems to support his pessimism.

To bail, to save our present state, one has to work within existing political institutions. Somehow one has to convince a majority of the electorate that it is in their best interest to surrender most of the powers that majority rule gives them over their neighbors. But it seems to me that people almost never surrender real power over one another.

People seem willing to surrender power only when the "power" is so feeble as to be useless: as a parent might give up trying to steer a strong-willed teenager; as Russian people gave up on centralized planning only when they finally believed that their state, in spite of its might, had no power to improve the economy.

In contrast, Americans, it seems to me, still believe that their government has power to do anything it wants. I fear that they will try harder, ever more desperately, to apply that "power" to fix an ever worsening situation. I fear they will not see the folly till they see that the "power" is empty. That will be when, I fear, the state is near collapse, and not before.

Many good people are bailing, working to turn the tide in the way Americans cast their votes. I also spend time bailing it seems such a natural thing to do.

But whether bailing will succeed I do not know. To me there is enough doubt that it seems prudent to start designing a lifeboat.

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Hasn't this been tried before?

There have been several attempts to start small, libertarian countries. All have failed. A book, How to Start your own Country, by Erwin S. Strauss, tells about these attempts.

It seems to me that none of these attempts had a significant chance. Not enough groundwork had been done before the flags were hoisted.

The approach of the Free Nation Foundation differs. It proposes, for the time, to do nothing but groundwork. It would not suggest trying to obtain real estate till the force of a nation people, assets, treaties were in place.

This is a "Front Door" approach. We would seek what we want openly, through negotiations in good faith, from a position of practical and financial strength.

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How does the Free Nation Foundation fit in the libertarian movement?

The market of the Free Nation Foundation will be people who are already libertarian. It will be people who would agree that they would like to live or invest in a libertarian country, if such could be created. Thus, unlike most other libertarian organizations, the Free Nation Foundation will not try to persuade people to adopt the libertarian way of thinking.

Why focus only on people who are already libertarian? First, because the effort to persuade other people is already undertaken by many good individuals and organizations. Second, because we can move directly toward our goal if we avoid the tangle of trying to persuade others.

Most of what we libertarians express, it seems to me, aims to build bridges. As such, this expression does not say clearly what we would build, if we could, at the other end of the bridge. Other expression, produced by theorists within our movement, leads us to new horizons of thought. But this expression usually cannot be translated to a plan which we might expect to work with the people and politics in this day.

As such the libertarian movement, to my knowledge, presently has no forum within which we state clearly what kind of nation we think we could build if we had the opportunity. The Free Nation Foundation proposes to move into this niche.

As a side effect, our definition, of what we want to build, might win converts. Some of our adversaries have resisted our efforts at building bridges because they have mistrusted our motives. But if we develop a clear description of what we want to build, some, who care to study our goal, may stop resisting our effort to get there.

Of course we must recognize that libertarians do not all agree. Some will object, saying that it is wrong to talk about establishing a libertarian government that there can be no such thing as a government which is libertarian. This may be true. But I want to work now to put together a plan that I am confident can be carried out in the foreseeable future. I am willing to compromise within the range of libertarian ideas.

And other libertarians will object, saying a free nation is doomed to fail because governments always grow, and this one will be no different. I have the same concern. But history shows that nations come and go. The free nation movement can work within this trend, striving not for perfection, but for the best we can build now.

It is said that the United States had a fairly libertarian government during its first century or so. Most Americans (except the slaves) enjoyed many freedoms. I would be satisfied if we, now, could do as well if we could establish a nation which keeps most of its freedoms for a century.

For libertarians who are not satisfied with the compromises made to create a free nation, that nation could at least offer a place to live and within which to plan the next, better society.

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How will the Free Nation Foundation relate to others, outside the libertarian movement?

While the Free Nation Foundation will serve libertarians, others will ask about us. We must respond appropriately.

We will be permitted to pursue our goal if we can be accepted. We should aim to be accepted. We probably cannot expect, in the present, to be understood. With luck we will be respected. But respect, to the extent that we gain it, will come because we have acted respectably.

As a model for how we might hope to be viewed, I think of some of the religious communities in early America. I believe that some of these communities did a good job with their public relations because of the way they handled their differences. They respected the rights of their neighbors and asked only to be left free to order their own lives. They did not attempt to press their views on others, though they were willing to explain, and glad to welcome converts. They helped their neighbors through mutually beneficial trade.

The free nation movement offers benefits not only to libertarians but also to those who have historically been our adversaries. By seeking separation, we are offering to stop resisting their programs. We are bringing nearer the day when they will be able to direct as they choose in their own realm.

We will be saying to them:

Let us respect the choices we would each make for ourselves. We will endorse your right to establish the order under which you would feel comfortable if you will endorse our right to establish a separate realm, with our own style of self government.

We can all benefit from the movement to allow small new nations. Let us test various schemes of government. This way all can have more choices about the political environment in which to live, and all can learn from the experiences of each.

The movement to form a free nation might get attention in the media. Some of this attention might win converts. As a side effect this would be good. But I believe it would be wrong to be distracted by this side effect. The movement would lose integrity if it let news become its goal. The best news will follow real progress.

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What will the Free Nation Foundation do?

Early activities will include: Eventual activities will include:  

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