The Rise of Microstates

In the context of my blog, I have concluded that The Cultures of Affluence are so important that they are presented as a separate page.  However, it is actually the first part of The Rise of Microstates and, when this is a book, it will be so featured.  It is critical to read it before reading this page.

The world is currently in a period of profound change as our institutions are placed under the pressures of the transformation to an Information Age civilization.  It will be disruptive as I discuss in the page, 'The Transformation'. However, it will, through the principles of 'A Finely Crafted Life'  also issue in the first truly Golden Age of Mankind.  

One of the most significant aspects of The Transformation will be the emergence of city-states and microstates.  These will exist because people of many different cultural perspectives will be attracted to specific locations because of climate, geography or topography.  While tropical beach communities will likely be the most popular, temperate environs such as those that dominate eastern United States and much of Europe will also be popular.

The various Cultures of Affluence will need to share the most popular environs and the city-state and microstate models allow this.  This does not mean that nation states will disappear entirely.  However, they will be reduced in scope in order to allow the various social institutions that will enable the various communities within their borders.  In Western civilization, we will likely see a European Union, a North American Union and, perhaps, a Latin American Union.  The old nations of these regions, while likely not disappearing entirely will lose sovereignty to the larger regional unions and the local microtates and city states.

Here, we will explore the emergence and structure of microstates, in general, their relationship to one other and to larger multicultural unions and confederations.  Then, we will explore a specific Polymathican microstate that, for the purposes of the exercise and hopefully in a future reality, is located on Samana Cay in the southern Bahamas.

Nearly half of the nations with the top twenty standards of living, according to the CIA Fact Book, are microstates.  Generally, a microstate has an area of less than 10,000 square miles and a population of under 1,000,000 and is generally either partially or completely autonomous from a sponsor state.  The classic example is Liechtenstein which is a sovereign nation but sponsored by Switzerland (the official currency is the Swiss Franc.)  It has the highest standard of living in the world.

All microstates of significance, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Jersey, Isle of Man, Bermuda, Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, appear to have collegial relationships with their sponsor nation and the community of nations, in general.  So, for the most part, microstates do not appear to be something that should be feared.  In fact, I am about to argue that the larger nations should all develop processes that allow their disaffected groups to create microstates within their current borders. By doing so, the large nations will be legitimizing their claim to sovereignty and also will likely lower the cultural friction within their population.

The process should include the following:
  • The microstate will buy the land that it will occupy from its current owners.  There may be a mechanism of eminent domain to facilitate the process.
  • In addition to any land purchases it will compensate any current residents who do not want to be part of the new microstate for the inconvenience of their move to a different location.
  • The microstate and the sponsor state will negotiate an arrangement by which the sponsor state will provide certain services to the microstate at a negotiated price and will retain certain rights of sovereignty while relinquishing others.  
  • The microstate will likely need to enter into an ongoing payment to compensate the sponsor state for its loss of sovereignty and taxing authority.
  • A series of treaties will be executed, such as visa requirements, trade status, etc.
In the past, new microstates, such as South Ossetia, have simply declared their independence often leading to broader conflict within the community of nations.  This process will lead to an orderly and more collegial establishment of the microstate.  It will generally assure the community of nations that the creation of microstates will not lead to the proliferation of rogue states.  

Most Political Philosophers today rely upon some form of Social Contract as justification for the right of nation states to hold authority over its citizens.  However, a contract is coercive if there are no practical alternatives.  By declaring no right of secession, today's nation states are on weak philosophical ground.  By having a practical mechanism for microstate alternatives, nation states, for as long as they are the dominant form of government, will have vastly improved justification for their exercise of authority.

The Internet is creating cultural fragmentation and polarization that makes the democratic processes more contentious, often leading to 'gridlock' and, in extreme cases, to terrorist acts and/or insurrections.  This is being caused by a relatively small percent of the population with very strong ideological positions that are fundamentally irreconcilable with the mainstream population of the nation state.  Even a small number, say 5% of the population, establishing microstates can reduce political and cultural polarization sufficiently to return a degree of equanimity to the political process.

As the Information Age civilization emerges, with its Cultures of Affluence, the first principle of political philosophy will become, 'No person should be required to live under a body of laws, programs and policies that he or she considers to be fundamentally unjust.' Few people will assert the opposite, that people should be forced to live under such a circumstance.  However, few people can imagine how the problem can be solved, practically.  Now we see a way.

To date, microstates have been comprised of ethnic minorities within the sponsor states.  However, as new microstates form, they will be comprised of international populations with shared cultural, social, political and economic values.  The first of these are the planned Libertarian city-states in Honduras.  Honduras has modified its laws to accommodate microstates.  This will often create a practical benefit to sponsored microstates.  These microstates will be comprised of an International population who have achieved, 'live anywhere' Information Age incomes.  They will become a very lucrative, new trading partner for the sponsor state, which is the rationale for Honduras.

New technologies in desalination and alternative energies, such as OTEC and EGS, are making coastal, arid land that historically has been uninhabitable or sparsely populated very attractive for microstates.  Public water use in the U.S. is between 200 and 250 cubic meters per year per capita.  Desalination costs about $0.30 per cubic meter more than groundwater or about $60 to $75 per year per capita.  For an Information Age community, that may have a median household income of 600,000 2014USD per year household income or more, that is not significant.

This suggests that Australia, Mexico, Chile, South Africa, Namibia, Saudi Arabia, et alia, are all very attractive locations for microstates.  Again, the new microstates are likely to be comprised of populations that have values very different from the prevailing values of Liberal Democracies.  These will include, but not be limited to Marxists, Libertarians, Gaians, Polyamorists, Polymathicans, Pagans, Eugenicists, Transhumanists, Zeitgeist, etc.

We are entering a period when a profound transformation from an Industrial Age civilization to an Information Age civilization will take place.  Microstates can be crucibles for social, political, economic and cultural experimentation.  They can try new combinations that would be too radical and/or risky a departure from current institutions within the larger nation states.  However, they can be tested safely on smaller scales


For ou
r purposes, a microstate is defined as an autonomous polity that may be comprised of several villages or may be a singular city-state.  They generally have a population of less than 1,000,000, although a quintessential example, Singapore, has a population of more than 5,000,000.  Also, they are notable for their relatively small geographic extent.  The Bahamas at about 10,000 km²
 is relatively large.  Luxembourg, at about 2,600 km² and a population of about 562,000 is characteristic.

One of the traits that has emerged among microstates over the last fifty years is extraordinarily high standards of living.  Without regard to oil rich microstates, the following microstates substantially exceed the standard of living of the most affluent large country, the United States. (GDP/capita ~54,800USD).

  • Luxembourg      2,586 km²    570,252 pop        92,400USD GDP/capita
  • Liechtenstein        160                 37,624                89,400
  • Monaco                        2                 30,535                 78,700
  • Sint Maarten           34                 39,689                66,800
Three out of four of these microstates have been in existence for a long time and despite the clear tradition of stable microstates, save for a few that were created by the breakup of various European colonial empires, there have been no new microstates formed.  This is about to change.  In fact, it appears that with a Libertarian city-state enabled in Honduras, that it just did.

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