Have you ever wanted to be the ruler of your own country? It's easier than you might think. Just ask libertarian Czech politician Vít Jedlicka.
On a April 13, 2015, Jedlicka founded Liberland, a 2.7-square mile patch of land along the Danube river. The micro-nation already has its own website, flag and national motto, "Live and let live."
According to Liberland's site, prospective citizens must meet the following requirements: respect for others regardless of their race or religion; respect for private ownership; no Communist, Nazi or other extremist ties; and no criminal past. Since founding the republic, Jedlicka's calls for citizenship applications garnered more than 200,000 responses from around the world.
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Whether Liberland still exists a year from now or 100 years from now remains to be seen. (Spoiler alert: It won't.) But Jedlicka's stunt offers a roadmap of how to create a country, at least in theory.
Founding Philosophy First of all, every nation needs a governing philosophy that defines its existence. The constitution of the Free Republic of Liberland may have a few typos - the authors emphasize that the document is a draft - but the governing philosophy of democracy and individual liberty still shines through.
Jedlicka presides over the Free Citizens Party in the Czech Republic, a group that current holds one seat in the EU Parliament. He is a euroskeptic whose protest stems from his criticism of EU governance.
Land Grab Option 1: Stake Your Claim You can't have a nation without land. Country is a synonym for nation after all. Following Jedlicka's example, a new state could theoretically be formed by occupying land that doesn't belong to any one country. Terra nullius refers to land that is unclaimed under international law and not subject to any sovereign state.
Jedlicka chose a location that neither Croatia nor Serbia, Liberland's new neighbors, lay claim. Other territories in a similar legal limbo, such as Bir Tawil between Egypt and Sudan or parts of Antarctica. These unclaimed land parcels tend to be small, which may not suit the more discerning prospective president who harbor larger ambitions.
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Land Grab Option 2: Build Your Own Country If a prospective home buyer is looking for a new house, but can't find one that suits his or her needs, building a new home from the ground up is the next best option. The same holds true for nation-building.
The oceans are vast, unclaimed opportunities for establishing a new country for anyone with enough sand, figuratively and literally, to get the job done. By international law, nations can only claim ocean up to 12 miles outside their territories.
As difficult and costly as this approach might seem, millionaire and political activist Michael Oliver formed the Republic of Minerva in 1972 by constructing an artificial island on two partially submerged atolls. The Republic of Minerva declared its independence on January 19, 1972, with Oliver as its president. His new nation endured for just over a month, before the ruler of nearby Tonga laid claim to the islands and quickly occupied them.
Land Grab Option 3: Declare Your Independence For those not willing to chase after the scraps other nations left behind or to build a country in the middle of the ocean, the final method of making a territorial claim for a future country is to carve out a piece of an existing one through secession. Even in the United States, secessionist movements, such as the Republic of Texas movement, draw some measure of support.
The problem with this approach is that anyone looking to take the easy road toward a new nation won't find it here. Independence efforts often are met with hostility by existing governments, typically resulting in such unpleasantness as imprisonments, executions or civil wars. Similarly, invading a foreign nation with the intention of conquering it would be met with violent resistance, so best to avoid this route.
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Determine Your System of Government Democratic? Authoritarian? Theocratic? Totalitarian? Monarchy? These are among the many options available to anyone building a new nation from the ground up. The choice made by the prospective head of state will have an impact on the character of the citizenry, the type and depth of infrastructure needed to support that decision, and the potential allies available among foreign nations.
In the case of Liberland, the country is a parliamentary democracy, a common though not necessarily obligatory choice among European micro-states. Four of them, Vatican City, Monaco, Andorra and Liechtenstein, are monarchies.
Law and Order Putting a system of laws into place is where the rubber meets the road in terms of connecting a nation's philosophic principles to the realities of governance. After all, no one wants a shiny new nation to lose its luster over a little thing like total anarchy.
Liberland's constitution isn't simply a statement of principles. It also contains separation of powers according to three branches of government, defines the rights of the citizens of Liberland and the outlines the rules by which all people within the micro-nation must abide. These laws include a mix of commonly agreed-upon democratic principles, forward-thinking measures and confusing amendments that would surely be held up in the judiciary for decades were they ever to become law.
Diplomatic Ties Simply declaring a new country, even with a viable territorial claim, an existing infrastructure and growing population, isn't enough. In order to be a real nation, other countries have to believe in that claim and recognize a sovereign nation as such, even in the face of skeptics or disputes. The more countries acknowledge the existence of a new nation, the more secure the existence of that country.
Perhaps the biggest prize for recognition among any nation would be an invitation to join the United Nations as a member, which is only offered to undisputed independent states. Once you step out of that black limousine in midtown Manhattan to greet your fellow members at the U.N. building, you'll know the dreams of your founding fathers, specifically you, have been realized.
Photo credit: Liberland.org