If I Had a Country

What if I had a country to call my own, one that belonged to me, my very own answer to the Principalities of Liechtenstein or Monaco? First and foremost I’d want it to be a refuge of liberty, a free society where the best of everything can flourish for everyone. That doesn’t just go for laws or taxes, but the culture, the amenities, the landscape, and the climate as well. So what would my dream country – for want of a better name let’s call it Nemesopolis – be like?

Cosmopolitanism, for Real this Time!

First of all, it would be a cosmopolitan hub of trade and travel, borders always fully open; people could come and go as they please, with no immigration control or customs taxes or inspections. No intrusive searches either; “airport security” is not only nonexistent but forbidden by law. You need no identification to board an airplane or any other form of mass transit, only money for your fare. If there is any fare; I’d give strong consideration to making mass transit free of charge, not to mention guaranteeing every citizen a basic car free of charge.

As for the ports of entry, instead of uniformed thugs you would be greeted upon arrival by beautiful fair girls in soft flowing feminine dresses who would hand you a flower with a smile, plus a free gift, a guidebook to the country, and a sing-songy “Welcome to Nemesopolis!” Imagine that; a country that abides by the law of hospitality and actually wants people to come to it. That is Nemesopolis.

Not only would the borders be open and people could travel and move in and out as they pleased, I’d even go so far as to pay people to immigrate and naturalize as citizens. Naturalization would be easy; basically anyone may become a citizen and receive the “naturalization bonus” if they establish their primary residence in the country. For non-residents a citizenship by investment program would be available. Doubles as a nice revenue source for the state.

Tax Havens and Sovereign Wealth Funds

Which considering that Nemesopolis is a tax haven will be much-needed. There will definitely be no taxes aside from taxes on the sales of luxury goods, and ideally there will be no taxes at all, only service fees and revenue from state-owned enterprises. Among these would be a lottery; in the United States the profit from that amounts to $81 per person, probably enough to run a shoestring government all by itself.

More intriguingly, Nemesopolis will foster a sovereign wealth fund, an endowment that may in the fullness of time ensure the state is self-funding. Let’s say there are 400,000 people; with $81 per person in lottery revenue that brings in $32 million per year. Investing it aggressively, using the power of leverage, can make it grow quickly.

How quickly? From 1985 to 2021 a 3:1 leveraged broad-stock-market strategy would have returned 26% per year. The fund grows to $1 billion by 1993, $10 billion by 1998, and by 2020 surpasses $100 billion. Something like a 4:1 Permanent Portfolio would have attained even higher returns. Obviously all this is rather hypothetical, but the idea is that, much like I recommend households do, the state lives off investments and withdraws a conservative amount endowments tend to do, let’s say 1% of the balance every year, as a margin loan.

Let’s take the $200 billion figure. That means that the Nemesopolitan Sovereign Wealth Fund in 2021 could borrow $2 billion. With a population of 400,000 that amounts to $5000 per person. That gives a whole new meaning to the term “rentier state”!

Wall Street and Silicon Valley put Together, but Better!

Perhaps fittingly, my dream country is an international banking center, a veritable singularity of financial capital; when it comes to moving money around my people shall want for nothing.

Nemesopolis being a haven of liberty also as a corollary means it’s a haven of permissionless innovation. In San Francisco it’s been proposed that any new technology or innovation be presumptively prohibited from using public streets or spaces; Nemesopolitans reject such ideas for the horrifying emanation of stagnationism they are, and welcome new technologies and innovations in their country’s spaces. The full power of nuclear reactors, for example, is embraced for electricity generation. The culture of fear has no home in my country.

Now we come to another piece of my dream country; it has a startup ecosystem and a high technology industry similar to today’s Silicon Valley in scale and global import. Yes, Nemesopolis would be the hub of the global “tech industry”.

Scientific research also has a home in my country, a refuge where it can be pursued freely. My ideal country has a large concentration of scientists and academics, a haven of white-coated laboratory and latte-sipping coffee-salon types. Coffee will be as important as in today’s Cascadia and Alaska, only with a heavier focus on outdoor cafes.

A Beautiful Cultured City-State

Above all my dream country will be beautiful, with all buildings being designed in aesthetic styles consistent with timeless beauty. I want it to be as wholesome as the most old-timey and well-loved bits of Paris, Tuscany, or (and this might be a better analogue) Saint Petersburg.

High culture will be emphasized in Nemesopolis; an abundance of opera houses, opera companies, ballet companies, ballroom dance balls, classical orchestras, symphony halls, museums, and art galleries will be provided for citizens and visitors alike to enjoy. Every night I want all of these venues to have something going on, something a cute girl can giddily anticipate being taken out to.

My dream country is also a center of popular culture, a global hub of the filmmaking and performing arts industries in general, a place where actors and models strut about on their way to their shoots or their next audition. Basically I want not just Silicon Valley and the City of London but also Hollywood to be in my dream country.

Old World Beauty, New World Abundance and Possibility

I want Old World beauty and class but with New World senses of possibility. Costs of living will be low, helped along by there being no taxes and little regulation. Infrastructure will be abundant.

Unlike the Old World there will be no narrow medieval streets, only wide modern streets. Like wide enough for six lanes of traffic if not more, with sidewalks ten times wider than American standards, plus a wide space for outdoor cafes and the like. Think the Parisian boulevards, only with every street in the city being like that. The pavement will be stone, for true traffic calming; speed bumps and humps are prohibited!

A Dream of Road and Rail

Also prohibited are traffic lights. And stop signs. There are only roundabouts and yield signs in Nemesopolis. There are no numerical speed limits either; mere speeding is not an offense.

In addition, the roadways are abundant, with my country ensuring the complete elimination of traffic congestion. Even if there’s a massive accident on the road traffic should flow freely at the road’s design speed, no matter what time of day or week it is. The standard country road is the 2+1 road, and highways are upgraded to freeway very aggressively. All highways are designed to accommodate the best speeds modern cars can reach, currently 260 mph.

In addition, in urban areas freeways traverse underground tunnels, offramps and onramps connecting to underground parking garages. This obviates the need for cars to traverse pedestrian-strewn city streets and boulevards, and should even without prohibitions of car traffic get rid of most (surface) automobile traffic inside the cities.

Roadways won’t be the only game in town, though. Additional tunnels will carry subway trains in the cities, and railways will connect every location of consequence, all very picturesque, minimizing disturbances to the natural environment, seeking to enhance rather than detract aesthetically. I envision a whole network of roads through scenic environments designed solely for pleasure driving, much like was done in the New Deal with e.g. the Natchez Trace Parkway, and complementary to this will be railways designed solely for pleasure riding.

My Country’s Geography

Last but not least I’d want my dream country to be nestled in a site of great natural beauty, with a pleasant northern climate. White nights will grace summers where warm air caresses the skin by day and cool air flows into one’s windows by night; golden-hour noons will grace winters filled with fluffy snowfall that stays on the ground for the whole season.

I’d want my dream country to have access to the open ocean, with plenty of beautiful beaches, and also have an abundance of big tall mountains, all the better to site an abundance of ski resorts.

For future development I’d want plenty of room in terms of the land area to site a megacity and a good-sized hinterland. Suddenly it’s not sounding much like Monaco or Liechtenstein anymore, but rather something much more like a city-state.

South Central Alaska: the ideal Place?

As for real-world locations that fit this description, South Central Alaska is honestly one of the best fits, if not the best fit. So I would nominate for my dream country the entirety of the Cook Inlet Watershed, highlighted on this detail of a map of North American watersheds:

Ah, such a nice little place for a country, isn’t it? Except it’s actually not that little. The area delimited by the black border is actually comparable in size to South Korea and Hungary, both of them decent-sized countries, far larger than a micro-state like Monaco!

Still, I think I’d take it. It has everything I’d want geographically. It seems to be quite defensible too, and in addition to beach and ski resort areas it includes most of the Denali area, the border intersecting with the very summit of Denali! How cool is that?

The Matnanuska-Susitna Valley is good farmland (meaning fresh food!), and even well-known for producing some of the largest crops in the world, a product of those wonderfully long, warm days in the summer.

In the Cook Inlet and offshore there are even large oil and natural gas fields, which if nationalized from the get-go would explain how the Nemesopolitan Sovereign Wealth Fund got its start. Just think, I could be something like the Qatar or Saudi Arabia of the North!

Alaska, the real Center of the World?

Anchorage, the primary city in the region today, is home to a great harbor for cargo ships, and although it’s not exactly a huge center for passenger traffic is home to the fourth-busiest cargo airport in the entire world as of 2019. This is because it’s within a decent-length flight to almost everywhere in the world except for the most remote regions; believe it or not Alaska is roughly 5000 miles from most everywhere worth traveling to, and is centrally located on the global stage. I expect my citizens would take heavy advantage of that.

A city of the magnitude I’m wanting to create would have a population of at least several million, quite possibly reaching the 10 million mark required to become a full-fledged mega-city, so my airport could expand to truly monstrous proportions, perhaps becoming one of the busiest passenger airports in the world too.

Where Anchorage is now is the obvious site for a city, so I imagine my primary city is located there, with most of the more built-up part of present-day Anchorage being covered with skyscrapers, only the most beautiful ones a la the Chrysler Building, not those hideous glass boxes. I honestly don’t think there would be much in the way of true suburbs; the easy high-speed transportation means people can sprawl out into acreages instead of quarter-acre tracts, an opportunity most people would take if they had the chance. Cottages and log cabins would spread every thousand feet or so clear across the Mat-Su Valley and climb up the slopes toward Denali.

A Classical Democracy for our Time

As for the political system, there are no elections in Nemesopolis as in today’s so-called “representative democracies”, but rather sortition and referendum as in the democracies of classical antiquity, most prominently Athens.

Sortition means that the legislature is not elected but rather is randomly selected from among the citizens, serving for a term of one year. This ensures a perfectly representative body, eliminating the election process’s bias toward the rich and powerful. Referendum of course is familiar to modern audiences, but specifically my ideal country has a robust citizens’ initiative process a la Switzerland; every year, in tandem with the sortition process, citizens have the opportunity to vote on a wide variety of ballot initiatives.

The executive branch is led by a national council a la Switzerland (and some American states with a “plural executive”) and serves at the pleasure of the legislature, up to a maximum term of one year. Yes, Nemesopolis is a parliamentary system, one that prizes rotation in office.

The judicial branch is independent but is also selected by sortition, in the form of large juries which are required to be convened for every trial. As in ancient Athens they assemble, hear the arguments from the defense and prosecution, and vote on whether to find the defendant guilty. If guilt is found the defense and prosecution each propose a sentence, which is then voted on by the jury; since juries are large, usually hundreds of people, deliberation on sentencing is impractical.

Criminal law is folded into the civil justice system, and thus once again as in ancient Athens there is no distinction between the two; prosecutions are victim-directed and controlled, without the nonsense about the true victim of crime being the state. Given the costly and inhumane nature of imprisonment, prison is not employed as a punishment in my country. Rather, the options are fines, full or partial expropriation, exile from the country, corporal punishment, or death, the latter reserved for government officials guilty of political crimes. As a rule any offense committed under color of law carries double the punishment it ordinarily would.

And such offenses are taken very seriously. Unlike some other less civilized countries, Nemesopolis follows the Athenian doctrine of making the sponsorship of an unconstitutional bill a criminal offense. If the bill is passed into law a finding of guilt against the sponsor strikes down the law. Making false promises in the course of a political campaign is also a criminal offense.

In ancient Athens these juries provided real judicial review; despite being selected from the same pool of people using the same method (sortition) as the legislature, their juries struck down laws as unconstitutional at ten times the rate the American Supreme Court does today. Given that my country’s constitution would be very strict compared to even the Athenian constitution I expect the rate to be even higher in my country.

Though the political culture won’t permit any serious incursions on individual liberty; for example, lockdowns, mask mandates, and other pandemic restrictions would have passed my country by. Indeed, we’d probably be seeing unprecedented population growth in absolute terms in 2020 and 2021.

My Country, a Rogue State?

That same commitment to individual liberty means international trade restrictions are practically non-existent, and Nemesopolis doesn’t participate in sanctions programs. Thus close relations likely exist between my country and the “Axis of the Sanctioned”, places like Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela, but we’d also want to maintain good relations with the “International Community”. A tightrope, but some countries manage to walk it even today; much like Saudi Arabia I imagine my country’s great wealth will act as a shield against any real scrutiny.

The great powers might nurse various grudges against my country for not complying with their plans, so national defense would be a priority. First of all, the population is encouraged to be armed to the teeth with military-grade weaponry, and my dream country has a core regular military consisting of elite special-forces commandos, plus a world-class cyber-warfare branch, and a full-fledged nuclear arsenal. In addition to all that there is also plenty of money available to hire mercenaries if needed.

Though I might not need to look very far; given the “free port” nature of the country it will prove a safe haven for mercenaries around the world to operate from, so most likely my country would be exporting mercenaries most of the time.

Hmm…I’m starting to get the feeling that Nemesopolis would be a rogue state, albeit given its wealth and influence not one that’s ever cracked down upon much. As If I’m after rogue-state bonus points, banks in my country are mandated to full secrecy a la traditional Swiss practice. Even stricter, in fact, because at least in Switzerland not paying taxes is a minor offense, but in my country it’s not an offense at all since there are no taxes, making piercing bank secrecy even more difficult (impossible?).

The cryptocurrency industry, which is even more effective at financial privacy than even the most secretive traditional banks, enjoys a safe haven in my country. As if that isn’t enough pirate cred, literal copyright piracy would also enjoy something of a safe haven, as in my country recovery of provable damages from copyright infringement is the only penalty permitted. A blanket fine is not imposed, let alone criminal penalties.

For bonus pirate points there are no prohibitions or particular restrictions on drugs, so if you want to get antibiotics, steroids, opioids, whatever you want, you can just buy it off the shelf of a store without a prescription, kind of like the civilized world itself circa 1900. If the risks are disclosed experimental medicines and interventions may also be taken (remember, it’s a haven for scientific research), so ironically, considering its absolute resistance to anything like vaccine passports or lockdowns, my country would have been the first place in the world the COVID-19 vaccine became available, and would likely have led the world in vaccination rates for a time.

The Demographics of my Country

Eh, enough about being a based free state so free it would be a bona fide rogue state. The last question I’d like to address is what would its culture be like? Obviously it’s cosmopolitan and a very global city, but that covers a multitude of possibilities.

As is probably already clear I would want the predominant cultural base to be Western, but with ample diversity from all over the world, people who have retained their own national identity and cultural traditions under an overarching multinationalist city spirit. East Asia, South Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, Europe, and everywhere in between would be represented in large numbers.

I envision white European types being the largest single group, but with that much diversity I think they’d be somewhat short of an absolute majority of the population. The largest single nationality may well be Russians, and I’d like East Slavs in general to be overrepresented. I’d also like there to be a strong French influence though, much like in New Orleans, and French-Canadian too. A large German population would be good too.

Hmm…come to think of it the Anchorage area may well be a good place to site such a city-state. Indeed, the whole demographic situation comes off much like how Anchorage itself might have developed in an alternate history, and who knows: Alaska someday may well become some hardcore libertarian stronghold with demographics, economics, and culture that answer to this general description.

Conclusion

In any case it’s at least a theoretical possibility, and there is of course a lot more to my ideal country than this, depending on how utopian I want to make it, but this post about sums up what I’d want if I had the opportunity and the mandate to have a state along the same lines as a modern-day small country.

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