Building the Open Source Country
Building the Open Source Country
July 22, 2014
I think I figured out how to build a new country.
Let’s say the country is a human-made island in some hospitable ocean, formed by lots of floating platforms so it can grow and rearrange itself as needed. That solves most of your climate-change risks because the entire nation can navigate slowly to the best ocean climates.
We’d start the project by creating some sort of open source wiki platform in which people can contribute designs and ideas. The subjects would be organized by function:
1. Governance structure
6. Optimal living space design
7. Food (grow our own)
9. Immigration laws (getting the right talent)
10. Fresh water
12. Crime fighting
We’d need some sort of voting system or panel of experts to pick the best of the competing ideas, and to know when there is a complete plan worthy of building. We might also need to run simulations and trials of each system before making decisions.
Once the plan is sufficiently complete, we go for funding. The floating country would be designed to scale up easily, so Version 1.0 need not be terribly large. Fifty billion dollars should get things going.
The nation would be organized from the start as more of a business than a country, but with extraordinary transparency. Common services would be paid by national profits instead of taxation. And if things are done right, there should be enough profit left over for the investors.
I imagine the island country getting into insurance, software, banking, Internet start-ups, and other industries that don’t require physical production of goods.
A big part of making the new country work would involve recruiting the right kind of residents. I would suggest picking only applicants that have some minimum level of training and talent. For example, let’s say that if you are qualified for any three useful skills, you’re in, even if you don’t plan to use any of the skills. I figure that anyone who has three skills is a learner who will find a way to be productive.
The cost of living on the island nation would be the lowest of anywhere on Earth, while providing the highest quality of life. The island wouldn’t be built until the design had a high chance of achieving both goals.
The government – which would be more like a corporation – would handle banking, insurance, and healthcare. If you start from scratch to design those systems they could be simple and efficient.
Consider banking. All money on the island would be digital and controlled by your phone. No more wallet and cards. And there would be no banking fees because the residents control the bank, not the other way around.
Once all money is digital, your company accounting is done automatically. And there would be no tax code to worry about because there would be no taxes.
There would still be lawyers on the island, but it would be illegal to use “legalese” in documents and it would be illegal to have agreements longer than one page. All common agreements would be online and free.
Insurance would no longer be expensive and baffling. All citizens would have the same coverage from the same nationally-owned insurance company. And it would handle everything from injuries to health insurance.
Speaking of health insurance, imagine an island nation that bans tobacco, has exercise facilities near every home and office, and self-driving cars so there are no road injuries. The island would also ban junk food. Fresh fish and vegetables would be grown locally and prepared at central cafeterias that are walking distance from each home. Now imagine everyone has full preventive care and most doctor visits are done online by video. This would be a healthy island.
If you said to yourself, “I would never move to such a restrictive place!” keep in mind that it wouldn’t be built until there were plenty of volunteers who appreciate the tradeoffs. No one is making you go.
Security would be an issue. My suggestion would be to position the new nation as Switzerland of the sea. It wouldn’t have much strategic value because it would be indefensible. Still, it might help to sign some treaties with China and the United States. No one will screw with a nation that has those two allies. And in time there might be common business interests that offer some protection as well.
The great thing about building a country from scratch is that there are no legacy systems. You could, for example, decide to trade privacy for policing. If residents agree to give up privacy, any crime can be solved minutes after it happens. One cop could handle the entire country.
As a resident of your current country, you probably don’t want to give up any privacy. But keep in mind that in the new nation it is unlikely that any of your dirty secrets would be illegal or disapproved. You could smoke a joint on the way to your same-sex massage with a happy ending and no one would care. Privacy doesn’t matter so much when you don’t have any reason to hide your behavior.
You can find lots to disagree with in the details of this plan. The main proposition here is that a crowd effort could design a floating nation that would avoid the legacy systems of current nations and be the best place on Earth to live.
The new nation would treat every system as a trial. If the first thing doesn’t work, you scrap it and try a new thing. Over time, the nation would develop a set of best practices for everything from desalinization to banking, and that knowledge can be sold to existing countries. The island nation would be the world’s test bed.
I think it would take twenty years to design the country if we started today, and another fifteen years to build it. Does it seem feasible to you?
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com
Author of this book