How to Start Your Own Country
BY AVA WONG '23
In a time of conflict on both domestic and global fronts, we’ve all speculated that there must be a better way to govern. Perhaps you’ve envisioned moving to Canada to escape government dysfunction. But have you ever considered making your own utopia, a country without conflict? This may seem impossible in a world where every country is sullied with issues, so it’s crucial that you address the prevalent problems in your current country first. While founding a country is not difficult, it only obtains official status when others acknowledge and respect your boundaries.
Why start your own country?
Whether you’ve lost faith in your country’s leaders or democracy in general, you must understand your motivation for creating a new country before declaring independence. Most countries are founded on a combination of reasons, including economic, political, and philosophical beliefs. For example, citizens of the soon-to-be United States were tired of overtaxation under British rule and felt capable of establishing their own government. In communities with strong nationalist sentiments or a distinct culture that is being suppressed, independence becomes the next logical step.
On the other hand, perhaps you want to start your own country because your current government is failing to take care of its citizens. While declaring yourself an independent country is a radical form of political dissent, your initiative could topple regimes and bring forth a new nation. Before taking that step, though, consider two things: what you will improve in your new country, and how you will implement these new standards.
New countries must set clear territorial boundaries for other countries to recognize. The more defined and protected your boundaries are, the stronger your country will be. The de facto guide to starting your own country is the Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States, which states that a prospective country must have a defined territory—including a capital, provinces, and states—and a clear leader with governing abilities. To be a country, you must first have physical land to plant your flag in. Traditionally, there are three ways of acquiring territory: conquering, buying, or signing treaties. Conquering or buying countries isn't very successful nowadays; the United Nations frowns upon conquest, and buying a country requires some seriously deep pockets. Instead, you might be able to found a country through a treaty or legislative loophole—undefined territory from treaties or annexation often provide the foundation to becoming a country.
Interestingly, a country’s characteristics have evolved with technological advances. Seasteading Institute, for instance, takes a more sci-fi approach to country-making by striving to make elevated platforms in the ocean that will become autonomous nations, free from rules like gun control and building regulations. When anyone can build a country with their own two hands, how does this affect nations that battled for independence? At what point will the world take these manufactured countries seriously?
The final, most important step of starting a country is recognition. Sovereignty is subjective to both perspective and politics, so the fastest way to befriend other nations is to join their club: the United Nations. The application process is simple; you fill out your claim like a resume, proving that you can meet all of the requirements in the Convention on Rights and Duties of States. And, like a job application, it doesn’t hurt to have some references—without the international community’s support, your application could be blocked. One rejection factor is your country’s government type, so know that democracy is your ticket in. You’ll quickly gain other countries’ support, as playing the benevolent patriarch will boost their reputation. Emulating socialist and communist countries proves much tougher; you would have to demonstrate your worth in diplomatic and economic relationships to join the UN. If your country contains rich natural resources or is industrially successful, many nations would rather have you as an ally, regardless of your government style.
Recognition requires a balance between posing enough of a threat (economic, political, or military) and cooperating with other nations. Much like the US, being an international superpower deters other nations from crossing you; however, aggressive policies could lose the UN’s favor. Without the UN’s support, another country could replace you in the international hierarchy.
Starting your own country is fairly straightforward, but you must balance independence and international relations to succeed. People have long idolized utopian societies, but historical failures and the present’s evolving nature have demonstrated that nothing can be achieved without compromise. Both a strong individualistic attitude and a willingness to collaborate will prove necessary to create your own utopia.