How to Start Your Own Country: Erwin S. Strauss

In case you weren’t aware, part of my brain is occupied with ruling a small country. With an iron glove. That part of my brain has no mercy and is hellbent on taking over the world. Normally, it takes what it wants by force, but since the force method has still not resulted in me taking over the world, it seemed prudent to take a look at other approaches.

Enter How to Start Your Own Country. My dictatorial self was roadblocked in a way, with so many obstacles blocking her path to world domination. But Erwin Strauss opened up some previously unconsidered options. For that alone, this book was worth the cost. And it was a gift! So it basically paid me! Triple win!

At first glance, you might think that Strauss is being sarcastic, kidding around, because, wow, starting a country in this day and age, but even a casual reader can easily see that this is serious business. This guy is not messing around. He even provides a thorough and detailed appendix, which might be more useful for the potential totalitarian if it had been compiled with the existence of the Internet in mind. As is, it is full of mailing addresses that appear to no longer be what they were. And yes, I checked.

The first part of the book details what Strauss believes to be the five methods to new country-dom: traditional sovereignty, ship under flag of convenience, litigation, vonu (out of sight, out of mind) and model country. He even includes a handy chart measuring the five approaches against each other in terms of costs and benefits. As you might expect, traditional sovereignty rates high for both, and the model country (i.e., declare yourself a country without causing too much fuss for your nation of birth) rates low for both. A model country doesn’t give you a lot in the way of ego, but it doesn’t really cause you any trouble either. Obviously.

The second part of the book is taken up with case studies, examinations of various new country projects. A thing I learned from reading this book: there are new country activists. Or at least there were in 1979 when this book was first published. (The copyright page indicates that it was last updated in 1999, but the lack of any reference to the modern world makes me doubt this. As far as this book is concerned, the world appears to have ended in 1983.) These people are working hard to make new countries in the face of large established countries, and apparently meeting with little success, judging from the case studies section. But everything has to be taken with a grain of salt. After all, Rhodesia is in the spotlight in one case history.

If you are aspiring to real power, this is probably not the book for you. But if you are looking to pretend to a throne without any real confrontation, How to Start Your Own Country  is filled with helpful advice, such as:

But within these limits there is much that can be done. You can design and fly your own flag. Lawyers are notoriously soft touches for fancy-looking certificates to hang on their walls, so for a price you can admit them to practice before the bar in your country. Doctors can be licensed to practice medicine. You can issue your own passports, and stamp your own visas and entry and exit notices in other people’s passports whatever nationality.

All hot tips for anyone who wants to rule a domain without real consequences!

Strauss lays out the possibilities for each new country scenario with almost bureaucratic thoroughness. Pros and cons are given clearly and concisely. Model country: freedom to do what you want, but with no results; traditional sovereignty: you need an army, get to it. Potential country starters are clear on what the what is right from the start. The real strength of this book is the thoroughness and the serious tone. This man is in no way making fun of people who want to start their own country. He is one hundred percent behind them and is eager to hear of new ventures so that he can report them to give hope to the other new country activists.

If you have been feeling oppressed and unheard (and if you are leftist and in Canada, I know you are), Strauss offers up a variety of ways to take control of your life. Most of the proposals involve an exorbitant amount of money or loss of life, though, so you might want to pick and choose when reading this one.


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