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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
2.    Privacy
3.    Sewage
4.    Power
5.    Internet
6.    Optimal living space design
7.    Food (grow our own)
8.    Defense
9.    Immigration laws (getting the right talent)
10.  Fresh water
11.  Transportation
12.  Crime fighting
13.  Healthcare
14.  Education
15.  Etc.

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?

________________________________________________________
Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of this book

 



 

 
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Jul 25, 2014
Scott, that's an old idea from Peter Thiel (that guy from Paypal)

http://inhabitat.com/paypal-founder-invests-1-25-million-to-create-floating-micro-countries/
http://www.seasteading.org/

Check it out
 
 
Jul 25, 2014
One issue that engineers consider but frequently gets overlooked by the general public is robustness. Yes many of the solutions proposed are more efficient, but they are significantly less robust. We can fall back on using cash when there is a problem with the credit card system.

Also I think there would need to be considerable thought as to how to elect corporate leadership, otherwise it will run into many of the same traps that land based countries.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 24, 2014
Why can't everybody be just like me . . . ? :-)
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 24, 2014
Scott: "Common services would be paid by national profits instead of taxation."
This seems to be a bit of handwaving.

Could you please rename "15. Etc." to "figuring out the economic system"?
If you have companies you have profits. If you have exports you have income.
If you pay different people different wages you have rich and poor. Where, how and why do you limit wealth and income differences? And please remember that services like health care do have a monetary equivalent.

You say "no taxes but profit sharing". Whose profits get taken away in order to pay for this and why is this not taxation?

I have no problems with taxes. Only, given the fairly general wikipedia definition as "... a financial charge or other levy imposed upon a taxpayer (an individual or legal entity) by a state or the functional equivalent of a state ...", I wonder what you have in mind. "Profit sharing" means tax to me as it means charging some !$%*!$%* to pay others.
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 24, 2014
I don't see how this Utopia is any different than every other ever dreamed up.

You can use the word "wiki" if you like, but how would the "best" ideas be selected? "[...some sort of voting system or panel of experts]" -- isn't that what we have in the U.S? We can name plenty of problems with it, but how is yours going to better? You solve one problem; you create more.

While simulations are great for certain things, they rarely represent what happens in human societies.

No taxes, no banking fees, etc: then how is the system paid for? Profits from nationalized services. Look around; governments are not generally very good at efficiency and profits. The only times they make profits are from rent-seeking -- which is not a benefit to society, but a cost.

Why do you think this island's health care system will be "simple and efficient?" The U.S. just designed a nationalized health care law from scratch that's thousands of pages. Of course there were constituencies and politicians. But there always are - unless you have a dictatorship.

How is this idea different than the Bolsheviks'?
 
 
Jul 24, 2014
[Marijuana's death total for all of recorded history still stands at zero]

You sure about that? I mean, not a big fan of banning marijuana, but if someone in the USA dies from lung cancer that will likely be attributed to tobacco even if the guy was smoking joints instead. And I find it hard to believe, with all the alcohol-related traffic deaths out there, that there aren't any weed related traffic deaths, or that there wont be more when weed is legalized. Not saying all this to discourage weed legalization, just keeping you honest.
 
 
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 24, 2014
Sounds awful. A place where Scott gets to dictate his views on diet, lifestyle, etc. The trouble with expecting everything to be Perfect-via.-Planning(tm) is that you can only ever be disappointed by the results. There's no room left over to be pleasantly surprised.

PS: Don't rich people already do everything you describe? They call them "yachts". Maybe you should look into that instead of building Dilbert-shaped houses.

 
 
Jul 23, 2014
Scott; like the 'data model' you try to use.

Re: New Haven, your floating city, I have a viewpoint which will be different from most, as I am a 'cross-over' culturally and intellectually.

My friends ALL went to MIT, etc and are neurosurgeons, physicists, lawyers; you get the drift.

I wanted to write like Melville and Co, so I chose a 'real' life and became a Carpenter. I capitalize that to remind everyone that the two oldest (and therefore most honorable) professions include Carpentry (the other being Prostitution).

Anyway, having a measured I.Q. higher than most (but sadly lacking in native common sense), and having chosen to work 'in the mud' with Common Man, I can tell you that things in any Utopia will be sadly perverted if the jobs we see as 'menial' are considered so in Utopia.

It is true (largely due to the degradation of Labor to insure low wages) that few people with measurably high I.Q.s go into the trades, it is even more true that a Master Builder has to be brighter and have better critical thinking skills than most other professionals. This is why there are no 'master builders' anymore, other than me.

This also brings up the question of 'measurable' intelligence. I know a lot of people (because of my association with the Commoner) who possess a lower I.Q. (anywhere from 60 to 120) who have some of the important keys to living and are extremely valuable in the community.

So my question is, Mr Data (meant to be flattering); do you intend to keep us out, or let us in?
Keep in mind that I will be writing about this some time soon, having lived my wonderful Melville-like life and ready now to harpoon my unwary quarry, 'intelligent' monkeys (and by that, 'oh best beloved', I mean you !).
 
 
Jul 23, 2014
aaror2, you are correct. I made the assumption that, in Scott's Utopian island, individual ownership of weapons would not be allowed. While that may have been an assumption, I would be willing to bet that it is correct.

Scott did mention defense. But generally, 'defense' is considered to be a military for use in protecting the nation-state rather for police-type protection. He also included 'crime-fighting,' but again, the police can't be everywhere. The best defense for a population is not restricting that population's ability to defend itself.

There are many views on gun ownership, and many different ways to address the issue. Switzerland, for example, requires all men to undergo military/militia training, and all must have a weapon in their possession (although since 2007, they don't have any ammunition provided).

Look at Michigan. In 2001, it became a "shall issue" state, which means that, barring any legal reason not to issue a concealed-carry permit, if you request a CC permit, you get one. Critics wailed and screamed that the change would cause a bloodbath in the streets. According to the Detroit Free Press, Michigan's prosecuting attorneys' office led the charge against passing the law. Today, one of those prosecutors, Ronald Schafer, said "It's hard to remember what the fuss was about."

In 2012, Detroit had the highest murder rate of any US city. Detroit's police chief, James Craig, has said that in order to lower the crime rate, the city should issue more concealed carry permits. According to the Detroit News, Chief Craig said increased gun ownership has already shown results. He noted that in 2014 versus 2013, Detroit has seen (per capita) 37 percent fewer robberies, 22 percent fewer break-ins, and 30 percent fewer carjackings. He attributed the drop to both better police work, and "criminals being reluctant to prey on citizens who may be carrying guns." It is clear that he believes that armed citizens defer crimes.

Back to Scott's island. There are two 'best defenses' against being invaded: have a really strong military, or don't have anything anyone wants. In Scott's case, his society wouldn't have enough money to hire an effective military. Since he said his citizens would have the highest standard of living in the world, they would have a lot of stuff that miscreants would want.

So. No effective military, and lots of goodies waiting to be plundered. Perhaps, but most likely, no individual firearms ownership. See where I was going with this? It's a beeyatch when reality intersects with Utopian philosophy.

As to the second amendment: Some argue that the use of the term 'militia' in that section means that only militia members, as you proposed, should be allowed to own firearms. This has not been borne out in the courts' reviews of the right. Let me explain, briefly, why I think that is.

The founders were very precise in their use of the language. Here is the text of the second amendment: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Now, had the founders truly meant only to allow militia members to own firearms, here's roughly how they would have worded it: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the States to organize and keep armed militias, shall not be infringed."

As an aside, it should be noted that even if we didn't have a second amendment, the federal government has no enumerated power in the Constitution to prevent individual weapons ownership.
 
 
Jul 23, 2014
No smoking and no junk food, and you call that the best quality of life? Am I missing something here?
 
 
+16 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 23, 2014
Scott, many times you have floated the concept that removing privacy would solve a myriad of problems. When are you going to prove the concept?

I suggest enabling the following changes in your personal lifestyle for a month just as an experiment:

1.) 24 hour camera coverage, with a live feed to the net.
2.) A list online of all monetary transactions.
3.) Results of all medical tests.
4.) A full disclosure of every proprietary project you have in the works, including the draft text of your future books.

Since you live in a restrictive country, you would be allowed to turn off the cameras if you wanted to do something illegal, and could excise payments to prostitutes, drug dealers, hit men and the like from the financial records.

What do you think?
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 23, 2014
Sign me up. I have at least 3 skills. One moderate tech problem to solve would be the ability to anchor properly. The ocean is plenty deep in International waters and giant float platforms might not be so great when conditions get bad as they are won't to do.
 
 
Jul 23, 2014
What happens if Wally is in charge of sewage?

That could stink.

 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 23, 2014
I don't get this. Isn't what you described basically just a ship?

It may be in international waters, but that doesn't make it a country.
 
 
+10 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 23, 2014
So you can smoke a joint but not a cigarette, and the only flesh available for eating is fish.

It's a "NO" from me.

Even though I don't smoke tobacco any more, the hypocrisy of that grinds at me. And I like red meat.
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 22, 2014
@Phantom II, I don't think Scott said anything about outlawing guns. You seem to have just made an assumption there...
Given that objective #8 on his list was defense, I doubt he intended the island to be unarmed. My suspicion would be a few 50 cal machine guns (a variant of the ones made in WW1 that worked so well the Army still uses them today), on mounts aimed outwards, with some sort of lock to prevent any random person from dismounting them and taking them to school. Yes, the right person or people would have the keys if we needed to deal with someone who got past the first line of defense (perhaps by air or sub).
I'd love to see a "full 2nd amendment," rule, basically saying anyone who isn't a felon or insane can be part of the militia, and thus get a free gun (see Israel's successful policy) and free training/range time whenever they want. But if you are not willing to be in the militia, and follow lawful orders from above in the chain of command, you lose that right.
 
 
Jul 22, 2014
[Maybe the best book not written by Scott A. ]

@dilernie, as we all know, the best book that IS written by Scott A is "How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big"
 
 
Jul 22, 2014
"Island" by Thomas Perry. Maybe the best book not written by Scott A.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B0055E6RA8?pc_redir=1403881609&robot_redir=1

Spoiler alert - they become a tax haven, legalize gambling, and have liberal divorce laws. The money flows.

Scott's island sounds a little like Singapore, but with gum instead of cigarettes.

I love it.
 
 
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 22, 2014
The hardest part will be populating the island with non-human humans.

On the question of design, sewage should be #1. As to the timeline, I can see 5 years to design and it had better be floating 3 years after design completion or the technology growth will cause this thing to suffer from exponential requirements creep. Maybe start small with some sort of modular design. Smaller islands connected together.
 
 
Jul 22, 2014
Awesome, when do you start? I have your other blog post in mind where you stated that you spoke to a lot of millionaires and billionaires who are just waiting for the right investment to help society, make a profit and build a legacy. So this is a no-brainer.
 
 
 
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