This is a review of Dr. Balaji Srinivasan’s How to Start a New Country .
Until the pandemic we underestimated how the web can connect humans with similar ideas from dissimilar backgrounds. In 12 months humans realized we can start companies, hire and coordinate workforce over the web. We learned we can choose between the city and countryside while still keeping our jobs because digital is no longer distant. We learned it longer makes a difference if we work together in an office provided we share the same vision and remain connected with the “Work’s Network”. We started Clubhouse rooms, Substack newsletters, Twitter threads, joined relatable Subreddits to talk and write about issues we’re genuinely curious about. We learned we are creators. The result of this was a proliferation of networks. We created individual networks with people from far away lands and diverse ethnicities that share similar interests. We learned how to forge a new social circle with the people in our network. We found our Tribes.
If web3 through crypto reshaped our idea of money and art, can the same be done with countries?
Dr. Balaji’s essay proposes this is possible by starting with a digital community/network rather than a physical territory. Following this perspective, a Minimum Viable Country is propagated on the decentralized web and spread to dispersed enclaves worldwide.
Why Should We Build A New Country?
The reasons stated in the essay for starting a new country are plausible. The desire to have a fresh start, build something from ground up. Avoidance of fighting for scarce resources was also a reason explained in the essay. The initial reason appeals to the adventurous crowd who fancy the startup life. The latter is inclined towards individuals with foresight who understand that uncovering and harnessing untapped resources are ideal ways to evade the current tussle for scarce resources.
However, these reasons may create the unintended feeling that starting a new country is an indulgent quest. The Unadventurous is comfortable with the state of things and considers it foolhardy to build a new country. A Diplomat believes governments need to take better steps to harness resources and make them abundant for all. Both personas view starting a new country as an unnecessary venture.
Building a new country isn’t a superficial reach for luxury. It’s a necessary venture that should be embarked on if the human species will continue existing and replenishing. Matt Ridley in his book, How Innovation Works, complained about how we live in “Innovation Famine”, not “Innovation Feast”. The only way 7 billion people can live on earth comfortably and sustainably is through continuous innovation as well as modification of the environment.
Why then is it necessary we start a new country?
- Disparate Interests
Silicon Valley has been the hub of innovation for a long time because it’s the place where like-minded individuals from diverse ethnicities converge to build. For some of these individuals, it was a difference in interest with the people of their birth country and a search for better opportunities that prompted migration.
It’s absolutely okay if your interests don’t align with the consensus of your birth nation, though this doesn’t make the interests of the consensus bad (sometimes). For this reason, you can migrate to find like-minded fellows where you don’t feel out of place. Citizenship by aligned interests is better than citizenship by birth. You get to be in your element and willingly contribute your quota where there are like-minded people developing ideas or tools that can facilitate a rapid manifestation of your ideas. The intersection created by this network effect is seamless and powerful.
- Hostile Government Regulations
The world has government with uncongenial approaches to innovation. This has created a profound hindrance to technological advancement. Unfortunate builders in countries with hostile government can’t innovate freely. They experience externally imposed Creativity Block.
I’ve been wondering, what if this is the reason the human species haven’t advanced enough? What if this is why we can’t find solutions to common daily problems like distribution? A species who took over 30 years to distribute Polio vaccines worldwide will definitely be unable to figure out the distribution of COVID vaccines in months. And we conceal our inadequacies as higher animals by playing the ethnicity card, introducing terms like “Endemic”.
For earth and humanity’s sake, is it appropriate that innovation is geographically dependent and concentrated, instead of distributed? How faster will the human species advance if diverse people at different locations are able to freely build solutions for the world’s problems? Can we create a country that’s immune to the politicking and bureaucracy of hostile governments?
These are the proponents of Dr. Balaji’s essay on why it’s necessary we start a new country.
Why Start A New Country From The Cloud?
In the essay, Dr. Balaji elucidated why the cloud is the ideal starting point for a new country by stating the known conventional and unconventional ways in which countries are created. By doing this, the drawbacks of these conventional (election, revolution, war) and unconventional (micronations, seasteading, space) approaches come to light when juxtaposed with the cloud method.
An apparent advantage the cloud approach has over conventional and unconventional is cost. Elections have the propensity of escalating into revolutions and wars which come at the cost of life. Micronations are capable of sowing a seed of discord among neighboring states eventually leading to wars at the cost of life and peace. Although the cost of cruise ships has recently dropped, the logistics and startup cost (monetary terms) of sea colonies can’t be easily ignored. Same goes for space and Mars colonies. The web country seems to be the cheapest approach to building a new country as it can be started without wars and with relatively less fees. It has a bootstrapping outlook where there’s prioritization of people over territories and physical structures.
Cryptocurrency being digital first and paper/metal void makes it impossible to be decimated by any government or individual. A country headquartered in the decentralized web is invariably decimation-proof as the assets of that country are backed on-chain, not on land. This is an advantage over the conventional/unconventional countries which are territory first and have their assets existing in physical locations. Although a cloud country should someday have enclaves as physical locations, DeFi insurance practices means the value of these enclaves are protected and reproducible in any new locations if attacked.
The creation of most conventional countries is rooted in race and ethnicity. This is why restrictions on migration are in place and cultural integration is somewhat impossible. By being digital first, a web country is immune to the constraints of migration and open to people from any ethnical background. Shared interests and individual willingness to contribute value to the realization of these interests create a network which becomes the root of a cloud country.
It’s foundationally important that interested members of the proposed cloud country roll out content regularly even before inception. Blog posts, infographics, essays, videos (long and short form) and various forms of content should be leveraged by every member to tell our narrative. This helps us achieve 3 things:
- Offers clear insights to the public of the humane and environmental upsides of our venture.
- Convinces more like-minded individuals to come on board.
- Prevents distribution of a wrong and negative narrative from entities who don’t see the bigger picture of what we’re up to.
In addition, issuance of an immutable form of identification should be undertaken as it is pertinent that every member has a certificate of citizenship, like a passport. Once every member has been certified, it’s time to build.
During the formative periods, the Cloud country is makers first and every citizen must contribute to the realization of a shared interest. Every citizen should be able to build with strategy, funds, media, design, code, atoms, mechanics, and/or substances. Cohorts can be formed with respect to aligned project interests/ideas and complementary capabilities of citizens. Each cohort will be a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO), owned by its citizen makers and build products that are beneficial for the cloud country as well as the entire world. Yes, the whole world! While we want to carve out a country for ourselves, we don’t want to shut off trading our products with the rest of the world. The activities of global trade contribute to the wealth of countries.
The goal in the formative periods should be to grow the GDP of the cloud country by generating economic activities within the country and with the rest of the world through our products. To achieve this, we must build products that aren’t only beneficial to us, but of great value to the rest of the world. The result of this is our network getting known globally as an entity for contributions made to the advancement of the world. This game changer can unlock lots of positives for our country, even beyond being able to acquire land.
Article 1 of the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of a State, a state should possess 4 qualifications:
- A permanent population
- A defined territory
- The capacity to enter relations with other states.
One might conclude a cloud country doesn’t meet these requirements on a scale of tangibility. Taking a cue from how the internet reshapes tangibility by making the potency of digital footprints parallel with physical footprints, we realize a cloud country is a State even before the acquisition of physical territories. Now let’s review the cloud country based on the Montevideo Convention:
- Permanent population: Our immutable form of identity gives accurate information on our numbers.
- Defined territory: Our impregnable network on the decentralized web.
- Government: DAOs formed by different cohorts confers self-determination and collective coordination as they’ll be interconnected with each other.
- Inter-state relations: Trading of our products with other states.
Presently, these may be considered radical, but legacy institutions have learned that they have to eventually keep up or get left behind. Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan are keeping up with Bitcoin. Christie’s and NYSE are keeping up with NFTs. Over time the UN will keep up when we stamp our footprint on the global scene. For now, let’s live in the clouds and buidl from there 😁