What would happen if I conquered my own country?
October 4, 2005 11:29 AM   Subscribe

Inspired by a side conversation in this thread, how would I, theoretically, go about conquering and founding my own country? What would be the consequences thereof?

Let's say that I conquer one square foot of land in my neighbor's back yard and call it "FaintofButtLand," an independent nation. The conquest is unchallenged, because my neighbor doesn't know about it. I declare myself undisputed monarch and sole citizen of FaintofButtLand, while still maintaining residence and citizenship (FaintofButtLand recognizes dual citizenship) in the United States. I continue to pay all federal, state and local taxes. What, if anything, could anyone do about this? Could it be taken back by force? Would the United States government have anything worthwhile to say at all? What if I wanted to issue currency? Passports? What if I wanted to extend citizenship to other people? I find myself very curious about this.
posted by Faint of Butt to Law & Government (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Why conquer any land? Create a cyber-nation with your own currency, passports, and citizenship.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:39 AM on October 4, 2005

How to start your own micronation. The subject of a recent BBC TV Series.
posted by brettski at 11:43 AM on October 4, 2005

Teacher: And that's the story of Petoria, a little nation that, 200 years ago seceded and repatriated in less than a week. Any questions?

Student: Yeah, uh, I don't get it. So, like, can the family understand the baby, or... or... What's the deal with that?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:47 AM on October 4, 2005

You might want to look to Sealand for inspiration.
posted by Mr T at 12:05 PM on October 4, 2005

I'm not completely understanding why your example requires your neighbor's land. The interested parties are You, and the United States Government. The neighbor has nothing to do with it. Your example might as well be "Let's say I claim my house as an independent nation..."
posted by odinsdream at 12:10 PM on October 4, 2005

Perhaps you could avoid a war by negotiating for ther purchase of Jarvis Island, Baker Island, the Glorioso Islands, or some other uninhabited place. Bonus: the Glorioso Islands has an airstrip, and they all have a bountiful supply of guano.
posted by leapingsheep at 12:13 PM on October 4, 2005

Your example might as well be "Let's say I claim my house as an independent nation..."

But I'm already in possession of my house. I want the thrill of adventure that only conquest can provide.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:28 PM on October 4, 2005 [1 favorite]

You own the land, but it's still technically part of the United States, and they can take it back from you if they want. To declare any of your land a separate company, you'd have to take it from the US. A large portion of the south tried that a few years ago, and you can see how that worked out for them.

Provided you continued to obey all laws of the US, and paid all of your taxes, I'd imagine that the US would not recognize your claim (nor would any other country). Generally, you'd be considered a crank but not worth worrying about.

I'm not sure how they would respond though. I'm just guessing.
posted by willnot at 12:39 PM on October 4, 2005

I say that MeFi declare its independence, we will selectively conquer and occupy the bar land of our choosing and fly our flag at all meet ups governmental functions.
posted by forforf at 12:49 PM on October 4, 2005

I mean this in a friendly way, but your example is nonsense. If you claimed that a square foot of your neighbor's yard was the Kingdom of Faint-of-Butt, all that would happen is that you would be one of thousands and thousands of harmless cranks.

What, if anything, could anyone do about this?

Why would anyone want to do anything about it, so long as you're not doing anything about it? You're just a harmless goofball, unless you're truing to use your "country" to do something harmful.

Could it be taken back by force?

Sure. If you did something to piss off the Feds, and they tried to make you stop but you maintained your "secession," you'd be committing treason, and cops would come grab you. That can be pretty forceful.

Would the United States government have anything worthwhile to say at all?

Not unless you pissed them off. Then they'd treat you as an ordinary criminal; that's what's happened with the loons who run the "other" Texas that's not part of the US.

If they wanted to be real dicks, they could agree that you'd founded FaintOfButtLand, and that because you were King of FOBL, and high government service in a foreign government is an expatriating act, that you were no longer a US citizen, and then you'd get to go visit your terrorist friends in Guantanamo.

What if I wanted to issue currency?

That would probably violate some sort of federal law, unless it was clearly a joke.


Who on earth would pay attention to it? If you tried to use it, you'd just get hassled by whatever immigration people you were dealing with at the time, as immigration people don't tank kindly to jokes. Not even jokes from harmless cranks.

What if I wanted to extend citizenship to other people?

Nobody would care unless it seemed to be part of a criminal enterprise.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:49 PM on October 4, 2005

Gary Brecher lays out how Tom Clancy could conquer his way to his own Central Asian empire. Hint: Get the CIA on your side.
posted by johngoren at 1:16 PM on October 4, 2005

Fela Kuti, aside from his music, is known for proclaiming his Kalakuta Republic as sovereign territory within Nigeria.
posted by slow, man at 1:36 PM on October 4, 2005

Two schools of thought in international law about how new states are created.

The declaratory theory holds that a new state is created when an entity have (1) a population, (2) a defined territory, (3) a government, and (4) a capacity to enter into relations with other governments. Based on this theory you would easily fail on #1 (it's unoccupied) and #4 (your ability to interact with other states is completely controlled by the US).

The constitutive theory requires the recognition of other states - i.e. some sort of welcome basket from the assembled nations. Once again, I don't imagine any other countries are lining up to recognize you.

The most likely outcome is that absolutely nobody would care, which pretty much kills any aspirations of statehood. And if you tried to visit your state, your neighbour could sue you for trespass.

Best best would be to try to lead some sort of secessionist movement, although the feds probably wouldn't let that get very far. (Try thinking outside of the box - not much scope for change in North America, but I hear the middle east is pretty turbulant right now.)
posted by magwich at 1:37 PM on October 4, 2005

Be careful that you don't end up like this "great" American!
posted by Pollomacho at 1:41 PM on October 4, 2005

There is, of course, the classic work on the subject. Also of interest might be Uninhabited Ocean Islands, by Jon Fisher — and I see Amazon even has a special on the combination.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 3:08 PM on October 4, 2005

Also: Uncle Cecil weighs in.

Generally, the government is not terribly concerned with what you call yourself as long as you don't decide that it means you don't have to pay taxes or obay laws. Then you end with with Waco, or the Minnesota Freemen of Justus Township, or the Isle of Roses (which, despite being an artificially constructed gambling habitat in international waters, Italy decided was a bit too close and blew up).
posted by IshmaelGraves at 3:11 PM on October 4, 2005

As far as I know, what really matters is not international law or theory, but whether other states recognise you as a nation. In the case of Sealand, its owner might have a case under strict interpretations of maritime laws. But no nation in the world has yet recognised Sealand as an actual sovereign nation, so any claim they have of being one is really just a pipe dream at this point.

Your example about claiming a square foot of land in the US is just ridiculous, as others have already pointed out. The government would just place you in their wacko file and ignore you unless you tried to actually stop paying taxes. Much more organized nutjobs in Montana have tried this and failed. At best they are ignored; at worst, their componds are raided and they are shot. The point is a private citizen or a group of private citizens has little chance of actually defending themselves against law enforcement or the military, so the chance of any part of the US seceeding any time soon is nil. They tried that in 1863 and it didn't work out so well.
posted by Rhomboid at 3:41 PM on October 4, 2005

What would the FaintOfButtLand flag look like?
posted by LarryC at 4:35 PM on October 4, 2005

I recommend the cunning use of flags.
posted by Space Kitty at 4:48 PM on October 4, 2005

I recommend (this conversation is entirely hypothetical) getting weapons of mass destruction before declaring your sovereignty and making sure that you hide them in other peoples countries. then all retaliatory strikes from angry governments hit other peoples property.

Alternately, Low earth orbit would be a great place to start a country, the cost of shooting you down would be literally astronomical!
posted by Megafly at 5:56 PM on October 4, 2005

Here's a flag.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 6:14 PM on October 4, 2005


I'd go with FaintOfButtonia or FaintOfButtopia.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:31 PM on October 4, 2005

Nah, you're going about this all wrong. Before you can have a country, you need an army. Magafly is on to something here. First, you build yourself a huge army. Second, you procure some serious weaponry. Third, you seize some land from whatever country you think is least likely to put up a fight. Then, finally, you declare your independence, and tell the rest of the world that they have about five minutes to recognize you before they get blown up. Alternately, you could try to bribe them into recognizing you, particularly if you the land that you conquered has some natural resources (think oil) or cheap labor.
posted by epimorph at 7:25 PM on October 4, 2005

Here's how I'd do it:

1) Select a geographic area.

2) Get the rhetorical and, if possible, monetary support of at least one industrialized nation.

3) Hire a good PR firm.

4) Solicit grass-roots monetary and soldierly support from like-minded individuals.

5) Get lots of weapons.

6) Kill, push out, and/or isolate the current occupants of said geographic area.

7) Declare FaintOfButtLand a legitimate sovereign nation, and apply for UN membership.

8) Ignore/deny the refugee problem you've created.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:32 PM on October 4, 2005

What, if anything, could anyone do about this?

I will raise up an army and shatter your crown.

Actually this is a good idea. I don't think the U.S. military could take you by force, because they aren't allowed to have troops deployed stateside unless we're being invaded (a rule I may have just made up), and since FaintofButtLand is so small, they probably don't have a tank small enough to invade you without also being on U.S. soil at the same time. Oh my God man you're a genius. Please can I be vizier?
posted by Hildago at 8:43 PM on October 4, 2005

What a cracking idea! I'm housebound and I've been thinking a lot lately about how to be a productive member of society despite my ill health. Now I'm thinking, sod that, why be a member of society when you can be an absolute ruler?

Here's my plan :

1) Declare my house and all its grounds (the front drive and the back garden) independent.

2) Raise an army (my mother, my grandmother and my sister when she's not at work).

3) Annex Warwickshire (starting small, you see; I can always go for the rest of the UK when the fuss dies down).

4) Live the life of riley on the Council Tax hikes.

Based on the above discussion, my shopping list is : a flag, a constitution and a few nuclear warheads. The first two I can handle but that last one might be a problem; it looks like WMD are on eBay's restricted list. So, if anyone out there knows of a Russian General with a personal/sexual quirk that can be used for blackmail, please get in touch asap.
posted by mtonks at 2:49 AM on October 5, 2005

One problem is that after World War II, cross-border conquest as means of acquiring territory was ruled out of international law.

You can conquer a foreign country so as long as you don't purport to take permanent possession of it, and in a civil war you can conquer your own country to your heart's content.

What's less clear at international law is whether you can conquer part of your own country and be recognized. The best you could probably do if you conquered (say) Vermont and beat the U.S. armed forces when they tried to take it back would be for a Taiwan-style quasi-sovreignty.
posted by MattD at 5:48 AM on October 5, 2005

What's less clear at international law is whether you can conquer part of your own country and be recognized.

The test case for this right now is Somaliland. It's more stable than many full-fledged countries, but nobody's willing to recognize it because it occupies part of the territory of the utterly failed country of Somalia.

A tip for those who have a yen to invade, subvert, and conquer: you're going to want this guy's services.
posted by languagehat at 6:53 AM on October 5, 2005

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