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Public: Government
Physical Sovereignty for a Virtual Nation   (+5, -2)  [vote for, against]

The idea of a "virtual nation" is not new. There are many examples:

World of Warcraft
... and many many more ... infinitely more

The reason this list is silly is that all these nations lack physical sovereignty. Without physical presence they are politically meaningless. For example, let's say I create a new virtual nation called "Ixnaumlandia". It is a virtual private network VPN. Individuals with permanent accounts are it's citizens and pay taxes. Individuals with temporary accounts (visas) are visitors. Virtually - this all makes sense, but it breaks down as soon as we start to talk about sovereignty. If one of these VPN servers is located in USA, it is on US territory and must obey the US laws (DMCA, no wikileaks, no action deemed as going against the US national interests). If the server is in Iran, same thing applies. You just can't carve out a 4sq feet chunk of UK, put a server on it and call it sovereign territory of your virtual nation ... I'm pretty sure the queen would have a fit over that. No matter how you frame it, to have a true nation you need physical territory otherwise the host nation will just shut you down. Tor (The onion router) and Freenet gets around this by having so many nodes that any attempt to shut it down is faced with the scale of "infestation". But still, you can't have a legitimately recognized nation if your server is sitting on another country's soil. You are always going to be considered a "squatter", "pest" or a "joke", not a nation.

This is where my idea comes in. Find a way to establish physical presence. Here are some brain storming ideas (some may work better than others):

Communications satellite in orbit owned by the virtual nation.
Moon colony with communications capabilities
Sailing communications platforms located in international waters.
Purchase sovereign territory from one of the existing nations
Conquer sovereign territory from one of the existing nations

It is important to note that although the physical presence would be functional (for example, you could actually route an email through moon), you would not necessarily be expected to route all your traffic through that tiny bottle neck. Once your virtual nation obtained legal rights and international recognition by the fact of having it's own physical territory, the leaders of the virtual nation could make treaties to lease small sovereign territories in more convenient locations. Much the same way US made a treaty with Cuba to get perpetual jurisdiction over Guantanamo Bay.
So it other words, the physical presence would be the initial seed to establish international legitimacy. After you got one, you could just "buy" more from tax revenue. The same way that US bought Alaska. And you don't need much to grow. Essentially, you'd be buying perpetual sovereign co-location. Physical tampering with your equipment would be considered declaration of war.
As far as the virtual citizens? They would be dual nationality citizens. For example you could be Canadian and Ixnaumlandian at the same time. While connected to the VPN you would follow Ixnaumlandian laws. While going to the toilet, you would follow Canadian laws. You could run into a problem if Canada suddenly took away your right to dual citizenship and you'd be forced to be Ixnaumlandian only. You could be deported to the moon (if Canada could afford to send you there) :-)

Once this virtual nation had this virtual finger grip .. it could do all sorts of neat physical things such as:

Send it's citizens to participate in the Olympics
Have a voice in the UN
Have it's own currency
Have a land area entry in wikipedia ...
Have elections
Have it's own judicial system with extradition agreements with other nations. Extradition would really mean handing over the IP or the physical location of the citizen
Impose import and export duties (on data entering and leaving the VPN) ... or create free trade agreements. etc ...

-- ixnaum, Mar 23 2011

Sealand http://en.wikipedia...cipality_of_Sealand
[pocmloc, Mar 23 2011]

Why does having a sovreign server result in a meaningful citizenship for those who use it?

I don't know where the servers are which I use, but I don't feel or claim any sovereignty as a result of that.

I think it's a nice and interesting idea to loosen up the definition of "country" or "citizen", but I don't see how this achieves it.
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Mar 23 2011

//Why does having a sovreign server result in a meaningful citizenship for those who use it?

I guess in the end you are right that this idea doesn't provide a case for 100% bullet proof sovereignty. What it does do, is push the boundary of this wild idea bit closer towards reality.

Sovereignty is not just given out to anyone that asks or tells a cute story. It has to be fought for (preferably non-violently) the same way people fight for their rights to vote. Having an actual physical territory just adds one more argument in favor of the citizens of this would be virtual nation. (ex. you can put it inside a school atlas)

The other thing I wanted to touch on is the whole idea of a VPN. What a VPN accomplishes is interaction that doesn't concern the nation where the user is located. When you talk over a VPN, all your traffic is encrypted inside a tunnel and only your fellow citizens can "hear" you. For example, if you connect to a VPN in China, it will be as if you are sitting and browsing Halfbakery from China. So this it allows you to virtually shift your physical location. If you shift to a territory that's not China but a sovereign territory that's called "Blablandia" things get interesting.

The other reason physical location is important is people fear recognizing something that can't be taken away. For example, say we create a new virtual nation called Evilandia with it's own physical presence. If it turns out to be too much of trouble, it's territory is clearly defined, can be invaded, and Evilandia can be wiped out from the maps. On the other hand, if there is no virtual presence, that's viewed as unfair advantage. Who do you attack if Evilandia causes trouble? Mexico, Norway, Bangladesh, and Brasil? Just because they host some of their servers? That would not be fair ... would it?
-- ixnaum, Mar 23 2011

Yes, I see your point, and it is interesting. I'm curious to know what tangible benefits and costs arise from such a virtual citizenship, since there is a Holback-Einserian model of citizenship (or, rather, set membership of which citizenship is one case) which defines it largely in terms of costs and benefits (and where those costs and benefits exist both between the state and its citizens; and between the state and other states). In that model, everything boils down to tangible benefits rather than to concepts such as "liberty" or "injustice".

Also, in practical terms, a lot would depend on whether people "get" it. There's a risk it would be seen as just another online community, without people perceiving the significance of the sovereignty of the servers.

Anyway, [+] for an interesting idea.
-- MaxwellBuchanan, Mar 23 2011

The benefits would depend on the constitution and laws of such a virtual nation ... I haven't given that much thought, but I can see that others have. My hunch is that it would have something to do with free access to information ... and the social and economical benefits that entails.
I'm not advocating any particular virtual nation model, I'm just advocating that if a virtual nation wants to be treated seriously they must obtain sovereign territory first.
-- ixnaum, Mar 23 2011

[pocmloc] ... Sealand is pretty much it. I can see that The Pirate Bay tried to do pretty much exactly what I'm describing. So this would have to make the idea "baked" ...
-- ixnaum, Mar 23 2011

Sovereignty is about more than just physical location. It is also about being able to enforce your laws/constitution/royal decrees within the area that you claim as sovereign. The best analogy I can think of to your idea is the modern state of Israel.

Prior to 1948 you had various Jewish communities around the world, following the laws as laid out in the Torah but also having to follow the laws of the sovereign state in which they happened to be living. So, you could argue, that the Jewish community formed a virtual state operating within the physical boundaries of actual states.

Then in 1948 the Israelis declare themselves as an independent state and hey presto! A new state is born and accepted by all...for about five seconds.

Alternatively, you could view the idea as being a bit like colonial expansion. Hey look, we've discovered a new country, what shall we call it? Whatever those guys in the red coats want us to call it! Until we've organised ourselves and got some red coats of our own that is.

But then that brings us back to your opening statement that //Without physical presence they are politically meaningless//.

I would argue that this is not quite the case. As you point out, your virtual state has a physical presence in the form of servers and communications infrastructure. However, this is widely distributed and, more importantly, not solely the property of or used by just your virtual state. This means that physical attack by conventional states is, if not impossible, then at least fraught with grave difficulties (ask any North African dictator). Meanwhile, your scattered nation of virtual citizens can go about their business of freely associating with whomsever they please without having any regard for mere physical boundaries or the moral or political dictates of the state that they happen to be living in. And if they get fed up with that state then they can fall back on more conventional political methods, including revolution, to change things.

Why do you think that states are so hung up about 'cyber-terrorism'? Because they've spent gazillions of dollars on armies, police, cruise missiles, tanks and aircraft carriers and none of them has much stopping power against the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
-- DrBob, Mar 24 2011

//Sovereignty is about more than just physical location//

I never said otherwise. But I do insist that you will never get to be recognized as a "real" state without some sort of physical presence. You can have indestructible, powerful virtual nation (like Anonymous) but that nation will never be a recognized world player without physical presence somewhere in the real world.
-- ixnaum, Mar 24 2011

Yes, but why would you want to be recognised as a 'real' state when you can exist quite happily without it?
-- DrBob, Mar 25 2011

'Tampering of your equipment would be equivalent to declaration of war.'

Without actually any force to back it up. If Canada declared war on Ixnaumland, what exactly could Ixnaumland do in retaliation?

It all comes back to territory, as the virtual doesn't exist without the security of the physical.
-- RayfordSteele, Mar 25 2011

Yet another reason to colonize the gyres.
-- 2 fries shy of a happy meal, Mar 25 2011

random, halfbakery