NEW COUNTRY PROCLAIMED
"A Nation, from Pacific Depths," read the headline on the front page of the Sunday San Francisco HERALD-EXAMINER. There, in a thousand word article, correspondent John Forbis described the announcement by the Ocean Life Research Foundation of the founding of the Republic of Minerva on the Minerva reefs, 400 miles south of the Fiji Islands. Spokesman Michael Oliver, cofounder and director of the Foundation, was quoted declaring, "We want to create a society which will not repeat the mistakes of others," namely the interlocking of politics and economics. "Government, in [Oliver's] view, should have no authority to control free enterprise, taxes, tariffs, and trade restrictions are basically 'immoral.' The Republic of Minerva will eliminate such evils." The article pointed out the philosophical inspiration for the new country plan: the writings of economist Ludwig von Mises and novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand. "Both authors maintain that only total economic freedom can bring about the salvation of modern society."
Thus far the first pioneers have laid the basis for the Foundation's claim to sovereignty over the reefs. Having established that the reefs were unclaimed by existing nations, they have set about to occupy and improve them. Beginning in August 1971, a work crew began raising the land area above the high-tide level, erected 26-foot marker towers bearing beacons and reflectors, and hoisted the Republic's flag. Hired Australian dredges will soon begin hauling up sand from the lagoon at South Minerva, to produce up to 400 acres of dry land. Oliver also has plans to construct a 10,000-inhabitant floating city in the lagoon. $180,000 had been invested in the project as of March.
The group's consul general designate, attorney Owen Claridge, is seeking recognition of the Republic as a sovereign state. Claridge points out that all established precedents of international law have been adhered to. A proclamation has been sent to heads of state around the globe. So far both Fiji and Tonga, the two nearest governments, have reacted with hostility, and the premier of the Cook Islands has agreed with them, pointing out that there are similar unclaimed reefs all over the Pacific. With their pretensions of sovereignty over vast areas threatened, it appeared likely that most South Pacific governments would oppose Minerva. Nonetheless independent legal opinion confirms the validity of the Republic's claim.
• "A Nation from Pacific Depths," by John Forbis, San Francisco HERALD-EXAMINER, 5 March 1972.
A perennial problem for advocates of noncoercive government is the problem of financing it without resort to coercive taxation. One proposal not often considered is the use of a government-run lottery. In the face of growing fiscal crises and taxpayer revolts, five eastern states have recently established state lotteries. The first to do so were New York and New Hampshire several years ago, followed by New Jersey in 1971 and Pennsylvania and Massachusetts so far in 1972. From all indications to date, the lottery appears to be a successful way to raise revenue.
New Jersey's lottery is far and away the most successful, bringing in over $60 million in its first year. Its greater success than neighboring lotteries is due to a superior marketing approach; specifically, providing inexpensive (50 cent) tickets, more frequent drawings (weekly), and a large number of sales outlets (over 4,000). As many as six first prizes of $50,000 are awarded weekly; in addition, periodic drawings are held for the $1,000,000 top prize. The lottery's income is broken down as follows: 25% goes for operating expenses and commissions, 45% for prizes, and 30% is revenue for the state—in this case, pledged to higher education.
In addition to illustrating that noncoercive revenue raising is possible, the new state lotteries raise important questions about the state's role in regulating individual conduct. If gambling is "immoral" or "antisocial," as claimed by legislators who have traditionally outlawed it, how can it suddenly become acceptable when used to raise state revenue? The new lotteries expose the state's hypocrisy in prohibiting voluntary actions such as gambling. Once the state sanctions gambling, it undercuts its case for prohibiting other forms of "anti-social" conduct such as various types of consensual sexual behavior, recreational drug use, and similar crimes-without-victims. Thus, the acceptance of state lotteries increases the chances for meaningful reform of the criminal law, in a libertarian direction.
• "The Lottery," Associated Press, 29 December 1971.
• "Nine State Legislatures Active," CRIMINAL JUSTICE NEWSLETTER, 31 January 1972.
• "New Lottery's Aim Assailed," UPI, 12 January 1972.
TAX SEIZURE CHALLENGED
A Portland, Oregon, chiropractor has challenged the power of the Internal Revenue Service to seize property for nonpayment of taxes. Dr. James A. Owen has for some time declined to pay Social Security taxes, on the grounds that he has the right to provide for his own retirement and to manage his own money. Dr. Owen correctly points out that "a man who invests as much money through private enterprise as Social Security takes from him will easily get three times as much when he is 65, assuming that he begins when he is in his 20s."
Last November two IRS agents were dispatched to Owen's house to seize his car and trailer, after various threatening notices had not succeeded in inducing Owen to pay. (A previous seizure of his bank account had yielded only $200 of the $1300 the IRS alleges he owes.) Owen and various neighbors met the agents in his driveway, and while the neighbors blocked the way with their cars, Owen made a citizen's arrest of the agents, on grounds of trespass and attempted grand theft.
Owen was subsequently indicted by a federal grand jury. He is conducting his own defense, acting as his own attorney, on the procedural grounds that the IRS, as an executive agency, does not have the judicial authority to engage in property seizures, and that such arbitrary seizures by the IRS thereby deny him the due process of law guaranteed by the Constitution. Despite the fact that 14 other persons assisted Owen in his actions, the IRS has singled out him alone for prosecution. The other 14 have therefore signed an affidavit requesting to be "treated jointly and that all be equally brought to trial on the same charges," be tried equally with Owen, and be subject to the same penalties. Dr. Owen is preparing a brief, citing previous cases, to prove that in order for due process to occur, the law must treat him equally, which means that all should be indicted or Dr. Owen should be dismissed of all charges.
In an unrelated East Coast case, a Massachusetts man has petitioned the federal government for conscientious objector exemption from the Social Security system. Since such status has been granted to such religious groups as the Amish, and since conscientious objection to the draft law has been granted on nonreligious ethical grounds, similar nonreligious exemption should be granted to Social Security objectors, the proponents argue.
• "Chiropractor Challenges U.S.," THE OREGON JOURNAL, 18 January 1972.
• Press release of Dr. James A. Owen, January 1972.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Trends".