In February 1968 a new paperback book emerged from the presses of Fine Arts Press, a small printer in Reno, Nevada. The book, titled A NEW CONSTITUTION FOR A NEW COUNTRY, offered nothing less than a totally new constitution, based on libertarian principles of voluntarism and non-initiation of force. The author was Mike Oliver, a successful land developer and coin dealer in Carson City. Response to the book, which was advertised in several fledgling libertarian periodicals and by word-of-mouth, was so great that a second printing was ordered three months later. And in July 1968, Volume 1, Number 1 of the CAPITALIST COUNTRY NEWSLETTER appeared. The newsletter (now continuing as the MIKE OLIVER NEWSLETTER) outlined plans for a long-term venture to acquire territory, with full sovereignty, for the establishment of a libertarian, free-enterprise country. Newsletter issues since 1968 have chronicled Oliver's four-year efforts, thus far not successful, to obtain land from an existing government without crippling restrictions.
Who is Mike Oliver and how did he get involved in trying to start a new country? Mr. Oliver was born in Lithuania in 1928. During World War II he spent four years in a Nazi concentration camp. After the war he came to the United States and served five years in the U.S. Air Force. In California during the late 50s and early 60s he worked as an engineering writer, until becoming a land developer in Nevada in 1965. In the latter capacity he has developed subdivisions in Carson City, putting in streets, sidewalks, utilities, etc. and preparing the area for building construction. He is currently president of Carson Development Corporation and is associated with Oliver-Roza Corporation. In Nevada Oliver also started the highly successful Nevada Coin Exchange which sells gold and silver coins as inflation hedges.
It was in California that Oliver came in contact with the libertarian philosophy, largely through the influence of Andrew Galambos' Free Enterprise Institute and later via the Nathaniel Branden Institute. The works of Ayn Rand and Ludwig von Mises served as Oliver's main inspiration for the idea of a new, thoroughly libertarian country, which in turn led to his book and the whole new-country project.
In January 1972, after the rise and fall of potential new-country sites in the Turks and Caicos Islands, Central America, and the New Hebrides, Oliver and several associates proclaimed the Republic of Minerva—a new country to be created on the Minerva Reefs in the South Pacific. The Minerva project attracted world-wide notice via a number of wire-service stories, as well as incurring the wrath of the king of Tonga, who subsequently sent a landing party to raise his own flag over the reefs. Undaunted, the Minerva Provisional Government (in which Oliver does not serve) announced its intention of proceeding with the project. Oliver himself, meanwhile, continues his world-wide efforts to negotiate for other sites.
REASON interviewed Mike Oliver in Santa Barbara late this past summer. The discussion ranged over a wide variety of topics; unfortunately, several of the most exciting topics must remain off the record at this time, in order not to jeopardize ongoing activities. Here, then, in its slightly censored form, is what we learned.
REASON: You began writing A NEW CONSTITUTION FOR A NEW COUNTRY in 1966. Did you start with the idea of writing a constitution or did you first start looking for a location to develop a new country?
OLIVER: Both came at the same time. In 1966 I began to see that the United States could be taken over by elements similar to the Nazi Storm Troopers. When I see that someone starts throwing bombs, shooting from roof tops, starting fires, and blocking streets, I see Storm Trooper tactics. If we permit this to continue, these elements who scream for "freedom" to do this violence will take over the United States and install a fascist regime. Although this is being done in the name of "liberalism" and "freedom now," I'm not concerned here with semantics but only with actual facts. Let me say here that those libertarians who give aid and comfort to such elements are helping destroy the United States only to have it replaced with a regime which is unimaginably worse. Such "libertarians" are part of the problem rather than the solution.
I wanted to bring this out because it grieves me to see some muddle-headed "libertarians" throwing in with these guys. Of course, the "libertarians" are the first to get exterminated once this element takes over. Such was the case when Castro took Cuba. Castro would have never succeeded without "libertarian" help. But when they helped him get rid of one fascist, they replaced him with another one who was even worse. In Russia, "libertarians" were instrumental in the overthrow of the Czar, only to have him replaced with Lenin and Stalin. In France the King was replaced with Robespierre and the guillotine, with the help of "libertarians".
REASON: Of course, the anarchists are shoved out right away.
OLIVER: Naturally, and that's what will happen again. This is history. I'd like to coin a phrase: "Some Libertarians seem to be notorious for helping destroy bad governments only to have them replaced with worse ones."
REASON: On the other hand, I take it you think your approach, starting from scratch in a new country, will avoid this problem.
OLIVER: We have to give everyone the maximum amount of freedom. But those who would establish a free society are limited by reality to follow a very narrow path, as far as their actions are concerned. Thus, we are not to interfere with personal rights. A free community will not punish for victimless crimes. People want to commit suicide—let them do that. If they want to destroy themselves through excessive drinking, smoking, or any other thing, it's their right. Societies must be structured to guarantee such rights. But, such societies must also include safeguards against those who would interfere with others' rights. Such rights include the right of the Bank of America to be left alone, or the right not to get shot at from roof tops, or the right not to get blocked by demonstrators from going through a street. Actions which violate such rights are not to be tolerated at all. If we deviate from the aforementioned rights, or permit these rights to be destroyed by others, we will end up with a dictatorship.
REASON: Perhaps you could briefly outline the basic structure of the government you propose, and explain why it will not be corrupted into the type of government we now have in the U.S.
OLIVER: First, I want to say that we must recognize that we are not gods and that we are capable of making mistakes. I am not offering any utopian scheme which will work forever. I'm merely hoping that what I propose will work better. The available facts point in this direction. My main point in the Constitution is that government is to be limited to only one function, to protect against force and fraud. Let me quote from my book:
"Government, under this constitution, can be construed as a private corporation, which is to be hired by participants on a voluntary basis, for the specific purpose of protecting their personal rights. Regardless of majority vote, no person, entity, or governmental agency may take away these rights from others.
The main thesis of the Preamble (and stressed throughout the Constitution) is that a person may delegate only those functions to government which he, himself, may rightfully perform. It is usually agreed and understood that a single person may not plunder or otherwise infringe upon rights of others. Less understood is the fact that a gathering of looters into gangs, in order to have government perform the unwholesome act of looting, is in no way less corruptive than if the act is performed by a single individual. Nor does the percentage of voters asking for such looting change this basic fact.
This point is not at all clear in the U.S. Constitution. On the contrary, its Preamble contains the stipulation that it was created, in part, to promote the "general welfare."
REASON: We noted that your Constitution includes a Glossary of key terms so that there won't be misinterpretation of terms like "general welfare."
OLIVER: This is something the U.S. Constitution lacks. I consider it a serious fault. The term "freedom" means many different things to different people. Therefore, I defined it and other key terms.
REASON: Your book states that government will be financed on a voluntary basis. How will you support the government without forced taxation?
OLIVER: Government will provide a service which will make it beneficial for people to support it by voluntary premiums. In areas such as military defense, there may be people who get a "free ride." However, those who do not pay premiums will not have the right to initiate court action against other persons.
REASON: Do you think the power to tax is basic in allowing government to extend beyond its original limited function?
OLIVER: Definitely. And by taking this power away, we will prevent government from being able to expand and grow like a cancer. I repeat that government, in its proper role, can be thought of as a private agency hired for the sole function of protecting against force and fraud.
REASON: So basically, this means there will be two classes of people: those who voluntarily pay the annual premium (participants) and those who are just residents, who choose essentially to take a free ride, receiving, at least, external defense protection at no cost.
OLIVER: Foreign defense protection they get free.
REASON: This, of course, is the classic "free rider" or externality problem in economics, in that a person receives benefits as a result of activity by others, but does not personally pay for them. What you have to figure out is how to make the benefits that the government offers to participants attractive enough compared to the spill-over benefits nonparticipants get, so that enough people will decide to become participants and pay for the government. How do you solve this problem?
OLIVER: The first thing is to limit government only to protection against force and fraud. This means that there will be no free schools, no social security, no government welfare, etc. The people will get only court protection, police protection, and external defense from government. Not even internal police protection will be free, although there will be occasions where non-participants will get benefit of the police; if a person is being robbed, a policeman seeing it will stop the crime even if the victim is a non-participant.
REASON: Of course, the deterrent effect of having a law enforcement system will theoretically help to protect everyone by keeping the level of crime down.
OLIVER: However, there will still be a great incentive to participate in paying for the government. For example, assuming that I am a person wishing to purchase a house on a mortgage basis, I know that first of all the lending agency will want to have the house insured for fire. Secondly, I believe that the lending agency will want me to have government participation insurance. Otherwise I would have no right to initiate a law suit against a transgressor. On the other hand, whether or not I pay for the government, I could still be taken to court for infringing on the rights of a participant.
These provisions may cause a person to state that my book, after all, does not propose a voluntary government, inasmuch as non-participants would be at such a great disadvantage that they would almost be compelled to support it. Yet, I am merely pointing out that government can perform a very vital function, to the extent where most people would not wish to be without any of its proper services. Just because a service or product is so vital that most people would not be without it, it cannot be stated that force is used to make you purchase its services, unless you are compelled to do so. No one will put me in jail for dropping my life or health insurance, but I will keep them because they perform an extremely vital service for me.
REASON: Functionally, your government participation premium and insurance premiums are very similar, aren't they?
OLIVER: Yes, they are. And payment of the premiums could be provided as a fringe benefit by companies for their employees, just as they do how with insurance.
REASON: How much do you estimate the annual premium would be?
OLIVER: Considering police, courts, and military protection, I believe it can be done for about $100 per person per year. This figure is not high because government is not to be involved in all those welfare things and other immoral projects. Some people may say, "How can you have government without taxation?" They forget that when the U. S. didn't have the income tax, it didn't have a deficit; at least not the present type of deficit. They occasionally had deficits but they were actually reduced.
REASON: It got periodically paid off between wars.
OLIVER: Right. Whereas now they have income taxes and many other taxes and the more they tax, the more they have deficits.
REASON: And the more they think of government functions to spend money on.
OLIVER: Yes. We will never get out of it. Right now we are having the largest government deficit since World War II. Remember, in my proposed system the people can always "cut their water off." The people can always say to the government, "We are not paying you—you are not doing the job."
REASON: Would there be anything to prevent another agency from offering one or more of the services which your proposed government would perform, such as offering private police protection for an annual fee?
OLIVER: Let's face it, in the U.S. we have private police protection for those willing to pay for it. We are certainly not going to produce a government that's worse than the U.S. Government. But, remember that a private agency providing police protection is still doing it under the standards of the U.S.
REASON: You mean within a single legal system?
OLIVER: Yes—the standards have to be the same. We could have more than one private agency performing "government" functions, but at a certain level we would have to have coordination. That coordinated level could be called "government." In the New Hebrides there is a French government, there is a British government, and a Condominium government. The Condominium government is composed of French and British officials. The French government only takes care of the French nationals and the British government takes care of the British nationals.
REASON: Almost as though they were subscribers.
OLIVER: British subjects must choose British government and French citizens must choose French. But Americans, Germans, or others can have their choice of French or British government. Let's say you have chosen French and I have chosen British and we have a dispute. Then we go to the Condominium Court. At that Court there is a British and a French judge. There is supposed to be a representative of the King of Spain to break any deadlock.
REASON: That's really an interesting mix because the French and British are under two very different legal codes. The French are under Napoleonic Code, which is quite different from British common law.
OLIVER: But remember, when there is a dispute between a French and British national, they go to the Condominium Court which has its own code.
REASON: So they really have three legal systems there?
OLIVER: They do, but in any given court case you can see that only one code is used. If two Frenchmen have a dispute, they settle the matter under the Napoleonic Code. Two Britishers go by the British Code, but French and British disputants settle matters under the Condominium Code.
REASON: What happens if one of the two Frenchmen disagrees with the verdict? Is there a Court of Appeal?
OLIVER: They are stuck with the French Court. I believe that under certain conditions they may appeal to the Commissioner in New Caledonia. Thus, as can be seen, even where there is more than one legal entity, you still have an agency which can act when disputants of two legal entities have a court case. You can call that overall entity "government." Without it, you will have chaos. There is no way to get around it, regardless of the schemes and dreams that various libertarians come up with.
REASON: Was your Constitution basically your own effort, or did you have advice from people with legal or political science backgrounds?
OLIVER: Many of the ideas were inspired by Ayn Rand, Ludwig von Mises, and Andrew Galambos. I don't think I could have derived all concepts independently. As far as writing the book is concerned, I occasionally had advice and help from friends.
REASON: Since you have written it, have you had people with legal training and sociological background evaluate it in terms of its practical implementation?
OLIVER: I had quite a few evaluations. Often I found myself debating with ten people at the same time. And someone always made suggestions that I was too strong, or too weak at some point. I wasn't trying to please anyone but just do a good job.
REASON: Why does the book propose three levels of government; wouldn't one or two be sufficient?
OLIVER: The book was written keeping in mind a large country such as the U.S. I wanted to show that even a complex country could exist under conditions of freedom. We know that a person by himself on an island needs no constitution at all. A small village does not require much of a societal structure either. But, it is a different matter if you consider a large country with racial problems, pollution problems, organized crime, and foreign aggression. And, should it be impossible to design a societal structure which will handle these problems in a manner consistent with freedom, then the totalitarians would be right, and we would be wrong. I wanted to show that libertarian principles could be practical for implementation even in the United States. Thus, although I want to start a new country, I kept the United States in mind, even though I know that this sort of constitution will not be adapted in the U.S. in the foreseeable future.
REASON: But given that it was workable on a large scale, it would then be possible to scale it down to a simpler situation, so as to tailor it for any particular size country.
OLIVER: That's right. It has already been done. I asked Bud Davis to do so for a country the size of Minerva. He uses the same definitions of terms, and much of the material is the same as is in my book.
REASON: Are there any significant changes that you would make since the book was written?
OLIVER: I made a number of mistakes. For example, on the disposition of newly acquired property, I stated that government may sell it at auctions. Actually, that is a mistake, since government is not to have such property to start with. It is to be acquired by first use. This was pointed out to me by a friend, and I agree. In CHAPTER III, I enumerated the main duties of government. They are all consistent with the principle that government should only act as an agency to protect against force and fraud. Instead of using the words "main duties", I should have said "only duties." Another point I should have made in the book is that all the agencies of government have already been defined therein and that no regulatory agencies are to be permitted.
REASON: Despite the very limited functions of government, your Constitution provides for a Congress. What are its functions?
OLIVER: 1) To approve funds necessary to maintain adequate military forces for protection of the country; 2) to establish the budget for operating the other national government agencies; 3) to act as an agency for declaring war and national emergencies when time permits; 4) to negotiate peace treaties.
REASON: So it would not be in the business of passing laws, the way the U.S. Congress is doing?
OLIVER: No. Unless what you call a law is that we say that Congress will allow so many dollars to build a certain defensive item.
REASON: How would the legal system come into existence? Would it be a common law system, based on cases decided by judges?
OLIVER: I have asked some people to write an objective code of law and I said that it should be between ten and 40 pages long. If it is more than that, it may be too big. However, I believe that even now we have the basis necessary for establishing an Objectivist-oriented society. There have been some attempts to write objective law and this is still being done.
REASON: So there will be a legal code as an adjunct to the Constitution.
OLIVER: Correct. In addition, though, many things would come from the common law. We are not "throwing out the baby with the bath water." There are some good parts in some laws and I am not saying that people shouldn't refer to some of the cases. But the objective law should be a short statement.
REASON: What you are saying about not throwing everything out is relevant. There are many similarities between your Constitution and the original U.S. Constitution, too many similarities for some libertarians. Of course, you have built in many safeguards which were not present in the U.S. Constitution.
OLIVER: True. Just think of the voluntary financing and the prohibition against Congress to pass laws in the normal sense. Also, the prohibition against establishing any new agencies such as Interstate Commerce Commission, the S.E.C., the F.D.A., etc., and the complete separation of government and economics, similar to separation of government and church.
REASON: What would you think about forbidding more than one or two terms in office for members of Congress, to prevent the build-up of a vested interest in being in the government?
OLIVER: This is a very good suggestion which should be included. You will note that I have not included an executive branch for government. I proposed a "ready-alert panel," which is to act instantaneously and is required in this nuclear age. Unfortunately, these problems will continue to exist.
REASON: You have included a provision which makes all laws expire at the end of five years. But what does this refer to since Congress doesn't have the power to pass laws in the first place?
OLIVER: Don't forget we might have long-term development contracts for the military. The award of a contract is the type of "law" I am referring to which Congress may pass. But even such "laws" would automatically expire after five years and then be reviewed; and renewed only if necessary. The contracts would be awarded with this stipulation in the first place.
REASON: Would peace treaties also be subject to this review every five years?
OLIVER: A peace treaty, even if unratified after five years, would not automatically mean war, for declaration of war is a function of Congress. But I expect that peace treaties would be reviewed and renewed without trouble, unless there was good cause.
REASON: Why did you suggest a simple majority rather than a two-thirds or three-quarters majority of Congress to pass laws? Isn't a broader support than simple majority necessary?
OLIVER: The functions of government are to be very limited. If everything is done on the basis of a two-thirds majority, we may completely cripple government from doing even that which we have allowed it to do.
REASON: What is to prevent people from trying to amend the constitution in terms of anti-libertarian philosophy?
OLIVER: There is no guarantee. I am not promising utopia.
REASON: It ultimately boils down to the quality and values of the majority making up a community.
OLIVER: Ultimately, if the intellectuals in a community accept totalitarian values, the community will end up with a totalitarian government. But, if we start out with the right type of people and the right type of philosophy, we may create a better society for a fairly long time. This is presently impossible in the United States; and, because of this impossibility, I want to establish a new country altogether.
REASON: Speaking of "starting out with the right people," according to your book, unlimited immigration will not be permitted, but each person would be considered on an individual basis regarding entry into the country. Doesn't this type of provision make the new country virtually a proprietary community?
OLIVER: There have been many definitions for the term "proprietary community." The definition associated with the book, THE ART OF COMMUNITY, is not acceptable to me.
REASON: Why is that?
OLIVER: I will not take anything out of context. There are several statements in that book that the owner of land is to be the person who provides the leadership of the community and is to be the arbitrator of disputes. He is even to set the moral tone of the community. He also leads in social programs for the betterment of all. These are completely collectivist statements. When you take away the sugar-coating you can see that the owner of the land would not just be a proprietor but also the judge, the jury, and enforcer. I am not making derogatory remarks against the author of the book, but am merely addressing myself to its contents. That any libertarian should even consider it, is appalling.
It is a book for the Dark Ages, leading back to the manorial state. There are many references to that. There are also comparisons to the tribal chiefs of Africa. The author stated that those who are not good tribal chiefs don't have too many followers. Therefore, we are to expect that bad proprietors would not have too many tenants. Let us take a good look at it. The fact is that, very often, the most successful tribal chiefs in Africa were also the most successful cannibals and plunderers. Genghis Khan was most successful too. To state that the better you are the more successful you are likely to be in attracting followers or tenants in a system where the landlord is the boss, is ridiculous. When it comes right down to it, the Soviet Union is a proprietary community.
REASON: Well, you only have one owner of land there…
OLIVER: Yes. And also the owner of the land provides the moral tone of society, and controls the lives of the people.
REASON: But there is one thing that is not present in the Soviet Union or in any of the African tribes, and that is the contractual relationship between the land owner and the tenants, where the people are free to come and go. Certainly, in the Soviet Union, the people are not free to come and go.
OLIVER: In the proprietary community we are talking about, there is to be the contractual relationship; but there remains one question: Who is to interpret the contract in case of dispute? Are you aware that Stalin's Constitution of 1935 guaranteed freedom of press? The only problem was that all the presses belonged to the state.
REASON: That's a very good point.
OLIVER: Let's take the case where the landlord also acts as the arbitrator. Supposing a landlord or his son has raped one of the tenants; where is she going to go? There are going to be such landlords. There have been cases such as I just described.
REASON: So what you are saying is that we need a division of power?
OLIVER: Sure. And you don't have that in the type of proprietary community which was proposed in that book. This is what I mean by libertarians "throwing away the baby with the bath water." I would much rather stay in the U.S. than go to such a community, for the U.S. is infinitely better.
REASON: Do you think that if a libertarian proprietary community was set up it would degenerate into an authoritarian situation?
OLIVER: It would be all right to have a proprietary community within the United States, because as bad as the government is here, you can still run to the government and complain against the landlord. Therefore, it' is all right to have private police in a hotel or various private mobile home parks, etc., since the interpreter of any contract is an outside agency and not the landlord.
REASON: In other words, you wouldn't mind having a proprietary community set up within a new country governed by your Constitution?
OLIVER: Correct. But if the land owner breaks his contract, he can be taken to court, where he will not be the judge, jury, and executioner. One could argue that even in a proprietary community where the landlord is also the judge and jury, it would be in his best interest not to be nasty. But I can say that it was not in the best interest of Hitler to be nasty either.
According to page 66 to THE ART OF COMMUNITY, under unified ownership (as noted previously in the book) the private interest of the tenants is reconciled in the interest of the common landlord. The author states that this is the basis of the third function of land, designated as leadership. Further, that by virtue of the unified ownership, management can act as a catalyst to promote social action in all kinds of joint enterprises such as economics, recreation, arts, and civics. This is to be accomplished by the sponsorship and guidance of tenants associations, which can serve specific community functions and, in the process, foster communications and high morale of the community. The author states that leadership includes arbitration of differences among the tenants, as well as guidance and participation in joint efforts. Moreover, the author asserts that more than in any other area, the art in the art of community consists in this aspect of the manager role, for here is his least tangible or measurable but potentially most rewarding role.
In the next paragraph, the author states that while tenant selection, land planning, and leadership (emphasis added) together constitute the real estate function and are therefore the direct responsibility of the landlord alone (emphasis added), this is not to say that his role goes no further.
Now, supposing that, instead of the word "landlord," the word "government" is used. I am certain that if such a proposal, using the word "government" rather than "landlord," was forwarded to libertarians, they would think it absurd. Trust government with the promotion of social actions of all sorts, including economics, recreation, arts, and civics? Have government sponsor and guide tenants' associations and in the process, foster communications and high morale of the community? Never. But if a private party assumes all the functions of government, plus ownership of the land, where is the difference? What is in a name? Are we interested in mere semantics?
REASON: What if someone in the new country governed by your Constitution wished to set up a proprietary community with a contractual relationship specifying that there was no appeal to any outside courts. Of course, people would be free to sign or not to sign such a contract. Presuming such people would not be "participants" and would not pay for your government, would there by any objections?
OLIVER: Only to this extent: a person could sell only himself as a slave, which is exactly what he would do under such a contract with a proprietor. One of my friends asked me—doesn't a person have a right to sell himself as a slave? He agreed with me that in a proprietary community such as we are talking about there would be a master-slave relationship. I said, yes he could do so. But the moment the person has a child the whole thing is out the window. He can't transfer his slavehood to his child.
REASON: Very good point. But those who are for proprietary communities will say that, if things get bad, the tenants are always free to leave.
OLIVER: Are they? Consider this: a) supposing I built a large hotel on leased land in a proprietary community. Supposing, further, that after I have done this, the proprietor changes the rules, making my operation difficult if not impossible. Should I leave that place, the hotel will become the property of the proprietor. Remember, he is the only arbitrator and can make things difficult at his whim. He may even do so precisely because he wants an excuse to grab the property. I am not just making conjectures. Look at what happened at some of the free ports. One can say that such action wouldn't be in the best interest of the landlord, but when have people always acted in their best self-interest? When you give someone too much power, you leave yourself open to such a situation. Even if the original landlord may be all right, his successor may change the rules, as is often the case; b) in a proprietary community such as we are discussing, there is no protection against a complete police state. We could have a physical or economic "Berlin Wall," preventing persons from getting out, especially the second generation.
REASON: You have had considerable experience in dealing with various governments in the last four years, searching for a place to start a country. Could you describe some of the problems you encountered?
OLIVER: Most of the time things didn't work out because of philosophical problems, not necessarily because the government officials were all completely evil. There have been cases where government officials have been turned around to think our way but other politicians and the press would be against us if matters progressed in our favor.
REASON: Roughly, can you state how many miles and manhours have been spent on this venture?
OLIVER: We have devoted at least 15,000 man-hours, and at least 250,000 miles have been traveled on behalf of this project.
REASON: How many countries have you visited for this purpose?
OLIVER: My passport shows at least 20 countries in South America, Central America, the Caribbean, Europe, and the South Pacific. We also had people in Africa.
REASON: What makes it so difficult to convince governments to give you some land for your experiment?
OLIVER: If you deal with a totalitarian country, it is possible to make a deal with one person. But if that person changes his mind, you can lose everything. If you negotiate with a democracy, the initial problem is harder since the legislature must approve the transaction; and by the time you get through, you are an old man. On several occasions we could have obtained a freeport, such as exists in the Bahamas, and this type of an option is still open to us. But, this would not be satisfactory to us, as the government granting the freeport would retain too much power to negate the agreement. This has already happened in Freeport, Grand Bahama.
REASON: Even where the territory in question is totally undeveloped waste land, government is still reluctant to give up control?
OLIVER: Yes. Sometimes the reason is legitimate, for they are concerned that the area they give up may be used as a staging place for revolutions or for heroin processing. But, even without these drawbacks they are reluctant to give up control, because they want the power to take it back if it becomes something good.
REASON: They want to be parasitic?
OLIVER: They have done it over and over again. They have done it in the Caribbean and in the Mediterranean and even in the Pacific.
REASON: How do you approach governments when you ask for land for your project?
OLIVER: We ask: "Do you have an economic problem? If so, the situation can be improved and your joblessness rate can be reduced if you will provide us with certain conditions (which happen to be free enterprise conditions) in an area of your country. If you would do this, then a lot of money would be invested in that area and your economic problems would be greatly alleviated." Thus, we give them a practical solution which is ideologically well-based, since the practical and ideological solutions are in harmony when we have free enterprise.
In some cases, they offer conditions which may be good for awhile, but we don't accept them, because we can see how rules have been changed and investments have been wiped out. We want to protect ourselves better. For this reason, we had to talk to many governments and we are not jumping into situations which could be devastating. Yet, I wonder what would have happened if four or five thousand libertarians who knew the score had gone to the Bahamas. I doubt if the Bahamian Government could have destroyed the freeport there. Our project is sound, because in the worst case we could always fall back on a freeport settlement. But, we want to protect ourselves better from the very start, if at all possible.
I would like to mention also another country where the situation is such that, not just economic benefits would be derived by the country from our settlement there but, actually, failure to have such a settlement would jeopardize the very existence of that country. It is a situation wherein they either give us part of the loaf, or someone else will take away everything from them.
REASON: You are working on this area now for your new country project?
OLIVER: Yes, it's a large area, where millions of people could be placed. We told them this: "Your very existence is now in jeopardy, as you know and we know. You also know that people came to the United States when it provided more free enterprise conditions. Now that the U.S. is becoming more totalitarian, many of the people are looking for other places. Such has been the case since the beginning of history. Therefore, if you want these people in your region, so that they will make a bastion of Western civilization there and prevent you from being destroyed, you must provide free enterprise conditions; for without such incentives they will not go. They will not go there under your rules, because your rules are too similar to what we already have in the U.S. In some cases your rules are even worse."
REASON: So in this particular case, you have a very good pitch indeed.
OLIVER: True. And I am becoming more confident that they will come around. Originally, we received a flat "No." Now they say, "Maybe" and, "Can you rewrite your proposal to make it somewhat less severe?" We have come to that point, and I believe that we can negotiate an acceptable agreement.
REASON: How long have you been in negotiations with this particular country?
OLIVER: Over two years. But I have been thinking about it longer than that.
REASON: Do you think that next year something may break on this?
OLIVER: Possibly. I am inclined to think that it may take one or two years, because we have to set up meetings with various officials well ahead of time and it is a slow process.
REASON: OK. Let's move on now to discuss the Minerva project. What do you project the population of Minerva to be?
OLIVER: This is difficult to answer. The Pilkington Glass Company sea city design was for 30,000 people. Richard King and I talked with the engineers and architects who designed the Pilkington Model and they prepared a report for us. This project could cost hundreds of millions of dollars. There are technical problems, involving breakwaters, which could be limiting factors in terms of the population of Minerva.
REASON: You called the Pilkington design a "sea city." Could you explain this term?
OLIVER: Venice, which was started over 1500 years ago, actually is a sea city. The Pilkington Sea City Model was designed for a city to be built in 360 degrees of water in a shallow area. It is offered as a solution to increasing population and increasing land cost. The Pilkington Sea City would be constructed on pilings, although there would be floating units inside the artificially created lagoon. We have also received designs from Italian and Japanese engineers. The Pilkington model looks more attractive but is not necessarily the most viable. But there is a problem with wave action for this sort of a design. Incidentally, a coral reef, such as we have in Minerva would greatly reduce this problem.
REASON: Would you build this sort of structure instead of dredging?
OLIVER: Both of these methods can be used.
REASON: What about hurricanes?
OLIVER: We could expect them from time to time. Everything will be designed with that in mind.
REASON: Does the engineer's report you have obtained cover this?
OLIVER: Yes, but not to the extent we hoped for. However, we already knew that we might have to build sea walls and pile the dredge material behind them.
REASON: How about earthquakes?
OLIVER: We know that the terrain around Minerva has not changed much since 1887.
REASON: Do you have engineering personnel working with you on a regular schedule or is your engineering work contracted?
OLIVER: We have them contracted from time to time.
REASON: Are there other engineering problems?
OLIVER: Someone has asked me about tsunamis, which are large tidal waves caused by earthquakes. Tsunamis require terrain to build up in different from what we have at Minerva. However, we have to protect ourselves against large waves created by hurricanes.
REASON: In a location like Minerva's, don't you have logistics problems?
OLIVER: Minerva is between Fiji and New Zealand. Both of these areas are fairly well developed. Remember that even the New Hebrides import food. They wouldn't have to do it if they used their resources, since the land is extremely fertile. We are closer to New Zealand than the New Hebrides.
REASON: Have any companies expressed interest in Minerva?
OLIVER: Yes. Many people have written and requested information on how to invest. But unless someone comes to Carson City, Nevada, without my solicitation, I will not talk with him about it. It would be against S.E.C. regulations to do otherwise. As long as I am in the United States, I have to abide by its rules. Also, unless the person is of the type which could be considered a sophisticated investor, I wouldn't talk to him about it even if he came to Carson City.
REASON: Can you mention the types of businesses that have expressed interest in your project?
OLIVER: One of the persons who is a trustee of Ocean Life Research Foundation is chairman of a bank as well as of a sizable machine factory. Another trustee of our Foundation is president of a bank and trust company.
REASON: Have you had any studies as to what would be the most economically feasible types of business to locate in Minerva?
OLIVER: We could have bunkering facilities for shipping, assembly plants for light industry, banking, company headquarters, fishing, and tourism, among other things. We could also have hydroponic farming. Our new Venice could be better than the original Venice because we have better technology.
REASON: It could be a center for a new renaissance, attracting intelligent, creative people.
OLIVER: Historically, we have seen that where you have good commerce, you will also find real intellectuals, artists, and musicians, etc.
REASON: A number of people have asked about Minerva's policy regarding the production of addictive drugs.
OLIVER: We cannot tell people what to do with their own lives. But when we sell the land, we can put in restrictive covenants specifying that such things as heroin or opium could not be produced on that land.
REASON: What is the reason for this?
OLIVER: If production of drugs was permitted, we would invite a war and the company would lose its land. We look at it this way: 1) The company has its right to protect its own property; 2) the company may sell the land with any restrictive covenants attached thereon. If the buyer finds this objectionable, he does not have to buy the land. For similar reasons, the company wouldn't permit the area to be used as a staging ground for revolution against other countries.
REASON: We understand you are having problems with Tonga?
OLIVER: Several months after we claimed Minerva, the King of Tonga went there with a group of prisoners. They built up something there, too, and left thereafter. We had just completed an engineering survey and didn't have anyone at the Reef at that instant. But I think the Tonga problem can be resolved.
REASON: Can you give us information about the other people who are working with you on the Minerva project?
OLIVER: A lot of the material was compiled by Richard King, Vice-President of Minerva, who is now in London. M.C. Davis is the President of the Republic of Minerva. He is an electronics engineer but is now devoting his time to the Minerva Project. He has just returned from the South Pacific where he and Robert Marks purchased the ship for our project. Robert Marks is the owner of a lumber yard. Thurlow Weed, a petroleum engineer, was, with Bob Marks, on the original expedition. I must add that none of these people, including myself is receiving any salary. I would like to give credit to all these people, for they have been very dedicated. Of course, we had other people, who helped us from time to time with financing, as well as effort. Dr. Harry Schultz, the noted author and investment advisor, has been a very helpful supporter of our efforts.
REASON: Your book stated that there will be no embassy and no equivalent to our form of State Department. Will there be passports?
OLIVER: When you travel from one country to another, you need a passport. We don't want to penalize those who come to our new country by making it impossible for them to travel elsewhere. Thus, we have to set up a passport issuing agency. But this can be done without setting up the sort of state department we know of. We also have a problem with postal communications. Unless we have some government sanctions for this, we would have a communications problem. Therefore, we will have an official statement from the government saying that certain agencies may act on behalf of the government on postal communication matters.
REASON: You have to join the International Postal Union.
OLIVER: That's right. Without the above provisions, we couldn't go anywhere and we couldn't get any mail.
REASON: That says something about the practicability of anarchism in today's world.
OLIVER: The existence of other governments makes our government have to do certain things that otherwise would not be done. However, this should not serve as an excuse for establishing another collectivist state. All these matters can be easily worked out completely within the context of free enterprise.
REASON: What is government's functions in relation to persons who may carry communicable diseases such as typhoid or smallpox? Can the government intervene through quarantine requirements or vaccination?
OLIVER: Bringing in typhoid constitutes an act of force, because it can be deadly to another person. Although an act of force can be done involuntarily, like in an automobile accident, the person who is causing it cannot be absolved from responsibility.
REASON: The responsible person is still liable.
OLIVER: Yes. And this would require that such a person should be quarantined and vaccinated if he could cause disease to other persons. This is being done quite properly in modern society, not only with people but also with animals. We also have agricultural inspections. There is nothing wrong with this. It is a long haul from such activities to welfare programs and other destructive government activities.
REASON: But the actual implementation of a free enterprise nation is far more complicated than it appears at first blush?
OLIVER: It certainly is; and it is at this point that some libertarians come up with all sorts of crazy ideas. The danger lies in the fact that if people see that such ideas don't work, they will grab the first man on a white horse and will help establish a distatorship worse than the one they had in the past. It is for this reason that I coined the phrase, "Some Libertarians seem to be notorious for helping destroy bad governments only to have them replaced with worse ones."
REASON: Quarantines require a lot of specialized knowledge and, therefore, specialized people in the government.
OLIVER: The specialists will not be members of the government. They can be hired on a contract basis to perform particular tasks.
REASON: Are there other functions than Minerva with which Ocean Life Research Foundation is concerned?
OLIVER: Yes. This Foundation wants to find out how to establish communities which are sea-oriented, because there is not much land left. We may discover how to use raw material from the sea for development of sea cities. In order to have successful communities, we need a sound economic base. We already have established that the political system must be of a free enterprise nature. We will take into consideration smog and pollution problems, as well as ecology. All this falls under the realm of protecting individual rights.
REASON: How can people help you in your work?
OLIVER: People who wish to help, without expecting a financial return, can contribute to the Ocean Life Research Foundation which is a "non-profit" foundation. We also have a company in which only sophisticated investors could invest, but this information cannot be made available here. I would like to add that we are in a fairly good financial position.
REASON: Do you have sufficient funds to proceed?
OLIVER: Yes. But we could use a lot more.
REASON: How do you view your work as a new-country builder?
OLIVER: I view my own Constitution as an extension of Benjamin Franklin's works. He really knew what he was doing. Had his concepts been approved more fully, there would not have been any slavery or Civil War. I am not claiming that my Constitution is perfect, or that Benjamin Franklin's work, even if greatly improved in concept as well as mechanics, would be perfect. But, I want to state here that libertarians sometimes get too anxious and they want perfection right away, or else they turn right around and grab Mao Tse Tung or something of this nature as an alternative; or they propose "anarcho-capitalism" which, when broken down to practical applications, would establish a dictatorship under the name of a "private company." (It seems that if a government, even if tyrannical in concept, is called "private company," many libertarians will approve of it.)
We are convinced that we are moving in the right direction. We are not merely overly cautious, and certainly we are not lacking in adventurous spirit, but we don't want to accept any so-called solutions which have been presented to us as something new, but which are in fact nothing less than reversion to chaos and dictatorship.