ERWIN STRAUSS & HIS 5 MODELS OF STATEHOOD

THE TRANSCRIPT
DANNY:

This is a fantastic place. Wow, it is like a research centre, like a proper kind of control, mission control kind of thing.
ERWIN:

Yes, yes, well I, as I said I use it to control my life, so...
DANNY:

Yeah? And does that work?
ERWIN:

That seems to work for me.
DANNY:

I kind of need some of that. You seem already a lot more organised than me, I can tell, just by the filing cabinets and stuff.
ERWIN:

Well a lot of people have that reaction, but it's a way of life to, live this kind of life and it doesn't suit many people. But it does me.
DANNY:

That's good. You've even got a laundry procedure. You see, I need this, I need kind of this in my life. Which makes you kind of the perfect man to talk to I think, about starting my own country, 'cause that's kind of what I'm doing.
ERWIN:

Yeah, that's what running your own country means being more in control of your life and the various aspects that are the responsibility of the country are now in your own hands.
DANNY:

Well I need that, because I mean I've started it basically, I've started it and I, I've been looking for territories and, things like that and I've really decided to go for this. But naturally I'm not a very organised person, and I've kind of started it without knowing really where I'm going. So I kind of need some advice on what I should do next.
ERWIN:

Ah, well you've come to the right place, I think.
ERWIN:

Aha. Well as I say in my book there are a number of approaches that you can use to set up your new country, depending on what your goals are and what means are at your disposal.

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DANNY:

I haven't got very many means.
ERWIN:

Yes, well the entry level is what I've called a model country, by analogy with a model railroad, what somebody else has called a country in a sock drawer. Where basically you decide on the principles of your country, you may even draw up some documents, you can have stamps and coins prepared, maybe a passport, you can have patents of nobility that you can give to your, give to, or sell to them. There's one very famous operation in Europe called Castilagnia that has apparently done quite a good, made quite a good business out of selling these things.
DANNY:

Really? So what, they sell titles?
ERWIN:

They sell, you can be a Duke or a Count, it all depends on what you pay. And there's also Prince Leonard of the Hutt River Province in Australia. Now you know most of these ventures, the countries in a sock drawer, have some kind of money-making angle but few have pursued it quite as aggressively as Prince Leonard in Australia, and I don't think any quite as successfully.
DANNY:

Really, he's gone for the money has he, Prince Leonard?
ERWIN:

Yes, yes and so with that money, then you can develop into further aspects of the new country of business.
DANNY:

Like a palace or something, you can pour it all back in.
ERWIN:

Yes, yes, or then you can start looking for territory. Now one way is you can look for certain areas of the world where the legal regime is in some kind of doubt. There's an island for example in the middle of the Rio Grande River, between the U.S. and Mexico and since the river is nominally the border but the river changes course. And this island is in some dispute, one fellow has enlisted an Indian tribe and claimed this as an independent nation in the name of that Indian tribe. And he's been issuing some bonds on it which have drawn the attention of the authorities. And there's an area in the South China Sea called the Spratley Islands, which is claimed by five countries, that is real countries, and there are a number of new countries that have staked their claims in terms of those islands, including Castilagnia, which claims to have settled some refugees on those islands. Naturally they won't say which islands, they say for security reasons which makes it difficult to check the claim. But it does give their operation a little bit more substance.
DANNY:

But what happens if you claim some territory that already technically is in another country. Like I mean I'm already realising that probably I'm going to have to claim part of Britain.
ERWIN:

Well, then it becomes a matter between you and that country.
DANNY:

Right, a face-off.
ERWIN:

Yes. Yes. And you have the, of course there's, in Britain there's the example of Sealand in which...

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DANNY:

I've been there, yeah, it was great.
ERWIN:

Yes, yes, in which Roy Bates basically occupied a tower in the Thames River Estuary, left over from World War Two and declared it independent, and the British Government took a dim view of that, they sent out a boat-load of buoy repair men to roust him off. And he fired a few warning shots over them and sent them back to shore, at which point the Government went to court. At that point Fleet Street got a hold of it and made it rather a laughing-stock and the Government decided it was better just to let the whole thing ride. And so there, there he was, well-established.
DANNY:

So I mean I could do that as well, couldn't I?
ERWIN:

Yes in principle you could but I think it's a matter of the right place, the right time, the right public relations. If it's all handled well there, it's all up to the circumstances of the moment.
DANNY:

See, I probably wouldn't be, you know, I got the feeling that, that Roy was maybe a little bit gruff with the British Government, you know, a bit forceful. I'd be a bit more polite, a bit more charming.
ERWIN:

There's a time to be gruff and a time to be polite and that's the, the nature of the diplomacy business.

DANNY:

I think I'd be quite good at it. I think I'd get on with them. But I mean, what happens if they then try to take it away from me, I mean what can I do?
ERWIN:

Well if, you don't want to be very aggressive, then you can go to court, and you make appeals through the media for sympathy. And again it all depends on the time, place and circumstances and just how well you handle all of the incidents involved.
DANNY:

So I wouldn't have to go straight into war.
ERWIN:

No, not necessarily
DANNY:

I mean it's important for me to defend my nation though,
ERWIN:

Well that is traditionally going, going back to Grotius in the Middle Ages, one of the traditional definitions of sovereignty is that the territory is defended by force of arms, which is one of the things Prince Roy has cited. At one point some, I believe it was Germans visited the, the platform on the grounds of negotiating some business deal and then turned on him and threw him off, put him in a boat and sent him to shore. And he came back a few days later in a helicopter with some bats and, and some boys behind him and re-took it. And now he can say that he has, he has indeed defended his territory by force of arms.
DANNY:

The Germans have got a habit of that, haven't they?

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ERWIN:

Well yes, there's always that.
DANNY:

Well I mean that's good then, I mean I don't want to go straight into that kind of, I'd rather do things diplomatically, you know, and make friends with Britain rather than become an enemy straight away.
ERWIN:

Yes, war is diplomacy continued by other means, and diplomacy always comes first.
DANNY:

Well there's the worry as well that they'd see me as, you know, some kind of terrorist figure, when obviously I'm a freedom-fighter.
ERWIN:

Well that makes things a little more difficult nowadays than it was say, when I wrote my book back in the Eighties, during the Cold War there was a lot of opportunity for manoeuvre in the interstices between the great powers, which was largely closed out. And, and by the same token after 2001 there's a lot more nervousness about terrorism and anybody doing anything like this is immediately suspected of that. So attention would have to be paid to making sure that everybody saw you as having strictly peaceful intentions.
DANNY:

I think peaceful is the way I should go, I should make that clear from the outset and just say, look this is going to be a very peaceful country. But in terms of how I should go about kind of constructing the country or you know, kind of the, the model of government, 'cause I've got to think about all this stuff, there's a lot to think about. I mean is there kind of an easy template I can just follow?
ERWIN:

Well there are of course the various constitutions that have been written around the world, for countries, from the U.S. and, going on from there. A number of new countries have had, had constitutions drawn up just for them, there's the, something that was called Orbis that was nominally published as a constitution for an, some orbiting society in, in Space. But in fact was in connection with...
DANNY:

In Space?
ERWIN:

Yes, if you can get to Space, but again that starts, that runs into some money now, getting into Space.
DANNY:

Yeah it does.
ERWIN:

So there are a number of models that you can follow and, of course you have to decide your basic philosophy, you want to be a monarchy and pass, pass it along from generation. Well you need to think of some kind of a structure, you probably want to have a nobility underneath the monarch, and you have to decide on your various gradations of titles and these are, they're well-established titles historically, you can pick and choose whether you want to have Earls or Counts for example. They, there are decisions like that to be made. And then you ought to have stamps and coins of course.
DANNY:

Yeah definitely, yeah.

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ERWIN:

And passports, these are just the, the normal incidents of things. You might issue a, a driver's license, that might be an interesting thing to have. Also, all sorts of official documents in degrees.
DANNY:

And this kind of, what does this do, this just kind of gives me a legitimacy and, and let's people know that...
ERWIN:

Yeah this gives you, adds some substance to the whole venture and makes it a little more than just one person's say-so.
DANNY:

So I mean I could become a sovereign nation, I could, you know.
ERWIN:

Yes a sovereignty is in the mind, if you think you're a sovereign you are a sovereign,
DANNY:

Do you think you're a sovereign?
ERWIN:

Yes I like to think that, you know, this is my little kingdom here and that I run my own life and I get along fine with the, the general authorities in the country. But I, you know, I, make my own decisions and set my own priorities and keep my own counsel.
DANNY:

And how are international relations with The States?
ERWIN:

I pay, I pay taxes, I'm in a situation fortunately where I don't have to pay very many taxes, that makes it easier. And I can, I can otherwise, you know, maintain good relations. They don't ask much of me, I don't ask much of them.
DANNY:

So that's a good way of making friends with the outside nations. So I could do that with Britain.
ERWIN:

Yes, yes, Prince Leonard for example in Australia, he, he pays Australian taxes, he says as a matter of international courtesy,
DANNY:

That's good as well, 'cause it's kind of me being polite isn't it.
ERWIN:

Yes, and as long as, you know, as long as he pays his taxes the Australian authorities have no particular bones to pick with him.
DANNY:

Really? And do they recognise his country?
ERWIN:

Well they don't do anything quite that formal. But they tolerate him. Of course one thing about recognising countries is there are many places in the world when you present one of the passports from one of these countries and the border guard there will put his stamp, a recognised country, in your own country's passport and you can develop quite a collection that way. So you can say, see, these countries have recognised our passport.

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DANNY:

Recognised me, exactly. So that thereby gaining international legitimacy.
ERWIN:

Yes, yes, well this strengthens your case.
DANNY:

That's a really good tip, I'm going to try that one day. How about other kind of models, what else can I do, if I don't go that route.
ERWIN:

Well, one angle is the, the ships under flags of convenience. This of course was the basis of many of the pirate radio stations in Britain in the Sixties, and there are countries such as Panama and Liberia that will issue you a, a ship registration with few questions asked, and you can pretty much do what you like on the ship and no-one will be, no-one will bother you and this gives, confers a certain legitimacy. 'Course as I, as I mentioned before this work, worked better in the 1980s when there were more interstices between the super-powers, the countries like the U.S are now a little less reluctant to seize and board a ship. And in fact they recently did a Treaty with Panama that allows the U.S. to board any Panamanian ship if they suspect terrorism which could become a very convenient excuse.
DANNY:

And that has to be water-based?
ERWIN:

That, that keeps you on the high seas, yes, which has its advantages and its disadvantages. If you're someone who gets seasick a lot, then that could be a problem.
DANNY:

Also I wouldn't be able to afford a very big boat.
ERWIN:

Yes, well that too is a, that too is a problem.
DANNY:

The whole money thing I think, setting out, starting a country is, is proving to be a problem for me, you know.
ERWIN:

Yes, yes, I mean you have to, you have to set immediate goals that suit your immediate means and hopefully forms that will let you raise some money, to take it to the next level.
DANNY:

Well how can I do that, I mean apart from selling titles. I mean at the moment I've only got really one citizen, one guy who's along with me, it's an old friend of mine, and I'd feel bad charging him. Or I could tax people.
ERWIN:

Well if people who will stand still long enough for you to tax them. This can be a problem as I said they, the selling of, of services like the patents of nobility, the stamps, the coins, this tends to be a little bit more attractive because people get something tangible in return. And it doesn't have to cost that much to produce them, so it's almost all pure profit.
DANNY:

I was reading on the plane over, something about Vonu...

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ERWIN:

Yes, now this is, the art of living anonymously, and this is a very, certainly it's very down-scale financially, but it's not necessarily very ego-satisfying because you, the essence of it is you keep a low profile.
DANNY:

It sounds rubbish.
ERWIN:

Yes, some people like living out in the woods, a lot of the urban squatters in Europe are in effect doing this strategy where they don't have any legal title to the land they're on, but they just squat there, they live there and they are largely left alone.
DANNY:

And wouldn't that, I mean if I did it, wouldn't that annoy the government, wouldn't they say well hang on, you can't just claim to be a king.
ERWIN:

Well that's not too compatible with claiming to be a king. I mean you can be the vagabond prince, but that's about the, the limit of it, 'cause the essence is keeping a low profile, it's a sort of an, an endstate in itself. If you are looking for something larger, eventually to be king of some territory, then you can, then you probably need to look somewhere else.
DANNY:

Yeah, cast that one aside. Are there others?
ERWIN:

Well again, if you want to the bigger scale one, probably involves some kind of war or military preparations to actually attempt to take some piece of territory and declare it independent, not pay taxes to anybody, not otherwise recognise any authority. That's likely to lead to some, at least the kind of conflict that Prince Roy faced in Sealand.
DANNY:

I tried invading an island in, in Twickenham in London and that went fine, it went all right, I won the hearts and minds of the people. But I just didn't really feel at home there, you know, and I, I kind of felt like they were humouring me.
ERWIN:

Yes, yes there's that.
DANNY:

So essentially I've got a bit of a struggle ahead of me.
ERWIN:

Yes, that's, of that there's no doubt, whatever, whatever route you take it's a struggle to establish a new country.
DANNY:

Do you have any kind of, any advice for me,
ERWIN:

Well it's to be persistent and keep at it and keep a cool head, you know, think things through, don't do anything rash that's going to produce a collapse on the spot.
DANNY:

Antarctica then, I mean is that, that's still an option?

7

ERWIN:

Yes that is an option. Most of the area is not only claimed by one country or another, but one country, one area has been left unclaimed, the idea being that that would be the US's territory. However the US has a policy of not recognising any claims in Antarctica and saying that it should be permanently internationalised. As a result there is a wedge of land there that is under no national claim at all.
DANNY:

Brilliant.
ERWIN:

And there's, and there is one group that has, the Greenpeace environmental protestors have established a base on the coast there and have so far been basically left alone by the, by various countries of the world. DANNY Exactly. Well that sounds good as well, I mean the whole thing. I mean presumably I could not only have a bit of the coast, but could I not claim water, I mean is water claimable? Can I claim international waters?
ERWIN:

Well the current treaties allow for a twelve-mile territorial limit off of the coast and a two-hundred mile exclusive economic zone, which gives control of things like oil under-sea and fisheries.
DANNY:

So you'd get all that as well.
ERWIN:

That all goes with the piece of land. That's one of the advantages of an island because however small the island, you go out twelve miles, you go out two hundred miles, and you're covered.
DANNY:

You've got the sea-bed? No-one's claimed the sea-bed have they?
ERWIN:

Well the sea-bed beyond the, the two hundred mile exclusive economic zone, there is a current law of the sea treaty being negotiated and ratified by various countries, which would make that the property of the United Nations. However the US among others is, has reservations about this sort of thing, particularly in the wake of the oil for food scandal, about placing resources under the control of the, the United Nations which would mean large sums of money under the control of the United Nations.
DANNY:

Well also, let's say that my country, you know, it's going to work out well but what if the UN doesn't recognise it and, and suddenly I haven't got any right over the sea-bed?
ERWIN:

Well you exercise the right, it's a question of what country might come in and say, and, and, and try to take it from you. And now you're back to that same basic question of what do you do when an existing country confronts you and trying to avoid war and waging a public relations and diplomatic effort to establish yourself.
DANNY:

I am slightly worried by the concept of war. I realise that as I become a world leader and things start to progress in that direction it's something I'm going to have to deal with.

8

ERWIN:

Yes that is part of state-craft and, and always has been. And as I said, you can found your nation on pacifist principles and invoke Gandhi and Martin Luther King, but you always have to remember that other people don't necessarily subscribe to the same view and you may, you may have to deal with them at some point.
DANNY:

Well let's take America for example, I mean I couldn't take you guys on... not in my current state.
ERWIN:

No you... Yeah well you would try to avoid the, the major countries and keep yourself involved with the smaller ones. Although if you're going to go for the diplomatic and public relations angle, the, the major democracies are generally more fertile grounds for that, whereas there, there was one fellow, something called Operation Atlantis, that had an agreement with Duvalier in Haiti back in his day, to set up a free port on some island and Doc changed his mind at the last minute and, and sent a gunboat out and kicked them off and the boat, their boat sank then in a storm and it all ended badly. And there was really, not much opportunity to work the public relations angle because, Papa Doc didn't really subscribe to that sort of thing. Whereas with Prince Roy and Sealand, dealing with the British, there was a quite a bit of manoeuvre for that.
DANNY:

how can I, how can I possibly defend myself?
ERWIN:

Well in the 1980's, in the book, I suggested tongue-in-cheek the, the mouse that roared strategy,
DANNY:

What's that?
ERWIN:

Where you get yourself a weapon of mass destruction and, and threaten to blow up the place. Nowadays that's, you know, that's not so, not so funny.
DANNY:

Not blow up my own place, blow up...
ERWIN:

Well if, if they attack, mutual destruction. You would blow up your own place as well, but you would blow up them with you like the bee that stings and then dies, you know, you may get me but I'll get you at the same time
ERWIN:

mutually assured destruction.
DANNY:

Well maybe that's something I, I mean where am I going to get a WMD from though?
ERWIN:

Yeah well, North Korea seems to be, be selling them from reports from Libya and Iran, that they seem to be selling them or selling the technology, selling pieces of them.
DANNY:

How much is one?

9

ERWIN:

And, well it's rather, rather expensive, certainly right now, but as you know, the prices of technology tend to come down over time. I can well imagine, ten, twenty, thirty years from now that there could be a thriving black market in these kinds of things, because it's an opportunity for a country like North Korea that has very little else to offer for sale.
DANNY:

They'll probably get smaller and smaller as well, won't they?
ERWIN:

Oh yeah, yeah. Well they've already gotten quite small, thanks to the great powers and their innovations. And the technology of making them small is not that, is not that arcane once you've mastered the basic technology of building the things in the first place.
DANNY:

Well I'll need quite a small one, 'cause I mean my country's going to be quite small.
ERWIN:

Yes, well you can, there, there are some that could fit in a suitcase the size of the, the one that I have over there in the corner.
DANNY:

That's not a weapon of mass...
DANNY:

Well should I get in touch with the North Koreans then?
ERWIN:

Well that might be, that might be advisable at an early stage. But of course they, they are interested in money and that could, that could be a problem, you might want to wait till you have a little bit of money built up before you made contact.
ERWIN:

Mutually assured destruction worked in the Cold War, so no reason why it shouldn't work in the future. DANNY Okay, well you've given me a lot to think about there. You've given me a lot of good advice actually, I think I'll be able to implement that.
ERWIN:

I look forward to hearing your, your reports.
DANNY:

Well I'll keep in touch. I may use you as some kind of mentor figure, so you may get a few phone-calls from me. Is that all right?
ERWIN:

That's perfectly all right.
DANNY:

Brilliant, I'll give you a free title.
ERWIN:

Ah, that would be nice, yes.
DANNY:

A Duke.

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ERWIN:

Ah, yes I think that could, Duke Erwin has a ring to it, yes.
DANNY:

It certainly does. Sounds like a cowboy. Excellent, listen thank you very much. I'll leave you to it.

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