In Birth of a Nation, Hudlin, who wrote and directed the House Party movies, and McGruder, who is famous for his comic The Boondocks, imagined what would have happened if East St. Louis, one of America's most depressed cities, had decided to declare its independence. The story is pretty compelling, and it got me wondering if this could really be done. I think it probably could.
In 2003, in an effort to raise money, Boon Island, which is located off the coast of Maine, declared its independence and began issuing money and library cards. Although the project seems to have been an elaborate hoax, it still raises interesting questions. On the one hand, Boon Island is located within six nautical miles of the United States, which puts it well within the country's territorial waters. On the other hand, several other countries have carved exceptions to their territorial water claims in order to allow smaller, independent nations to exist. It's possible that Boon Island could have claimed a similar case.
One such exception is the Principality of Sealand. Located six miles off the coast of Suffolk, United Kingdom, the "micronation" is composed of a World War II-era British sea fort. Occupied by Paddy Roy Bates and his family, the tiny platform has its own flag, national anthem, currency, and passports. The United Kingdom has not officially recognized the sovereignty of Sealand, but it had acted in a way that demonstrates a de facto acknowledgment of the independence of the state.
Currently, the Bates family is entertaining plans to establish an online casino, while trying to sell their mini-state for €750,000,000. If you're looking for a prime piece of English Channel real estate, this might be the perfect answer for you.
Alternately, you could follow the lead of Stuart Hill. On June 21, 2008, he declared that his tiny Shetland Isles home of Forewick Holm, which he calls Forvik, was a "Crown Dependency," and thus an independently-administered jurisdiction. This, effectively, means that he severed ties between his two-acre isle and the United Kingdom, as well as the European Union. He is currently accepting applications for citizenship, payable in Forvik Gulden, which are tied to the price of gold.
Admittedly, secession from the United States hasn't worked out too well for those who have tried it (I'm looking at you, South Carolina), but Key West has made its 1982 "secession" into a major tourism booster. As the self-styled Conch Republic, it issues passports, has its own postage stamps, and celebrates its independence every April 23 with a week-long festival. While not a genuine political separation, this certainly has had major benefits for the island.
So why would you want to be your own independent state? Well, for two reasons, really. The first is that you could have a direct, immediate say in the taxes that you pay. Rather than write a check for a distant bureaucracy, you could debate your tax bill with your leaders. In the case of Stuart Hill, I imagine that this is a conversation that he has with himself on a regular basis.
The second reason for declaring independence is the fact that you could make your own laws, as long as you can defend your sovereignty. This means that, if you want, you could establish anonymous banking, on the Swiss model. Before you know it, you will probably have drug dealers, corrupt government officials, and people engaged in painful divorces knocking down your door and begging you to hide their cash. You could also legalize gambling, enabling you to operate offshore or internet casinos. Between these two revenue streams, it would only be a short period of time before you were rolling in the dough.
Not bad work if you can get it. Now for the first step: find an island!
Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He's already scouting locations for the Independent Republic of Bruceovia. Anybody want to apply for diplomatic status?