The Fundamental Right of Secession

By Jeffery Tucker

Laissez Faire Books


What is the world’s smallest country? Monaco? Nope. Malta? Too big. Even Vatican City with a mere population of 770 is huge in comparison.

It’s called Sealand, founded and ruled by Paddy Roy Bates, a remarkable man who died this week at the age of 91. He was the original pirate radio operator and the Prince of Sealand, a tiny barge six miles out of the east side of Great Britain, outside the territorial waters of the UK.

From his self-created nation, Bates broadcasted Radio Essex in 1965 and 1966, playing rock music at a time when the BBC frowned on it, and generally showed the world how to communicate beyond the bounds of what the law allowed.

We are talking about a serious pioneer here, a man who showed the way toward the Internet of today. In those days, doing this took real guts and vision to do what he did. He effectively seceded from the nation state to establish his own as a way of guaranteeing his freedom to speak and make a contribution to life in his times.

His new nation had a constitution, a flag, a national anthem, and he did a brisk business in passports (apparently 150,000 have been issued!). The nation’s motto: E Mare Libertas. From the Sea, Freedom. As a self-appointed Prince, he was once arrested by British courts, but the courts threw the case out because his barge was outside UK territory. He won his freedom through serious trial and effort.

Reading through a 2011 interview with his son Michael, we find not wackiness but entrepreneurial genius at work here, a real legacy. For example, I had no idea that Sealand had been represented at hundreds of sporting events all over the world! This is because athletes the world over have elected the affiliation at fencing events, minigolf, and even football. There is even a Sealand coin.

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Categories: Secession

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