By Brian Doherty, Reason
Raymond B. Craib’s new book recounts how Michael Oliver repeatedly tried to create a new country with a government-funded entirely by voluntary contributions.
Adventure Capitalism: A History of Libertarian Exit, from the Era of Decolonization to the Digital Age, by Raymond B. Craib, Spectre/PM Press, 304 pages, $24.95
When Michael Oliver was a teenager in Lithuania, the Nazis shipped him by train to a series of concentration camps in Poland. He was the only member of his Jewish family not murdered during World War II. It does not take an overly capacious imagination to grasp why a man who experienced that might yearn to live under a government that would never casually wield such life-and-death power over its citizens.
In Adventure Capitalism, Cornell historian Raymond B. Craib relates how Oliver, who immigrated to the United States in 1947 after two postwar years in a displaced persons camp, self-published in 1968 a libertarian manifesto called A New Constitution for a New Country. With wealth earned as a land developer and precious metals dealer, Oliver then tried over and over to create a new country with a government funded entirely by voluntary contributions.
After scoping out possibilities around the end of the 1960s in at least eight island nations, Oliver’s first serious effort involved hiring a dredging vessel in August 1971 to create an artificial island around a couple of reefs in the South Pacific at the cost of $10,000 a week. Oliver’s legal consultants agreed that as a private citizen on “an artificially created and uninhabited area on the high seas,” he might be able to get away with asserting sovereignty. He built an organizational structure and a mailing list of nearly 15,000 interested parties. In January 1972, Oliver and his board of directors declared the island to be the Republic of Minerva, sending a letter announcing such to more than 100 existing nations, none of which recognized it.