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Nauru Recognizes Abkhazia: Commoditizing Sovereignty

December 17, 2009

Nauru…became the fourth country to formally establish diplomatic relations with Abkhazia, effectively recognizing its sovereignty…In talks with Russian officials, Nauru requested $50 million for “urgent social and economic projects,” the newspaper reported, citing unnamed Russian diplomats…In 2002, Nauru severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan, coincident with a reported pledge of $130 million from China. Three years later, it switched again, prompting a Chinese official to grumble that the islanders were “only interested in material gains.”

(The NYT, via Adam Selene)

As I see it, part of the path to A Thousand Nations is the trend of “commoditizing sovereignty” – small countries realizing that their membership in the club of nations is one of their most valuable assets. As the article says: “There is no question of morality here,” Mr. Markedonov said. “It’s the smallest country in the world. It has no potential, just to trade in independence. Independence is a commodity — people will trade it.”

Small countries can extend their umbrella of sovereignty to other states, startup states, and “WSLEs” (Weakly State-Like Entities), through means such as ship flagging and diplomatic recognition, in return for cash. This will help the long tail of nations get even longer.

This suggests another difference between seasteading and charter cities – seasteading will most likely seek partnerships with small countries, while charter cities seem to be envisioned as operated by large countries, Canada being the example Paul Romer uses.  Small countries like Nauru have much greater incentive to help political entrepreneurs hack the sovereignty system than large nations.  Of course, their recognition / assistance is much less meaningful, because they are less powerful.  Small countries will be an easier starting ally for a startup nation, but let’s not forget that new countries such as the USA depended on assistance from the great powers of the day for the resources to get established.

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12 Comments
  1. December 17, 2009 5:30 am

    Fascinating, Patri, this is a fabulous line of analysis. Only at “Let a Thousand Nations” would I discover this fact, and its relevance to long-term global issues.

    Thanks,

    Michael

  2. Kennon Ballou permalink
    December 17, 2009 10:12 am

    You could almost generalize a PageRank-style algorithm to determine some sort of SovereigntyRank for states – Nauru obviously doesn’t have much SovereigntyJuice, so it’s recognition of Abkhazia probably doesn’t have all that much effect.

    If this sort of thing really took off, you might have to start dealing with similar problems as Google does – “sovereignty link spammers” etc. As with any long tail system, the aggregators become extremely important. Have you thought about what kind of aggregators might emerge in a world of A Thousand Nations?

  3. December 17, 2009 10:01 pm

    This “WSLEs” abbreviation must be redacted. It’s an insult to honest, cute, fuzzy weasels everywhere!

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