Interview: The Secessionists’ Convent 2015

A month ago, the Secessionists’ Convent of 2015 (SC15) released its final report. The Coprieta Standard was granted the opportunity to interview participants Mike Lewis (ML), Bailey McCahon (BM), and Gabriel Pelger (GP) on the Convent’s findings.

CS: A long-winded effort, by most micronational standards, lasting nearly half-a-year, the Secessionists’ Convent of 2015 certainly evolved over time. At the beginning, what were each of your hopes for the Convent’s purpose and, looking back, how satisfied are you by its final outcome?

BM: I saw the Convent as an opportunity to form ties between Covanellis and the other participating nations, as well as to aid us in our nation’s growth and development. I also saw it as a learning opportunity, where the participants could compare and contrast each other’s ideas and perhaps be inspired by another nations plans. Looking at what I had wanted and hoped for the Convent, and what it has achieved, I can honestly say that I am very satisfied with its final outcome.

GP: Indeed, our group dynamics certainly evolved in our numerous months of discussion, and – in retrospect – I suppose that did have quite an impact on our idea of the Convent’s nature throughout. When I conceived the idea in December 2014, I actually only imagined there being one extended meeting. This might have sufficed for my initial intent to have secessionist micronationalists agree on what the qualities of a true secessionist micronation are and create a feeling of unity among secessionist micronations, but would never have let us do justice to the many points on the continually growing agenda we drew up in the weeks before the sessions started. I’m not sure when we decided to have several sessions, but it was certainly necessary as we delegates of our respective nations brought together the various perceptions of what the Convent was supposed to be about. Looking back, it is hard to distinguish (without extensively reviewing our official records) which purposes we imagined individually for the Convent. What I can say with confidence is that when we authored the final report together, we had a collective understanding of what we meant to achieve. As for my satisfaction with what we have produced – I very much believe we have done what we set out to do, and more.

ML: To be honest, I wasn’t completely sure of what to expect. After seeing numerous groups spring up and fold within a month, I just wanted to see the Convent last. The fact it did is very satisfying indeed. The end result was by far better than I expected.

CS: The final report of SC15 suggested that the best opportunity to gain sovereignty is to take advantage of macronational legal loopholes. Given that the most obvious example to follow, Sealand, is no longer feasible, as macronational territorial waters have expanded and exclusive economic zones have been declared, what type of loopholes did SC15 have in mind?

GP: The Convent indeed agreed that legal loopholes could be deemed of the most simple and historically successful ways for secessionist micronations to gain at least de jure sovereignty. Unfortunately, you are correct in stating in that macronations have in many ways become increasingly territorial. In light of this, the lack or insufficiency of secession or sedition law in some macronations, their corrupt governance, disputed borders, or international law were our primary considerations in this instance, I believe.

ML: This is obviously something that could be explored at the next Convent. The easiest option in my eyes would be to discover land that is terra nullis. Some are obvious like Bir Tawil or the pockets of land around the Danube, so it would be better to find something unique. This is not the official policy of the Imperial Grand Duchy of Lundenwic, however.

BM: I would suggest the establishment of state-owned businesses, the utilisation of businesses from nearby macronations in the construction of infrastructure and the timely establishment of a high-quality, compulsory education system. These three points would serve to be immensely important in both the short and long-term. They would establish the beginnings of an economy and provide some much-needed cash-flow in the early years of the new nation’s history, sweeten relations with neighbouring macronations and hopefully lead to better cooperation with them in future, and finally, will produce an educated population capable of growing and diversifying the economy. Of course, there is much more than that which needs to be done to successfully establish a nation, however I see these three as very important for the immediate and long-term issues which might be faced by a new nation.

CS: There are numerous recommendations from SC15 for aspiring secessionist governments on how to implement policy programmes in support of sovereignty and population growth, such as to ensure a competitive standard of living versus macronations or to create an economy feasible of underpinning that standard of living. Let’s assume that a secessionist micronation’s dream of sovereignty has been attained. In your opinion, of all the recommendations made by SC15, what should be the three that are implemented first?

ML: Every nation is different. Each and every nation would have to evaluate what would be best for them to attract settlers, etc. I don’t think I can properly answer this question.

BM: I don’t believe the Convent had any particular loopholes in mind when we suggested their use as a tool for secession, but rather that secessionists should look for them wherever they could be used. As Gabriel states, we also discussed the utilisation of a lack of laws regarding secession and government corruption as aides for secession, among other things.

GP: An excellent question. Of course, my personal recommendation would vary for each individual case – mostly depending on stability, resources, and purpose of such a micronation and upon the geopolitical circumstances. But for a generic micronation first emerging from a mere de facto control of territory and heavy influence and dependence on a host macronation, I would probably prioritize measures to ensure economic autonomy and continued attractiveness to the assets of devoted and skilled citizens. It is more than likely that a host macronation which tolerated the micronation’s sovereignty is either weak, under political pressure, or has a citizenry with a very positive view of the secessionist entity. In the first two cases, the macronation or its allies have an incentive to insidiously undermine the micronation’s independence, authority and identity. Accordingly, the micronation would have to be quite self-sufficient. A supremely important factor is the position of NATO nations (or whichever political blocs develop in the future), as more powerful nations are guaranteed to have an interest in either preserving or destroying the micronation. The satisfaction of citizens and potential to attract citizens from the most powerful bloc (globally or in the region) – without threatening this bloc – could be a major determining factor that must be high up in the consideration of the micronation. As such, I could not possibly be more specific without giving a plethora of hypothetical scenarios undue weight and ballooning this question out of proportion.

CS: Money from foreign investors and the creation of a gambling economy with a government monopoly were identified in the report as two potentially beneficial sources for funding the upstart secessionist micronation. What benefits and drawbacks do each of these sources come with, and in hindsight, are there other funding sources that should be considered?

BM: Looking at gambling, the largest benefit of a government monopoly would be the new ability to identify citizens who have a gambling problem and help them overcome it, which would hopefully reduce bankruptcy rates and poverty related to gambling. Another benefit of a government monopoly is that the government has full control of the profits, which can be significant in that industry. This could provide some very important cash flow while the new country is developing, as well as some useful extra money for the upkeep of infrastructure or welfare programs later on. Regarding drawbacks, crime often follows casinos, however I believe that if comprehensive regulations are in place to prevent citizens from engaging in excessive gambling, this could be lessened. Other drawbacks include foreign competition, which is already well-established, and a dependency on the whims of foreign gamblers.

When looking at the benefits and drawbacks of attaining money from foreign investors, the benefit is that (assuming you can attract them) there is money available for you to fast-track your nation’s development. The two drawbacks are that you have to be able to entice investors, which could be very difficult to do, and you also need to pay the investors back, including any interest. If a large sum of money is invested in your nation, it could take a significant amount of time to pay back these investors, so it is important that a nation has a strong business plan to be able to eliminate its debt burden as quickly as possible.

GP: Ramifications might vary, naturally. A gambling economy would be beholden to a risky economic sector heavily reliant upon the whims of foreign gamblers and in competition with already established international gambling capital – leading to a race to the bottom in terms of financial regulations and environmental protection measures. On the other hand, of course, especially a microstate is suited to sustain itself well by such means, as exemplified by Monaco. As for foreign investment, this would likely be the more viable option – though here also, close attention would have to be paid so as not to cede sovereignty to financial institutions by agreeing to excessive economic or potentially any non-economic obligations. Indonesia, though obviously never a micronation, demonstrates some of the risks of indebting a people, and the economic state of the developing world serves as a reminder of the massive risks of the financial liberalisation that might be necessary to attract investors.

Funding by extraction of natural resources is likely impossible because of the unlikely nature of secession in an area valuable to a host macronation. Development of a stable, democratic micronation of skilled citizenry within a relatively poor host micronation could lead to utilization of previously unusable resources, leading to the sudden growth in population and economy necessary for the establishment of a micronation.

ML: Both Bailey and Gabriel have made excellent points. I would add that with foreign investment you could be leaving your nation open to abuse. You may have to compromise or meet certain conditions to receive funding. As for gambling economies, you need to make sure you are close enough to civilisation to attract customers. No one is going to travel to the middle of nowhere to gamble, when there is already established gambling hotspots. You would probably need to offer better odds. Our own plan involves setting up hotels, shops and restaurants to generate income to further our goals.

CS: SC15 hopes to become a public authority on secessionism according to the final finding in the report. Mentioned is a role for it in the creation of useable templates for laws and treaties and in offering individual advice to secessionist micronations. How involved do you foresee SC15 becoming in this role? Would it create standards in support of its findings – for example, a guide to healthy eating to help micronations implement its recommendation to ensure a healthy population to reduce healthcare costs?

GP: The Secessionists‘ Convent – this year‘s and any in the years to come – does indeed aspire to become a sort of public authority, a center of conference, if you will, by means of which secessionist micronations can cooperate to lighten the burdens of working to establish a fully functioning and independent nation. How involved we become is entirely up to the devoted delegates of the nations taking part. We have yet to see how detailed our planned services to the micronational secessionist become.

ML: That is not something I had foreseen. The idea, to me at least, was to provide to those in the early throws of setting up a nation. It could be something that is done in the future, should there be a consensus for it.

BM: I agree with Mike in that I saw the idea as a way to help new secessionists grow and develop more easily, so that they may attain their goal of secession quicker. I would like to think that the Secessionists’ Convent will become involved in the role of assisting secessionist micronations, but I think that our current goal of helping and guiding is as involved as we should become. If we believe we can do so, I think we should produce a healthy eating guide for secessionist micronations (among other guides and standards), as it would eventually come to benefit them, should it be implemented properly.

CS: Much interest has been voiced by some of the non-participant secessionist micronationalists to become involved in the next Convent. Can you tell our readers what you would consider to be the priority for the next Convent, if one were to be held?

GP: I‘ve made mental notes over the past year concerning this important question. If memory serves, one such note I underlined, so to speak, several times during our discussions regarding the Secessionists‘ Convent of 2016, is economic projections. When our sessions focussed especially on the issues of economics and the cost of living in fall, I remember proposing we focus on this subject more in the SC16, as I was at the time not adquately prepared for the extensive cost estimations central to the accuracy of the results of this phase – since then I have gained a far greater understanding of the process required to arrive at a reliable projection, so I will certainly take initiative to make that a top priority this year. In general, though, revising and fleshing out the SC15‘s findings where it is necessary, and of course building upon the groundwork laid in last year‘s Convent are what I imagine the SC16 will be about.

ML: I think when participates are invited, an agenda will be drawn up so that every member can have topics that are important to them discussed. I believe we could revisit some of the points already in the Final Report. The possibilities are endless really.

BM: In our next convent we have largely agreed that we would like to look more in-depth at our current findings and see what we can deduce from that. There will likely also be more topics discussed, but currently we have not set a definite agenda.

CS: Any final thoughts?

GP: Regrettably, it would be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, for me to recall and summarize the many thoughts I have had during this interview and in general about the SC15. So, in closing, I would simply like to thank everyone who has participated in or supported the Secessionists‘ Convent – especially the Coprieta Standard, which has given us a wonderful opportunity to provide insights into our efforts of the past year – and I would be remiss not to extend my sincere gratitude towards all who have expressed their interest in partaking of this year‘s Convent (which I expect will begin fairly soon).

ML: I would to encourage people to voice their interest to join the Convent. Although it will be by invitation only, your interest will be noted.

BM: I would also like to encourage people to voice any interest in joining the Convent. As Mike said, your interest will be noted.

Interview: The Secessionists’ Convent 2015