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Shortcuts: Starting your own country

By CNN's Barry Neild
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(CNN) -- How to start your own country.

Fight the power: Fed up with paying taxes, obeying laws and being told to tidy your socks away? There's a simple answer: Start your own country. More specifically, start your own micronation: A tiny principality ruled by you that consists of an island, perhaps a few acres of farmland or -- providing mom's cool with it -- your bedroom.

Find a territory: The first rule of starting your own country is don't upset anyone. A quick scan of the history books shows that large scale declarations of independence tend to involve at best a few harsh words, and at worst a few harsh words followed by a punch-up. If you can establish a sovereign nation without anyone noticing for a few years, you're off to a good start. The terrain is unimportant. Ernest Hemingway helped his brother establish the nation of New Atlantis on a barge moored off Jamaica until it was ravaged by storms and pirates. Similarly, Britain's Michael Bates set up the principality of Sealand on a rusting fortress off the southeast coast of England. Less ambitious projects such as Robert Madison's Kingdom of Talossa began in the humble surroundings of a Milwaukee bedroom, while others, sensibly -- if sensible is a term that applies here -- go no further than the bounds of cyberspace.

Get recognition: Once you're confident no one's going to invade, it's time to seek recognition. It might help if you've got your own flag, currency and a national anthem, but be warned, micronations occupy a gray area when it comes to establishing international legitimacy. Don't be surprised if Washington and London -- and Pyongyang for that matter -- refuse to establish diplomatic relations, and don't expect a seat or even a space in the cycle sheds at the United Nations.

Get an economy: It's all very well abolishing taxes, but unless your country is wholly self-sufficient (just how long can you survive if mom imposes a snack embargo?) you're going to need an income. Smaller nations have made cash in the past by registering ships under flags of convenience, but micronations would probably struggle to persuade captains of even the leakiest tubs to sail under their colors. Sealand's bold venture was to set itself up as a data haven -- an offshore Internet hub beyond the reach of copyright and censorship. Though this is a potential money-spinner, given the nature of Web sites you can expect to be hosting, you better make sure mom knows to knock before entering.

Watch out for traitors: Some micronations have unexpectedly attracted thousands of citizens. Aussie artist Liz Sterling's online kingdom of Lizbekistan proved so popular that when she disbanded it in 1999, several other Web sites sprang up to accommodate the stateless Lizbek Diaspora. While such support is heartening, one should always be on the lookout for quislings. In a plot worthy of Shakespeare, Leonard George Casley, another Australian who established the surprisingly successful Hutt River Province Principality, had to fend off an alleged power grab by a businessman bent on moving his nation to a Pacific island. All of which goes to show there must be more at stake in some micronations than a tidy sock drawer.

What if I fail?: If at first you don't secede, try, try again.


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Don't expect to see your flag outside the U.N.

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