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I'm looking to found a new country on a real-to-life Earth, and I need somewhere to put it. The country is going to be anywhere from 100 to 1000 square miles (250 to 2500 square km) in size. Assume a budget of perhaps a few billion dollars to pay a little for this land if necessary, but there are a few key requirements:

  • Compact and all in one place to make travel and urban planning easier
    • France is good, Chile is bad
  • Should be comfortably walkable outdoors, so no Arctic- or Death Valley-type climates
    • Desert-type soil is fine, as long as the temperature is reasonable. Bleeding-edge farming technologies can make arable land out of anything
  • No or minimal native people in need of being integrated into the society and culture

Nice to Haves:

  • Oceanic access would be nice, but given this is a very limiting feature, not a requirement
  • Natural resources are always a plus
  • Natural isolation is awesome, so a large number of fairly proximate islands could work well

My current ideas largely focus on uninhabited desert regions, like the Sinai Peninsula, which is fairly reasonable in terms of climate, has good ocean access, no small amount of natural resources, and a good bit of mountainous terrain for natural isolation. Any ideas?

Edit:

Lots of questions I left in the air, oops! First of all, I'm trying to write an advanced, tech-based utopia into the modern world. I plan for this country to establish itself as a global tech hub, founded largely peacefully using, ideally, land existing countries own but don't see as inhabitable. Think solar buildings, advanced public transportation, an economy largely based on distributing ultra-modern technologies to the rest of the world. Infrastructure would be funded largely by the influx of tech companies looking to capitalize on the extremely-well-educated populace, and a culture based on principles of entrepreneurship and sharing local advantages with the world.

Where I'm getting stuck is how to make room for a new country in the modern world. Technology affords flexibility in using land that would otherwise be uninhabitable, but it should still be fairly comfortable to live in, so "uninhabitable" would probably have to mean devoid of land suitable for growing food, which isn't a problem when you have the tech money to import all your food.

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    $\begingroup$ WTF does pay a little for this mean? If you are buying an island with all those nice to have things, you will be paying A LOT. $\endgroup$ – A. C. A. C. Nov 8 '17 at 18:43
  • $\begingroup$ We need to know how you intend to acquire the land. The Sinai Penninsula is not the sort of place you can pick up for a song, then declare independence. Other countries are liable to object, strenuously $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Nov 8 '17 at 18:44
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    $\begingroup$ Buying land and founding a country are not to be confused. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Nov 8 '17 at 18:49
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    $\begingroup$ Not a downvoter but, if I were to downvote, i'd say it doesn't seem like you've done any research at all. "Lack of research effort" is a possible downvote reason after all... $\endgroup$ – Aify Nov 8 '17 at 19:09
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    $\begingroup$ For Close Voters. I read this as an effort to gain clarity in a setting. You have almost all the necessary info and the OP is looking to fill in gaps. The setting of the story is the world and this is very much about building a believable world. Not off topic at all $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Nov 8 '17 at 20:12

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There is no legal way (for a private person) to buy land to establish your own country.

However, there is one way that just may work. You can build an Artificial island. It is expensive, and if you want to build it in international waters, away from the shore, it would become enormously expensive, but still technologically doable. And you need to make sure that you are not running afoul of various countries' territorial claims or international conventions regarding use of seas.

As far as the price tag goes - if you are starting with a reef, expect to spend at least $10 billion to have a sizable island.

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  • $\begingroup$ I really like this answer. It fits in very well with the "futuristic technology" side of things $\endgroup$ – TheEnvironmentalist Nov 8 '17 at 19:28
  • $\begingroup$ This is pretty much the only way to do it peacefully and without international tension. If you are sufficiently technologically advanced you could also use some of the large amounts of waste floating in the ocean as a "seed" for your artificial island. $\endgroup$ – Miles Engel Nov 8 '17 at 19:32
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    $\begingroup$ I think you meant that there is no legal way for an individual to buy land to establish your own country. Look at how the US bought Alaska from Russia (in the late 1800s, wasn't it?). It's not impossible. You just need very good connections to people in high places. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Nov 8 '17 at 20:15
  • $\begingroup$ I wrote about a situation like this… Everyone says "artificial island" and you have the tech in your story. So the real issue in "getting" it is political. I’ll dig it up and post later. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Nov 8 '17 at 20:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Michael Kjörling - yes, I meant for an individual. No matter what kind of connections you have in the country you are buying the land from, you'd need a much higher connections so that your new nation will be internationally recognized. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Nov 8 '17 at 20:34
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Rent Chinese "magic island making ships".

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-41882081 magic island making ships

The Chinese have been busy using these to make islands out of subsurface reefs. They are super dredgers that suck stuff off the bottom then put it in a pile: an artificial island

subi reef being turned into an island

The problem for you is that these islands are cute and all, but they do not give you the square kilometers you crave. But a casual perusal of French Polynesia will show many areas where the ocean is close to the surface. For you I recommend the Gambier Islands

Gambier Islands

Look what a nice big island that will be once your magic island builders fill in the ring. Benefits

  • 1300 natives. Buy them out! Or let them stay - there will be jobs once you move in.
  • Excellent climate
  • It is in France. But I am sure they will sell to you if you let them come by and test nukes now and again.

Once the ring is complete you can use it as a dike and pump out the middle. It will be lower than sea level but that works for the Dutch, and you can hire some to come sort you out.

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Alternate suggestion: Buy an existing "crappy" nation and upgrade

I apoligize for calling anyone's nation "crappy" but there are some very poor nations out there and if you are going to upgrade one to a technological paradise anyway, It might save you legal fees to buy out an existing nation.

As an alternative look for a group of people with a legal claim to a piece of land, reach an agreement with them and then help fund their peaceful secession.

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    $\begingroup$ And 'buy' here can be a very flexible term. It may mean paying off the right people to usurp political control. $\endgroup$ – GrandmasterB Nov 9 '17 at 19:40
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    $\begingroup$ "Buy" here can even mean I will hire local and educate them and provide a tax base. My answer is outside the limits of question but I think it is a viable alternative. $\endgroup$ – P Chapman Nov 9 '17 at 19:54
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Look at real-world micronations to get started.

A couple months ago I wrote a scene/vignette where they have a mostly artificial island and politics. Big industries (such as cruise lines) will go to great lengths to prevent any precedent from being set, so regular countries leave them alone. The key is aligning your claim so it would affect big companies if those premises were challenged.

More practically, anyone who suggests that some specific country has jurisdiction will be chased by lawyers saying that one or more others should, instead, so it’s not theirs. … Kings and presidents don’t rule the world: lawyers do!

See: Maritime Law: Murky Jurisdiction

In 2006, a woman onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship sailing the Mexican Riviera reported being raped in her stateroom. She immediately returned to Los Angeles, where two FBI agents took her statement a week later, and told her there was nothing they could do.

See: Offshore oil rigs are out of U.S. government’s reach
Big Oil, for sure, will keep things tied up in knots if there’s any hint of new laws or a precedent that would give clear jurisdiction for some government to impose regulations and take actions on their rigs.


“What Country is This, Anyway?”

quoted with (my own) permission.

It was the summer in which she had moved out of the kids’ bunk room and into her own place. It was just a bedroom and tiny bathroom, adjacent to the main house, but hidden away a little so it didn’t exactly feel like next door. She covered the walls with drawings and images torn from magazines or printed out from web sites, making the space her own. She also had a large map of the Bahamas and Caribbean; an old nautical chart from the looks of it. They were near the right edge about two thirds of the way down, among the Lesser Antilles. But their little home wasn’t even on the map! It was probably too old.

“What country are we in?” 15-year-old Beth asked her mother.

“Well… nobody’s sure exactly. And we go to some effort to keep it that way.”

“How can that happen?”

“History, same as everything else. You’ve studied the history of the region, right? You recall how different islands, or even parts of the same island, were claimed by different European governments; and that until fairly recently they switched around or were even fought over sometimes.”

“A hundred years ago, the ground we’re standing on did not exist. If you were on a boat, you’d see the Worthless Duck Rock nearby. That’s all there was — a rock that looked like a duck. Nobody wanted it for anything. Even pirates didn’t like it because there was no place to bury treasure.” Liz smiled in a way to show that this part was a bit of a joke and not literal. “Unless you count the bird poop which was piled up as deep as your waist!”

Beth involuntarily imagined herself standing up to her waist in a pool of bird poop. “EEwwwwww!”

“Even the birds didn’t want it! They would land because they saw something that wasn’t ocean, but there was nothing to eat and no place to build a nest, so they would immediately take off again. And they habitually lighten their load when they take off, so it was just their poop stop.”

“Now England and France both had historical claims, but neither country had it under any specific administrative organization; it was just ignored.”

“Less than a hundred years ago, a rich tycoon named Plait bought the place by paying both England and France. It was just a token amount really, and then they could stop worrying about which of them owned it or if they would ever fight over it.”

“Still, neither country has that rock listed as being part of any region (a region in England and France is like a Provence). Each country divested the land completely, rather than showing it still as a part of themselves but with someone listed to pay taxes. Know what I mean? Normally in such cases the implication is that it is transferred to the government of the person who bought it. But Plait was English! When England did the paperwork, it slipped through the cracks, as they say.”

“That’s just for the original rock that was the only land that existed at the time. All of this,” she waved her arms to indicate everything, “was built. So it’s like a moored ship or an oil platform: maritime law would apply. And it’s, as they say, ‘hopelessly convoluted’. Cruise ships that are outside of anyone’s national waters have been in the news from time to time when no jurisdiction will do anything about a reported crime. The cruise ships in particular want to keep independent from the country where it’s from, so they can have gambling, alcohol, and whatnot. There should be a ‘port of registry’ that the owners get to choose; but from those news stories we can see that it doesn’t always help.”

“So look at the ownership. We have U.S. citizenship so that should do, right? Nope! The real ownership is by holding companies which are wholly owned by family members who live in different countries. The holding company that directly owns this resort is in Amsterdam. But this property, and the others on this artificial cay, is leased from the owner of the ground itself. We have a large interest in that company, which your Daddy bought into in order to fix up the place; have the town where staff can live, electricity that always works, and so on. But that company itself is incorporated in Switzerland.”

Beth’s head was spinning. “So no country has it on its books officially, and anyone who tried to figure out who ought to have it will be confused.”

“More practically, anyone who suggests that some specific country has jurisdiction will be chased by lawyers saying that one or more others should, instead, so it’s not theirs. And not just our lawyers; cruise lines and shipping companies have a huge interest in making sure that legal precedent is not established.”

“I get it, but what is it? What’s it called? Where are we, if you needed to name that state of affairs?” Beth loved words, and it would bother her if some nebulous concept didn’t have a name. Liz knew that about her daughter, and knew what she needed.

“I might not be getting this exactly right; you can look it up. But we’re a de-facto non-secessionist sovereign micronation. I’m basically the queen.” Liz takes a mock bow. “As long as we don’t harbor fugitives or otherwise get others upset with us in a major way, cooperate with the neighbors, and stay under the radar, we’re an independent state. If anyone does try to muscle in, it will create international incidents out of proportion to what they’re trying for. That is, for example, if Guadeloupe tries to annex us, France will be starting a war with the UK. Kings and presidents don’t rule the world: lawyers do!”

“Also, recognition isn’t an on/off thing like a light switch. It’s more like a dimmer switch knob. Different governments, agencies within a single government, corporations, and NGOs can independently recognize us or not. And the extended family over-all — not just Taft branch but distant relatives; the fortune goes back over 150 years to the Industrial Revolution — are close-knit with many important NGOs. Having organizations like Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières recognize us a a neutral place and having an open invite to use the grounds if a neutral location is needed, is not as good as recognition by the U.N. but it’s pretty close.”

Beth had had no idea her little home, Lizard’s Hideaway, was actually a player on the world stage. Yet it wasn’t on the map!


Since your story is an advanced tech-based utopia, the idea of building up filler rock or building a structure about 30 meters from the shallow water up to the water line should not be a problem, or beyond your budget. Don’t forget, it happens over a period of years and you can keep adding to it!

You could even use biotechnology, such as growing it out of coral.

What I’m saying is: go with artificial construction at sea. Then “getting land for your own country” becomes a political issue, not a technological problem.

My own choice checks a lot of your boxes: contiguous, nice climate, sea access, isolated. But the planet is huge and you could find a sea-mount (something that’s not quite an island) somewhere else or make it a permanent anchored floating raft.

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  • $\begingroup$ Mind expanding on the idea of aligning the claim so it would affect big companies if premises were challenged? $\endgroup$ – TheEnvironmentalist Nov 8 '17 at 20:36
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    $\begingroup$ @TheEnvironmentalist Better? ☺ $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Nov 8 '17 at 21:20
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with the political issue, the world could probably invent a "landless sovereign micronation", (maybe it exists on the internet). What you really need is enough allies with a motive to keep other people for excerting authority and the cleverness to avoid making yourself a real problem. $\endgroup$ – P Chapman Nov 9 '17 at 19:22
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    $\begingroup$ If you're going to include big chunks from elsewhere in your post, please at least do so using blockquotes. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Nov 9 '17 at 21:37
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Bir Tawil

Better act fast though, someone else is trying to do it too.

Bir Tawil is a 2,060 km2 (800 sq mi) area along the border between Egypt and Sudan, which is uninhabited and claimed by neither country.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bir_Tawil

Otherwise, simply buy land from a country that has a lot. Alaskan/Siberian wilderness.

Fund a revolution/separatist movement like Catalonia.

Fund a revolutionary/terrorist army and try to steal your own like ISIS.

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  • $\begingroup$ +1 for Bir Tawil (though a bit of text about it in the actual answer would be good rather than just a link) but the other suggestions - you may be able to buy the land but probably won't be able to establish your own country within USA/Russia and the revolutionary movements bring along tons of problems of their own... $\endgroup$ – colmde Nov 10 '17 at 9:27
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    $\begingroup$ Bir Tawil is only unclaimed because it's a strip of empty desert with nothing in it. Once someone puts something there, Egypt or Sudan may well swallow their pride, give up their claims to the coast, and grab a freebie. $\endgroup$ – SPavel Nov 10 '17 at 15:11
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    $\begingroup$ @SPavel wait? you downvoted me because of that? How does my response not answer the OP's question? Your conjecture is more the topic of a different question. $\endgroup$ – PCSgtL Nov 10 '17 at 15:56
  • $\begingroup$ nice find, but the OP wants water (obviously) and this is a stripe of desert $\endgroup$ – Devin Nov 10 '17 at 17:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Devin That is in the nice to have section. Not a requirment. $\endgroup$ – PCSgtL Nov 10 '17 at 17:55
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OK, so you have cash, and you have Time. So what you do is Buy El Desomboque in Western Mexico. It's a largely barren area on the Gulf of California. Buy up the area all the way down Isla Tiburon. Some good info about the general area in this Wiki about Sonora

That area is pretty barren and not very inhabited, so you could probably get it on the cheap.

Here are the Advantages: That area gives you ocean access and some fairly sheltered mooring for ships especially down near the island. It is a true desert climate, with only 98 mm of rain per year. Climate is pretty consistent. It never freezes and averages 29°C in the hottest parts of the year. It would be cheap because there is no real rainfall and no nearby rivers or anything else that would make it desirable. So the land purchase is cheap.

Since you are right there on the ocean, though, water is a nearly inexhaustible resource. Your first order of business would be Desalination on a massive scale. This is important for 2 reasons. The obvious one is so you can have water for agriculture and drinking. The second is that done right, the tech developed would be worth Billions in the future. One of the greatest problems for a huge part of the world, right now, is clean drinking water. Earth's population is always growing, so this is going to be more and more acute as time goes on.

Other things to think about: clean air, clear skies. It's relatively close to the equator, so space launches might be a side business.

On the political side, just keep growing the money and keep your head down. Buy politicians outright if you must. Sadly, Mexico is on the unstable side, so it might be plausible that as time passes, you could grow independent from them over time.

I'd buy it.

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  • $\begingroup$ Good idea, but once you start making a profit out of this, Mexico City is going to remember they want you as a taxpayer. They will (rightfully) find the old PM who sold you the land was criminal, and make you pay up or land you in jail. $\endgroup$ – Karl Nov 8 '17 at 21:59
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    $\begingroup$ Land might be cheap, politicians might be as well. Desal and other services provided to Mexico City could buy a heck of a lot of 'leave me alone'. The terrain itself would discourage overland assault, You could hide your own freaking army out there, and finally, the Gulf of Califonia is narrow enough that a few warships disguised as Cruise ships could be fairly effective at discouraging any sort of navy interference. It's risky, bu doable $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Nov 9 '17 at 0:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Karl turns out Mexico is a little touchy about foreigners buying land within a "Restricted Zone" which is all land located within 100 kilometers of any Mexican border, and within 50 kilometers of any Mexican coastline. (Historical reasons, belike) I'd recommend you try this in some non-Mexico country instead. $\endgroup$ – akaioi Nov 9 '17 at 6:52
  • $\begingroup$ You could always sidestep that whole issue by making the founder a Mexican Citizen $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Nov 9 '17 at 14:00
  • $\begingroup$ "It's relatively close to the equator, so space launches might be a side business." However, if you're going to benefit from that closeness to the equator to any significant degree, you're also going to be launching eastwards, so the flight path of the rocket will pass over or near several countries who might not be too thrilled about the idea. There are reasons why both Baikonur cosmodrome and the US space launch facilities in Florida are located where they are, and one of them is to minimize the risk of a launch being misinterpreted. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Nov 9 '17 at 21:41
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There is some precedent for this. While not exactly the same thing, look up the proposed ZEDE (free trade zones) in Honduras (obligatory Wiki Link). They'd have a good deal of autonomy for legal and economic policies. Some people have called the idea 'charter cities'. They'd be set up and run by large (likely private) investors.

Now these ultimately would be under the sovereignty of the parent state. But I don't think it would strain suspension of disbelief to believe that at some point a nation might take that concept one step further. Especially if there was a big payday in it for them. And, they'd be about the same size that you are looking for.

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There are 640 acres in a square mile, so 100 square miles is 64000 acres. It's surprisingly difficult to find ranking of land prices, but I found this: "To give you an example, a friend of mine is looking at a 5,000-acre plot in the central Chaco for less than $300,000." https://www.sovereignman.com/lifestyle-design/one-of-the-cheapest-places-in-the-world-to-buy-agricultural-land-6393/ 64000 acres is about 11 times as much, so that's 3.3 million.

However, we now get into different types of ownership. When people speak of "owning" land, they typically mean a fee simple title. This is a title that is granted by a government, and grants the owner the right to do whatever they want with it ... as long as the government lets them. Fee simple still allows for governments to charge property tax, pass regulations such as zoning, assert eminent domain, and, in practice if not in law, termination by the government "nationalizing" or otherwise taking it. What you want is a version of alloidal title, in which you do not merely hold a title under the local government, but ownership as a government. This is going to cost more. How much more depends on various factors; who controls what in the government is going to be a major such issue. If we say that the price per acre quoted above would hold for larger property, and alloidal title will increase the cost by an order of magnitude, then 1000 square miles can be had for about 300m. There are probably several options of countries with leaders amenable to making such a deal.

Others have discussed the difficulty of establishing independence, but most such cases involve a separatist movement that is opposed by the central government. In this case, you are ... aligning the government's interests with your own, shall we say, and so they would support your independence, and allow you use of many of their sovereign resources (e.g. allow you to register your ships under their flag until your own is fully recognized).

Another issue, however, would be just how aligned the government's interest would be with yours. After all, once they've taken your money,if they just say "Hah, hah, just kidding", and what recourse do you have? So you would need some way of ensuring that you retain control over the land.

Natives I don't see as being much of an issue. If you're looking at cheap land, it's probably not densely populated, the people there will be a labor source, and if you really don't want them, well, if a billion dollars is at stake, something can certainly be arranged.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nice thinking. Play to the fact that plenty of countries as it is have their maps drawn by leaders amenable to ... compensation ... and with a few billion dollars to spare grabbing a piece of such land could be nicely arranged. Next is gaining locals, both for greater claim to power and because frankly, there's nothing that really dictates who owns a piece of land other than the fact that the governments nearby and the local residents agree, so more people is a stronger claim once purchased as described. This one's really onto something, and would likely be cheaper and easier than islands. $\endgroup$ – TheEnvironmentalist Nov 10 '17 at 7:02
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Instead of the artificial island approach, how about floating "islands"? Basically, large reinforced concrete hexagonal cups, inverted. The air trapped underneath provides the flotation. While the designs I have seen proposed have one large air chamber I think it would be safer to build them with several smaller chambers so that a single breach doesn't sink it.

Building one the size you want is of course out of the question--the forces on it when a wave came by would be incredible. Your country is made up of a collection of them. That's why they are hexagonal--hexagons fill space. They have flexible couplings to their neighbors and there is a solid surface that's free to slip relative to the base underneath that cover the crossings from one to another. Put your collection of hexes at least 200 miles from any land and declare your country.

Obviously, storms are a big deal. The key here is to put your city very near the equator--hurricanes do not form within 5 degrees of the equator.

Now, if you're feeling powerful enough you could establish outposts on a hex grid with 20 mile spacing. All the enclosed ocean is within your territorial waters.

You could also use such outposts to expand towards land. The 200 mile offset is to keep you out of anyone's economic zone. However, all distances at sea are limited to half the distance to your neighbor even if that means less distance than standard. Thus if you start out 210 miles from land the economic zones of both countries are now 105 miles--which means you could put outposts without entering anyone's economic zone. I wouldn't advise trying it unless you felt you could deal with them if they resented the encroachment, though--the law doesn't define what happens when your country grows across the water.

Edit: I didn't say they were mobile. Things can be floating and yet anchored.

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  • $\begingroup$ I like this one. But would a floating non-landmass count as sovereign country on its own, especially considering other nations would be well aware of the problems fuzzy boundaries can cause? $\endgroup$ – TheEnvironmentalist Nov 10 '17 at 5:33
  • $\begingroup$ as long as you somehow limit the direction making sure you never overlap other countries' sovereign space, that shouldn''t be an issue. In south Pacific your land could float for decades without getting anyway closer to any country with just some minimal effort, moving a mass like that is not like moving a boat. Building that mass would be a completely different story. $\endgroup$ – Devin Nov 10 '17 at 17:11
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Terraform a plot of land on the Antarctic continent (drop a couple hundred thermal bombs somewhere, really get a patch of land heated up.) Build some sort of infrastructure that can maintain the temperature around your country. I can't present you figures and information, it just comes to me that the entire continent of Antarctica is completely devoid of any nation state.

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    $\begingroup$ I considered this. As it happens Antarctica is largely split between a number of countries, and under tight control of a set of countries powerful enough to not want to test this approach. I like the idea though. $\endgroup$ – TheEnvironmentalist Nov 10 '17 at 5:30
  • $\begingroup$ The upper range of the energy of a nuclear weapon is about 10^17 J. So 1000 of the largest nuclear weapons would be about 10^20 J The earth absorbs about 10^22 J each day. Even if only 1% of that is absorbed by Antarctica, Antarctica absorbs as much energy from the sun every day as 1000 of the largest nuclear weapons. $\endgroup$ – Acccumulation Nov 10 '17 at 5:36
  • $\begingroup$ But not nearly as much in a concentrated region of 250 - 2,500 square kilometers. $\endgroup$ – B.fox Nov 10 '17 at 16:10
  • $\begingroup$ " it just comes to me that the entire continent of Antarctica is completely devoid of any nation state. " I think you should check your facts and assumptions. Not only is subdivided in countries' sections, but there are quite some conflict around it $\endgroup$ – Devin Nov 10 '17 at 17:07
  • $\begingroup$ the above being said, Antarctica has a region no country has claimed: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Byrd_Land. However, dropping a couple hundred nukes near a US base won't work well (not to mention HAVING a couple hundred nukes as a private owner). Just sayin' $\endgroup$ – Devin Nov 10 '17 at 17:17

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