All Hail The King:
Lazarus Long Attempts To Bring
Back To The Future
By Philip Shropshire
Whenever I watch science fiction films or television for hints about the grand and glorious future, I find myself shaking my head whenever its revealed that some of the far flung, space faring societies were under the rule of a monarch.
To me, if youre really advanced and you have the handheld fusion generators and the anti grav jetpacks, then surely you could develop some equally advanced Lani Guinier-styled representative democracy where your voice counts. The Babylon 5 Centauri monarch and the great "houses" of both the Klingon and Dune empires never made sense to meunless they were evolved corporations, but thats another essay.
Yet, as a group of folks out of Tulsa attempts to build a country from scratch called "New Utopia" off of the coast of Honduras, I think I could imagine a future controlled by a group of self proclaimed Kings Queens and Dukes.
I believe the creation of the new country is inspired by Marshall Savages great work "The Millenial Project": Colonizing the Galaxy in Eight Easy Steps". In fact, it was at the Millenial Projects site that I first heard of New Utopia. Step one is creating sustainable ocean habitats and thats just what New Utopia founder Lazarus Long is attempting. Long, who is a fan of both Ayn Rand and Robert Heinleinwhich should frighten you alreadywants to build a country with some different rules. As for his initial attempt at country creation, he plans to use a submerged island off the coast of Honduras.
On the plus side, and judging from the ambitious plans detailed on the web site at www.new-utopia.com, New Utopia could be a mecca for all kinds of cutting edge social and scientific experimentation that needs to be donepolitically sensitive stem cell research screams to mind.
In fact, Long supposedly made his modest fortune by selling controversial age extension therapiesmostly human growth hormone from what I can tell. And like that guy who runs the hair replacement company, Long is also a client. He believes HGH greatly enhanced his life, which is probably why the Principality of New Utopia will host an anti-aging institute.
On the down side, guess who went out and made himself "Prince"?
Not only has Lazarus Long declared himself to be the New Utopian Prince, but anyone succeeding him would have to share his bloodline. We can only hope that his nephew or niece would be a wise King or Queen, like in those fairy tales that we grew up with.
Oh sure, theres a constitution, you can read it for yourself on the website. Theres even a court and a legislative body. But guess who has overide authority on all legislation and who has control over the terms and tenure of everyone in both the judicial and legislative branches.
Off with your peasant head if you guess wrong.
True, he offers us an explanation for his ascension to the throne saying he doesnt want to create any dishonest "politicians"something far worse than unaccountable kings and queens who dont believe in representative democracy no doubtand how he wants to create "stability". Im not sure how hes defining "stable", although he explains on the website that hes shooting more for a Monaco styled monarchy as opposed to Czarist Russia or the last beheaded French rulers. I guess his New Utopian "subjects" had best hope that he keeps his word or the Emperor will be wearing some new clothes I wonder what 21st century dungeons look like?
Aside from the fact that monarchies arent efficient even compared to flawed Republicsthat whole "Dark Ages" thing jumps to mindyou could create a stable Democratic Republic. You could also give the "Prince" or president a 10 year term and strong veto powers. So your kids wont rule with impunity. So what. If any of this works, you and Bill Gates will own the Earth anyway. Its your money building the place, Long will thrive with or without the crown. You could give your kids a piece of Australia or one of the Martian moons.
I mean, theres no way a monarchy could work. Then again, after some rare self-reflection, theres no way I would want a monarchy to work. Its distasteful. Its undemocratic.
But just because I dont want something to work doesnt mean that it couldnt. Its kind of like that maxim in Dune: "He who controls the spice, controls Arrakis. And he who controls Arrakis, controls the universe."
What this means is that if New Utopia comes up with a turn of the century killer app or two they could make out like, well, Kings.
So, here are three initial ways you could make a modern monarchy thrive in the wired age.
Crime Crime and More Crime: One of the more interesting bits of insight into potential New Utopian culture and mores that shows up on their website is a piece called "Offshore Banking is Not Evil." And when you think about it, there are many earnest and hard working crime syndicates and international despots who need legitimate money launders. If New Utopia wanted to pay for its reported $280 billion price tag, then money laundering could certainly pay a bill or two. It could become a lucrative clone of the Cayman islands.
Now, make the other more usual suspects of Sin available, such as: gambling, prostitution and drugs and you could see how New Utopia could become a quite popular place. From what Ive been able to discern about New Utopia and its founder is that even though it will be run by a Monarch, it would in principle be about libertarianism and allowing adults to make their own choices. I would think that all the soft drugs like Marijuana and acid would be legalized. With freedom, you could even develop better and safer drugs. You might even be able to put the Coke back into Coca Cola.
This, plus the aformentioned vices would make Utopia a major major draw, sort of Disneyland for Adults. Someone send me a ticket.
Fountain of Youth Potential: How Good Prince Long has amassed his current fortune is by selling human growth hormone to interested customers. He takes it himself and it looks as if its done him a world of good. In fact, to hear him tell his own story he was near death before he started taking HGH.
Thats probably why one of the first orders of business for the new country is the creation of an anti aging institute.
Imagine a place where doctors and patients could freely experiment with growth hormone, stem cells, cloning and telemere shortening and whatever else you can think of. Imagine if the New Utopia clinic developed something that actually worked. And what if you could only get it at or from New Utopia, where the worlds most lucrative patent benefitted both the King and his subjects?
It could turn New Utopia into a pharmtech version of Kuwait.
Secrecy and Money Haven: One of the reasons I think that encryption is feared so much is certainly not the terrorist threatas almost everyone knowsbut the much more real threat of public privacy, and also the role it could play in creating not just a different kind of highly secured offshore banking, but creating entirely new currencies to begin with.
Stellar wordsmith Neal Stephenson once wrote about this in a short story that I believe was published in Time of all places. Stephenson will supposedly explore the idea of new currencies more fully in his new book called the Cryptonomicon. And in the real world where the pace of fiction has a hard time keeping up with reality, theres someone trying to build an internet currency called Beenz. I hear its off to a fast start. You can check it out at www.Beenz.com.
Now, while I dont claim to be quite as bright as either Stephenson or that Beenz guy, this is how I understand it: strong encryption + strong computing power + knowledge of money creation could allow the average Joe or Jane or New Utopia to build their own Euro. Imagine gangs or despots with artificially created currencies.
I think this is something that New Utopias founders are already onto. If you look at their website they proudly proclaim that they will be building a bank and that theyre going to have the most stringent secrecy laws on the planet. This brings me to the other advantage New Utopia could support: secure and secret transactions.
New Utopia could become a major hub of truly secure anonymous transactions, a Switzerland of information, where all the bad Servers go. Say that youre doing something politically incorrect like funding drug legalization or say youre doing something truly disreputable like white slave trading or developing ethnic-based genetic viruses. Either way, you want to keep your secrets, secret. And you might be willing to pay someone a lot to do that.
Bottom line: If any of these scenarios pan out it could make New Utopia a wealthy nation and fast. I also have no doubt that if Longs Kingdom attained mass quantities of money they would follow Savages prescription and work toward the stars. Which means a monarch would rule from above and below.
And it would truly be good to be the King.