Measuring purchasing power in support of policy

With the rising popularity of agriculture and alternative energy sources in territorial micronations, as they strive for self-sufficiency, a better statistical measure of the related economies becomes important to bureaucrats and politicians alike. At present, save for basic budgetary or financial statements, most of the micronational world’s territorial economies, while burgeoning in potential, lack useful statistical data in support of policy planning.

Often very limited in nature, the budgets of a micronational government can be strained to meet the expectations of its citizens, as well as its leaders. It is partly for this reason that some territorial micronations embark on programmes to reduce reliance on macronational sources of goods or services by undertaking such self-sustaining activities as growing local food crops or installing alternative sources of electricity, such as solar panels.

These activities in theory have the ability to reduce the cost of imports for the micronation; however, without any useful statistical data available, it is difficult to objectively measure the impact of such activities on the purchasing power of the micronation or its population. That is, does the savings related to these local offsetting activities have any significant effect on the long-term costs carried by the micronation’s citizens or government? Are the programmes viable economically, or are they simply beneficial from an ethical or political standpoint?

The fundamental way to collect data in support of answer that question is through the creation of a simple Consumer Price Index within the micronation, based on the concept of a “Basket of Goods”. Not as comprehensive as that used by macronations, the micronational Basket of Goods must be lean in its contents, and the related cost data for each item within the Basket must be collected at regular intervals, such as quarterly (for example). It must be structured such that it contains contents that are regularly consumed by the micronation’s citizens.

The Basket must in its most fundamental state include goods that the residents of territorial micronations commonly purchase and consume, regardless of whether they are locally produced or otherwise imported. It can essentially be thought of as the value of one’s monthly grocery and utility bill, though the contents of the Basket can be expanded as necessary to meet uniquely local circumstances (perhaps a local population has a particular fondness for a specific food crop that other micronations do not, for example).

The Basket must also not contain so many items that inputting the related cost data into the tracking survey becomes burdensome, so as to detract participation, as it is important that the citizen maintain participation across reporting periods for accuracy and usefulness in policy planning. The level of complexity of a macronational Consumer Price Index need not be religiously mimicked, and the use of free services such as Google Forms and Google Sheets can facilitate ease of data collection. By sticking to the basics, one arguably gets only a basic snapshot of purchasing power, but that basic snapshot is nonetheless a ten-fold improvement on the current state of data in micronational economics.

Beyond tracking individual and overall costs for its contents, how can the Basket benefit a micronation’s government? Let’s look at a scenario: in quarters where an item in the Basket was locally produced (such as lettuce, for example), for simplicity, it could be assumed to have no cost. In quarters where one had to buy (import) lettuce as it was out of growing season or locally produced stock exhausted, the cost to purchase it would be recorded in the Basket.

The overall cost of the Basket would then be tracked to determine what, if any, impact the “no cost” instance had on purchasing power for the micronation’s citizens. If growing lettuce locally had no measurable or useful impact on the Basket’s overall inflation, that finding might support the micronation’s government redirecting agricultural efforts to other crops that would have more of an impact.

To be meaningful using the “no cost” assumption, the basket must include imported goods, which is reasonable given that few, if any, territorial micronations produce all the goods that are consumed locally. By including such imported goods, one can see how local production compensates, or doesn’t, for the inflationary costs associated with imports.

Arguably the system described above is noticeably rudimentary and certainly not something that an economics professor would consider adequate, but it is a means of creating a simple Consumer Price Index that is easy to maintain for any micronation, and one which can be used as a basis for further development and refinement by those micronations that desire a more complex snapshot of their citizens’ purchasing power. Most importantly, it provides a starting point by which a government can collect useful economic data in support of its micronation’s development.

A basic example Basket of Goods (track the cost of each item and calculate the sum):
x1 loaf of fresh white bread
x1 litre of milk;
x12 eggs;
x1 kilogram of tomatoes;
x1 head of lettuce;
x1 kilogram of potatoes;
x1 kilogram of onions;
Total unit cost of 1 kwh of electricity (total billed amount divided by total kwh consumed.)

Measuring purchasing power in support of policy

Making micronational universities relevant

OPINION – The ultimate goal of a micronational university must be to build a better micronation and, in doing so, support its longevity. This requires that it develop local skills and knowledge that help focus the population toward the needs of the micronation, its customs and its environment. Losing sight of this primary purpose will ultimately make the micronational university ineffectual, causing it to eventually languish into oblivion, and robbing its micronation of important local education.

There are three key considerations one must be mindful of in developing a micronational university: it must be aware of its purpose, it must be relevant, and it must not limit access.

Purposefully – and practically – aware

A micronational university will never have the necessary resources – financial or otherwise – to compete with macronational institutions, even if the micronational university somehow accrues the necessary resources to achieve macronational accreditation. There simply is not enough of a population within the micronational community to support such an endeavour, and to focus on achieving such an end will only divert limited resources away from making the educational institution a practical benefit to your micronation.

A micronational university must set its purpose and structure its course offerings with the realization that it is complementary to the macronational educational system. Regurgitating basic skills that micronationalists already learn macronationally, like English or Pure Maths, is senseless as is focusing on highly complex subject areas like engineering or pharmaceuticals that no micronational university’s budget or teaching resources can hope to support the proper and safe instruction thereof.

Make it relevant to your micronation

A micronation’s universities, or other educational institutions, need to support its internal development by offering specialized courses that contributes to the building of a practical local skill base. For example, it can offer courses to help those individuals who enter government within the micronation, either as a civil servant or a minister, learn the local governing processes and procedural jargon, while supporting the development of a specialized skillset, such as legislative or policy writing. It can also offer courses on diplomatic protocols, constructed languages, or micronational history (in general or specific to the micronation itself, or its allied micronations – what a great way to build on those diplomatic protocols just learned when one is made ambassador to an ally!)

That is not to say that taking material from macronational courses is forbidden; but the micronational university that does must adapt such material to the needs or policies of the micronation specifically, as opposed to simply rehashing the same material the instructor learned macronationally. For example, a course in law will undoubtedly have to include background information on Common Law or Civil Law, whichever inspires the micronation’s legal system; but, the bulk of the course content should specifically focus on local examples of law and practices within the micronation rather than discuss the peculiarities of, say, the Common Law practices of the United States versus those of Britain.

Such a requirement is also likely to play out particularly in technical courses – for example, for the micronation that wishes to teach its citizens home gardening, it will have to utilize macronational course material, but the university can teach such techniques with respect to a specific climate of, or crop grown within, the micronation rather than provide a wide-ranging generalized course that loses focus and thus becomes less effective in fostering local development.

Access-limited means limited usefulness

Remember that the primary purpose of founding a university in your micronation is to support its ongoing development, not to act as a revenue stream – major or minor – for your micronation. In a small community where most participants are in their teens or early-twenties, money is always less than freely accessible, as incomes are limited, especially for those who have moved out of their parents’ house.

A micronational university should not charge cold, hard cash as tuition as this will limit access to a sizeable portion of the population – as a result, you cheat your micronation’s internal development by preventing citizens from acquiring relevant skills. Further, the degree that the micronational university grants is worthless paper (as it is macronationally unaccredited, and your micronation is unlikely to be a real country anytime soon), so charging money for it is foolhardy at best. Such a practice will only deter students when in a small community, such as micronationalism, the proliferation of knowledge and skill is of utmost importance.

The provision of courses must allow them be done in such a way that there is open access. A learning management system is the best course of option, as it provides a secure, convenient, environment for registering for courses, reading the associated material, and undertaking any desired examinations. A large number of micronations make use of WordPress for their national websites, and the author has personally found the Namaste! LMS plugin, with its complementary Watu testing plugin, to be very handy – and free – tools. There are many other LMS (learning management systems) available through those with full-service hosting packages, such as Moodle.

Not only will such systems make learning enjoyable for the student, they also reduce the burden that micronational universities have on a micronation’s limited resources, as once the course is programmed into the system the first time, it will not have to be “put together” for future offerings, which reduces the dependency on the instructor being available. As such, long-term access is improved by embracing this technology over less “advanced” methods of emailing course material on predefined schedule.

Making micronational universities relevant

One-on-One: Stellus Yastreb

For those readers who are unacquainted with you, would you please give us some background as to how you came to participate in micronationalism and what it is you do in the community today?

A stupidly long time ago, there was a communistic micronation called the PRNSE (People’s Republic of the New Soviet Empire). It existed in a more volatile age when micronations were created as flimsy pretexts for attacking other micronations, and wiping out forums with Denial of Service attacks was considered good clean fun. The PRNSE, or more accurately certain individuals who happened to be closely associated with it, engaged in its fair share of various micronational dark arts under the leadership of, among others, an enigmatic individual known as Yuri – one of those high archons of micronationalism of the same blisteringly unassailable calibre as Ras Diga, Scott Alexander and Ardashir Khan to name but three. I didn’t cross paths with him until the after PRNSE’s demise, but the encounter remains important as he is the one most responsible for luring me into the eternal pixelated maelstrom that is the Micras Sector.

I arrived among the PRNSE folks in late 2002, sometime after its grand poohbah Siberian Fox span it off into a largely non-micronational Soviet-themed social debating type community (Soviet-Empire). However some of their regulars still kept a hand in the old micronations game full-time, and I guess it was inevitable that I was recruited for their latest project in that sphere, a largely forgotten place called Noviykrazniystan. Aside from the aforementioned Yuri, the intermicronational master criminal known as William Jesmer had a large hand in dragging me into this business. What neither of them told me at the time was that they were some of the most reviled people on Micras on account of their various misdeeds, and that by mere association with them I would be treated with vitriolic contempt by pretty much everybody for no discernible reason. It was a hard upbringing, to be sure.

Between then and now I was mostly involved in Baracão, Yuri’s USSR reboot and its better-known spinoff Novaya Zemlya, and of course Shireroth. I have kept an intermittent presence in the latter since the back end of 2003, and over time it has become my home. My current roles in Shireroth are limited as I’ve deliberately avoided high positions in anticipation of real-life time constraints this summer. My two last big roles were Imperial Steward (second-in-command) and Minister of the Exterior. I do however maintain the rule of Lunaris, a county in Goldshire which is quite convenient for expressing my floridly effeminate side without attracting too much ridicule. I love that place like the very stars themselves, and it makes a good retreat for when Shirerithian politics are getting too hot.

Congratulations on winning the RIMA Award for Excellence in Micronational History during the 2014 FNORD Awards for your work on documenting a historical timeline of Shireroth’s Duchy of Goldshire. Should we expect any new history-related projects from you this year in an attempt to make it two awards in a row?

Shireroth’s Kaiser has put out a renewed call for updates to the ShireWiki, particularly the legal records which are abominably outdated. I may work on that. I have also been tasked with more medium-term recordkeeping by my appointment as Imperial Malarborist. This is a formalisation of the fact that I have been unofficially updating the Malarbor news box for the reigns of several Kaisers now. I seem to step into these roles as an emergency measure and end up being stuck with them. I also made that mistake by being the last Minister of Trade to run the Imperial finances with some semblance of function, prompting incessant calls for my resumption of that role ever since …. I guess that makes me some kind of sucker.

Regarding the longer-term histories, although I am able to inject small nuggets of knowledge to suit the demands of the day (usually the heartily Shirerithian exercise of berating my peers for their historical ignorance), sitting down and actually writing a comprehensive weighty tome on anything requires far more time than I have available at this point. I may try to incorporate some history into another cultural work like a theatrical play at some point, killing two birds with one stone – but the fact is that my Goldshirian timeline, although badly needed, was a rather rushed affair. My FNORD for it was only awarded due to an embarrassing absence of alternatives. Certainly when I look at the other winners of the RIMA over the years, it doesn’t feel right to be counted among them.

One-on-One: Stellus Yastreb

Micro-Economies: Simulations, Permutations and Automations

In many ways, simulationist micronational economics is much like simulationist micronationalist political systems. They tend towards a standard model (developed Western nation), but across the sector there is a great variety and diversity. They often start based on an idealised version and over time they are pragmatically adjusted to better suit micronational realities (particularly when the leaders realise their micronation will never have the 20+ citizens needed to make the idealised model work). Moreover, micronations which are innovative in one area are often innovative in the other. This paper sets out to chart some of the diversity of economic systems and thought over the last decade and a half of the Micras sector, and draw out the underlying principles. Limitations of length and experience prevent covering the full gamut of micronations and economies, but it is hoped the underlying principles will be applicable even to micronations and systems not considered here.

Styles of Micro-Economies

To begin, let us first consider some of the different styles of micronational economies. It should be stressed that these styles are not mutually exclusive. While some clearly would not work together, many can and have been combined in various permutations.

In-Sim/In-Character

A micronational economy can be made up of companies which exist primarily or entirely in-simulation/in-character. In this respect, the economy becomes another area of cultural development – just like explaining social customs or history. Businesses are developed, can be effected by in-sim policy, and can even undergo quite elaborate projects. They can also then be referred to within stories, recwars and other literature developed within a nation, all without any currency changing hands between any actual micronationalists. A good example of such an economy was the nation of Ashkenatza.

Simulated

A related concept attempts to directly simulate an in-sim economy. These can range from proposing a government budget each month detailing government spending in different areas, through to complex formulas (which may take into account global events, government policy settings and other factors). Simulated economies tend to place a high value on being ‘realistic’ and often base their numbers off macronational countries such as the US or the UK. Where the simulation is handled through complex formulas, it tends to be reliant on a single individual to maintain, collapsing when that individual loses interest or leaves the hobby for a time. Again, these elements are done without any currency changing hands between any actual micronationalists or micronational governments, even though discussion may happen as if they are, causing a point of confusion for outsiders. For example, a government agreeing to allocate 20 billion to buy new tanks to an in-sim arms manufacturing company – though this is agreed, and the company may deliver a ‘product’ (normally a picture and write-up on the tanks), the 20 billion is entirely in simulation and has no real affect on anything. The Empire of the Alexandrians is an example of a nation who proposed government budgets etc. A non-economic analogue of this is the FMF, which simulates football (soccer) matches using FIFA simulators.

Simulated-Demand

It is a widely recognised fact (Alexander: 2002, the Wise: 2008a) that, left to their own devices, micronational economies do not produce enough private demand to sustain economic activity at the micronationalist level. One solution to this is to create a system which artificially simulates demand – for example, people have to pay monthly fees to represent expenditure on housing, food, etc. Businesses often have to pay fees to register also. Such systems tend to be characterised by complicated and detailed legislation. In principle, structuring the system so that people need to earn money to continue will motivate people to earn money. In practice, it tends to drive people to non-participation (more on this below). Popular in the mid-noughties, this system has made a recent revival with the Gotzborg economy.

Resource-Based

The MCS has a resource map and this can be incorporated into economic systems. Perhaps the longest lasting of these was the MITO trade system which at its height had over 15 nations involved. Lesser known systems include an effort by the Duchy of Kildare in Shireroth to define a whole system of economic development out of it and a resource-based stock exchange developed by Normark. Two problems faced by this approach are the limited availability of resources to small nations/land plots, and the vast variety of resources available on the MCS resource map (MITO overcame this by classifying them into larger groups and making resources within each group interchangeable).

Government-Based

Few economies set out to be government-based, but many functionally find that their main transactions all involve the government. At one end, citizens are paid for performing jobs within the government, and at the other end the government taxes the citizens. Government payment to citizens can range from a regular payment to ministers (see Gotzborg, above) to paying a ‘bounty’ to citizens for any significant development, cultural or otherwise, a practice long held in Shireroth. The problem often encountered in such systems (identified as early as Locke (2002)) is that government outlay far exceeds government revenue, because a citizen’s only income is from government spending, and this cannot all be taxed back every period or that would defeat the purpose. This either leads to a government running out of money to function or (if their system permits it) needing to print more money, which may lead to inflation.

Financial

Sometimes micronational economies centre around a particular financial institution, normally a stock exchange. Since stock exchanges in real life function because thousands of people are trading on it daily, miconational economies have to come up with some method to simulate this. This can lead to known equations through which it is easy to ‘game the system’ and make massive amounts of money (see Alexander (2002) and related discussion). More recently, the development of the Small Commonwealth Exchange (SCX), which automates this process and functions on a separate currency to the rest of the Single Currency – Unified Economy (SCUE), has fuelled renewed interest in this area.

Forum-Based

Like in the real world, economic development is closely linked to technological development – new technologies enable new ways of doing economic transactions, which in turn changes the way economies function. In micronationalism, one major technology has been the Shop Mod on phpBB forums. Forum-based economic systems tend to be characterised by earning money via posting, and an inbuilt bank from which deposits earn ‘interest’ out of thin air. Such economies tend to find problems with inflation, as the money supply increases as rapidly as posting does. Novatainia and Craitland both had forum-based economies in earlier incarnations, though the long lag between the release of phpBB3 and the release of a functioning shop mod meant this economic system went out of fashion.

Real/Service-Based

A real/service-based economic system is one based around real services performed by actual micronationalists. Common examples include creating graphics, developing military orbats or providing programming services, though in principle almost any service is possible. Many systems which involve individual micronationalists holding currency are real/service-based economies. This is one of the simplest economic systems (as few if any rules are needed for it, though rules can be inserted on top) but also one of the hardest to implement successfully, as few micronationalists find their skills easily marketable. For a large list of possible services (and the implication of running such a business in an in-sim/in character economy), see the Wise (2010).

Added Value – War/Votes

A common problem observed in micronational economies, particularly those attempting a real/service-based system, is that the currency is not valuable to citizens because there is very little that can be done with it. One solution to this is to make the currency valuable by tying it to another area of the micronational simulation. Shireroth, under Kaiser Hasan I, instituted a vote-based economy where each citizen’s currency determined the strength of their vote in the Landsraad. Toketi set up a war-based economy, CITRA, where a citizen’s currency partly determined their military strength, and the remainder was determined by land-holding (see the Wise (2008b) for related discussion). Both of these systems worked well for a time, but the problem was found that this made currency too valuable – everyone wanted it for votes/war and nobody wanted to use it as a currency to purchase goods/services.

National vs Linked

A final discussion is whether the economy, whatever system it is, is purely national or whether it is practically linked to other micronations’ economies. This is easiest when both economies are of the same/similar types; but when currency held by micronationalists is involved (as opposed to an in-sim economy), some method of transferring this between nations is needed. A famous example of this was the ICEO, who regulated currency exchange between Apollo sector micronations based on a set formula. A more recent solution is the Single Currency – Unified Economy, better known as the SCUE, in which all member nations have a shared currency (in-sim, they have a 1:1 exchange rate between currencies) and bank, and so any citizen in any SCUE nation can buy a good in any other SCUE nation using SCUE currency.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it does provide a good overview of various economic systems instituted within Micras sector micronations over the last fifteen years. Again, these are not mutually exclusive systems, and the synergies between some should be obvious. However, each also has its flaws/weaknesses, some common to most, and it is to this our discussion now turns.

Principles of Micro-Economics

From this study of micronational economies some general principles emerge applicable to many, if not all, micro-economy endeavours. Few if any of these are new; this paper merely combines them all into one place and, where possible, considers the implications of their interactions.

The first and most important principle for micronational economics, for any system except a purely in-sim one, is this: micronational supply and demand do not function as they do in the real world. In the real world, people have unlimited wants and only limited resources to fulfil them with. In a micronational economy, micronationalists tend to have limited wants (‘unlimited’ wants are usually beyond the scope of an economy to grant) and effectively unlimited resources. Any product/good that is sold has a single cost – the cost of the original creation, the time it takes to describe it, make the graphics etc. – and zero marginal cost to produce any further units of it. Moreover, in the absence of a complicated ruleset, the only limit is imagination (or what other people will allow one to do). If someone wants to sell airships, all they have to do is describe an airship company; in the real world, each new airship would require resources, staff etc., but micronationally, once the basic design is there, there is no limit to what can be sold – the limit is the number of buyers (see the Wise (2008a)).

If we look further into supply and demand, we find added complications. To borrow an example from the Wise (2008a), real world, supply/demand curves are often drawn like this:

andreas1

At a high price people will demand very little, while at the same price suppliers are willing to supply a great deal. When the price is low, suppliers will only supply a small amount, but there is a great deal of demand. The equilibrium point is where the supply and demand curves cross – here there is exactly enough supply to meet demand at that price. In the absence of constraining factors, the price should adjust until supply and demand are in equilibrium.

In a micronational economy, by contrast, the demand and supply curves look more like this:

andreas2

Supply starts at a constant price, with one producer. Price almost never moves in a micronational economy, unless a large number of goods are sold, in which case another producer may enter the market or the original producer raise their price. Note in particular that this price will be charged even if the business never sells anything at this price. Demand, meanwhile, starts at a certain quantity, and increases very slowly as price decreases – indicating the couple micronationalists who actually want the good. Soon though, demand will be satiated and no matter the price (except perhaps a price of zero) no further goods of that type will be sold.

In summary, there are very few goods micronationalists want/need and so very limited demand for any product, whereas supply is effectively infinite after the initial design is created.

The situation is somewhat different if we consider services, such as creating an image, designing a website etc., where there is a time cost associated each time the service is supplied. Demand for these approaches far closer to real world levels, but now the problem is price. If someone who can supply the service doesn’t want to, they will charge a very high price before being willing to actually perform the service, a price few if any are willing to pay. Alexander (2002) makes the argument that as micronationalism is a hobby, most people willing to do these services are actually willing to do them for free; the problem comes when we convince them they should only do it for pay – the result is a fair lower willingness to do it. Economists examining similar phenomena in the real world have found that many people are happy to donate blood; but offering a token payment for donating blood perversely leads to less blood being donated, and of a lower quality. Some who donated due to charitable impulses cease to do so anymore, and the people attracted by the token payment are those more desperate for money who are more likely to have contaminating substances in their blood. The same principle may well be at work for micronational services. Overall, then, merely giving people currency and the ability to create businesses or offer services for pay does not normally result in a functioning micronational economy, because demand and supply do not behave the same as in the real world.

Our next principle to consider is the principle of localised optimisation, also known as Vandersluij’s Law. This principle states that where an element or system functions to varying degrees of efficiency across the micronational world, the most efficiently working elements or systems will be those that have evolved locally over a reasonable period of time. Put another way, the most efficient system for any given micronation will be one that has evolved locally. There are a number of corollaries to this, explored in the Wise (2009), but its main application to micronational economics is that economic ideas that are successful macronationally, or even in other micronations, are unlikely to translate directly into a micronation’s economy unless similar elements/systems exist there. In particular, unless a system is inherently international, it’s unlikely to be able to work successfully across multiple micronations without local modification.

With this in mind, an international economy, if successfully implemented, remains one of the greatest avenues for a long-term functioning micronational economy. This is because most micronations have only a few active citizens, which is (without careful planning), not enough to sustain any sort of economy centred on interactions between actual micronationalists; but an international economy could more easily bring the number of individuals to a viable amount. There are successful international organisations that standardise elements of micronational existence across a number of nations – most notable is of course the Micronational Cartographical Society (MCS), who administer the Micras map. The Fédération Micraise de Sport, which offers a number of international sporting competitions, and the Anunia recwar charter, which standardises the rules for international recwarring, are also clear examples. At the present time, a number of micronations have a shared currency in the SCUE which facilitates the development of a larger market for goods and services between nations, and the SCUE has become the de facto economic ‘thing to join’; however, the SCUE quite deliberately eschews any attempts to tell micronations how to run their economy, and unfortunately many ‘member’ states initially sign up, give out currency to their citizens, and then do nothing. This does provide a potential base for a more organised economic system across countries, however, were the will to be there.

Moving then to the matter of governments, we note that government budgets tend to end up in one of two ways – unsustainable overspending, or rampant inflation. Particularly where citizens start with little or no currency, if they rely on income from the government to make money, then the government soon runs out of money and either needs to tax it straight back from the citizenry or print more money. One nation which avoided either fate and managed a balanced budget for a while was Shireroth, during the days of the vote-based economy. Citizens had an initial distribution of currency, and further currency was paid out in the form of ‘bounties’ for citizens doing nifty things. Once the government had spent 10,000 on bounties, they then taxed each of the four duchies 2,500 each, making that money back. The important thing was that each duchy could decide by themselves how to pay for it amongst their citizenry (normally 3-5 people per duchy). As there was an ongoing emphasis on allocating new citizens to keep duchy populations roughly even, this meant that over time, those citizens with the most money were those that did the most nifty things (and in turn, as this was a vote based economy, they got the most say). This shows that the two extremes of government budgets can be avoided if thought through, given the right political institutions (in this case, duchies with roughly even populations).

There is, however, an underlying assumption here that inflation is a bad thing micronationally. While there have been clear cases where governments have massively inflated prices by releasing a disproportionately large amount of currency into circulation all at once, in general the level of economic transactions between micronationalists are low and it is possible that manageable increases in the amount of currency in circulation would not lead to prices rising. It must of course be remembered that inflation is not a problem that magically occurs when the amount of currency in circulation increases – it requires people to actually increase their prices and the market to still be willing to pay them. Micronationally, it is unclear how much prices would realistically change due to small to medium sized increases in the amount of currency in circulation. As an example, say the amount of currency in circulation already was 100,000 and every two months the government printed a further 10,000 and introduced it over two months in the form of bounties, ministerial wages etc. Effectively, this taxes cash holdings (as they are now a smaller share of the overall currency in circulation), and so no tax would be needed. In particular, if that economy was still functioning actively after ten months (at which point the amount of currency in circulation would have increased by 50%), that would be a very long lasting economy by micronational standards. To this author’s knowledge, this idea was once considered in Gralus (by Bayen Praygulin) but has never been implemented. In summary then, governments need to be aware of the dangers of over-spending or over-minting, but these can be avoided with some planning.

We then consider two matters that relate to the economic system more generally. First, the historical dichotomy between a laissez-faire approach and detailed economic systems. Micronational economies tend to either have detailed rules and structure, or a laissez-faire approach is taken, on the principle that if people are given money (and some government wages), they will just start making shops and selling goods/services. Historically, both of these approaches have flaws – detailed systems tend to be tedious/too complicated for most people beyond their creator, resulting in few people engaging with the economy; while the laissez-faire approach does not provide enough structure to operate within, so few people have much idea what to do, resulting in few people engaging with the economy. Instead, an ideal balance is more likely to be somewhere in the middle – enough structure is imposed to set up the rules of the game, but there is enough freedom and interesting options within it that the game is fun to play. And, as with games, it’s important that the players understand the rules and want to play. Having a large proportion of your citizenry on board with the idea of an economy, and understanding how it works and their role within it, is likely to be far more important than the particular rules and structure of the economic system.

Related to this is the observation that you shouldn’t mix levels. Some things are in-sim/in-character, and should best be handled at that level. Some things are to do with real micronationalists and are best handled at that level. Micronational economies sometimes mix the two – for example requiring real micronationalists to pay currency to buy an in-sim car, to be able to drive around in-sim. That works in a detailed roleplaying scenario where each person represents a single character; but when people tend to represent broader units (like a state/territory) it breaks down. One can have an in-sim economy where transactions are handled in-sim with in-sim currency; and one can have a real economy where real micronationalists do real services for one enough for actual micronational currency. Both work, and both can be run concurrently, but mixing the levels (paying actual micronational currency for in-sim benefits) tends to just get weird.

A final consideration is how much of an economy can be helpfully automated. While there is a large time investment in coding up an automated system, once done, it can function with limited human involvement, which, importantly, means that it can normally survive without requiring an active micronationalist maintaining it. By contrast, any system which needs someone to crunch numbers every month or the like is far more prone to collapse when the key number-cruncher leaves or loses interest. A recent example of this is the Small Commonwealth Exchange (SCX). While it could potentially be put to more use with a real person checking on the micronational companies involved and adjusting their prices to reflect their development, as was originally planned, it is still fully functional without that. It is even possible to give different micronations access to modify companies on their national exchange, without needing the original programmer to do all of that. Likewise, for a simulated economy, a program to handle most/all elements of the simulation has considerable advantages over an actual person having to do the calculations each month or the like.

Questions Worth Asking

The above section explained a number of different principles of micronational economics, helpful to inform any prospective economic designers. We close with three good questions to ask of your economic plan before implementing, inspired by the above discussion:

Is it fun?
Remember that micronationalism is a hobby and people do it voluntarily. Your economy should be fun to participate in, not something tedious or overly complicated – that’s an almost guaranteed way to lose people. Forget trying to make an economy that functions similarly to the real world – you can’t. Instead, try to make a system that can function with the people and structures you’ve got, and that people want to participate in.

Will it last past a month?
It’s easy to drum up interest and get people enthusiastically involved for a month or two. That’s also about how long it takes for a government to run out of money without levelling taxes. Run the hypothetical scenario – in a month’s time, will people still have things to do? Will there still be goods/services left worth purchasing? Will the government budget be sustainable? Historically, most micronational economies last a month or two, and, with forethought, that would have been obvious from the outset given the system proposed. Think ahead and plan a system that can be sustained long term.

Will it collapse if one key person leaves?
So many micronational economic systems start because one person has ‘a really good idea’, and plans out a whole system that either only they entirely understand, or requires regular upkeep/maintenance. That’s great while that person is around, but sooner or later everyone leaves the hobby, or at least tires/has less time to do things. It’s alright if your system relies on people doing regular upkeep, but make sure that it’s not the same one person who is the only one who can do it – train others up and get them involved, otherwise when that person leaves, so does any hope of your economy continuing.

Acknowledgements

The author would like to acknowledge the good people of Gralus and Shireroth, who put up with his various economic ‘bright ideas’ and provided helpful discussion over a number of years – those experiences made much of this article possible. Any errors or flawed assessments remain my own.

Micro-Economies: Simulations, Permutations and Automations

Crunching the numbers – Micras territory reductions

As the primary cartographic organization for the Simulationist Internet Micronational Community, the Micronational Cartography Society (‘the Society’) has played a key role in the depiction of micronational territory since December 2000 through its Micras world map projection.

The popularity of the Micras world map amongst Simulationist micronations has often resulted in politically-charged accusations of misconduct and favouritism on the part of the Society’s executive, even resulting in the founding of rival cartographic organizations, such as the Geographical Standards Organisation. Often such accusations were a result of the Society’s leadership being perceived as insensitive to the requirements of certain member micronations or otherwise favouring others. These accusations resulted from the autocratic structure of the Society in its first six years. As a means of standardizing its treatment of all member micronations, in order to eliminate such accusations, starting with the leadership of former Administrator-General V.C. Vehendi, the Society began to implement reforms from 2007 onward to address concerns over the democratic-deficit within the organization.1

Vehendi’s reforms would soon be followed in subsequent years by policies designed to alleviate concerns over favouritism playing into the allocation of territory on the Society’s primary political map projection, which it calls the “Claims Map”. This map displays the amount of territory held by individual member micronations. The amount of territory held is often in flux as a means of assigned a level of relative diplomatic power to each micronation, based on the micronation’s performance across several indicators: cultural development, population, and activity levels1. The latter of these indicators is often the most referenced, and forms the basis for the analysis undertaken in this article.

The authority for the acceptance and modification of all territorial claims on the Claims Map lies with the Administrative Council (“the Council”) that Vehendi originally founded. The Council has since 2009 adopted a systematic approach to the granting of territory that is directly-correlated to the active presence of the applicant or member micronation. A micronation must provide evidence that it is an active online community to support its initial territorial claim on the map. The Council accepts evidence such as the existence of a forum, bulletin board, or mailing list, and a website.2

The active and regular use of a forum, or other similar social platform, is critical in the administration of territorial claims by the Society, forming the basis of a system that must cater to the demand for limited territorial land. Aside from intensively-detailed cultural projects, such as exploration narratives, the easiest – and most commonly utilized – method by which a member micronation acquires further territory on the Claims Map is by demonstrating a heightened level of activity (which may or may not reflect the micronation experiencing a population gain).2

  1. MicrasWiki – Micronational Cartography Society [] []
  2. Micronational Cartography Society – Frequently Asked Questions [] []
Crunching the numbers – Micras territory reductions

The Sky’s the Limit for Madronan State

EDITOR’S DESK (CS) | Secessionist micronationalists have never played coy with their insatiable desire to have their “state” recognized by international organizations, such as the United Nations, or their belief that planting a flag in their backyard legally designates them as sovereign from their macronational overlords. That sovereignty is a Holy Grail that no micronationalist has yet to find.

It is a stubborn persistence in the face of a stark reality that one can only offer commendation for, if only in passing. One can almost feel the frustration of the secessionist who spends his days trying to find that Holy Grail yet knows in the back of his mind that sovereignty is a pipe-dream at best. Carefully crafting a pathway to sovereignty and the measured improvement of the post-statehood micronation is after all not a quick process, if it is to at least sound good on its face. All that time wasted planning and devising a route to a goal that can never be achieved – how frustrating that is, no matter how seditious the goal may be.

Perhaps that is why some secessionists simply forego any logic or effort in their planning and simply embrace the pipe-dream as a guaranteed eventuality that will have immeasurable success once that magical sovereignty and the loving-embrace of the United Nations are achieved. It saves the frustration and the associated unhealthy blood pressure, no doubt.

In my travels through the MicroWiki Community today I encountered such a secessionist, who goes by the name of Shamus, the King of Madrona, who seeks independence for his state from Canada. I found it interesting to read the micronation’s profile page, as it confirmed that not only is Shamus one of those who forego any sort of half-believable planning to achieve sovereignty, he is horrendously trapped within the context of the Madrona delusion.

It’s hard to decide where I should begin to explain the context of the Madrona delusion to the unacquainted, but I figure it’s best to start at the beginning of its fantastic assertions.

Introducing Madrona: a secessionist micronation whose seditious agenda to breakaway and take with it one-third of Canada’s sovereign territory in 2015 is being reputedly entertained by the Government of Canada through “discussions”. The Quebec separatists must be drooling in amazement at this accomplishment.

The Sky’s the Limit for Madronan State