Somewhere off the coast of Central America is an island. Right now it's uninhabited, besides some monkeys. Long beaches reach from the palm trees to the ocean.
The island is many acres in size, so big that if you were in the middle of the jungle you'd forget that you're even on an island. If you looked out from the hills in the middle you'd remember it instantly.
One day that island will be Tynan Island.
When I was in ninth grade my friend Mahnu showed me my first copy of Robb Report, a magazine for the super wealthy, and even more for the super wealthy wannabes like me. He let me keep the issue.
Near the back was a classifieds section which contained, among other things, a picture of a pristine circular island for sale. One million dollars.
Ever since I saw that, I've been obsessed with having my own island. A few years ago Style and I talked about actually doing it and I spoke with a real estate agent, but it fizzled when we found out that none of the nearby islands have surf. Style loves to surf.
Last weekend Alex Shalman came to visit us, and on his last day we sat around a perfect vegan meal at La Novena and discussed the laws Tynan Island would have.
After all, it would act like, if not actually be, its own nation.
It was a really interesting exercise, and was more difficult than I would have expected. It made me realize some of the difficult positions lawmakers are put in (particularly around the abortion issue).
Here's some of the stuff we came up with:
There would be no tax tied to anything other than your actual usage of government services (which would be minimal) and property. The goal of the island would be to allow people to make all of their own choices and facilitate making money.
The government would maintain roads as well as the land that it owned, which would be largely undeveloped (though legal for people to build stuff for public use in it, like trails). The government would also have a very small airport (basically one clearing with a dirt runway), which would be sold as soon as someone wanted to buy it for a reasonable cost.
The government would be for-profit, but would be restricted to charging for actual services provided. Road use could be purchased daily or monthly. Any guest would have to pay for his usage of roads and other services.
Park use would be optional and would be charged daily or monthly. The government would also organize the purchase of an undersea cable for internet access, which would be billed like an ISP. This branch, like the airport, could be purchased from the government.
Initial funding for the government would come from selling parcels of land to people who want to live on the island. It would probably not be very expensive, because I would want my friends to buy it.
There would be no formal national defense, although I would personally fight to the death for my island and I imagine others would do the same once they lived there for a while. All guns and weapons would be legal.
The best power sources would be wind and solar, but any power source is legal. To ensure the survival of the island, power plants would have to be inspected by scientists. Inspection scientists would be voted on and would receive the fee for each certification.
Once you own land it is yours to keep and there is no tax. You're not allowed to affect other people's land, via pollution or runoff, or even bad smells (like pig farms or piles of trash). You can be as noisy as you want and can do whatever you want on your land - there's no zoning.
If you are expelled from the island your land goes up for auction, with proceeds going to fund that can only be used to repair damage inflicted by people who fled the island without paying fines.
There would be one paved highway that spanned one end to the other and covered the major areas of the island. The government would not sell some parcels for land it might need for future roads. The left lanes of "highways" would have no speed limits, and the right lanes would have a non-enforced speed limit. All exits will be on the right side to facilitate speeding in the left.
All parcels of land sold by the government will have at least one edge touching a road. Some parcels will be small and that will be all they need. Others will require people to build their own roads if they want to access far areas of the parcel (perhaps to make a subdivision). Of course people can charge for use of their roads and maintain them as they like.
I would be king for life. Almost all of our laws would regulate what the government CAN'T do, so the king position would actually be powerless. The only real decisions I'd have would be to start more government businesses (which would not have any particular advantage over anyone else's business), and to sell government businesses.
New laws could only be made with 75% of the people in agreement, and certain laws (like no taxing, no infringing on personal freedom, etc) taking precedence over all new laws.
There would be no laws on morality. As much as I'd love to have a drug free, alcohol free, vegan island, it would be stupid to tell other people what they can and can't do.
Instead I will design the island to attract smart entrepreneurial people who will probably not be likely to have drug problems.
Crime and Punishment
There would be no police, only a vote amongst all citizens (conducted securely online) on all issues, with statements back and forth between the two parties until each one had spoken 5 times or both decided they were done arguing their cases.
There would be no jail. Every punishment would be the actual cost of undoing the damage (in case of theft or destruction of property), plus a fine. The fine would be waived or minimized if you reported your own crime.
So if you ran your car into a government sign for a park and reported it the next day, you'd just pay to have the sign replaced. If you didn't report it and someone else had to, you would pay a fine.
Killing people would be illegal and would result in expulsion from the island. Returning to the island would make it legal for you to be shot by any citizen. If 90% of people in a vote believe it was in self defense, there is no penalty.
The reason there's no death penalty isn't because I'm against it, but rather because I don't want to have a complicated legal system which would be necessary for subjectively deciding to kill someone.
Instead we'd forgo revenge and keep them off the island.
Hurting people would make you liable for their medical bills plus a fee to be determined by online vote. Non payment would result in expulsion from the island. Anyone who is expelled from the island can legally be shot if they return.
People could hire private security. In Panama there's a lot more private security than police, and it's very safe.
There would be no required or provided education system. Kids could be home schooled or schooled as a group if parents organized it.
Obviously a lot more would still need to be worked out. I'm very serious about doing this some day. A suitable 200-300 acre island is only $1-2M, which I should be able to afford in the not-so-distant future, especially if I have some people lined up to buy some of the land.
Just for fun, here are all of my political views. I'm not super into politics at all - in fact before Bush started screwing everything up, I had zero interest in them. I definitely haven't done enough research to have definitive stances on most of these things, so take them with a grain of salt.
This is the one I care about the most. Our tax system is extremely screwed up. Did you know that we're one of only TWO countries in the world who tax their citizens if they don't live in the country or make money in the country? If I spend a year traveling the world, making money online, I STILL have to pay taxes in the US (there's a partial exemption that it's possible to qualify for).
This week's "found poem" is another one crafted from a legal case.
The case is a really interesting situation that happened during the second "red scare" in the U.S., in the 1950s. Mezei, a Romanian/Hungarian man had lived here in the US legally for 25 years, as a permanent resident (i.e., he had what everybody calls a "green card," though it is not green now). He left the US to try to visit his dying mother in Romania but was denied entry and then had trouble getting permission to leave Hungary. He finally got permission to leave Hungary, and was granted a visa at the American consulate for entry to the U.S.
But when he actually arrived at Ellis Island, the U.S. government denied him entry, as a threat to national security. The government refused to disclose why it thought Mezei was a threat. Unfortunately, no other country in the world was willing to take Mezei in, especially now that the U.S. deemed him a threat but refused to say why.
Mezei sued, demanding a chance to hear the evidence against him and respond, to try to prove it was safe to let him go back to his home in New York. He argued that keeping him on Ellis Island was depriving him of his liberty without "due process of law," in violation of the constitution.
As you'll see in the poem, Mezei lost the case. The court's opinion has a single chilling line that has always stood out to me, from the first time I read it: "Whatever the procedure authorized by Congress is, it is due process as far as an alien denied entry is concerned."