Tynan Island

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:

Taxes

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.

Defense

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.

Power

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.

Land Ownership

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.

Roads

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.

Leadership

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.

Education

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.

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22 comments

  1. Hi!

    Could you be more specific about the island location? I live in Central America (Guatemala, to be more specific) and would like to buy that island before you do… er… I mean… to check out the isand to see if I’m interested in some property 😀

  2. Ahhh… the good ol’ island conversation. You really toned it done for the site. There was a lot more gore, killing, etc. in your initial plan. I guess you were just hungry waiting for the food, that’s understandable.

  3. Frntk: There’s no actual island yet. I’ve found a bunch, but I’m definitely not ready to buy it.

    Dova: First 20 or so people on the island get to name stuff after them. You could have “Mount Dova”. Hahaha

    Alex: Wait… what did I change? I couldn’t remember all the details.

    Tynan

  4. Tynan,

    Excellent idea. Sounds very libertarian, very free market, and similar to what I would come up with myself.

    At first I was going to ask you why the government needs to handle the roads and the other things you have under its purview. Then I realized that the “government” you talk about is really a government in name only. What you call the government is really more a business. A government is a monopoly on force within a geographic area. The vast majority of what you describe doesn’t involve force (with the possible exception of “power plants would have to be inspected by scientists” — “have to be” sounds to me like force).

    Another big concern I have — why is any voting (especially for new laws) necessary at all? Voting is really 2 wolves and a sheep deciding on what’s for dinner. It’s a certain group of people telling others what to do with their own private property. If you really want to follow the spirit of what you outlined below, I *highly* recommend not opening the Pandora’s box of voting and the possibility of new laws. Otherwise it will devolve into something you didn’t originally envision.

    Look at the U.S. as an example. It actually started out pretty free. It was only because of voting (and the new laws that are produced because of that) that the U.S. has become as tyrannical as it is now.

    What is better than laws are deed restrictions — i.e. if a developer builds a group of houses, and all of their deeds say that certain “rules” need to be followed. For example, noise rules, having houses be over a certain height, etc. That way all the rules are private and consensual, rather than being mandated by force.

    As long as there is no monopoly on force, I think your idea will work. For example, the company you outlined would build the roads, parks, internet access, etc. But as long as other companies aren’t prohibited from competing against that original “government” company, your society will thrive.

    Great idea, and if I weren’t already moving to New Hampshire as part of the Free State Project I might consider it! (or if the U.S. government becomes too much of a police state and New Hampshire doesn’t end up seceding).

    Will

  5. One of the advantages to allowing privatization of government activities which works for countries with more sizable populations would be lost for your island. It is highly unlikely that these privatized companies would encounter any competition, so it would basically be the same as the government running them.

  6. Haha! you are absolutely crazy. And I love it!

    I’ll definitely buy some squaremeters on your island, just to be part of this! But after reading your stuff, I think you should work it out some more. I have some inputs about education, because I think you ignore this subject, which is very important.
    I’ll post my stuff sometimes later,
    gotta get some sleep now!

    cheers

  7. @Jim — the difference being that if it’s government controlling them, there is no other choice, and the govt would (presumably) defend their monopoly. If it’s one or more private companies running it, then the customers have no obligation to use their services. If the company fails to stop satisfying the marketplace, that opens the door for another company to come in and take their market share. That’s why, absent of government force, a true monopoly is really not possible in a free market, unless the company is fully satisfying all their customers.

  8. I love the idea behind all this, but I’ve got a question. When you say “buy an island,” who are you paying? It’s my understanding that most islands for sale are a part of a chain of islands belonging to a certain country. This would mean that you still have to abide by that country’s laws. That being said, there are still plenty of options for development, but the whole crime enforcing part might be out of the question.

  9. so you could kill someone with your legal gun and just get removed from the island, hmmm. what if that person wont leave the island and just goes on a killing rampage?

  10. Chris,

    That hypothetical person would commit the same crime anywhere. He’s obviously not concerned with legality, so he’d just buy a black market gun.

    However, Tynan Island would be best protected because MANY residents would have guns, so he would be placing himself in great danger.

    Tynan

  11. The big problem I find with this is that your 99.99% likely going to be under an other governments jurisdiction. How are you going to deal w/ that other than “hope” they’ll leave you alone (which they wont once they realize rich gringos are there). And I know they wont easily just “give up” rights to the island to you, although that would be totally awesome if you negotiated a contract to do so.

    Also how are you going to deal with invasions by drug lord armies, pirates & mercenary armies? Guys with automatic machine guns, artillery and really bad attitudes. Wouldn’t you think they would like their own autonomous drug lord island?

  12. Elai: The hard part would be separating from the government. Luckily, Panama’s government would be compatible enough with mine that it wouldn’t be a big problem.

    There are no income taxes on foreign (internet) earned income, no property taxes in 20 years (after which we might be able to go independent, especially since Panama has no army), property rights are so good that you can shoot people who trespass.

    So really, it would be more like a neighborhood with neighborhood covenants, but it could be run like a country. Some rules would be technically against theirs (drugs being legal, no speed limit on the road), but these would go unenforced.

    I wouldn’t worry about those invasions. They don’t happen now on private islands. Why would they happen on mine?

    Tynan

  13. Awesome idea. I have been thinking about something like this, but 200-300 acres with no room for expansion seems too small for the kind of country I’m thinking of.

    My idea was to buy several hundred acres in the middle of America and declare independence (and stop paying taxes)… As long as you’re totally peaceful, how can the government initiate force against us? I would have a major online presence so that our sympathizers could protest against the initiation of force by the government.

  14. you are basically talking about building Galts Gulch. did you ever finish reading atlas shrugged? you could totally do it, but if it was successful you would need a badass army and at least 1 gunship. but if you are rich, this shouldnt be a problem. i have dreamed of this ever since reading atlas shrugged, so if you ever do this i am going to sell everything i have and come join ya’ll – fair warning, i want in, bad!

    by the way i love your recent post “persistence alone”, its a great quote. everyone i know tells me i am genius and i have always wondered why i am freakin broke. anyway your post inspired to me start writing again, i’ll send you a copy of my book when i am done. enjoy japan!

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