4. History Since Independence

The expected benefits of freedom failed to materialize. Emigration was now cut off; only sparse and grudging aid from the former Protectorate Powers kept the population from complete destitution. In 1967 the Sultan sent his young son and heir, Pak Harjanto Abdul-Rahman IV, to college in America, hoping vaguely that this might somehow result in an infusion of U.S. aid. The Crown Prince obtained a scholarship to Berkeley University, and majored in economics.

In California the Prince felt attracted to "the Movement"--civil rights, anti-war, free speech and expression, ecological awareness, HaightAshbury, etc.--and soon found himself convinced by libertarian anarchist philosophy. At college he met Travis B. O'Conner, the scion and heir of an Oklahoma-Texas oil family (not super-rich, but definitely millionaires); they took a year's leave of absence from school and enjoyed an American wanderjahr together. The Prince never lost a sense of responsibility toward his homeland: all his thought and study aimed at his peoples' salvation, or at least relief. O'Conner found himself fascinated by tales of Sonsorol, and together the young friends plotted and dreamed.

They reasoned thus: virtually all classical Utopias--from Plato's Republic to Brook Farm--involve a high degree of abstraction. The implementation of abstract ideas in society requires a correspondingly high level of authoritarian control. As a result, most Utopias in practice have proven oppressive and deadening--"social planning" would seem to be an offense by definition against the "human spirit". O'Conner and the Sultan desired an anarchist utopia, one without authority--and yet they realized that utopia is impossible without abstraction.

The greatest and most oppressive of all modern abstractions is finance, banking, the creation of wealth out of nothing, out of pure imagination. Now the pirates of old lived virtually without authority--even their captains were virtually mere first-among-equals--and they created lawless "utopias" or enclaves financed by stolen wealth. The two young friends decided that since Sonsorol could never produce any real wealth, they must follow the pirate path--admittedly the way of parasites and bandits rather than "true revolutionaries"--and steal the energy they needed to fund and found their utopia. The bank robber robs banks "because that's where the money is", but the banker robs banks and even his own depositors with total legal impunity. The California dreamers decided to go into banking.

In 1979 the old Sultan died and his son succeeded to the throne of a forgotten and ruined island. At once he and O'Conner began to activate their plan. It began with the creation of a mercantile bank called "The Ilanun Moro Savings & Loan Association" (ironically named after the pirate-founder of the dynasty). The new Sultan then railroaded a series of bills through the island legislature: he arranged for the creation of a free port enclave, Port Watson (the origin of the name has never been explained), consisting of ten square kilometers of abandoned copra plantations. The Bank, making use of O'Conner family connections and capital, moved to Port Watson and began "offshore" operations; phantom subsidiaries, tax-free registrations, "cut-outs" and "strange loops", currency speculations, secret go-between activity for mainland Chinese interests, laundering funds for certain overseas-Chinese "businessmen", numbered accounts and so on. Port Watson was planned to enjoy virtual freedom from law; the bank practises a new and invisible form of "piracy". Since it depends for its efficacy on satellite communications, it might perhaps be called Space Piracy!

The Sonsorol Bank possesses few "real" assets, little that could be looted--its wealth exists largely in computer memories. Its discreet machinations are tolerated by international banking interests; after all, a "blind" account or something of the sort proves useful, from time to time, even in the most respectable financial circles. Almost overnight (1976-1980) Sonsorol grew moderately well-to-do.

Every citizen of Sonsorol and resident of Port Watson, child, woman and man, was made an equal shareholder in the Bank; everyone-- including the Sultan and O'Conner--owns exactly one share of the profits. By 1980, around a thousand people in Port Watson and 2000 in Sonsorol each received an annual dividend of about $4000. In 1985 the total population reached about 9000 and the dividend slightly more than $5000--virtually a guaranteed income.

Aside from the creation of Port Watson and the Bank, very few changes were made in the legal structure of Sonsorol, which remains (at least on paper) an Anglo-American-style republic with a legislature, army, police, compulsory education, taxation and so forth. No foreign power can accuse the island of "anarchy"--and in any case the Labour Government of New Zealand has recently signed a defense treaty which offers international recognition and protection for the Republic. On the surface, all is normal. The Constitution was amended to disestablish the Dutch Reformed Church and allow freedom of religion (1976); and in 1979 the Sultan abdicated all executive function and reduced himself to a ceremonial figurehead. As he put it, "I attained the state of the Taoist Sage-King described in the Chuang Tzu: I sit on my throne facing in a propitious direction--and do absolutely nothing!"

In practice, however, the functions of the Republic have almost entirely lapsed into desuetude. No army or police exist because no one will join them; instead, a volunteer Peoples' Militia serve in emergencies (extremely rare so far). Taxes are not collected; moral laws are not enforced; the Legislature passes no new laws (although it meets from time to time to debate projects and philosophical issues); schools exist but attendance is voluntary. No one needs to work, and many find their Shares enough to support lives of Polynesian dolce far niente. Anyone who objects to the "minarchy-monarchy" of the Republic can move to Port Watson, where no law exists at all. The "real work" of Sonsorol, banking, can be handled by a handful of part-time computer hackers and wheeler-dealers (nicknamed "Sindonistas"); however, the Sultan and O'conner wanted to see Port Watson become a genuine libertarian community, and they encouraged immigration by offering interest-free loans and even outright grants to useful and sympathetic people. Several major collectives were founded: the Energy Center (q.v.), a Co-op for alternate energy, appropriate technology and experimental agriculture; and the Academies (q.v.), devoted to education and research--schools for children, and "natural philosophy" of all sorts for advanced students.

Small entrepreneurs, mostly overseas Chinese, were also invited to set up shop; energetic and thrifty, they expanded their shares into small businesses and now dominate various aspects of Port Watson's commercial life. Hundreds of libertarians and anarchists from Europe and the Americas flocked to Sonsorol, each with some life-experiment, New Age cult, utopian commune, craft, art or pet project. Some Sonsorolans who had migrated to New Zealand in the '40's and '50's came back to claim their Citizen's Shares. The island came alive--once again thanks to "piracy"!

In Port Watson, all business and indeed all human relations are carried out by contract. No regulatory body exists to interfere in agreements made between "consenting partners," whether in bed or in a banking deal. Contracts can be witnessed by an independent arbitrage company; complaints against groups or individuals are adjudicated by a "Random Synod"--a computer-chosen ad hoc committee of Shareholders. The Synod has no power of enforcement. In theory a "defendant" who refused the Synod's recommendations would go free and the complainant would-have no recourse but duel or vendetta; in practice however this has occurred only once or twice. New settlers in Port Watson are asked only to agree to live according to this non-system, to donate one day a month to community projects (known as "shit-work"), and to refrain from coercive or oppressive behavior. This agreement is called "signing the Articles", after the custom amongst old-time buccaneers and corsairs. Indeed, Port Watson's form of "government" might well be called a Covenancy of Pirates--or perhaps laissez-faire communism--or anarcho-monarchy (since each human being is considered a "free lord" or sovereign agent.)

Land is "owned" only when occupied and used. A typical commune may consist of a single building, no land, three or four members (perhaps even a "nuclear family"!); or a farm-sized collective with 12-25 members and several buildings. Economic independence makes solitary life feasible; but a group can pool resources, afford better housing and share luxuries. Nearly everyone belongs to some form of collective, union or sodality, from informal dining clubs to strict ideological utopian communes (mostly in the hills outside town). "Phalansteries" or erotic affinity groups are popular; so are craft guilds and esoteric cults.

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