One of the biggest challenges for a micronation (besides surviving the interventions of other countries) is to become relatively self-sufficient, and productive enough to support a decent standard of living, which, among other things, will make the recruiting of new citizens easier. Difficult as it is, a different legal environment and working conditions may give rise to more competitive companies and products. Just note the warning of an unknown Internet goer: industry won't go where there's no people… and people won't go, where there is no industry - you need capital to sustain one or the other while the other catches up.
In general, it is not necessary to be self-sufficient in the modern world with so many trade opportunities (besides it is impossible for a small settlement for all but the most basic technologies). However, a fledgling micronation is likely to be in a remote location, with little to export, so covering the basic survival needs is useful. There are other practical considerations (to minimize transports to outside to reduce costs, the possibility of a blockade, initial export goods, …).
The first package
What is needed when the first settlers arrive? Not all locations will be completely bare, and the needed items will of course vary, but let's try to create a solid checklist (and note that resources besides money will be needed for getting and transporting them):
- The settlers themselves, the men and women meeting the challenge
- Basic food and water; hard subsidies for a longer time period (with all the ingredients for decent cookery - condiments, spices and whatnot)
- Easily available means to purify water (there are chemical and mechanical ways)
- Basic tools and equipment fitting the environment (here comes your axe/machete for a tropical island, but also useful books, paper, pencils, etc.)
- Any other general tools for construction and other needs; and materials for various needed crafts
- First aid kit, with medicine and other materials against the most likely diseases and issues
- Sources of light
- Means of communication
- Construction materials to create shelter and other structures (ranging from tents to a ton of bricks) and the most basic infrastructure
- If viable, bring along the live animals, seeds, plants, etc. to start producing food
- Oil and/or other fuel to power important machinery, generators or lighting
- Sources of energy, from solar panels through classical generators to batteries
- Means of defense
- Entertainment utilities and some basic luxuries to ease up the hard life (books, musical instruments, art supplies, …)
What is money needed for?
At the minimum (according to this source):
- to purchase the location/create the initial claim
- to purchase the initial infrastructure
- to relocate the prospective populace
- a SMALL amount of cash flow to cover the reoccurring needs of material items not manufacture-able in the colony
- a SMALL amount of cash flow to keep the global powers that be satiated while the fledgling nation grows and specializes its defenses.
Without electricity, life reverts to the technologies of 18th-19th century. Forget advanced communication, solid lighting, and basically any advanced machinery. There exist replacements running on oil or diesel, but the fuels are not for free, and have to be transported from elsewhere.
Since any single source can fail, it is advisable to possess several sources of energy. The 'renewable' sources tend to be unstable in output.
- Wind power is great if you have the right wind conditions.
- Solar power is still not quite up the task (but may be in the near future).
- Classical power generators run on fuel any time you want, but may break down in the wrong moment (and note the cost problem).
- If available, water power can be a cheap and reliable source.
- Burns cleaner.
- Internal combustion engines converted to use gaseous fuel last longer (in some cases it triples the normal lifespan of an engine).
- Uses up all manner of organic waste, (dead animals, poop, clippings, peelings, anything organic, etc). In temperate climes, organic waste is not usually a problem. But in the tropics it is a HUGE problem. That stuff can't be left to sit around. Breeds sickness. There is nowhere to throw it away. It's green and frequently wet, so it won't burn. And it must be dealt with.
- The byproduct of the bio digesters is a broken down watery slurry that is by FAR the best growing medium available. You can mix a cup of this stuff with 10 cups of plain beach sand and grow killer tomatoes.
Combining several sources, with some sort of power storage/batteries, and a backup generator should make a stable enough power supply. Actual industries will probably require more than that.
No settlement can survive without a solid supply of drinkable water. Enough said.
Food can be imported, and to some degree stored (further requirement: storage areas).
According to some sources, it is possible to feed up to one thousand people per acre; note that it is highly advanced greenhouse growing of food with well-trained personnel and all the technology to back it up. Initial yields on a lonely island will be much lower. (How much is likely?)
Particularly on islands is fishing a viable source of food; but note various international treaties, and local customs one can get in conflict with. Also note the space requirements for various kinds of animals - poultry can be raised on very small space if you are up to it, livestock… less so.
A few examples (quoted):
- Smaller scale animal husbandry is almost unlimited, once you really think about it.
- Chickens, game fowl (too many species to list), turkeys, rabbits (love those 50lb Bavarian breeds), rodents, (yeah so what its related to a rat, it tastes good),
- Goats (I know they've got freaky eyes. But they taste good, can clear a weed patch in a week, produce healthy milk, and are ROBUST)
- Pigs (the staple meat source the world over)
- Dogs (yes they taste good too).
- Raising fish:
- Tilapia (on my island we raise this fish in galvanized cattle feeders. They mature fast, eat anything, resistant to disease)
- Bangus (philippine milk fish, similar to a cat, but tastes better)
- Perch / Sunfish (small but they breed like nobody's business and will actually clean a pond for other fish)
- Crabs / shrimps / mudbugs. (Essential in fish pond farming. How do you keep your pens clean?)
The possibilities are endless, as long as you are able to drop some of the preprogrammed notions of what is good to eat and what is not.
Unless it is supposed to be an extremely isolationistic colony, to speak with the outside world is highly desirable. Points to consider:
- Cellphone coverage - more and more available across the world, sometimes it has to be satellite phones.
- Landlines - not as much
- Internet connectivity, and how fast is the connection
- TV and other media
- Amateur radio
- postal connection - also for the transport/ordering of lesser, non-critical parts; maybe make a deal with UPS/FEDEX to deliver to the place, if there is sufficient volume. Otherwise, a P.O.box or a trusted person in the closest civilized location could serve for storing of any mail and packages.
In addition arise the questions:
- How reliable are the lines of communication?
- Is it possible to easily disconnect or disrupt them? What happens if some break down?
Comfortable living means that the necessities are easy to come by. If there is no infrastructure to start with, it may take years, if not decades to construct everything.
- Sanitation/waste management - simple on the first day on a tropic island, it is necessary the second day or third. Waste can be buried at first, eventually it needs to be dealt with. Bringing in water is similarly important.
- Roads - if there is nothing else, you need to travel around. Roads and other means of transport are always needed.
- Electricity - …
- Local communication - … (wire, wireless, …)
- Emergency and health services, emergency/temporary housing/shelters, defensive installations
- Protected areas or general environmental protections
- Environmental monitoring (volcanic, oceanic activities?)
Lastly, some sort of commons/gathering area for the whole settlement, with buildings and equipment as necessary, may fulfill one or more of the following functions:
- Public Administration (if required)
- Market place
- Education facilities
- Court/Political gathering place
- Health services
- 'Diplomatic' administration, dealing with visitors and/or foreign issues (possibly even immigration services)
- Entertainment and other means of having fun and keeping the community intact
- The basic outlet for public announcements (from official business up to marriages and the like)
What are the means of getting there, and back again? How reliable are they, and in what ways will they rely on outsiders? How much of further infrastructure is necessary to achieve basic/moderate/advanced access?
- Land-based - when attached to a greater landmass; or close enough for a bridge to be built (a ferry may serve for the same). Vehicles require roads or varying quality.
- Naval - ships need a dock for comfortable transfer of people and goods, and don't think those huge commercial ships will land without solid commercial-grade docking facilities.
- Air-bound - how about a helicopter, or a small airplane? If so, a landing pad, or a runway is necessary (also have a hangar, or at least some means of protection for the aircraft).
- The others - hovercrafts or other non-standard vehicles may be required, depending on the specific locale.
(Also consider the means of moving around locally.)
Tourists are a good source of revenue, that should enjoy the authenticity of a micronation, especially in the more attractive locales. Most of the 'new state' projects count with tourism to bolster the local economy.
When attempting to attract tourists, it is important to appear as a safe destination. Care should be taken to appear serious (but a strongly ironic approach may also be successful). How many actually come, is a difficult question. There are always adventurous sorts, eager to try out something new, even if the conditions are primitive. To attract large numbers of tourists, you need:
- comfort/luxury products that are hard to produce in one developing place
- the logistics of getting the consumers to the product - an island in international waters may be simply too far out to be a viable destination
- most probably, you will have to link into the global banking system (which may not be desirable)
With some basics in place, it is possible to start producing more than food, light manufacturing jobs for needed items (construction materials, etc.) and possibly export.
In the world of networking are many jobs outsourced. Citizens of a new country with a good Internet connection and a steady power supply may offer their services anywhere, from simple online work, through programming, up to hosting servers and mirroring websites.
There are many other options, but be careful of what exactly is offered. Spreading pornography or spamming can create a negative image, for example. Similar issues arise with filesharing.
Once there is a stable base of support, scientific research may be easier to start than heavy industry. A less regulated society can allow for research not considered or allowed in other countries.
Note: care should be taken with research considered illegal or immoral in other countries. The repercussions can be serious, especially with respect to illegal drugs.
Industries specific for islands and other locations on/at/under the sea (list taken from here, needs more sources):
Sub-sea mining (no-one is doing it right now due to EPA regulations)
- Would allow collection of metals from manganese nodules (nickel, iron, lead)
- Offsets import costs of metals for construction.
- Diamonds are also prevelent in sub-sea mining off the coast of Africa. Though their production was bought and shut down by debeers.
Hydrate harvesting (Methane Hydrates, largest natural gas reserve on earth)
- Harvesting methane hydrates would allow us to tap into one of the largest natural gas supplies on earth. A sub-sea production facility to turn in from gas phase into methanol would be optimal. No one is doing this yet, so it's a possibility to get a jump start on this.