The Good Country is an entirely new global/virtual nation, aiming "to make the world work better"

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An extraordinary experiment started this week. One of our earliest collaborators in A/UK, Simon Anholt (see his election manifesto for us) has launched - in partnership with Madeline Hung - a new digital nation, called The Good Country.

This is the latest development of his concept (elaborated at TED and in the Observer) of Anholt’s Good Country Index - a way of ranking nations according to the degree that they improve the state of the whole world, not just their own national interests.

But this goes one step further. You can become a citizen of the nation if you scroll to the bottom (it’s $5 a year tax). See their opening statement below:

Today, a new country begins accepting applications for citizenship. The Good Country is an entirely new kind of digital state with an unprecedented mandate to “make the world work better”.

The brainchild of British policy advisor, author and researcher, Simon Anholt, and American human rights and development practitioner, Madeline Hung, the Good Country has been created as a vehicle to enable large numbers of like-minded people from around the world to shape and implement policies aimed at fostering enhanced co-operation and collaboration within the international community.

The underlying principle of the Good Country is that the ‘grand challenges’ of climate change, migration, terrorism, pollution, pandemics, conflict, corruption, poverty and inequality could all be tackled more effectively if nation-states and other actors worked together systematically, supported by a strong mandate from their own citizens.

Such behaviour, according to Hung and Anholt, is not a matter of national self-sacrifice or altruism but of simple self-interest: if done correctly, it can produce national as well as international benefits both in the immediate and longer terms.

In 2014, Simon Anholt launched the annual Good Country Index with a TED talk which has been viewed more than 5 million times and is ranked as the seventh ‘most inspiring’ by TEDviewers. Following this talk, more than 20,000 people from 178 countries contacted Anholt to express their support for the principles he set out.

Subsequent research conducted by Anholt and Dr Robert Govers, based on these responses and on polling data representing 83% of the world’s population, showed that at least 13% of the world’s adult population – more than 700 million people – share these same basic values and aspirations.

This figure represents a personality type which Hung, Anholt and Govers refer to as ‘natural cosmopolitans’, and the preliminary aim of the Good Country is to contact and enrol this cohort as its first citizens.

A nation with over 700 million citizens, each paying an average of $5 per year in taxes, can exercise significant influence within the international community, by:

  • designing and creating new structures for international governance;

  • collaborating in new and imaginative ways with traditional states, cities, corporations, international agencies and other actors;

  • modelling policies designed to show other actors that harmonizing domestic and international interests is not only possible but directly beneficial;

  • occasionally projecting its economic hard power to encourageother actors to ‘do the right thing’;

  • and educating leaders and citizens in the benefits of more enlightened forms of international relations.

The Good Country’s citizens will play an active part in selecting, shaping and implementing policy. An artificial intelligence-enabled discussion platform developed by the Good Country’s key technology partner, Remesh, enables citizens to debate complex and nuanced issues in natural language without resorting to binary voting.

This effectively removes the need for a conventional government bureaucracy or ‘leaders’, making the Good Country a largely self-organising system. A small civil service will administer the country’s affairs, and a diplomatic corps will be responsible for the execution of policies. Formal diplomatic relations with traditional states, cities and U.N. agencies are currently under discussion.

The development phase of the Good Country has been funded by a small number of private philanthropists whose gifts will be repaid once tax revenues permit, after which point the Good Country will be funded entirely through taxes paid by its citizens.

No formal examination is required for citizenship of the Good Country, which is open to anybody over the age of 14 from any country: instead, a simple web-based process identifies compatibility of values between citizens and the Good Country.

Would-be citizens who are unable to pay the $5 annual tax can apply for a tax waiver, thanks to a fund supported by other citizens voluntarily paying multiples of their own tax contribution.

Applications will remain open until the end of this year and will be limited to 200,000 citizens. This ‘first nation’ will select and contribute to the development of the Good Country’s first three policy interventions which are scheduled to take place during 2019. In September 2019, if all systems prove viable, citizen enrolment will re-open permanently, and outreach to the remainder of the 700 million potential citizens will begin.

“The Good Country does not exist to complain about the state of the world, nor is it a holding cell for utopian ideals. The Good Country exists to harness the power of a global community of people who want to see the world work differently, and to give them the tools to realize that change,” said Madeline Hung, co-founder of the Good Country.

“We are honored by so many people trusting the Good Country to fulfil their hopes for a better world. We are determined to repay that trust,” said Simon Anholt, co-founder of the Good Country.

The Good Country isn’t the only virtual nation out there. A piece in the New Statesman earlier this year talked of a range of “nations-as-a-service” (with Estonia’s e-residency as the leading example, aiming at a worldwide virtual population of 10 million by 2025 - all of them buying into things like EU access for your business). The cryptocurrency sector sees virtual nationhood as a natural consequence of its technologies - see Bitnation, or the crypto-utopia Sol being built in Puerto Rico.

But none of them have the ethical and political charge of Simon’s startling project. Our citizenship framework of “I-We-World” obviously registers strongly with the aims of the Good Country. We seek as much new thinking about our global responsibilities and opportunities as possible. We will watch the growth of The Good Country with great interest.