As more of our lives move online while the real world becomes evermore turbulent, we may begin to think about doing things differently.
A new ‘virtual country’ hopes to do just that, with its own ideas about how countries should be run.
The smartly designed website states that:
“Backed by the power of its citizens, the Good Country will tackle global challenges in seven different ways.”
Education, leading by example, inspiration (addressing people’s hopes and aspirations), foreign policy (engaging in diplomacy), systems and structures, hard power (revenue), and finally soft power, which is defined as:
“Using a range of ‘soft power’ tools from public diplomacy and cultural relations, the Good Country will encourage countries and other actors to act in more constructive, imaginative and collaborative way.”
How serious is this project?
Despite the seemingly throwaway name, the Good Country is apparently very serious and is aiming to acquire ‘millions’ of citizens.
There’s a disclaimer at the bottom of the site which tells potential ‘citizens’ that their real countries might not like the idea of them becoming citizens of a virtual country.
This also suggests that the people who came up with this project are taking it seriously, however realistic or otherwise it may be.
What can a virtual country do?
While the idea of a virtual country has potential, it’s also likely that this project is as much a vehicle for political commentary and activism. By demonstrating how a virtual country could work, the creators are also reminding citizens how their own countries should work.
If enough people buy into the idea of this or other virtual countries, it could be that citizenship becomes a kind of immersive role-playing situation which either allows people to escape from reality or to challenge reality more when they go back to it.
The Good Country may be art or politics, or both.
But if genuine virtual countries are a possibility, what are the limits of what they can achieve?
Any kind of military activity seems to be obviously out of the question, and the issuing of widely accepted passports seems unlikely unless there’s a consensus among physical countries.
But there are other ways in which virtual countries could do real things.
For example, if the government of a virtual country utilised the ever-expanding potential for remote (i.e. online) working and earning, it could provide citizens with an opportunity for extra income.
A physical country’s taxes would still have to be paid on the extra income, but if the virtual country’s government was effectively acting as an agent to conveniently find online work for people – including administrative work for the virtual country – then that government would be entitled to take a fee or cut. This would effectively be their own tax.
This could then be spent on helping citizens, for example providing affordable health insurance, or financial assistance that could be used on healthcare back in the real world.
Indeed – the Good Country’s definition of ‘hard power’ is:
“As the population of the Good Country grows to many millions, its tax revenue will start to accumulate into a significant ‘war chest,’ enabling it to exert real influence in the international domain. A large population of citizens who are also citizens of other countries also provides the Good Country with meaningful political power.”
What are the policies?
The Good Country would probably be described as having generally left-leaning policies, judging from its Thoughts of a Citizen section. Some of the more interesting parts of that section are views on technology, which is seen as ‘a means, not an end; it is a set of tools, not a religion. It can help us make the world work better, but can’t do so on its own.”
And music and the arts, about which the country says:
“Music, art, literature, dance and film aren’t entertainment, nor light relief, nor are they background noise: these are the means by which complex ideas and feelings are communicated directly to people’s souls.”