What's to stop me from starting a country in Antartica?

Inspired by the other thread about billionaires taking over countries - the hell with that. We’ve got a whole continent for the taking.

Antarctica has lots and lots of space. Now, mind you, it’s not very FUN space. but there’s lots of room.

So suppose I was a Bill Gatesian billionaire and expended several billion dollars shipping buildings, space heaters, and the equipment needed to build a basic port and airstrip to the Antarctic Peninsula. I move in, bring employees and their families with me, and start up a tourism trade. Oh, and… quietly… I have a small paramilitary force. You know. Just in case. I announce that a small area of the peninsula is Rickland, with me as Grand Vizier.

I know there are international treaties about the use of Antarctica, but would anyone try to enforce them and conquer Rickland, if I went about my business peacefully?

Well that’s the rub, isn’t it? I think it would simply all come down to whether the US, Russia, the EU, Australia, etc. etc. thought it was worth their while to kick you out of there. And a lot of that would depend on how much of a threat they thought you were to their strategic interests.

In other words, if oil or minerals were found in Rickland, I’d strongly suggest having a safehole in Monaco.

Most of that territory has been claimed, so the claimants might have something to say about it. Argentina would be pissed.

But you could take Marie Byrd Land.

ISTM there are two possibilities. The first is that you have no basis for an economy. If so, you won’t be there long. You can’t live off ice. The second possibility is that you find some basis for an economy. If so, the value involved will motivate the nation that currently nominally controls the region to boot you.

What if his method of boosting the economy is investing in human capital to perform business services? You could have office space down there if nothing else. Call centers and stuff. Manufacture stuff with parts and machinery that you import from other continents. Then those workers will naturally have to buy groceries and cars and get haircuts and all that shit.

There doesn’t have to be a basis for an economy if you have the cash to start your own. I don’t know how long Bill Gates’s money would go in this scenario, but I’m guessing pretty far. Build houses/apts and sell/rent them at prices low enough to bribe people from other countries down to yours. Let anybody immigrate who wants to, as long as they’re able-bodied and want to work.

Or build a biodome down there and power it with solar energy and wind! :slight_smile:

I’m by no means a tree hugger, but I’m pretty sure if you did that you’d be fucking up and polluting the enviroment. Someone, probably green peace, would git you.

The OP cites a billionaire, well, with that kind of resources, how about seizing
Bouvet Island from Norway?

Like what would Norway do? Bouvet Island, is after all, 20 square miles of icy cold frozen, um, ice. What would it be worth to them to reclaim it? Heck, given parkas, Somali pirates could seize and hold this island!

Of course, a few problems exist, like what are you going to do with it? There seems to be the possibility of volcanic activity, which might be handy in melting the ice, but it would still be a barren (molten?) rock.

Unless the economy comprises some activity or exploits some resource specific to Antarctica, our billionaire would be better off doing it somewhere else, where the costs of just staying alive would be orders of magnitude lower.

Billionaire evil geniuses don’t think in terms of pure profit. They follow the Rule of Cool, for the most part.

It’s an interesting idea, but I’m pretty sure there are countless islands in the Aegean or the Pacific which would A) Be a lot nicer to run as a micro-nation and B) Still not be worth the time or effort on anyone important’s behalf to come and boot you out.

But do they have penguins?

In the movies billionaire evil geniuses don’t think in terms of pure profit. They follow the Rule of Cool, for the most part.

In the real world, there is a reason they are billionaires.

Aliens and Predators meet to do battle in a labyrinth beneath it from time to time, so that might impact on what you use it for…

What’s the difference between setting up your compound in North Dakota, and setting up your compound in Antarctica?

The difference is, in Antarctica you can pretend to be an independent country. Except, you really can’t, because nobody is going to agree to pretend along with you. Heck, you can move to North Dakota and declare yourself an independent country, and nobody will care. Until you stop paying your taxes. Then you’ll get a visit from the IRS accountant, and if you ignore them you’ll get a visit from the local sherriff, and if you ignore them you’ll get a visit from the state police, and if you ignore them you’ll get a visit from an FBI SWAT team, and we’ve got a Waco situation.

See, to be a for-real independent country you’ve got to be recognized as one by the other countries, otherwise you’re just playing pretend. And it would be in no other country’s interest to recognize your Antarctic fortress as an independent country.

If you just want to move into the backwoods to avoid being hassled by The Man, go right ahead, and you can live however you like out there, and even call yourself an independent country. But when you make a nuisance of yourself, then you’ll get crushed like a bug.

Either that, or just not need much of anything from the rest of the world. Afghanistan’s pre-9/11 Taliban government was only recognized by about 3 other countries, IIRC, but Afghanistan’s backward enough (especially under the Taliban) that this didn’t really make a difference.

But there’s no way a ‘country’ in Antarctica will be self-sufficient, unless they can live off of nothing but ice, fish, and penguins. They’re going to need to trade, but as Lemur points out, that isn’t going to happen in the absence of recognition by other countries.

If all the OP’s hypothetical billionaire wants is to be his own independent nation, but doesn’t really care if it outlives him, he might should buy an island in the Maldives, which is likely doomed by rising sea waters (the highest point in the Maldives is 2.3 meters above sea level; to put that in perspective, there’ve been people taller than that).

As it is, they’re trying to buy land elsewhere to move their nation to, and would probably be willing to sell an island to a billionaire, and even recognize his government, in return for a decent addition to their moving fund.

The billionaire should be able to occupy his island for a few decades. And if the Maldives recognized his sovereignty over his island, there’d be no reason for other nations not to do so, so that would solve the recognition problem. With that solved, the billionaire could live anywhere, but as the sovereign of an independent nation, his personal income would probably be exempt from taxes.

I disagree you need to be recongnized. Somaliland IS a country and functions as such. No one recognizes it, but it works better than Somalia which is recognized.

Rhodesia was another example of an unrecognized country that functioned.

We have a glut of partially recognized nations today.

Antarctica is still to far and remote for anything to be established for long. Even the 45 billion Bill Gates has isn’t going to last long term there.

And let’s say you DO establish something. Someone would just take you over. Remember the British left the Boers alone till the diamonds and gold were discovered and then they just walked right in.

The few Mexicans lived happy in Alta California till the gold was found, then the American settlers and miners rushed in and that was that (well pretty much)

If you had Gate’s millions you’d be better off finding a small country with a bad economy and buying land from them.

And as for penguins, well they’d be easy to come by. Just grab some and put them in your nation. Penguins don’t care much for warm water. That’s why they’re not found north of the equator. They hit the warm water and turn around. The Galapagos Penguins are as far north as you get but they have a cold current that keeps them happy.

We’ll never know until you try. But yes, I strongly believe that they would.

From the moment you dropped anchor in Antarctica, you would be majorly pissing off a lot of scientists and environmentalists–many of whom are funded by and have the ear of their host governments–as well as embarrassing your host government, which probably doesn’t want its citizens raising paramilitary forces and engaging in freelance land grabs in violation of treaties.

I think you’d be arrested in Canada, or whatever other country you used as a support base, before you got very far. If not, you’d be kicked out of Antarctica (by military force if necessary) in short order. And if you resisted, good luck with that, even for billionaires.

I don’t think you’d be wanting to use Canada as a support base country for an Antarctic expedition… just saying… :slight_smile:

On the other hand, I have a decent sized island for sale in the southernmost part of New Zealand… it’s currently called Stewart Island, but you’d be completely free to rename if RickJay Island or whatever you like just as soon as the cheque clears. (Please make it out to cash). :smiley:

There are of course better options than Antarctica for establishing a sovereign nation. But lets stick with it for a bit longer.

What if you did set up a small community and a military force. Ran some subsidized tourist business on the cheep in order to have innocents always around. Fished extensively. Set up a offshore bank and otherways to skirt law. Made deals with a few unscrupulous leaders of some outsider nations in order to boost civilian population and regogition. And a age country to fly in and of.

You would of course have to have much of this planned ahead of time before your shipping channels were blocked. Would they shoot your planes out of the sky?

What military force would strike? US, NATO? Wouldent even the smallest scale attack cause an environmental outrage.