Last summer, Motherboard's Matthew Cassel visited a group of libertarians and crypto enthusiasts who are trying to create their own micronation called Liberland on disputed land sitting between Croatia and Serbia.
As Yugoslavia splintered in the early 1990s, various countries rose from the former territory but a tiny island on the Danube River fell into dispute between Serbia and Croatia. In 2015, Vit Jedlicka, a Czech citizen, planted a flag on the island and declared it a new country, Liberland, with Jedlicka at its helm as president. He and other libertarians have pinned their hopes on the micronation despite Liberland being unrecognized by any country and inaccessible to any of the people eager to become citizens because Croatian border police arrest anyone who tries to step foot on the island.
Cassel visited the Liberlanders during Floating Man, a multi-day festival celebrating the unrealized dream of making a libertarian nation run on Bitcoin and the blockchain. When asked who Liberlanders were and what they had in common, Jedlicka told VICE: "People that believe in freedom and want to start something―they're kind of fed up with existing systems, they understand that it's easier to actually start new things than to fix anything in the existing political system.”
At Floating Man, individuals and citizens are free to talk about whatever they like. VICE heard presentations ranging from discussions of “crypto-anarchism” and darknet markets to how “we don’t really have diseases” and opera performances.
Motherboard talked with Zuzana Uchnarova, a Bitcoin miner who dreams of becoming an ambassador of Liberland, who explained that "for you, [Liberland] is just a dream but for me it's real. I know we want to change the world and I know we want to change something."
Vit Jetlika, President of Liberland, ferries a boatload of festival attendees to visit the uninhabited island after his house boat broke down and nearly sank. Photo: Jake Kruty (IG: @jakedog___)
Uchnarova added that she thought Liberland could be “a new Dubai,” or home to a fantastical space program.
"We would like to build a new Dubai here, maybe more than Dubai," she said. "Maybe we will build something that will transfer us to orbit directly. My dream is to have a hotel in orbit and everything will be paid for by bitcoins."
Founded and backed by individuals who made early fortunes in cryptocurrency, Liberland and its denizens have a dream of integrating it into every facet of life. Jedlicka wants financial transactions to exist on the blockchain, but also the country’s Congress, Senate, justice system, and voting system.
In Liberland, taxes will give you merits that can be used for voting. The more taxes you pay, the more tokens you recieve. Jedlicka believes this is “much fairer” than trying to give everyone the same vote.
"If you paid $30 million in taxes, you still have one vote. That's one of the things that's a little broken about the systems that we are living in,” Jedlicka said. “It's very important to do it so that the majority of society cannot dictate the minority, especially the minority that actually pays the taxes and makes the country possible.”
A Liberland flag and a beer sit in the grass on the Serbian banks of the Danube River. Photo: Jake Kruty (IG: @jakedog___)
In a discussion with Jillian Crandall, an architect and instructor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Edward Ongweso Jr, a staff writer at Motherboard, the CRYPTOLAND panel talked more about the community and its goals, and how it intersects with current themes around crypto-colonialism, or crypto-wealthy people trying to set up enclaves that benefit them in foreign territories.
"It stems from the foundation of a very explicit tax haven from the EU for people who are self-proclaimed techno-libertarians and right-libertarians, to form their own community,” Crandall explained. "Where I get concerned is where these systems are being rolled out as a techno-fix for a more efficient governance systems that allow its citizens to participate in a voting structure that they're being told is a very democratic voting structure increasing efficiencies because its using computational technologies and using the blockchain (which is a very transparent, trustless system). People might say yeah, absolutely, I want to get behind that, I like how that sounds. But they might not understand that the more tokens you have, the more votes you have, the more pull you have.”