America, India, Israel, and Singapore
America, India, Israel, and Singapore are different forks of the original United Kingdom codebase.
• 8 min read
You can't start a country without a sense of history.
There are four main influences on 1729: America, India, Israel, and Singapore. All four of these countries are different forks of the original United Kingdom codebase, as all four were originally British colonies. The latter three are part of the broader Anglosphere beyond the ANZAC countries, and are particularly interesting in that regard – their cultures merge the Anglo codebase with new ideas. And each of them contributes a set of experiences that we can learn from in the process of building 1729.
Let's go through these in more detail.
One of our theses is that the Internet is to the USA as the New World was to the UK. That is, in the fullness of time, the Internet will give rise to new countries just as the New World did – and the most successful of those new countries will eventually succeed the US just as the US ultimately succeeded the UK.
And succeed it did, because America is the most influential startup of all time. Every country in the world today has been influenced by the United States, often for good and sometimes for ill. Even though the USA is now past its prime, and no longer delivering the goods to its citizens or the world, we can appreciate what it once was.
There are so many aspects of the US that will influence a new startup country that it's hard to enumerate them all. One way of thinking about it is that the US is a sort of base class – unless we explicitly override a method or field, which we will frequently do, we can assume that the American convention is the default.
For example, we take inspiration from the American tradition of rule of law. But we'd express this not in terms of paper laws interpreted by courts, but in terms of digital smart contracts interpreted by blockchains.
As another example, we believe in limited government, but that government will not limit itself. So we put the checks and balances outside the state rather than within it, and recognize decentralized media and currency as perhaps the most important of those checks and balances.
As a third example, we believe in consensual government, but we want to use technology to build a 100% democracy rather than the current American version of a mere 51% democracy.
As a fourth example, America is a nation of immigrants, which means it's a nation of emigrants. There's nothing more American than leaving home in search of a better life, which is what every 1729er will end up doing.
India was an economic basketcase for decades after independence due to a legacy of Fabian socialism inherited from the British.
But it did do some things right. First, it managed to gain nonviolence independently, an important model for our fledgling network states. Second, its diaspora radiated around the world, and their example helped eventually catalyze economic reform at home. Third, the non-aligned movement – while broadly Soviet-sympathetic – offers an interesting example of what a third faction in the coming US/China Cold War might look like.
Indian emigrants leaving India helped reform India. Many Indians in the 70s didn’t want to waste their lives fighting the License Raj, trapped in a stultifying bureaucracy. So they left. They succeeded abroad. And their example helped prompt reforms at home. Today, it’s San Francisco, California, and the US which is becoming the License Raj. Leaving them is fixing.
Upon exiting a dysfunctional place, one of two things happens: (1) the place doesn’t reform, like Cuba or Kodak, in which case you made the right choice from an economic standpoint or (2) the place is eventually spurred to reform, like India or Microsoft, in which case you also made the right choice from a moral standpoint.
Exit directs attention towards problems that simply aren't heard when relying solely on voice.
On that last point: in the last Cold War, the non-aligned movement was the weakest faction. But in the coming Cold War, the decentralized movement may prove to be the strongest.
The non-aligned movement was the third faction in the US vs USSR cold war. It included India and dozens of other countries that didn’t formally join either NATO or the Warsaw Pact.
Today there are many countries that do not want to pick sides in a second Cold War. In the fullness of time, BTC and crypto offer a third way: a decentralized movement that doesn’t depend on either superpower. That’s Communist Capital vs Woke Capital vs Crypto Capital. Crypto may be the third way, chosen by every country caught in the middle. As a neutral party, it’s also appealing to millions on both the American and Chinese sides.
India is rising today. Indeed, India has become much more like America, and America much more like India.
It is America that now has an absolutely world class group of people trapped in a tragic commons ruled by a dysfunctional state. It is America that is now wracked by communal violence and plagued by dirigiste economics. And it is America that may soon give birth to an impressive international diaspora, fleeing economic craziness and ethnic conflict.
Conversely, India under Hindu Nationalism is arguably more similar to the God-and-Country America of the 1950s than the Woke America of the 2020s. It has unified a population of many Indian sub-ethnicities, much like the 1950s US unified many European sub-ethnicities under a common civic nationalism of Americanism. Today's India has shipped serious national projects in both the public and private sectors, like Aadhar, UPI, Aarogya Setu, and Reliance Jio. India is also number three on the global tech unicorn list. And while it didn't do anywhere near as well as East Asia under COVID, it has ~1/8 the number of reported per-capita COVID deaths as the US.
The US is still a much wealthier country, and India still very much poorer, but the convergence is surprising. From an American's point of view, turning the camera to India gives a sense of what the other side looked like, and how India's past might share similarities to America's future.
The State of Israel began with a book. It was called Der Judenstaat, by Theodor Herzl. It laid out a vision for how a diasporic people could concentrate in a single physical location. And while it was alternately attacked and dismissed by many, the Zionist dream did become a reality within 52 years after publication.
The Israelis did many things right, but one of the most significant was intentionally unifying Athens and Sparta. A society of diasporic intellectuals became farmers and soldiers, tilling the soil and hoisting the rifles.
The Jews who wish for a State will have it. We shall live at last as free men on our own soil, and die peacefully in our own homes. The world will be freed by our liberty, enriched by our wealth, magnified by our greatness. And whatever we attempt there to accomplish for our own welfare, will react powerfully and beneficially for the good of humanity
The Socialist Zionism / Kibbutz movement was very influential here:
Socialist Zionists believed that the Jews' centuries of being oppressed in anti-Semitic societies had reduced Jews to a meek, despairing existence that invited further antisemitism. They argued that Jews should redeem themselves by becoming farmers, workers, and soldiers in a country of their own.
Gordon believed that the Jews lacked a "normal" class structure and that the various classes that constitute a nation had to be created artificially. Socialist Zionists therefore set about becoming Jewish peasants and proletarians and focused on settling land and working on it.
There is actually a fairly interesting analogy between this conscious desire to till the land – and our goal of acquiring land to unlock physical innovation. To truly build a new kind of state run by technology, we're going to need to embrace all the messiness and complexity of the physical world.
Now, that doesn't mean we need to do this in a mindless way. Again the Israelis are a model: they took their existing culture and merged it with the needs of a military to get one of the smartest and most resourceful armed forces in the world. They also became world class in agriculture once they put their minds to it.
Similarly, to build the first network state, we're probably going to need to get good at agricultural robotics, drone surveying, and things of that nature. We have a while before we get there, but we should embrace the concept of using our tools (the keyboard) to eventually attain a piece of land that we can shape with our hands to build unprecedented things in the physical world.
Singapore was a poor country when it involuntarily gained independence under Lee Kuan Yew. It became quite rich. Mr. Lee wrote a book on how he turned a country with no natural rheesources into an international metropolis.
One key concept that immediately comes through from the book is that Lee acted as the CEO of Singapore. He understood that Singapore was disciplined by exit – that capital could leave at any time – and so he focused on things like making the approach path from the airport to the prime minister's residence visually impressive for visiting dignitaries and executives. This is similar to how a startup founder might sweat over every pixel to ensure good production values on a web page.
In many ways, Singapore is the model for what we want to build in the physical world: a city state that is globally respected, at peace with everyone, internally harmonious, and internationally competitive. There is one major difference, though: 1729 is focused on a specific cause, the goal of transhumanism. In that sense it's more like Israel, founded on the basis of a cause. That makes commerce an important goal, but an instrumental one.
Our goal is to peacefully exit existing countries, not to reform them. But as with the Indian experience, success abroad may result in reform at home.
The conventional wisdom is that the events of 2020 have now shifted the camera to Asia, and to China in particular. This conventional wisdom has much to say for it, both because it is much discussed overseas and because it is not much discussed in the US. A civilization that isn't even aware of the scale of its failure, or that is in denial, is a civilization that cannot reform itself. The reasons are the ones detailed here:
In a dark season of pestilence, COVID has reduced to tatters the illusion of American exceptionalism. At the height of the crisis, with more than 2,000 dying each day, Americans found themselves members of a failed state, ruled by a dysfunctional and incompetent government largely responsible for death rates that added a tragic coda to America’s claim to supremacy in the world.
For the first time, the international community felt compelled to send disaster relief to Washington. For more than two centuries, reported the Irish Times, “the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the U.S. until now: pity.” As American doctors and nurses eagerly awaited emergency airlifts of basic supplies from China, the hinge of history opened to the Asian century.
But the author and scholar Bruno Macaes had a different point of view.
The United States may yet reveal itself as a shapeshifter. This prodigious child of the Enlightenment might not hesitate to shed Western, liberal principles if it becomes convinced they have been refuted by time and experience. If ever the United States becomes convinced that the West belongs to the past, it could leave Europe living in that past, but it will not be inclined to remain there itself, especially if that would entail sacrificing the thing to which it is most addicted: global primacy. If the West ever falters, America will want to become less Western. As the fulcrum of world power moves away from the West, so will America.
If we synthesize this with the points above, our thesis is that even Americans exiting the US will help reform America – as happened with India. Also, that it's possible to build a new state from a book (like Israel), that it's feasible to run it in an efficient way (like Singapore), and that we can copy the best aspects of America but not the worst.
Subscribe to the newsletter and unlock access to member-only content.