04-24-2016 | Kokomo Dreaming

Michael Oliver, a displaced Lithuanian with an accent and right-wing ideology to match, was a Nevada resident with a dream -- and the money to make it come true. What Oliver wanted was nothing less than his own country, a land governed according to libertarian principles. Money would be minted privately and backed by gold, with a contract government performing only the most minimal services (eg counter-subversion and janitorial tasks). There would be no taxes, the schools would be private, and the State would be subject to dismissal any time that its client-citizens wished. Oliver had tried it before, and failed.

In 1972, Oliver had formed the Ocean Life Research Foundation with the intention of building a new country. The site of choice was the Minerva Reef, a barely submerged coral rock on the South Fiji Ridge. Two hundred and sixty miles east of Tonga, the reef was an unclaimed boil in the path of the baleen whales' annual migration. Sharks surrounded it, and flying fish flung themselves across its length and breadth. Located in the navel of the Earth's most tremulous seismic belt, the reef was a serrated crust that might disappear at any moment. In the making for millennia, its only significance was as a menace to navigation: a decade earlier, sixteen Tongan fishermen had floundered on its rocks and remained there, knee-deep in ocean waters, for a hundred days, awaiting rescue.

To Oliver and a consortium of wealthy libertarians the reef was a thing of beauty, the future "Republic of Minerva." Using the foundation as their conduit, the group poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into an effort to create a four-hundred acre island on the reef's highest points. While doing so, they sent a written declaration to the world's governments, declaring sovereignty for their oceanic landfill. Immediately, Tonga's 325-pound patriarch, King Taufa'ahau, leaped into action. Promising unconditional amnesty to the inmates of Tonga's jail, Taufa'ahau ordered his Polynesian miscreants to invade the new domain, evict the libertarians, and plant the flag of Tonga in the coral.

Oliver was embittered by the loss, but there was nothing he could do about it. The the Republic of Minerva had been a country without land was an obstacle he'd been prepared to overcome. But a nation without an army, confronted by scores of flag-waving Tongan felons armed with spears, stood no chance. Accordingly, the consortium abandoned the motherland, returning to an enforced exile in Orange County, California.

- Jim Hougan, Spooks p. 96-97.

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