One-on-One with Lord Lewis of Hamland

NEW KIRRIE (CS) | The Coprieta Standard sat down with economist and founder of Hamland, Lord Lewis, for a question and answer session yesterday to pick his mind on the topic of micronational economics and the state of the Commonwealth.

CS: For our readers who are unfamiliar with you, would you be able to introduce yourself and tell us about your involvement in micronationalism, past and present?

LL: I founded Hamland in 2006 when I was quite young and was involved with Micronations.net and eventually the Micronational Cartography Society ever since. So I’m a bit of an old timer, albeit with a few years I was away because of other commitments. I have, over the years, been involved with Alexandria, the Patrovas, Monovia, Shireroth and probably more. So I have been about! Mainly, however, I have been away from the Bastion states for a long time. Our country mainly engaged with our neighbours and was driven through rivalries which didn’t involve those states. Nova England and Ocia are the most notable from those days. We built a strong alliance with the Ashkenatzi over time to deal with these and more recently had to reform our position and role to adapt to the new world.

As much as I have always tried to be involved with other states, Hamland remains my ultimate loyalty. The way of working, the mantra of the state and the ambition keeps me coming back.

Outside of that I have worked on a number of economic and political systems over the years to create alternatives to established models. So I suppose for a long time we have been a bit of an island away from everyone else. Nowadays things are all different though.

CS: You’ve spent most of your recent participation as Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Hamland, a micronation with a long history within the Micras community, and one that has experienced a recent revival. What makes Hamland unique and where do you see it evolving in the near future?

LL: Hamland has always been different because we have always tried to do things our way and be slightly different. That is what I like about it as well I suppose. The community has always been quite creative with its approaches to problems and we have always managed to work towards some sort of consensus.

This creativity comes from the fact that most of us are fairly free thinking. We have also had our distance from everything else so developed some practices and institutions which are a little harder to find in other places. For example, we tend to not bother with having strong fictional characters but often represent ourselves and our own views. In this sense, most of us can relate to who we are and really learn from what we are doing. So there is an element of realism and pragmatism I find in the community.

In the future I hope to see us holding onto the ambition we have had for so long. Our policy of engaging with other countries, helping them develop and using aspects of soft and normative power seem to be a strong basis for moving forward. Hamland is at its best when it is outwards looking and aiming for something. We are at a point where we will begin looking at where we want to be in a few months time, so I hope that we will keep all this going.

CS: You noted in a recent conversation in the MicroWiki Community that Hamland, in its early days, followed a secessionist approach to micronationalism, but soon evolved into a simulationist micronation. Can you share with our readers why this evolution happened and what you think the strengths of simulationism over secessionism are?

LL: This one is a fairly easy one. There are literally hundreds of secessionist micronations which have been born and died over time. What keeps the successful ones alive is a sense of community and a sense of ownership.

I am yet to see a secessionist state with as strong a community, sense of purpose and level of development like a simulationist one. All simulationist micronations have rich fictions, interesting histories of war and conflict alongside stories of people rising to power which allow them to sustain themselves on something beyond a dream to exist and sustain themselves.

Hamland embraced its community and started simulating out of something to do. We soon found that simulation had more challenges and things to do than administrating a non-existent micro-state. All the best things about Hamland have not been simply out of it existing, but out of the things we have experienced and written. Simulation is more than having something to do, but it is experiencing your community and learning too. For that reason I have no doubt we would not be alive if it wasn’t for embracing the simulation.

CS: The development of the Hammish economy has been a major part of its recent involvement in the news, with several initiatives having been debated and passed in Parliament in the last two months. Can you explain to our readers what Hamland’s economic policy currently is and what is on the horizon in terms of economic programmes?

LL: Well we are lucky enough to have a few opinions on the economy and so there is really no one model. There are a couple of cleavages between myself and people like General Time (once Duke Sinclair) and Seneschal Teadoir (Duke J).

The economy used to function entirely with the government investing on behalf of its citizens and expanding its power. It was, therefore, pretty communitarian/socialist. I don’t like the term socialist as it is a bit loaded. It essentially put the needs of the state first. As well as that, it simulated the businesses and built them over time with products which don’t exist. So it was a simulationist market. So we can name that approach Social Simulationism.

The new approach I favour is liberal as it gives property to the individual. It essentially puts an element of the market in the people’s hands and hopes that over time people will want to accumulate more and so will produce more. It is authentic as people actually trade things. So we can call it Liberal Authenticism for lack of a better term.

So our reforms were moving from Social Simulationism to Liberal Authenticism. In order to do that we have to control the amount of money in the economy, through tax and spend, to avoid any crises. So the reforms allow us to run a real economy. At the same time, due to our consensus democracy, we have kept a lot of elements of Social Simulationism. It’s pretty simple if your boil it down and has been a really interesting episode. We’ll see if it all works and if people are as greedy as I hope they are.

CS: You’ve taken a personal interest in micronational economics, even founding a micronation – Neo Patrova – that is arguably the most capitalistic micronation ever attempted in the Simulationist community. What is your personal view on the importance of micronational economies? Do multi-national economics like the Standardised Currency and Unified Economy (SCUE) really work in your view?

LL: Micronational economies allow us to trade for things. That is the whole point of the market anyway. We can exchange things for something more than the returning of a favour. As well as that, economics is vital to running a country. Countries are ranked on their economic as well as their military power nowadays. So it adds a lot to the simulation which can drive conflict and need for power, which is central to politics. So it is pretty important.

Neo Patrova was an attempt to see how far I could push this principle. If we could trade entirely in money. It failed because there were too few people to trade between. The SCUE solves this because we all share one single market. I think, therefore, that shared markets are preferable to individual ones. It allows states to sell and buy things in other markets.

There are a few caveats though. A single market requires more than just one currency. It needs shared laws, agreements on how it is governed and numerous other aspects. That means that the SCUE requires a lot more than just a currency to function. But, the imperfect nature of this gives us something to do and so I would rather have our current system than a totally integrated market.

CS: In your opinion, how can one create a successful working economy for his or her micronation?

LL: The best way to do it is have a basic grasp of what an economy is for. It is for trade and, if you are political, accumulation of power. So be pragmatic and do what allows people to achieve these things.

Join the SCUE if you are a simulation as it allows you to take part in something bigger and actually have something of a market. People are vital for a working market.

Try to keep it simple. The more things you have to update, the more things you will forget to update. Economies should be pretty fluid and intuitive.

Lastly, if you do your own you should just ‘print’ a certain amount of money and hand it out in some way. Market prices can be determined by haggling. If prices are too high and people aren’t buying anything, ‘print’ more. If money is in the hands of a few, tax them. Try to keep it basic and human. Also, keep it fun! A hobby shouldn’t be taxing (no pun intended).

CS: Let’s turn our focus to the future of the community for a moment. The always-difficult aspect of finding new blood to participate aside, what other challenges do you see facing the micronational community in the near future?

LL: I think this is something we are all too pessimistic about. We have always had this view that we need more people. I wrote a post on this fairly recently which was pretty extensive. All we need to do is accommodate people, be visible and try to engage with other communities.

When the new blood comes, give them a part to play and help them feel empowered. People don’t stay if they are seen as plebs by the community. They need a sense of ownership and community. People who start states are normally young and so we should accept that they may be quite ambitious or make mistakes.

The biggest problem I see is the way people will host and express themselves. As technologies and communities change, so will the way we need to interact. The principles stay the same but the execution changes. So we need to see whether we can accomodate nations, for example on Facebook and Reddit, which use other means.

Generally we get in a bit of a panic when things start to change and its not as we remember. Accept that things change and don’t sit about complaining if you think it is a problem.

CS: Do you have any particularly fond memories or any regrets from your micronational participation that you’d like to share with our readers?

LL: My fondest memories are simply the silly games and plans I’ve come up with alongside my friends from the Commonwealth over the years. Nothing is as intense, yet pointless, than micronationalism. It has all been terribly fun and I use a lot of what I learned in real life. So on the whole, there are no real individual experiences but just the general fun of it all. Wars with Ocia, schemes to bring down governments, trying to keep your regime legitimate and popular. It all feeds in.

I regret most of what I did when younger which was rash, like folding the United Commonwealth and leaving for a while. I learned not to make big decisions until thinking them through and only to make them when calm. That is all about growing up though and I don’t regret learning those lessons.

CS: Any final thoughts or advice for our readers?

LL: If I can share anything, it’s how to run a country in two paragraphs.

Firstly, all political theory can be applied to micronationalism, just accept the size of your community and the institutional differences. You have all the challenges of legitimacy, consent, crisis-management, conflict resolution etc. which others have had to deal with. So think problems through properly, don’t be afraid to read and think how this affects your country. There is no point in reinventing the wheel.

Secondly, don’t hold power all to yourself. If it is your country, you still have to make concessions. A country can either be about you or it can be a community. Communities require ownership from people and so you have to be prepared to not have power from time to time. If you lose your citizens, you lose most of what keeps your state ticking. So for everyone’s benefit, factor in how others will take your decisions and actions before making them. Be able to let go of power or face having no power.