A group of blockchain enthusiasts want to start their own libertarian city based on Disneyland’s Epcot, so we asked them why.
If you type “Elko County” into Google Maps, you’ll come across a square of land right beneath Idaho and to the left of Salt Lake City, Utah. Zoom in closer, and you’ll see swathes of dry, barren desert and snow-topped mountains. Look up the area itself, and you’ll find the odd news story about a passing tornado or drug-related crime – but not much else. In other words, Elko County is a place where nothing really happens. It’s also the fourth largest county by area in the USA.
The reason I’m talking about Elko County is that 3,000 acres of it is about to become Bitcointopia, capital city of The United States of Bitcoin, a brand new country you can buy into for half a Bitcoin (around £2,558 right now). Or, at least, that’s what a group of cryptocurrency enthusiasts who have bought up that land are hoping for. According to a series of articles on Medium titled “The Blockchainist Papers”, this country would be formed under the legal standard of the Treason Act of 1495 – a medieval law that says you can secede from America under certain circumstances – and ideally constructed by the first 30 to 45 residents.
This might sound like something dreamt up by a load of dreadlocked white dudes who’ve watched too much Wild Wild Country, but it’s worth looking at the website and appreciating the sheer scope of the idea. Have you ever tried to imagine what a Hackers-inspired Disneyland might look like if it was designed by Elon Musk? Me neither, but conveniently this does all that work for you.
This isn’t the first time a group of people have tried to a) start their own Libertarian paradise, or b) build their own self-sustained cryptocurrency community. Earlier this year, for instance, some wealthy crypto bros moved to Puerto Rico to launch their own “utopia” in a former children’s museum. Before them, it was Liberland, which still sort of exists on a river between Serbia and Croatia. And before Liberland was Bitnation in Antarctica, where one VICE writer became a citizen in 2016. But none of these projects have ever become more than some men – because it’s nearly always exclusively American men – moving somewhere remote.
So how is Bitcointopia different? And also, why have so many people become enamoured with the idea of creating their own blockchain-based mini-nations? Will any of them ever lift off? To address these questions, I spoke to Bitcointopia founders, Morgan Rockwell and Chris Rice.