Operation Atlantis: A Case-Study in Libertarian Island Micronationality

Editor’s Note: The following is an academic whitepaper originally published in the Shima Journal, authored by Isabelle Simpson, professor at McGill University. This is one of three articles that will be published as case studies of attempts at founding new libertarian countries in the 1960s-70s. Due to the difficulty in formatting an academic whitepaper in WordPress, the abstract will be below, but click here to view the PDF. Please enjoy.

We will cover all of these in season two of The Vonu Podcast.


ABSTRACT: This article discusses Operation Atlantis, a project by a millionaire pharmaceutical entrepreneur, Werner K. Stiefel, to build a libertarian micronation off the coast of the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It reviews the history and motivations behind Operation Atlantis and discusses how it relates to contemporary libertarian new-nation ventures. Operation Atlantis developed in parallel to ‘back-to-the land’ communities, which used small-scale technology to return to a ‘natural’ state through simplicity and self-sufficiency. But the main influence on Stiefel’s project was Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (1957), a novel inscribed with her Objectivist philosophy that tells the story of a group of millionaire industrialists who find refuge in a hidden community, Galt’s Gulch, also referred to as Atlantis. Interestingly, in recent years, a number of new offshore micronational projects sharing common influences and purposes and, in their own way, reviving the legacy of Operation Atlantis, have been launched in the United States. The Seasteading Institute is a non-profit working to build floating island nations. Designed as a ‘post-political’ manufactured space, Stiefel’s Operation Atlantis and seasteading borrow aspects of the cruise ship. To better understand the motivations behind Operation Atlantis and similar projects and to situate them within Island Studies, it is helpful to adopt Hayward’s concept of aquapelagos and uncover the disconnection between libertarian offshore micronations and the aquatic environment they intend to occupy. (Continue reading)

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