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The Phoenix Foundation: Libertarian colonialism

BClick

AHC: Iowan Caucasus
#1
Ayn Rand's Objectivist Katanga made for a fun AH story, but required some creative PODs to get the ball rolling - Rand never had direct ties to Congolese politics. However, I've been doing some reading and it seems as though the idea of American libertarians engaging in neocolonial adventurism isn't total fantasy. During the 1970s and 1980s, a Nevada-based think tank called the Phoenix Foundation supposedly bankrolled several attempts to create tax havens in newly independent island countries.

Their first project was the "Republic of Minerva," an artificial island created by dumping sand on a Tongan reef; like other utopian micronations it was never taken seriously, and they moved on to encouraging separatist movements. They were involved in efforts by the white minority in the Bahamas to separate the island of Abaco as either a crown colony or an independent republic at the time of Bahamian independence in 1973. The idea was endorsed briefly by some Monday Club MPs - Ronald Bell attempted to amend the Bahamas Independence Act to remove Abaco - but it doesn't seem as though it ever had much support either in the halls of power or on the ground. Bell's amendment was defeated and the Abaco Independence Movement went nowhere in the decolonized Bahamas. Maybe under a very right-wing Tory government it would have been feasible, but not in conditions like OTL's.

More interesting from an AH standpoint is Phoenix's role in Vanuatu. Some traditionalist elements in the Anglo-French New Hebrides, particularly Francophones and people affiliated with the John Frum cargo cult, were wary of the modernizing Anglos in charge of the upcoming independent state and in 1980 declared their own "Republic of Venerama" on the island of Espiritu Santo. With the British and French sitting on their hands, the Vanuatu authorities called upon Papua New Guinea to intervene, and the Coconut War ended when separatist leader Jimmy Stevens' son was killed at a Papuan roadblock. The Phoenix Foundation had provided the Venerama rebels with money, weapons, and logistical support, drawing up a plan for land-share certificates and a draft libertarian Venerama Constitution under which the right to vote could be purchased. The movement apparently also enjoyed quiet backing from the French. Unlike on Abaco, the traditionalist Nagriamel movement behind the revolt never went away and remains a player in Vanuatu as the political wing of John Frum.

I've gathered all this from idle research and I notice a lot of the information (including the article above) comes from the Vanuatu government, who I'm sure have an axe to grind, so if anyone has better sources on the Coconut War I'd love to see them. But assuming the broad strokes are accurate, there could be some interesting AH to be had here. If the French had intervened, as they so often do in their former colonies, could Venerama have gained its independence? If so, would the libertarians have been able to carry out their dreams?

Again, not an expert, but I doubt Phoenix would have been able to dominate the country for long, especially if it became a de facto French protectorate. I don't think any country would stand for a pay-to-vote scheme, and I could imagine conflicts over land emerging if there was an influx of rich foreigners - Jimmy Stevens had gotten his political start opposing foreign encroachment on traditional common land. Still, a French-backed Pacific tax haven politically dominated by the John Frum movement would probably be worth a vignette even if they expelled the swivel-eyed goldbugs right after independence.
 

asanh

handsome and intelligent aristocrat
#2
I think that this would definitely cause butterflies in the region re: French and American actions in the South Pacific, especially nuclear testing. If Vanuatu gained a greater prominence in the American view due to the Phoenix project, that could lead to a different view of the region by the State Department, especially as the Reagan administration enters the White House.
There might also be significant butterflies in Australia and New Zealand, depending on how exactly America deals with the crisis.
 

BClick

AHC: Iowan Caucasus
#4
I think that this would definitely cause butterflies in the region re: French and American actions in the South Pacific, especially nuclear testing. If Vanuatu gained a greater prominence in the American view due to the Phoenix project, that could lead to a different view of the region by the State Department, especially as the Reagan administration enters the White House.
There might also be significant butterflies in Australia and New Zealand, depending on how exactly America deals with the crisis.
Word. As regards nuclear testing, it's worth noting that the incoming independent government of Vanuatu was led by the Rev. Walter Lini, who as well as being an Anglican priest and thus scary to the traditionalists who made up Venerama, was also a Non-Aligned Movement type, advocate for "Melanesian socialism," and opponent of nuclear weapons. (Hence the soft French support for Venerama, presumably.) Maybe a more desperate situation in New Caledonia, where Lini backed the rebels against French rule, could tip them into more overt intervention.

This was five years before the Rainbow Warrior; I suppose if the Phoenix project gets international attention and France is seen as partitioning a country for its own benefit it could draw some earlier negative attention to their role in the Pacific and nuclear testing in particular. A boost for the anti-nuclear movement? Earlier Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty?

As far as changes to US / ANZ policy, what did you have in mind?
 
#5
Problem for this is that I don't think anyone here really knows in any detail what ANZ's policy was to the Pacific Islands in 1980. We can make some assumptions based on NZ attitudes to Vietnam, nuclear testing, to Fiji and all that - but one would probably need access to JSTOR or a good uni library.

My view would be that NZ would need firm direction from Australia or US if it was to do anything active in 1980.

That being said, there could be some interesting changes from a bungled NZ response to this POD as there was an aborted leadership challenge against Muldoon in about October 1980. If he is wounded (and Talboys the deputy PM and Foreign Minister is not), then we could see a challenge raised and Muldoon lose. Which then changes the 1980s radically
 

Md139115

You have not even begun to grasp the madness
#7
New Zealand solo fighting libertarian filibusters in the South Pacific is just begging for a pulpy TLIAD.
A bunch of American Libertarians versus the sovereign realm of New Zealand, heir to the Maoris and the ANZAC traditions and possessing access to the most advanced weaponry on earth through their many close allies.

Yeah, it be a bloodbath. The poor Kiwis are so doomed, it’s not even funny.
 

Sulemain

Raise Your Fist, 95th!
Location
Coventry
#8
A bunch of American Libertarians versus the sovereign realm of New Zealand, heir to the Maoris and the ANZAC traditions and possessing access to the most advanced weaponry on earth through their many close allies.

Yeah, it be a bloodbath. The poor Kiwis are so doomed, it’s not even funny.
I'm reminded of that hilarious bit of stupidity where some MRA types on Reddit advocated invading New Zealand.