Recently by Simon Black: Sentiment vs. Reality: Total Disconnect
High up above Scandinavia about 75 degrees north latitude is an obscure archipelago that few people in the world know about, and even fewer have been to.
It’s called Svalbard, population ~3,000. And while the islands are technically part of Norway, they come with some incredibly unique benefits that I’ll explain in a moment.
For centuries, Svalbard was completely lawless, devoid of any government authority. It attracted whalers, hunters, merchants, and fishermen from all over the world– the UK, Russia, France, Netherlands, North America, and Scandinavia.
Amazingly enough, they were all able to co-exist for hundreds of years without a sovereign authority or central government telling them what to do or how they could live.
Of course, it all got screwed up eventually. In time as word got out about Svalbard, a number of countries tried to claim the islands. Peace turned to conflict very quickly.
Various nations began sending their navies to fight other navies. It was absurd. When they discovered substantial coal deposits, even more conflict ensued.
Svalbard’s fate was ultimately decided because of World War I. The utter devastation that was wracked across Europe led many war-weary politicians to consider a compromise.
Obviously the option of simply pulling out of Svalbard and letting the islands go back to being governmentless was off the table. So in 1920, a group of 14 nations got together and signed the Spitsbergen Treaty, effectively awarding Svalbard to Norway.
Over time, over forty nations (including the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, India, and most of Europe) became party to the treaty, recognizing Norway’s authority over the territory.