It started as a joke in the comments section, but the more we think about it, the more likely it actually is that Google will buy or essentially de facto control a country. But how? Which one? And what would it mean for the rest of the world?
Wait, Is This Even Possible?
Yep, and not in that whole “money is corrupting our political process” way. Governments are nothing more than, in theory, the people electing who they think is their best possible representative to cater to the full public good. Small countries have already experimented with renting themselves out. So really all it would take would be a government open to the idea and/or so corrupt and decrepit it would be unable to fight back, and a citizenry who think Google would do a better job.
Or, far more likely, the government could simply give Google the legal equivalent of a blank check to do whatever the hell it wanted provided it didn’t involve dynamiting local landmarks or making the populace dress up as cats; essentially taking tax breaks to the extreme. Provided said government abided by human rights standards, there are some pretty clear benefits to Google.
But Wouldn’t They Need, Like, Permission?
Not particularly. The agreed bare minimum set of standards is that you need a permanent population, defined borders, and a government that can properly interact with other governments. It’s a bit more convoluted than that to get everyone to acknowledge your sovereign status, obviously, but our theoretical Googleland would probably have an easier time of it than, say, Kosovo.
Why Would Google Even Do This In The First Place?
Why does Google do anything? We’re pretty sure the company’s entire mission statement is either “Do it because it’d be neat” or “Make life as much like an ’80s cyberpunk novel as possible.”
Joking aside, Google is beginning to strain at the edges of being “just” one of the biggest companies on Earth. We’re talking about a company that wants to build a space elevator. They’re pushing the edges of robotics with their driver-less cars, to the point where they had to basically ask Nevada to make them legal in order to get to the next step of testing. And who knows what else is coming?
Google may not particularly want to run a country, but it’s fairly safe to say that they would very much like a place that doesn’t make product development any harder than it needs to be. Nor would it be an exaggeration to say that they’re beginning to rub up against problems of scale and outdated local laws that they’d like to remove.
Would Any Country Even Agree To This?
Now? No. Ten years from now? Probably.
Just as an example, Italy’s economy is almost laughably terrible, and nobody believes that a country that’s rapidly becoming the world’s biggest retirement home is going to turn that around in a decade. About the only country that’s not going to be forced to import workers en masse in the next few decades is the US, and only barely. And this comes with all sorts of problems, from cultural clashes to political upheaval. Being able to avoid that would have a real appeal for some governments.
And think about what Google offers. Cash, stability, the chance to attract other high-tech companies who want to play in the sandbox, and most importantly: young people. Young people who will probably pay at least a small amount of tax, and go places and buy things, and may put down roots and have families. If you think your choice is either see your entire culture wither to dust or sell out to a search company, what’s going to seem more appealing?
Don’t get us wrong, it’s undeniably a weird idea that probably not even Google is considering right now. But we’re not entirely sure that a decade from now, we won’t be mulling the chance to move to Googleland.