Welcome to the Roundtable, a forum for incisive commentary and analysis
on cases and developments in law and the legal system.
on cases and developments in law and the legal system.
By Alexandra Kanan
Alexandra Kanan is a first-year student in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. She plans to major in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics with a career goal of becoming an immigration lawyer.
The junior high classroom: the start of self-discovery, academic stress, teenage relationships, and for one Ohio teenager, the start of his very own empire. This story of this self-declared “independent state” begins with thirteen-year-old Brayden Hickerson, or as his subjects call him, Lord Brayden Michael Hickerson I, decided in 2015 to take his extracurriculars to another level, by starting his own state in Perrysburg Ohio. He declared himself Kaiser and over the next 11 months of his reign, accumulated 34 Hickersonian citizens .
While this nation Hickerson created could be considered nothing more than a seventh-grade school project, it is an example of a worldwide phenomenon known as “micronations”, which refer to entities that claim to be sovereign nations but are not recognized by any other government or a major international organization .
Micronations have been created around the globe to serve a variety of purposes. In 1968, Italian engineer Giorgio Rosa decided to construct his own island over a dispute with the Rimini police as they refused to allow him to drive his unlicensed, homemade car. Queen Carolyn of the micronation Ladonia emerged in 1996 to address arguments over the removal of Swedish art and now has 27,000 loyal citizens. In an Australian suburb 1981, teenager George Cruikshank created his own country named Atlantium. What started as a pastime between three friends in the 80s became a political statement about the authority of sovereign nation states by 2022. In April, Cruikshank said in an interview with BBC, that “Atlantium isn’t striving for legal recognition as a sovereign state. It is intended to make people question the existence of traditional nation states.” Within this statement lies the true significance of micronations: they provide a pathway for people to reclaim power from governments they don’t support. As Jessica Mudditt argues in the BBC, micronations “seek to challenge the notion of a nation state by proving how artificial a construct they really are”. 
It should be noted that the legitimacy of Hickersonia in terms of sovereignty is questionable. Likely every Hickersonia citizen of age still paid taxes and in all legal aspects, were Americans. Yet it is the small acts of rebellion such as Hickerson’s that allow for a larger analysis of why we owe loyalty to a state and how much citizens can tolerate before putting this loyalty into question.
In 2004, Australian activists felt that if their country could not recognize the legitimacy of same-sex marriages, then they were not warranted to recognize their state’s legitimacy. Thus emerged all 301,160 sq mi of The Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands micronation. This territory, primarily made up of the ocean and reefs, was not a treacherous act inflicted by greed or a lust for power but by Former Australians that recognized their right to marry no matter their sexuality, a right they had to exercise. In 2017, the micronation was dissolved as the ‘Yes’ vote prevailed in Australia, legalizing same-sex marriage.
Similarly, the Yidinji Tribal Nation was created as a response to Australia not failing to recognize the existence of indigenious populations and the mistreatment of Aboriginal communities. In an interview on the SBS channel, Kevin Boreham, International Law professor at the Australian National University, believes there is no possibility of any court recognizing their sovereignty. “There is a problem in perception when the law conflicts with morality, but the law, particularly international law recognizes facts, the law, particularly international law says this is the way things are and this is the way to explain it in legal terms” . Yet tribal leader Murrumu of Walubara disputes this claim, acknowledging that his people had owned the land for over 70,000. He acknowledges how there was no treaty, there was no agreement with the Australian government to assimilate the state. The Yidinji micronation raises the question of how legitimate even the largest world powers are considering many were not recognized by the indigenious governments that originally claimed the land.
Democracy is constantly tested throughout the world, and notably in the United States in recent years. The foundation of our representative democracy has been our right to vote, but since 1776, five presidents have come into power without winning the popular vote. In five different elections, the popular will of the people was ignored and overruled by the select few that make up the electoral college. In our very own Declaration of Independence, it is written, “That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government” .
Our founding fathers made one thing clear: if the government does not hold up its end of the deal to defend our rights, we have every right to instate our own government.
For Brayden, his home state became a place where women are no longer allowed their very own bodily autonomy after six weeks of pregnancy due to the overturning of Roe v. Wade. It is a state where the government can unequally distribute votes, making the “one person, one vote” principle nonexistent. It is also the very same state where the governor’s son serves on the Supreme Court, and has thus been granted the power to rule on the constitutionality of his own father’s ability to make these decisions. It is no wonder why a citizen would want to take back their autonomy.
At the same time politicians such as Secretary of State Frank LaRose preach democracy throughout Ohio high schools, he aids in redistricting, tightens voter ID regulations, and supports the abortion ban. From a young age, we are taught as students that “We the People” have the right to self-government as stated in the U.S. Constitution. Upon this basic principle, the government only holds the power to serve as long as the American people let them. Whether it be from a backyard or even a classroom, it is up to us to practice our right to self-govern and question authority when necessary.
 Kitson, Tim. “An interview with the Kaiser of Hickersonia – eSomethin.com.” eSomethin.com, 2 March 2020, https://esomethin.com/2020/03/02/an-interview-with-the-kaiser-of-hickersonia/. Accessed 1 November 2022.
 Sawe, Benjamin Elisha. “What Is a Micronation?” WorldAtlas. WorldAtlas, April 25, 2017. https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/what-is-a-micronation.html.
 “The Country That Became a 'Micronation Capital'.” BBC Future. BBC. Accessed September 8, 2022.
 SBS2 Australia, director. YouTube, YouTube, 28 Oct. 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsqR3616328. Accessed 1 Nov. 2022.
 Jefferson, Thomas. Declaration of Independence. Applewood Books, 1997.
The opinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions of the designated authors and do not reflect the opinions or views of the Penn Undergraduate Law Journal, our staff, or our clients.