You have a nice big plot of land. You can grow enough food to feed yourself. You can grow potatoes and turnips and leeks and wheat and apples and maybe even some grapes. You can use some of the food you grow to feed pigs or cows or chickens. You are doing pretty well. You even have space to grow some trees to provide the wood you need to build your house and heat it during the winter. You build a fence and keep out all intruders. You are sovereign in your own land.
You’ve managed your land pretty well. You are now growing more apples than you need! Well done! You decide against making cider, and try to find someone to sell the surplus apples to. Your neighbour has also produced more apples than he needs so he doesn’t want to buy yours. However a few miles away you’ve heard that the price of apples has soared due to a shortage.
But how are you going to get these lovely apples to the customers who are willing to pay you good money for them? You can take them to the edge of your land but, because your neighbours are all so keen on their own sovereignty, the apples aren’t getting past your fence.
You notice that your neighbour has a huge pile of surplus apples piling up on his land too, but he can’t get his to market either. From what your neighbour tells you, everyone in the area has too many apples! But how are you going to persuade the chap nearest the market to let you take your apples to market?!
You could set up an agreement. You could pay your neighbour to take your apples across his land and then you could pay the next neighbour to allow your apples to cross his land and so on, until the apples get to the people who want to pay good money for them. This could work quite well. When you need some building materials for your planned new brick house the seller of those materials could pay all the owners of the land between his factory and your land for allowing the materials to pass. Everyone gets richer off the back of this trade and everyone makes a bit of money from other people’s stuff passing through their land.
But then some nasty people appear. They keep sneaking into your land and your neighbours’ land at night. Some of your apples disappear. Your neighbour loses some potatoes. Three plots down a whole pile of bricks vanishes! How did that happen?!
You can’t sit up all night watching the boundary. You can buy lots of CCTV cameras so you don’t have to patrol the perimeter but if you stay up all night guarding you can’t work the land during the day. You are far too tired for that.
You could hire someone to watch the CCTV cameras while you sleep. And you can pay his transit fees so he can get to your land. You decide to do this and although expensive it seems to do the trick. Nothing more gets stolen from your land.
However your nearest neighbours start moaning that the thefts from their land have gone up since you got your CCTV man. They will have to get their own CCTV men now!
You all stem the crime wave but now you are spending quite a bit of your income on security and transit fees. Other people are paying your transit fees less often because of the delays in getting across your and your neighbours’ land. Traders have decided to “go around” more frequently, or are finding they can sell their products to markets where less rigmarole is needed.
You are now producing so many apples that the nearby market can’t take them all. You need to find somewhere else to sell them. You have heard that the French are rubbish at producing apples and desperately want good quality English apples. French apples are only good for making cider, apparently. After an awful lot of faffing about with transit issues you finally get your apples to France. They are a hit!
One day you find a chap on your door-step asking to sell your apples to him. He is Danish. Denmark’s apples are also awful, according to him. He wants to buy your apples too but to buy apples from outside Denmark requires a lot of paperwork. The Danish authorities want all imported apples to meet certain standards.
Three weeks after you’ve shipped your first lucrative batch to Denmark a very jovial German geezer turns up. He wants your apples too! He unfurls a long list of German import regulations. You’ve just spent all your money on a Danish-conforming quality control system. You haven’t got the money to invest in doing the same for the German market.
You hear that French apple-growers are getting a bit fed up with you flooding the market with better-quality apples and they can’t work out how you produce such good apples so cheaply. They pressure the French authorities into adopting a complex and convoluted system which means that all your France-destined apples now have to arrive in France via the port of Nice.
At this point your neighbour realises that he’s no longer making enough money from allowing your apples to go through his land and that if he stops letting your apples through he can sell his to the Danish at a slightly higher price. Your apples start piling up again.
You make some cider, drink lots of it and start ranting on the internet about how the French and Germans are trying to take over Europe by the back door and how you should be allowed a gun to protect your land from marauders.