With companies like InterWallet.com making virtual currencies available to virtual games developers, I can easily see how such games as MMORPGs will have a large scale effect on world economics, tax laws, new types of jobs and forms of income for 3rd world countries, etc.
It is quite clear that if some African guy living in a hut manages to get his hand on a laptop, spends his entire day inside Everquest or Ultima Online, he will eventually master the game, aquire expensive virtual items, and will then be able to make real cash from selling them to other players. This African guy could well become a local millionaire (in terms of local economy – his $40 from selling one magical sword could buy him 5 donkeys, or 10 sheep or maybe 2 cows).
If InterWallet’s vision comes true, this same African guy will be able to receive an ATM card, which he will be able to use, if he were to have an ATM machine in his village, which he probably doesn’t since they don’t even have electricity, but you get the idea!
I believe soon enough countries and goverments will have a lesser degree of control on any specific area where people might form smaller municipalities with their own local laws and taxes. History shows us clearly how empires were always relatively short lived (Roman empire, Otomanian empire, etc.), so is the way to go smaller self-sustained villages each managing its own micro-economy? Much like a hive, such villages would interconnect with each other, mingle, maybe some will merge, some will split, it’s all about people and their choices after all. This modern phenomenon (if it happens) might solve many problems such as intellectual property laws, patent laws, copyright issues (municipality reaches agreement for its citizens with RIAA/MPAA or their equivalents). Same holds for armies / police forces. They will be paid forces, where every municipality will pay a “protection” or “law & order” tax, and select from a list of custom enforcement policies for its own good (a relatively well behaved municipality might select a very relaxed policy, whereas a bad one might ask for a stronger policy).
One thing is for sure – We are living in interesting times!