06 April 2010

Seasteading

My friends know I love to evangelize Seasteading, so I'm happy to see that  Prospect Magazine has a recent article about the idea.  There's not a lot of new stuff in there if you're familiar with the concept, but it is a good introduction.
Why bother? For some enthusiasts the answer is pragmatic: certain types of business can be conducted more efficiently at sea. But others, such as Patri Friedman, view the idea in a political light. He is director of the Seasteading Institute, founded in Palo Alto in 2008. A personable former Google engineer, he was once named one of “the sexiest geeks alive” and is a grandson of the economist Milton Friedman.

Unsurprisingly, given his heritage, Patri Friedman is inspired by libertarian ideas—particularly those of the philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand—and views the sea largely as a last refuge from taxes and regulations.

[...]

But the real barrier to seasteading isn’t technology or business, but ideology. The political case for seasteading is almost entirely driven by libertarians. Whether or not it takes off is thus a most intriguing test case for their beliefs. If enough people agree that they want to be left alone and pay less tax, the movement has a fighting chance of taking root. But if too many people worry about the problems of isolation or governance, micronation living will surely remain a fantasy.
It's true that Friedman is interested in Seasteading because of his politics, but I'll re-iterate the same point he made in on the Freakonomics podcast recently: Seasteading is great even if his vision of a libertarian society is terrible mistake. If he builds his libertarian ocean republic and it degenerates into an anarchist cesspit then everyone is free to leave and try to set up some other seastead governed by some other principles. Seasteading is a cluster of technologies that is equally good for setting up a society for libertarians as it is one for theocrats, or polygamists, or leninists, or any other non-mainstream group.

Anyone who finds themselves on the thin ends of the ideological or lifestyle distributions should realize that it's almost a fool's game to try and convince the median voter to agree with you.  At best you're facing a tremendous uphill battle to convince him to leave you alone.  All of those people could benefit from Seasteading, so I really hope it doesn't remain a libertarian-only idea.

Finally, you don't even need to go live on one of these things yourself to benefit.  Besides the ability to enjoy the fruits of off-shore liberty on a visit, they also give you the ability to credibly threaten to withdraw to one.  If there are enough members of your tribe willing to make that threat then you gain some leverage in trying to get your existing government to accommodate you.

(Via 3 Quarks Daily)

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