Seasteading: Libertarians Taking To The Sea For Fun And Freedom

Seasteading: Libertarians Taking To The Sea For Fun And Freedom


I thought it was a joke when I first heard about it, but “Seasteading” is a serious idea, it’s being backed by Milton Friedman’s grandson and they’ve apparently already raised more than a half a million dollars to realize their dream of building communities…on the sea!

Here’s more from Reason:

Patri Friedman was doing all right himself, living with his wife and child in a mini-commune of sort—the kind people today call an “intentional community”—in Mountain View, California, a bit south of San Francisco. He had a great and challenging job with a great company, Google. But his preoccupation, his passion, lay elsewhere. He thought he had figured out the real underlying problem bedeviling society, and it went deeper than just governments themselves. The real solution, he came to think, would involve the lure of the bounding main, the unbounded horizon, our vast and empty oceans.

Remember those high exit costs? Friedman wondered: What if you could just move—not just you, but everything you own, including your home, and, if your neighbors agreed with you, your whole community? What if you could move all of it where no government would bother you at all, and you could make a new, better society?

Friedman called his theory “dynamic geography.” He remembered a line from his dad’s book The Machinery of Freedom about how differently terrestrial government would behave if everyone lived in trailers and could easily flee state oppression. If land itself could get up and go, the incentive structure of government would change even more, moving it in a libertarian direction.

No doubt it’s an interesting notion, but is this practical? Living on the sea? Just think of how much risk that could entail. Of course you’d do the research to make sure you’re settling in a place that isn’t prone to natural disaster, but it’s still THE SEA. Talk about a wildcard if there every was one.

Still, this may represent a better chance to live the libertarian life than via electoral change, as Patri points out…

Libertarians, he says, expend precious time and energy on truly and self-evidently impossible paths toward political change. “Like the Ron Paul movement,” he says. “Lots of libertarians’ effort and millions and millions directed in a way that’s hopeless! For real change [electoral politics is] totally hopeless. Think how much more likely to succeed [libertarians would be] if that amount of resources were put into something that could actually work.” By which he means seasteading. And you have to admit: When you compare it to the likelihood of creating a libertarian world through American politics, seasteading starts to look more and more sensible.

Is it really that hopeless? I certainly don’t think so, but I will say that the Ron Paul movement was unrealistic to the point of being damaging to the libertarian cause. So maybe taking to the seas does have some benefits after all. :-)

In any event, here are some more articles about the movement…

More as it develops…

  • Agnostick
  • kranky kritter

    I have more than a passing interest in dystopian literature and the accounts of attempted communes and movements led by charismatics. It leads me to presume that this is most likely little more than a childish fantasy.

    For better or worse, things like nations and cultures and so on and so forth bind humans together despite their differences. That’s a big contributor to many of the most magnificent human accomplishments, ones which take time and planning and teamwork and building on others insights.

    Seasteading sounds like a zillion nations of one, with everyone ready to take their ball and go away if they don’t get their way. My sense of human nature doesn’t make me optimistic on it. That’s without even talking about pirates, matey.

    It reminds me of that South Park episode where the college know-it-all hippies are saying “and one person could bake bread and one person could grow vegetables and one person could….”. And then Stan says “yeah, that’s called a town.”

  • Chris

    Bwhaha, libertarians crack me up. So who would police this sea-utopia? They wouldn’t need police cause they all can protect themselves right? Yeah that’s a fantastic idea. Who would protect them from pirates, other governments, things of that sort? They’re going to have their own military? There’s a reason that societies were created in the first place, to provide things that an individual can’t readily provide.

    I would actually love for them to go through with this idea, because what would they have to do to survive? create their own government, that’s what. Government with rules, which limit the freedoms of some for the benefit of the majority.

  • http://sidewaysmencken.blogspot michael reynolds

    Answering the question “Why don’t Libertarians ever break 1%?”

  • Tully

    Sure it’s “practical,” in the sense it can be done, given deep enough pockets.

    But viable as an ongoing economic entity? Even remotely self-sufficient? I sincerely doubt it. Without some sound economic basis to keep the resources flowing, the best they could manage is a deep-pockets retreat. Like Galt’s Gulch, but without the magical mystery power machines, or all the required skilled trades mysteriously being covered by all the elite who move there, or the food supply miraculously being sufficient.

    And yes, the history of micronations suggests that existing governments would be the downfall of any attempt at sovereignty. Not that pirates and scavengers wouldn’t be a threat as well.

  • Chris

    I just read all the links that justin provided, and man. wow. Basically they want no rules for people that live there. But then they go on to talk about how they’ll have missiles to defend the island and other stuff like that. So who pays for that? They all do, who controls the defense? How is that any different than a central government?

  • Nick Benjamin

    Depending on how much luxury they want they could live on the ocean without much trouble. The technology to keep a ship at sea for months has been around for centuries. And if you’ve ever seen Survivor you know that it is not that hard to get enough food when you’re on a tropical island.

    It helps that apparently a lot of them do things like computer programming that you can do from almost anywhere. They talk about businesses like prostitution, gambling, and legalized drugs making them money. But in the end their best bet is to keep doing what they’re doing. And some less PC illegal activities. There’s a lot of eating on a Blue Whale.

    The only really new thing these guys are trying is creating a floating port to refit their boats every few years, keeping governments off their backs, and protecting that port from pirates. Given that the military has created floating ports before I have no doubt it should be possible for these guys to do the same given enough money.

    As for governments they’re in for trouble. The Republic of Rose Island was dynamited by the Italians in the late 60s. Sealand has some legal protection, because the only sovereign state that can mess with it is the UK and the British Courts have given it some legal protections. If these guys were smart they’d actually buy the platform and use that as a base.

    Pirates could be even more trouble. Especially if they legalize drugs and have large amounts of the hard stuff on hand.

  • Tully

    Yeah, Chris, a small settlement of massive egos all working together in perfect harmony! What could possibly go wrong? :-)

    Could be fun to watch, though. From a distance. Like a too-full cage of fight-trained angry pit bulls.

    As Nick notes, even a small poor government could take out or take over any micronation yet established. Like the Kingdom of Tonga took back Minerva.

  • kranky kritter

    Yeah, Chris, a small settlement of massive egos all working together in perfect harmony! What could possibly go wrong? :-)

    ROTFL. Exactly.

  • Chris

    I mean not only do i have problems with the logistics and realities of the idea, I have a problem with their ideals. If they want a country with no taxes, no laws, etc, why don’t they just move to somalia?