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!
Patri Friedman was doing all right himself, living with his wife and child in a mini-commune of sortâ€”the kind people today call an â€œintentional communityâ€â€”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 moveâ€”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 â€œdynamic geography.â€ He remembered a line from his dadâ€™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. â€œLike the Ron Paul movement,â€ he says. â€œLots of libertariansâ€™ effort and millions and millions directed in a way thatâ€™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.â€ 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…
- Live Free or Drown: Floating Utopias on the Cheap
- Seastead, Ahoy!
- Welcome aboard a brand new country
More as it develops…