News & Current Affairs
by M Caulfield
Seasteading And Sovereignety
What do Hong Kong, Singapore, and Lichtenstein all have in common? They are home to 3 of the most free and most prosperous economies in the world. They are some of the highest ranked in terms of income and standard of living. With unemployment rates at 3.3%, 1.9%, and 1.5%, they seem to have delivered a knockout blow to poverty by simply allowing almost maximum freedom in the realm of economic behavior of their citizens.
So why hasn't every other country followed suite and adopted policies that advance human freedom? The simple answer is that almost every government in the world is trending towards becoming bigger and more invasive into people's lives, telling free people what they can say, when they can gather and protest, how and with what can they protect themselves, etc.. Even in Singapore, there are major policies restraining personal freedom, with drug crimes even potentially carrying a death sentence.
Out of this trend, a movement has been sparked called Seasteading. The concept calls for the building of sovereign dwellings in the ocean, outside the jurisdictional reach of any nation. The 3 places mentioned above represent what proponents hope to emulate in their sea based communities. A Thousand floating Hong Kongs is how it is described in a promo video by The Seasteading Institute (TSI). TSI was formed in 2008 by Wayne Gramlich and Patri Friedman (Grandson of Nobel Prize Winning Economist Milton Friedman, and son of economist David Friedman) as an organization to help facilitate the establishment of the actual dwellings.
Founder of Paypal, Peter Thiel, has invested millions already toward the TSI in an effort to help the floating-city project come to reality. Thiel has stated that he thinks sea colonization is an important step in securing mankind's future on Earth. Seasteading is essentially homesteading, rather its location is on the sea. A quick review of homesteading: the initiation of establishing a life-style of self-sufficiency.
When in international waters, these dwellings would be able to create their own legal systems, in effect creating competition among small, sovereign societies. Cruise ships currently take advantage of international law, as they are not tied to any one country's laws, and they are essentially floating cities that provide everything that people need for weeks at a time. While the founders of TSI are libertarian in their beliefs, the intent is not to establish libertarian societies per se, but to allow competition, with people picking which Seasteading community fits their needs and wants. It is just as possible to have a sovereign stead, another for communist/socialist Seastead, and another for libertarians, muslims, etc. Projects and products succeed which receive the most votes: every dollar a consumer spends is a vote.
The biggest obstacle for TSI and others who hope to see functioning Seasteading operations in the future seems to be the capital intensive nature of constructing the platforms. One possible solution could be cruise ships being retrofitted to become fully legitimate Seasteads themselves. This idea is being planned to an extent by a group called Blue Seed. The group is working towards building a start-up community for entrepreneurs, it is designed for foreigners who don't have a US work visa, and it will be located 12 nautical miles off the coast of San Francisco, in international waters.
The purpose is to bring entrepreneurs close to technology hot spots without putting them into a specific national legal framework. To some, this idea is utopic or dangerous, and therefore should not be taken seriously. But this kind of skeptical thinking has not stopped man from creating incredible technologies that have altered and improved the lives of people for generations. So will you criticize what seems unrealistic, or will you be daring enough to dream?
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