Sunday, March 15, 2009

Patri Friedman and sea-steading

Your humble Devil has highlighted the idea of seasteading before; essentially, it consists of building massive towers in neutral waters and, effectively, setting up a new state. Needless to say, it is something that would interest all libertarians as we find, inevitably, that the fight against the morons of the world is unwinnable; it is encouraging to know that maybe we can make our own Galt's Gulch.*

So your humble Devil will be wandering along to the Adam Smith Institute on the 31st March to hear Patri Friedman expand upon Seasteading and the Future of Freedom and to discuss the future of The Seasteading Institute.
What is "Seasteading"?

Seasteading means to create permanent dwellings on the ocean—homesteading the high seas. A seastead, like in the picture above, is a structure meant for permanent occupation on the ocean.

Why would you want to do that?

Because the world needs a new frontier, a place where those who are dissatisfied with our current civilization can go to build a different (and hopefully better) one.

Currently, it is very difficult to experiment with alternative social systems on a small scale. Countries are so enormous that it is hard for an individual to make much difference. Seasteaders believe that government shouldn't be like the cellphone or operating system industries, with few choices and high customer-lock-in. Instead, they envision something more like web 2.0, where many small governments serve many niche markets, a dynamic system where small groups experiment, and everyone copies what works, discards what doesn't, and remixes the remainder to try again.

Think about all the hot air and argumentation about a whole host of different political issues - freedom vs. security, absolute wealth vs. inequality, strong family vs. tolerance, open vs. closed borders, whatever the topic du jour is. Instead of deciding them through rhetoric, or voting on a few representatives to decide them for tens or hundreds of millions of people at once, imagine if we could try them each on a small scale and see what happens. If people could create societies with different priorities - the environment, civil liberties, economic freedom, religious values - we'd be able to see how well these ideas actually work in practice. In some cases, certain approaches will work so well (or terribly) that everyone (or no one) will use them too. In others, it will turn out to be a matter of preference, in which case we'll be giving people the choice to choose to live in whatever small society is closest to their ideal.

In short, we seasteaders are people who, whatever our ideals, want to stop arguing about them, stop proselytizing them, and start living them. And it looks like homesteading the oceans is our best opportunity.

It should be an interesting evening...

* Look, I'm sorry about all the Rand stuff cropping up: you'll just have to bear with my current enthusiasms...

34 comments:

Guthrum said...

Not sure why we should be heading off on the high seas, UDI would do me as a practical solution.

Roberto 'Tito' Sarrionandia said...

'Shrugging', is not the physical act of moving away from everyone else. Galt's Gulch was a consequence, not the cause, of the Strike by the men of the mind.

Now is not the time to move away from society. It is still malleable - it can be saved.

As for the Rand stuff, keep it coming! You've re-grabbed the attention of one reader at least.

The Remittance Man said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jon said...

Build a libertarian paradise in the middle of the sea, to get away from oppressive government policies... hmm. sounds awfully familiar.

Rightwinggit said...

Slightly OT, but now I've got Elvis Costellos "Shipbuilding" running around my head.

Elby the Beserk said...

Written - and sung - by the wondrous Robert Wyatt.

Shipbuilding, that is.

No - we can declare UDI here, become a pirate ship and walk Brown and his bunch of poison dwarfs off the plank.

After a suitable period of torture that is. It is, I gather, all the rage for terrorists now.

sconzey said...

Awesome, I had planned to attend that also. Might see you there DK.

Mark Wadsworth said...

It's a cracking idea.

And once all the young people and productive people have f***ed off, we'll see what happens to existing land values. If enough people did it, landowners would be begging young people and productive people to come back again.

Idle Pen Pusher said...

I love the idea of other people doing it (for reasons Mark has said) but I doubt I'll want to live on a luxury oil rig any time soon.

wh00ps said...

It really appeals to me too... I did have ideas of doing just this once upon a time. I'd never get my wife to agree to it though...

Anonymous said...

Having spent years living on various boats as part of my merchant navy career I can assure you that this Seasteading is a very stupid idea. You can't even pretend to be master of your own destiny when you have nowhere to go and there is always some motherfucker calling the shots.

Anonymous said...

"Shipbuilding" was written by Elvis Costello

Tam Keck said...

This whole idea is just so moronic for a whole multitude of reasons I can't even be bothered to articulate them because they're all so fucking obvious. Are these cunts in the Seasteading Institute for real, surely not, I mean I have a sense of humour just like the next guy but it really grips my shit to think that people really might actually spend time considering this rubbish.

Tam Keck said...

www.freedomship.com
same idea, different bunch of idiots.

Old Holborn said...

Why the fuck should I have to leave an island to live on another island to get away from a mere 646 fuckwits?

Bollocks to that. Much cheaper and simpler (and eco friendly) to simply hang the 646 cunts from lamp posts.

sorted

wh00ps said...

it would be hard, no doubt about that and it would do nothing to solve the problems at home. i just fancy the idea, man against the elements, doing it all yourself, that sort of thing. i had ideas of building a data haven. i wouldn't have gotten the funds together though, even it had been more than an adolescent dope dream.

Anonymous said...

Isn't there an old sea fort just off the south coast that did a udi,it is/was used for internet comms I don't know if it's still going tho as it was falling apart, just a thought.

wh00ps said...

yeah i saw that not long after I had the idea. That's not where I got if from though, I stole it from a William Gibson book.

Tam Keck said...

unmoderated abuse is not encouraged on the Seasteaders website. No surprise there thn.

Westerlyman said...

Why should the seasteaders allow unmoderated abuse on their private property?

David Davis said...

No, we have to make our stand here. We own it after all and the c***s do not. Let them fight us here. It's our land, our country, our nation, it does not belong to the c***s.

Devil's Kitchen said...

David,

What fight? I don't see any real fight...

DK

sconzey said...

I'm curious as to the obvious flaws that Tam Keck has spotted. I confess that I was a little skeptical when I read the premise, but I read the faq and did a little math, and technically the idea is solid.

Politically and sociologically: it'll be interesting.

Patri Friedman said...

While the Freedom Ship bears some similarity, there are some important differences. They want to start by building something for ten billion dollars. Ridiculous! We are going to start with small prototypes that cost hundreds of thousands, and work up to oceangoing structures that cost tens of millions. In other words, we can get freedom on the sea for one thousandth the cost that they are targeting. No wonder they've never gotten anywhere.

Also, they are a for-profit which is not very transparent, and has been giving unrealistic timelines (like they'll start building any day now) for 10 years. We are a non-profit with much less exciting, but more realistic timelines (we are targeting 100,000 people in 25 years).

Just because an idea has been done badly before doesn't mean it can be done well. The problem may be the wankers who tried it, not the idea itself.

As for hanging all the fuckwits from lampposts...I don't think your island has that many lampposts. And the fuckwits have the guns. And they have a political system, the farce known as democracy, which guarantees the failure of libertarian ideas. Creating a new system is the best option.

See some of y'all at ASI in a coupla weeks.

Roger Thornhill said...

I am still waiting for Mark Wadsworth to work LVT into the minimum alcohol pricing story.

Anonymous said...

a collection of house-boats on an inland waterway would be more practical - like gyppo caravans, except afloat, and not filled with gypsies.

FlipC said...

As Bioshock's already been mentioned I'll quote from there "We all come down here, figured we'd all be part of Ryan's Great Chain. Turns out Ryan's chain is made of gold, and ours are the sort with the big iron ball around your ankle. He's up in Fort Frolic banging fashion models... we're down in this dump yanking guts outta fish."

To put it bluntly someone's got to maintain the 'ship' and how are they going to be paid? Do you charge all the residents rent, might as well call it a tax. Oh sure if you think it's too much you can hop over to another seastead. However they've lowered 'rent' by cutting back on repairs that you won't notice until something bad happens.

So you get the rich on one stead, the poor on another, hey if they're close you can have the poor commute over to do the work for the rich.

Wow it'll all be completely different to the current set-up.

The Bear at the Table said...

I say we join forces with Sealand and expand it.. in some way... Maybe add a giant zeppelin using sea water as a source for hydrogen.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principality_of_Sealand


"That a 1968 decision of an English court, in which it was held that Roughs Tower was in international waters and thus outside the jurisdiction of the domestic courts, is a further de facto recognition of Sealand's sovereignty.[26]"


http://www.freeradical.co.nz/content/47/47darnton.php

Gareth said...

This reminds me of the interwar period plan to build a chain of airfields across the atlantic. They would have been feats of engineering had the need remained. Sadly (or thankfully) it didn't.

Mark Wadsworth said...

RT, glad you mention it. As a free marketeer, I don't believe in minimum or maximum prices, quotas, import duties or turnover taxes.

But it cannot be denied that a) booze consumption has some external costs and b) restrictive licensing laws generate windfall gains for the incumbents.

I outlined my alcohol/tax policies to balance out these two factors here.

Chris said...

Atlas Shrugged: One Hour Later

Division of labour and comparative advantage. That's all I'm saying...

The Nameless Libertarian said...

The whole thing reminds me a little of the sea base in The Spy Who Loved Me.

Just an observation is all.

TNL

Patri Friedman said...

To put it bluntly someone's got to maintain the 'ship' and how are they going to be paid? Do you charge all the residents rent, might as well call it a tax.

This is moronic. Libertarians are supposed to know better. It's like saying there is no difference between paying a private cellphone provider which has competitors, and paying a monopoly phone company, like AT&T was in the US. In both cases you pay, so it has to be the same, right?

Bullshit. Competition matters, and competitive markets for goods and services are the best technology on earth for giving the consumer a good deal. It isn't a perfect system, but it's hell of a lot better than the alternative of a monopoly.

Having many small competing governments will get you lower taxes and better service than having a few large ones. If you don't believe in that, you don't believe "incentives matter" and you don't believe in competition, so you are the opposite of a libertarian.

Chris: No one is suggesting that seasteads should be self-sufficient. I like division of labor! We should only host industries where we have a comparative advantage, such as those that are highly regulated (medical care) and those that work best on the ocean (aquaculture). Fortunately much of the world's GDP is in regulated areas.

FlipC said...

Patri - Point 1: The 'rent' that's paid for living in a country and maintaining its basic services is called tax. As the seastead's are trying to set themselves up as micronation's are you objecting to my use of this term?

Point 2: In my very next sentence "Oh sure if you think it's too much you can hop over to another seastead." See competition, not monopoly. You don't want to pay the rent, you leave.

As for your "Having many small competing governments will get you lower taxes and better service than having a few large ones." your evidence for this is?

There are two main methods for lowering taxes - greater efficiency or lower quality.

Increasing efficiency usually requires an injection of funds to kickstart the process, lowering quality can be done at zero cost provided the consumer doesn't find out.

So pick an option - spend money that you won't see a return on for some years; or withhold information from your customers. To put it another way how many passengers complained about the number of lifeboats available on the Titanic before they boarded it?