By Robert A. Vella

All throughout history, a rather bizarre story has unfolded countless times which everyone is intuitively aware of yet is seldom discussed in open public forums.  It’s one of humanity’s dirty little family secrets better kept locked away in a dusty closet.  The storyline goes like this:  a society arises or is rebuilt, there are few who benefit and many who don’t, the many get really pissed-off, and then the few run away in fear.

Medieval castles are commonly seen in retrospect as defensive structures designed to protect cities and towns from outside invaders.  While this is true in part, the main reason for building them was to provide sanctuary for the local ruling lords and to display an imposing symbol constantly reminding the peasantry of who was in charge.  Beyond the stone walls and feudalism of Europe during the Middle Ages, every hierarchical society is constructed similarly using the style and technologies specific to each.  What is consistently shared between all is the motive behind erecting exclusive sanctuaries and symbols of power.

However, this fear of the angry masses is not limited to the ruling elite.  In the U.S., the postwar (i.e. WWII) suburban sprawl or white flight primarily resulted from the desire of middle class whites to move away from the influx of blacks into urban areas, and the 21st century trend towards gated and guarded communities likewise resulted from the desire of upscale families to segregate themselves from worsening poverty in the populace.

Today, with a shrinking globe beset with innumerable social problems and the threat of catastrophic climate change lurking on the horizon, safe havens for the very rich are getting harder to find.  Regardless, this urge remains irrepressible and, when combined with the libertarian fantasy of a government-less and tax-less society, has manifested itself in an innovative solution – seasteading:

Seasteading is the concept of creating permanent dwellings at sea, called seasteads, outside the territory claimed by any government. The term is a combination of the words sea and homesteading. No one has yet created a structure on the high seas that has been recognized as a sovereign state.

Seasteaders say such autonomous floating cities would foster faster development of techniques “to feed the hungry, cure the sick, clean the atmosphere and enrich the poor”.[1][2] Some critics fear seasteads are designed more as a refuge for the wealthy to avoid taxes or other problems.[3][4]

Although the idea has been around for decades, no one has actually tried to realize it until last year.  From:  Floating Cities, No Longer Science Fiction, Begin to Take Shape

At the center of the effort is the Seasteading Institute, a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco. Founded in 2008, the group has spent about a decade trying to convince the public that seasteading is not an entirely crazy idea.

That has not always been easy. At times, the story of the seasteading movement seems to lapse into self parody. Burning Man gatherings in the Nevada desert are an inspiration, while references to the Kevin Costner film “Waterworld” are inevitable. The project is being partially funded by an initial coin offering, a new concept sweeping Silicon Valley and Wall Street in which money can be raised by creating and selling virtual currency.

And yet in 2017, with sea levels rising because of climate change and established political orders around the world teetering under the strains of populism, seasteading can seem not just practical, but downright appealing.

Earlier this year, the government of French Polynesia agreed to let the Seasteading Institute begin testing in its waters. Construction could begin soon, and the first floating buildings — the nucleus of a city — might be inhabitable in just a few years.

But, when the inhabitants of French Polynesia got wind of the project, trouble began.  From:  A Silicon Valley billionaire’s dream of a floating libertarian utopia may have finally been killed

Peter Thiel’s dream of a libertarian utopia in the middle of the ocean may have finally sunk.

Radio New Zealand is reporting that the French Polynesian government has not renewed its agreement to help the Seasteading Institute, a group created in Silicon Valley, build a permanent and politically autonomous settlement off the coast of the South Pacific islands.

In 2008, Thiel, a billionaire investor and Trump transition team member, launched a mission to develop a floating city, called a seastead, that would operate independently from existing nations. Thiel invested $1.7 million in The Seasteading Institute, but resigned from its board in 2011. He later said in an interview that engineering seasteads is “not quite feasible.”

The reason why the Seasteading Institute sought cooperation with the French Polynesian government was because it had determined the project would be too costly to pursue on its own.  The agreement stipulated that no taxes would be levied on the new community and that it would be allowed to govern itself except for its compliance with some existing criminal and environmental laws.

The French Polynesians, however, began to see this project negatively as “tech colonialism” – an opposing view worried about exploitation from wealthy outsiders.  Additionally, they were outraged at not having been given a voice in the negotiations.

Alexandre Taliercio, a local radio and TV personality, became one of the most prominent voices of the opposition. During one program, he described the seastead as a cross between “visionary genius” and “megalomania” — an obsession with the domination of others.

In a 2017 interview with The Guardian, Taliercio argued that rich Americans simply want to skip out on paying taxes. “These millionaires have much more to gain than we do,” he said.

Personally, I think the concept is delusional at best.  Such a secluded society would still need to obtain funding from its residents for the purposes which libertarians often take for granted – administration, law enforcement, healthcare, education, etc.  Furthermore, exposed out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it would be vulnerable to the increasing incidence of extreme weather events triggered by global warming as well as to seagoing criminals and military aggressiveness now escalating in a more unstable world.

I’m sure author Ayn Rand – the darling of libertarianism – would’ve loved this idea.  But, her visions were never realized and her life was confined to the practical realities which all of us must endure.

19 thoughts on “Run, Rich Man! Run! – A real life Libertarian fantasy, and the story of Seasteading

  1. Fascinating stuff, Robert. I believe the gated communities in the States are quite unique worldwide, as well. Many of our friends go to Florida in the winter and own ‘estates’ (ha! – mobile homes on land that someone else owns). One year, our neighbour’s printer was broken and he had applied to rent in one of those parks, so he downloaded the application on our printer. I kid you not, that thing must’ve been at least a dozen pages long. You would not believe the information they wanted. I was astounded. Of course, I read it through before I took it over to him. When they returned that spring, the first thing I asked him was, “How many black people were in the park?” He scratched his head, and with a pained look said, “Now that I think of it – none!”
    And all perfectly legal.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. “I’m sure author Ayn Rand – the darling of libertarianism – would’ve loved this idea. But, her visions were never realized and her life was confined to the practical realities which all of us must endure.
    Share this:” All while collecting Social Security and using Medicare, too. Damned hypocrite I think building a large floating island where we can send Republicans, libertarians, and Trump supporters is something we, as tax payers, should support–Hell, we should DEMAND it. We build it; send ’em there, and seal ’em in with a big-ass wall. Yep, that we certainly make me feel liberated. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Wow, she was a hypocrite. That island you want to send Republicans, libertarians, and Trump supporters to should be of low elevation so that the effects of sea level rise are felt very quickly.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. With reference to Carmen’s remark about gated communities – Canada has some too. Bob, thanks for this intro to the seasteading concept – I had never heard of it. I think the world should build one for Donald Trump and his ilk and watch gleefully as the extreme weather events caused by global warming (fake news) test his ability to tread water.

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  4. Just looked it up – I see there are a few but I don’t think they’re as popular as in places like Florida. I can assure you there are none in the small province I reside . . . if anyone even puts a fence up, it’s seen as snobbish. 🙂

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