Seasteading

by Russ Roberts on October 13, 2008

in Podcast

The latest episode of EconTalk is a conversation with Patri Friedman on seasteading, the creation of autonomous private places to live on the ocean.

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{ 21 comments }

muirgeo October 13, 2008 at 3:13 pm

Certainly the most bizarre econtalk topic I've ever heard but actually quite valuable.

When Patri was asked if the Sea-state would be self-sufficient he quickly said " Definitely not. Self-sustaining is another way of saying really poor".
I think that says a lot about the Libertarian view. For me a person, a city, a state or a country that is self sustaining is as free as you can be. Patri reply is an testament that some degree of societal organization is preferable. Some degree of dependence or interdependence is preferable.

It really seems to me that a libertarian is some one who wants all the benefits of society with none of the obligations. Seems like a very conflicted position. But I'd love to pursue the idea of a Sea-State and how it would develop its constitution and law and rules and money.

Russ Roberts October 13, 2008 at 3:44 pm

muirgeo,

I think you misunderstood what he meant by self-sufficient. He meant "without trade."

John Smith October 13, 2008 at 5:28 pm

Perhaps, muirgeo rhapsodic of the world's most famous left-wing economist Paul Krugman win of this year's Nobel in economics has him 'over the moon', allowing misunderstanding.

Bryan Caplan Prediction:
When Obama wins, Krugman will quickly drop his partisan hackery. He's unfair to his enemies, but he does not suffer fools gladly. And it's safe to say that a year into Obama's presidency, there will be plenty of folly for Krugman to decry.

[Why???????????]

[A]s a cock-eyed optimist, [Bryan Caplan writes], I'm very happy to have him around. Think about it: The world's most famous left-wing economist:

1. Blames European unemployment on labor market regulations that hold wages above the market-clearing level. (The Accidental Theorist, Part 1)

2. Publicly and articulately advocates free trade without hemming or hawing. (Pop Internationalism)

3. Identifies anti-globalization activists as the enemies of the world's poor. (The Accidental Theorist, Part 3)

4. Titles an essay "In Praise of Cheap Labor: Bad Jobs at Bad Wages Are Better than No Jobs at All" (The Accidental Theorist, Part 3)

5. Points out that if you oppose Big Government, you should favor cutting Social Security, Medicare, and other popular programs. ("The Lost Fig Leaf") Sure, he's hoping to scare us away from libertarian rhetoric, but there's no use running away from the truth.

T L Holaday October 13, 2008 at 7:04 pm

Russ,

Did you consider asking Patri about

  • Somalia, where there has been a government holiday for a decade and some signs of promise?
  • Locating in the world's deserts?
  • The experiences of American Indian self-governing regions in both the United States and Canada?

How important do you think it is that those who disagree with the local rule can vote with their sails? It appears that groups like the Old Order Amish and the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints are able to achieve substantial autonomy despite being earthbound.

Crusader October 13, 2008 at 7:54 pm

I don't see the benefit anymore to being on the seas when the US Navy can detain you any time.

Mcwop October 13, 2008 at 8:31 pm

Anyone interested in this should read this story:

http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2007/0423/096.html

Marcus October 13, 2008 at 8:59 pm

muirgeo,

Libertarianism does not mean people do not have obligations to one another. It simply means that your obligations are not decided by me. I and others have explained this to you countless times before.

I try to take you seriously on this blog and I try to address you respectfully. But if you cannot or refuse to critique libertarianism for what it actually is instead of some make-believe strawman you have in your head then I really don't see the point in trying any more as no serious discussion is possible.

T L Holaday October 13, 2008 at 9:10 pm

Crusader,

The U.S. Navy is unlikely to get involved over issues like smoking and transfats in Seastead restaurants or corporal punishment in Seastead schools.

T L Holaday October 13, 2008 at 9:23 pm

McWop,

What is the connection between Seasteading and that article about a venture capitalist?

Mcwop October 13, 2008 at 9:51 pm

Sorry missed an additional link:
http://www.culturemagic.org/PDF/c2Inclusive%20Association%20of%20Communities.pdf

TL, the connection is how dynamics work within these communities. Malone Wilkus tried to show that worked, and found out that a few did all the work:

"I thought I could create a better society, but common ownership didn't work," says Wilkus, 55. "So I became a capitalist."

Lesson may be do not set up your Seastead as a commune.

Martin Brock October 14, 2008 at 6:58 am

I think you misunderstood what he meant by self-sufficient. He meant "without trade."

I might call a floating town "self-sufficient" if it earned its way without anyone leaving it to work, but I'm skeptical even of this outcome. If most of the occupants earn their living off the boat, it's only a glorified vacation home. Also, I expect life on a boat-town to be more regimented than most, economically and otherwise, do I doubt that it would appeal to many libertarians ultimately. If it were really governed by Rothbardian principles, it might appeal more to the proprietarians calling themselves "libertarians" these days, but I doubt that too, and I doubt that it could be governed this way for very long regardless. A ship without a strong Captain is tough to imagine.

T L Holaday October 14, 2008 at 8:24 am

Martin,

Surely a prerequisite of a dwelling being classified as a vacation home is the existence of a primary residence elsewhere? The seastead prototype will be financed by the initial residents as a replacement for their houses.

I am interested in whether there will be an entity on a seastead which successfully claims a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. According to Safety Forum, Carnival Lines reports that crew members assault passengers and one another twice a month. Will seasteaders be armed? Will they be free enforce their own consequences for boundary-crossings, or must they delegate that to a seastead state?

Mcwop October 14, 2008 at 8:34 am

TL, no I have not, but will.

vidyohs October 14, 2008 at 10:21 am

Crusader,

The U.S. Navy is unlikely to get involved over issues like smoking and transfats in Seastead restaurants or corporal punishment in Seastead schools.

Posted by: T L Holaday | Oct 13, 2008 9:10:06 PM

The U.S. Navy is a government agency, an extension of the will of Congress so to speak.

And, yes the U.S. Goverment has shown a will and a way to involve itself in private matters in every nook and cranny of this nation and in anyplace where so-called citizens might gather.

To expect the government to restrain itself when excuse is offered to intrude is way to naive.

As evidence I might offer the recent intrusion of the State of Texas into the Mormon compound in west Texas, all based upon an alleged phone call from a girl whose claims of being violated were unspecific and unverified. And, as we know, investigation revealed that Texas had over stepped itself.

Imagine, if you can, a seacape city five hundred miles off of the California coast; from which the same type of phone call is received by officials in one of the west coast states. Rape of young girls, paternalism run rampant, forced marriages, condiditions of semi-slavery imposed on the young men.

Ahh, my friend, I can see the boilers firing up in navy ships now.

rbk October 14, 2008 at 11:08 am

All fine and utopian lovely until said seasteading nation starts harboring suspected terrorists and becomes a vehicle for dirty money…and the U.S. or whomever decide to sink Friedman junior's 'libertarian' paradise.

Marcus October 14, 2008 at 11:17 am

rbk,

I've not listened to the podcast but what I have read of seasteading I don't recall anyone suggesting it would be any sort of Utopian paradise.

Except its critics.

Marcus October 14, 2008 at 11:24 am

All fine and utopian lovely until said seasteading nation starts harboring suspected terrorists and becomes a vehicle for dirty money…and the U.S. or whomever decide to sink Friedman junior's 'libertarian' paradise.
– Posted by: rbk | Oct 14, 2008 11:08:14 AM

Also, concerning the 'dirty money', as the more libertarian leaning seasteads would almost certainly engage in the trade of illicit drugs I imagine that opens a big door to precisely what vidyohs is talking about.

'Dirty', being defined by the politically powerful in the U.S., I can certainly imagine seasteads being declared a security threat to the U.S.

Martin Brock October 14, 2008 at 4:12 pm

Surely a prerequisite of a dwelling being classified as a vacation home is the existence of a primary residence elsewhere?

A floating condo association then.

vidyohs October 16, 2008 at 7:07 am

T L Holaday,

My point was not that the government necessarily or compulsively would interfere in each and every case where someone claims interference is justified "in their opinion"; but, to point out that the government has in the past (think of such things as Branch Davidians at Waco) and has the power to do so when it (any petty bureaurcrat in "it") desires.

Mayor Richard Daley (the original)(and I love this quote to make a point) said, "The constitution is what the cop on the beat says it is."

Our government has taken the attitude that, "Right is what we say it is, and jurisdiction is where we say it is."

In that last paragraph I address your points about jurisdiction and authority.

Authority is what they have the power to do and jurisidiction is where they have the power to enforce it.

What power is going to get in their way to prevent intrusion, or even complain about it, on a Seastead colony of Americans expats, as long it is not in "their" territorial waters?

This is reality, amigo.

Hammer October 16, 2008 at 1:50 pm

"and you knowingly engage in sexual activity with a minor child who is under the age of 12, you are committing a federal crime."

Does anyone else find it sort of wierd that at ages 12+ it's fine? That jumped out at me… is it legal to get married at age 12 somewhere in the US, and that's why 12 is apparently the age of consent in US jurisdiction?

Russell Nelson October 17, 2008 at 2:44 am

I think that muirgeo (if he knew anything about economics) (which he doesn't) is saying that "sustainable" is "profitable" (but we all know that muirgeo hates profitable entities) (he prefers to coerce money out of people for *his* collective action.)

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