Monday, May 19, 2008

Float away to freedom

I force myself to be skeptical about schemes to establish new countries since the history of such efforts is ... well ... not encouraging. It's been all downhill ever since Tonga invaded and occupied the foam-splashed Republic of Minerva. But an effort involving, among others, Patri Friedman, grandson of Milton Friedman, and Pay-Pal co-founder Peter Thiel, to create independent ocean colonies using existing technologies inevitably raises my hopes.

True to his libertarian leanings, Friedman looks at the situation in market terms: the institute's modular spar platforms, he argues, would allow for the creation of far cheaper new countries out on the high-seas, driving innovation.

"Government is an industry with a really high barrier to entry," he said. "You basically need to win an election or a revolution to try a new one. That's a ridiculous barrier to entry. And it's got enormous customer lock-in. People complain about their cellphone plans that are like two years, but think of the effort that it takes to change your citizenship."

Friedman estimates that it would cost a few hundred million dollars to build a seastead for a few thousand people. With costs that low, Friedman can see constellations of cities springing up, giving people a variety of governmental choices. If misguided policies arose, citizens could simply motor to a new nation.

"You can change your government without having to leave your house," he said.

That's ... cool.

Oh, I know I'm in for a disappointment.

You'll find the brains behind the scheme at the Seasteading Institute here.

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Anonymous Duff OMelia said...

I'm in!

May 19, 2008 12:21 PM  
Anonymous Duff OMelia said...

Thanks so much for pointing this story out J.D. I've now read their book and their blog and I'm quite encouraged by their plan. I don't think you're in for a disappointment.

May 26, 2008 7:10 AM  

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