20,000 Nations Above the Sea
The main dilemma of island living— the guillotine hanging over the necks of everyone from Block Island to Bermuda—is resource collection. Water, food, fuel/diesel: The minute you leave the dock, you're depleting all those things. You have to be very conscious of either returning or reaching another port so you can reacquire them. If you spend time on any island and read the newspaper or talk to the locals, the constant simmering pressure, the white noise in the background, is access to resources. It's not intolerable, nor does it make island living unenjoyable; many people love the challenge and the romance of man vs. nature. But it's the primary issue with Patri Friedman's seasteading project ("20,0000 Nations Above the Sea," July). And Friedman needs to recognize that.
It's clear Friedman doesn't believe a seastead, at least in the preliminary stages, will be self-sufficient. By dwelling on the design rather than the economic model, he's putting the wagon before the horse. Vacation resorts aren't likely since any seastead will probably more closely resemble the rusted cement hulk that is Sealand rather than Atlantis Paradise Island. "Sin industries" and "universal data libraries free of national copyright laws" will just attract aggression from nations. Read Bermuda's Royal Gazette; the reverberations of a few words in one of Obama's campaign speeches about going after tax havens are still being felt.
A fair amount of utopianism courses through libertarianism's veins, and here we see it in Friedman's desire to remake the wheel because ships "are simply too old-fashioned to capture the visionary imagination." Society is bad and must be remade anew, and therefore established solutions (ships and platforms) must be cast aside as well. If Friedman were smart, he would admit the high cost of buy-in (when are prototypes ever cheap?), purchase an old ship or a shuttered oil rig, and commence testing models of sustainability and economic development, with residents producing what they can and trading for what they can't. After he gets that down, then he can start worrying about how many soda bottles it takes to keep v2.0 floating. The function must drive the form, but Friedman has it backward.
I read Brian Doherty's "20,0000 Nations Above the Sea" with great interest. Good luck to those folks. I urge them to heed their own advice and seek opinions from sea people. I have no degree or certification in the fields of fluid dynamics or engineering, but in my untrained opinion any seasteading concept that uses a breakwater design is doomed to failure. Until some future nanotechnological breakthrough, a concept that pits any object—no matter how big or how solid—against the natural forces of water and waves simply will not last.
Good luck to them, and I hope I live long enough to die on a floating city.
Anatomy of a Child Pornographer
"Sexting"—voluntarily sending nude or semi-nude photos of oneself from a cell phone—constitutes a moral dilemma, not a legal one. Alas, as Nancy Rommelmann points out ("Anatomy of a Child Pornographer," July), such actions are placing teenagers on trial in a court of law, instead of on trial by their parents and guardians—as it should be.
Fortunately, there is a way to encourage lawmakers to change the law. Since the recipient is just as guilty (in the eyes of the law) of distributing child porn as the sender, we should encourage teenagers who decide to "sext" someone to send the pictures to a local political hack or officer of the law as well. Then they should inform the FBI about the "child porn" on the recipient's cell phone.
Staten Island, NY