Seasteading in the Eyes of Mother Jones


Mother Jones's Josh Harkinson (who tends to cover the libertarian-oid beat for them) attends the latest conference of the Seasteading Institute, and finds–surprise!–people with unusual views, and of course he leads with the one most likely to make his audience mistrust the subject. (A neo-Filmerian, no less.)  

It does get better from there. Some

 excerpts with comments:

before anyone can emigrate to any of these floating utopias, somebody needs to figure out how to build them. The institute has created the Poseidon Award, which it hopes, by 2015, to bestow upon the founder of the world's first seastead that hosts at least 50 full-time residents, is financially self-sufficient and politically autonomous, and is willing to offer its real estate on the open market….

In the short term, seasteading fans have put their hopes in Blueseed, another [Peter] Thiel-backed startup, which aims to anchor a floating residential barge off the coast of Northern California; it would house 1,000 immigrant tech workers who can't qualify for US visas. "Question is," Blueseed's president, Dario Mutabdzija, tells a tableful of interested tech guys over lunch, "will the United States be okay with this in the end?"

That is indeed the ultimate question, and the sticking point in my enthusiasm for Seasteading. I have a hard time believing that existing sovereigns won't just throw around their sovereignty til it swamps Seasteaders. And what about non-state nuisances, too?

In the afternoon, after a Duke University student schools us on on nonlethal ways to repel pirates—LRAD sound cannons, high-pressure hoses, fortified "citadel rooms"—the lib-tech flotsam turns to the question of whether seasteads will be allowed to claim sovereignty. Myron Nordquist, associate director of the Center for Oceans Law and Policy at the University of Virginia, recounts a 1970s visit from the crown prince of Tonga during his past life as a State Department official.

The prince, who had arrived in DC sporting a top hat and a monocle, wanted to know if the United States would protect a group of American libertarians who, to the monarchy's chagrin, had built their own micronation, the "Republic of Minerva," on an artificial island close by. "We don't protect anyone, especially if they are American," Nordquist recalls telling him. Thus emboldened, Tonga commissioned a New Zealand tugboat and stormed Minerva with an invading army that included a few palace guards and a four-piece band. The libertarians pulled up stakes, and the abandoned island has since disintegrated back into the sea.

My July 2009 Reason feature on Seasteading, which also sums up earlier attempts at libertarian Zionism, such as the Republic of Minerva.

My reports from the first and second Ephemerisle festivals, where Seasteading fellow travelers experiment with floating festival living. (The fourth one is happening right now, and after attending the first three alas book promotional duties keep me from this one. My report from the third one is contained in my book Ron Paul's Revolution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired.

Blueseed boss Max Marty explained his company's potential benefits in Reason's May 2012 issue.