Start Your Own Country!

How seasteading advances human liberty.


When political arguments aren't getting you anywhere, what can you do?

Start your own country!

Unfortunately, most of the world's land is controlled by rapacious governments unwilling to let others experiment.

But fortunately, that still leaves oceans.

If people move 12 miles offshore (or 24 miles in the case of the U.S.), they can, in theory, live free from existing governments' suffocating rules. People then could try new things—find better forms of government.

The idea is called seasteading. My latest video shows what offshore countries might look like.

The idea already makes some governments nervous.

This year, Chad Elwartowski and Nadia Summergirl set up a small seastead 13 miles off the coast of Thailand.

"We're looking forward to freedom-loving people to come join us out in the open ocean," says Chad.

Unfortunately, the Thai government wasn't happy about it. More on what happened to Chad and Nadia's seastead, below.

"We need a new place to experiment with new rules appropriate for modern technologies," says Joe Quirk, who runs the Seasteading Institute. "As long as people create seasteads voluntarily and people can quit them voluntarily, you'll have a market of competing governance providers."

The seasteading approach avoids people trying to agree on a single set of laws.

"Seasteaders don't have a problem with regulations per se," says Quirk. "Humans need rules to interact. We have a problem with the monopoly over the provision and enforcement of regulations. We don't need politicians. They're not smart enough to make decisions for us."

I pushed back when I interviewed him, saying some people might use lawless seasteads to do things like abuse heroin—or kids.

"We have that in our country right now," said Quirk. "But if I move 12 miles offshore, I'm going to be so incentivized to set a better example because the world's eyes are on me. I've got to convince investors to invest…convince people to move there…. (I)n such an environment, it's going to be much more difficult to create evil islands of heroin-shooting than to create positive innovations that improve people's lives."

Quirk argues that the world already likes a form of seastead: cruise ships.

"Most cruise ships fly the flag of, say, Panama or Liberia, and they're de facto self-governing. Liberia has no capacity to enforce rules on the 3,000 ships that fly its flag. So a captain is a de facto dictator. Why doesn't he become a tyrant? Because people can choose another cruise line."

The Seasteading Institute tries to create competing governance experiments by approaching politicians from land-based governments.

Quirk tells them: "We'll bring our own land; we'll float just offshore. If it succeeds, we share the prosperity. If it fails, we absorb the cost."

There are historical parallels. Minds were opened in mainland China when the tiny island of Hong Kong showed that having fewer regulations could bring prosperity.

"China very rapidly, because of the example set by Hong Kong, started creating these special economic zones," says Quirk.

Special economic zones are similar to seasteads because they have fewer rules.

"At least a half-billion Chinese people have exited extreme poverty by moving to these new jurisdictions," recounts Quirk.

Unfortunately, the Chinese government did not expand such experiments to the whole country. People in power rarely want to give it up.

Seasteads could give the world experimental evidence that can't easily be censored by land-based politicians. Chad and Nadia hoped their seastead would be the first of many.

"They thought nobody would care," says Quirk.

They were wrong. Although they were more than 12 miles off the coast, Thailand's politicians sent their navy to tow away the couple's small floating island. Chad and Nadia got nervous when they saw a reconnaissance plane overhead and left their seastead just before the navy raided it. Now they are in hiding. If caught and tried in Thailand, they were told they might face the death penalty for violating Thai sovereignty.

But good for Chad and Nadia for trying.

"It's irresponsible not to improve society by setting better examples," says Quirk. "People with the best ideas should be given an opportunity to do that voluntarily and pay the consequences of their failures…and get the profits if they succeed."


NEXT: Brickbat: The Cover-Up Is Worse Than the Crime

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Perhaps the major, main item that will entice people from the mainlands to come and visit seasteads, will be for illegal genetic enhancements (or “fixing” of genetic diseases). Mainlanders say, “God / Gaia / GMOs-Have-Cooties / Sacred Whatever says we can’t do this”. Seasteaders say we can, if parents want to, and pay up.

    Outcome? Perhaps the mainlanders invade, in the name of the “Holy Whatever”. This is highly likely. As usual, self-righteous assholes can’t tolerate the idea of minding their own business.

    Other likely outcome is, child-bearing-age women, on returning to the mainland, will face mandatory inspections for “monster babies”, and forced abortions for those who violate the Sacred Wills of the Majority Voters (or the dictator) on the mainland.

    1. Yeah maybe you could have your extra chromosomes removed.

  2. “Start your own country!”

    Start your own non-coercive HOA

    The state is basically a large HOA with a coercive monopoly.

    1. The state is basically a large HOA with a coercive monopoly.

      Eh, not exactly. An HOA can make arbitrary rules governing the property of its members, but a government has less of an ability to do so. Moreover, an HOA serves the will of its members, but a government does not necessarily do so. Sometimes it is a good thing that the government does not, sometimes it is a bad thing.

      1. Moreover, an HOA serves the will of its members

        HOA’s serve the will of old men with clipboards who have the time to serve on their boards and who like forcing others to do things.

        1. My experience is that it is far easier to vote out the little dictators in your HOA Board than it is to vote out the little dictators in your county, state or national government.

          1. Yes, but when you overthrow a big dictator, at least you can hang his corpse from a lamppost.

          2. Sure, and elect new little dictators in their place.

        2. Old men? They are usually women.

          1. Old men generally just want to be left alone. Women of a certain age want to be mothers and tell everyone what to do. Its why men die 8 years before women.

  3. Maybe don’t tell the governments you deny their sovereignty? Just be in international waters?

    Are they really outside the “economic zone”?

    It’s also a problem if they are recruiting citizens from a nearby nation.

  4. Better watch your ‘carbon foot print’. I’m sure the U.N. will claim jurisdiction.

  5. Best of luck to Chad and Nadia. I think this is a terrific idea.

    But what if the idea could be extended and decentralized even further. Why does a government’s jurisdiction have to be based on a certain geographic territory? Why can’t a government’s jurisdiction be based on whomever wishes to be subject to it, regardless of where one lives? So if I wished for example to be a citizen of France, I could do so, without having to move to the European continent; and if my neighbor wanted to be a citizen of India, he could do so without moving to Asia. And if my neighbor and I had a dispute, it would be resolved following whatever treaties that the nation of France and the nation of India had agreed to for resolving disputes. Services that we normally regard as public, such as police protection and roads, could be performed by private firms which would enter into various contracts with various governments depending on which citizens of which nations they were contracted to serve.

    That is closer to the ideal of true individual sovereignty.

    1. Neighbors can already be different nationalities. Territorial jurisdiction provides some benefits, like people driving on the same side of the road.

  6. On my seastead, I am the god king, and you will worship me, or be cast into the sea.

    1. Oh Great God-King,

      In my nation, I do NOT have freedom to freely blow upon cheap lung flutes, w/o permission. If I live in Your Nation, will such deeds be freely permitted?

      To find precise details on what NOT to do, to avoid the flute police, please see … This has been a pubic service, courtesy of the Church of SQRLS!

    2. But who is king god?

    3. Behold the god that bleeds!

  7. I like the idea of seasteading, but you better have a way of surviving major storms on the open ocean.

    1. Oil companies have long figured that out.

    2. It depends on the nature of the sea stead.

      If you are in shallow water and anchored to the sea floor, you may need to evacuate. If you have a floating sea stead with engines, Yacht below decks, artificial island on the top. With enough warning, you can move out of the way.

  8. If people move 12 miles offshore (or 24 miles in the case of the U.S.), they can, in theory, live free from existing governments’ suffocating rules. People then could try new things—find better forms of government.
    This year, Chad Elwartowski and Nadia Summergirl set up a small seastead 13 miles off the coast of Thailand.
    Unfortunately for Chad and Nadia, Thailand claims some jurisdiction out to 24 miles.

    1. And if someone squats a seastead 25 mile off Thailand, will they extend that to 36 or 48 miles?

      1. Not under UNCLOS III. They can claim territorial waters to 12 nm, a contiguous zone to 24 nm, and an exclusive economic zone to 200 nm. The contiguous zone includes jurisdiction over customs, taxation, immigration and pollution.

  9. I love this hand-waving nonsense about how marketing will solve all the problems of anarchy. “We won’t fuck kids on our freedom platform because it will be a bad look!”

    OK, but won’t it still be legal to fuck kids? Or do you just start governing all over again from scratch, except probably in the form of dictatorship?

    1. It’s telling that you think everybody who ventures into international waters immediately starts fucking kids.

      1. Just seems like a lot of trouble and expense in order to avoid an income tax.

        1. The biggest objective isn’t to avoid taxes… It is to avoid the obviously ugly side effect of special interests! The regulated have captured the regulators. This is a major source of the decay of individual freedom, and the ever-growing size of Government Almighty. Special interests (like doctors and the AMA, and the FDA itself) is why I have to get permission to blow on a cheap plastic flute. Next on the hit parade: You’ll have to get a doctor’s permission to scratch your own asshole! Lots of delicate tissues down there, ya know!

          Starting a new mini-state allows a “clean slate” that can be wiped clear of all of the special interests, and their accumulated powers.

          1. But the guy who owns the platform gets to make all the new rules, right? That usually turns out well.

        2. IF you are a US Citizen, you actually can’t avoid federal income taxes by moving out of the US. To get out of the US income tax, you would have to officially renounce your US citizenship.

          1. Or be rich enough to afford good accountants.

    2. The age of consent in my state is 16 so if you believe anyone under 18 is a kid it’s already legal to fuck kids here.

      1. Same here, or as a cop acquaintance used to warn us back in the day, “15 will get you 20!”

  10. If people move 12 miles offshore (or 24 miles in the case of the U.S.), they can, in theory, live free from existing governments’ suffocating rules.

    I’m wondering how the US would respond if say, China parked a couple of destroyers and an aircraft carrier 24.5 miles off the U.S. shore.

  11. Patri Friedman is living proof that 3 generations of imbeciles are enough.

  12. Unless you have your own navy, Thailand and anyone else that has a boat with a big gun can do what whatever they want to you.

  13. Wonder how Chad and Summergirl are. Last I heard she has no passport to get out of Thailand.

    I was perhaps too harsh on Chad when the drama was unfolding. He was pitching his idea trying to get investors and later claimed that the floating small thing they had was just a prototype. It was built by a company he obviously had interest in.

    Perhaps he was scammed into the concept. My assumption was that nobody could be that naive.

  14. Just buy the USS Enterprise now that it’s been retired. Your own airport, nuclear power, highly mobile (32.5 knots), advanced radar, etc.

    1. As an alternative to an old warship, buy a worn-out freighter, at scrap prices. Scores of these are retired each year, including an occasional cruise ship or passenger ship, and their average size is constantly growing. AFAIK such ships aren’t being sunk by storms. Their anchors could be raised so the ship could move away from oncoming storms.

      To reassure the nearest nation, the UN, and world opinion, a pair of armed outside observers with certain police powers (e.g., to interogate, search, and apply shackles), and with wireless communications, should be permanently stationed aboard (with rotation of personnel).

      Assuming the nearest nation would allow it, which it might if taxes were paid on the boat transport of visitors, or a VAT on services sold aboard, such a Floater might provide, for a price, one or more of the following (specialization on a single service would be wisest):

      1. Access to certain forbidden drugs that are or might be psychologically or medically beneficial-in-proper-context—e.g., Ayahuasca, magic mushrooms, MDMA, and Ketamine.

      2. Gene modification techniques.

      3. Organ purchases for transplants—e.g., kidneys, and their sale to patients in need of them.

      4. A space where medical experiments (e.g., drug-testing) on volunteer human guinea pigs could be conducted. (These are now mostly conducted abroad.)

      5. Access to betting on non-sporting events, such as on outcomes of political contests and other events, such as the rate of global warming. (Intrade used to offer such bets, but it’s been out of business for a half-doxen years or so.) Hopefully a way could be found to allow credit card bets to be placed over the Internet. (It would be risky to go into competition with existing gambling interests by intruding on their turf of sports betting.)

      6. Perhaps access to certain unapproved medical drugs and/or treatments. (However, because a large majority of these are of questionable or negative value, only a few should be OK’d. Allowing desperate patients to spend all their savings (that would otherwise go to their heirs) on such things would generate negative outside PR. So this access, in 95% of cases, should be avoided by seasteaders who don’t want trouble.)

      I think that access to “vices” (e.g., recreational drugs and prostituition), which are big potential money-makers, should not be offered. Seastead-services-for-sale should not be ones that greatly offend large segments of public opinion, and should not be ones that focus on making a profit. They should be focused on performing a public service.

      BTW, during Prohibition, weren’t alcohol and gambling vice ships anchored three miles offshore big ports, like NY City, LA, and San Francisco?

  15. Yeah no thanks. It really isn’t that bad–the drama some people talk about “suffocating”–please GTFO of dodge with that teen drivel. Yes we can do better but living on an oil rig, etc ain’t it.

    1. Would Amazon even deliver there?

  16. Seasteading is a great idea if it wouldn’t cost millions, if not billions, of dollars to do.

  17. The Covenant of Unanimous Consent is in the Unamendable part of Seastead’s Constitution of Las Portadas.

    Paragraph 8: The guiding principles for all interpersonal relationships and private or business activities underwritten by Las Portadas and those undertaken by Las Portadas and all businesses and individuals associated therewith shall be those that are outlined in The Covenant of Unanimous Consent and detailed in Instead of Politics (Civilization 101) and Los Principios de Civilización.

    To learn more about the Covenant and how you can utilize it right now to start your own “country”, visit

  18. Seasteading will always be perceived as a threat to some state’s power, or to their lust for power and property, as Chad Elwartowski and Nadia Summergirl learned.

    So would starting a space colony. You can’t ever expect to completely escape from those who would control and steal. But you can enjoy a lot of freedom in the effort.

  19. Great Idea of sharing this with us.

    happy new year 2020

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.