Free Minds & Free Markets

Seasteading Progress May Be Halted in French Polynesia

Has the seasteading movement lost its latest home?

Last year, the government of French Polynesia adopted a Memorandum of Understanding that said it would look into the prospects of allowing a seastead to be built near one of its islands. "Seasteads" are artificially created island polities that can experiment with different rules and add a level of competition to government.


As I reported in the June 2017 Reason, that

agreement commits the parties to "studies addressing the technical and legal feasibility of the project in French Polynesia" and to preparing a "special governing framework allowing the creation of the Floating Island Project located in an innovative special economic zone." Since the Seasteading Institute is an educational nonprofit, the signing ceremony was also the public debut of a for-profit spinoff called Blue Frontiers, which intends to build, develop, and manage the first Polynesian seastead.

As Radio New Zealand first reported, French Polynesia's ruling party, Tapura Huiraatira—currently embroiled in some serious political turmoil over pensions, and facing a backlash against the seasteading idea—has now declared that the Memorandum of Understanding does not actually commit them to definitely allowing a seastead to be built. It adds that the agreement technically expired at the end of 2017.

Randolph Hencken, one of the principles of Blue Frontiers and the Seasteading Institute, insists that this development will not derail the movement's efforts. "French Polynesia—an archipelago of 118 islands—is one of the promising countries we are cultivating relationships with in regards to stationing seasteads," he writes.

"Some people and some politicians from the Island of Tahiti—during the election cycle—have expressed opposition," he adds. "This led to the majority party reminding people that the Memorandum of Understanding is a non-binding document and that there is not a backroom deal taking place with us. The [agreement] required us to perform environmental, economic, and legal studies—all of which we completed last year. There is no need to renew the [agreement]."

If French Polynesia doesn't work out as the site of the first functioning seastead, Hencken says, "other communities which are concerned by sea level rise have reached out to embrace our project, and many more options are also being considered. There are many locations in protected waters, in French Polynesia and other countries, that we are interested in and are building relationships with the goal of starting seasteading. We plan to take our investment, resources, and talents to one of these locations and create mutually beneficial relationships with our neighboring communities."

As Blue Frontiers' Joe Quirk, author with Patri Friedman of the definitive book on seasteading, explains in detail in a post at Medium, whether or not French Polynesia's ruling party is publicly supportive right now, many stakeholders in the island nation are still bullish on the idea.

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  • Citizen X - #6||

    If you're building your seastead with the help, and within the territory, of a nation-state, aren't you kind of doing it wrong?

  • Citizen X - #6||

    I mean, i guess as a proof of concept...

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    If you have to get permission to Seastead, doesn't that kind of negate the whole concept?

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    There already exist seasteads. They are called sailboats. Moitessier sailed almost twice around the world and didn't touch land for 10 months in the 60s. It's even easier today. You can buy a good used bluewater boat for around $50,000.

  • Tony||

    add a level of competition to government.

    There are roughly 200 models already out there, and that's excluding all the governments that exist at the sub-country level. That's more choices than you get for cereal.

    At some point you're going to have to acknowledge that the reason there's no libertarian society on earth is because it can't work and is a ludicrous idea. Or you won't, whatever.

  • Brian||

    And you picked Oklahoma, USA, because it's your favorite.

  • Agammamon||

    How do you get 200 models? Because there are 200 recognized nations? That seems kind of arbitrary. Especially since a huge number of those nations use the same model. And the model can be different at sub-national levels. And what about places like the EU?


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