Stossel: Live Free at Sea

Maybe the ocean is a place where we can experiment with new ways of living.


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How can we live free? Governments impose rules and control all land on earth.

"We need a new place to experiment with new rules," says Joe Quirk of the Seasteading Institute.

Quirk says that if people move 12 miles off the coast, they can build their own cities, or even countries, and make their own rules. Seasteaders dream of building huge platforms in the ocean, places where free people can live and work and practice free association.

A few have already tried to make this dream a reality. Chad and Nadia Elwartowski built a small seastead 12 miles off the coast of Thailand. 

But it didn't go so well. The Thai navy cracked down and charged Chad and Nadia with breaking the law. The couple are now on the run.

Despite this setback, Quirk is optimistic about the future of living at sea. How might it work?

Quirk points out that a form of seasteads already exist: cruise ships.

"Most cruise ships fly the flag of say, Panama or Liberia and they're sort of de facto self-governing….So a captain is a de facto dictator. Why doesn't he become a tyrant? And the answer is because people can choose another cruise line."

On land, some governments have done something a bit similar to seasteading, Quirk notes. They're created "special economic zones." After seeing the success of Hong Kong, even communist China set up such zones so cities could experiment with fewer rules. Those zones have thrived. There should be more of them.

Of course, lots of people are nervous about getting rid of rules. Stossel tells Quirk that some would say: "Without American rules some will be shooting up heroin or abusing children!"  

"We have that in our country right now," Quirk replies. "But if I…move 12 miles off shore…I'm going to be so incentivized to set a better example….Because the world's eyes are going to be on me. I got to convince investors to invest in it. I got to convince people to move there."

Quirk adds: "Seasteaders don't have a problem with regulations per se. 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!"

Quirk tells Stossel that he wants people to govern themselves.

"It's irresponsible not to improve society by setting better examples," he says.

The views expressed in this video are solely those of John Stossel; his independent production company, Stossel Productions; and the people he interviews. The claims and opinions set forth in the video and accompanying text are not necessarily those of Reason.


NEXT: Hong Kong's Fight for Freedom Against China's Authoritarianism

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  1. Seasteading is the way of the future... and it always will be.

    1. Get to your seasted in your flying car, powered by fusion.

      1. Cold fusion

    2. Next year is 2020. We'll be living underwater in sea labs, if I recall that documentary from my youth, SeaLab 2020.

      1. Another year and we'll be living on Sealab 2021, possibly as a Barbeaubot.

  2. I'll bet the U.S navy will have something to say about this. And FBI, CIA, NSA ,DEA. Welcome to Pax Americana,.

  3. Serious question: are there effective ways to decouple citizenry and geography? Can people belong to different "countries" and cohabit the same spaces?

    1. are there effective ways to decouple citizenry and geography?

      Yes. Supranational global governance over a borderless federation of vassal states and displacement of native populations through migration. If you run into trouble finding willing migrants you can create them very easily by utilizing warfare and famine.

      If that sounds at all familiar it's because it is the actual system proposed by Reason, Cato, Niskanen and every other Koch-funded ''''''''''libertarian'''''''''' organization.

      1. OK, I'll bite, what's a "real" libertarian organization?

        1. An ideological organization founded by libertarians and unconnected to sponsorship from organizations that aren't libertarian.

    2. are there effective ways to decouple citizenry and geography?

      Transporter beams work really well and are almost an ancient technology. Demonstrated on Star Trek nearly 50 years ago. Holograms are quite effective too.

      For those who remain a bit skeptical - maybe the thing to do is, if not embrace geography, at least understand how it can work better for as long as humans remain physical beings.

      One cool idea that's even more ancient than transporter beams and holograms is the notion of 'home rule'. Even FDR spoke often about it while he was Gov of NY before he undermined the idea as Prez. Though the idea really legally dates back to Judge Cooley and a few mayors from the 1890's (notably Hazen Pingree and Tom Johnson). The notion that really local governance is well-equipped to gather local knowledge and solve local problems. Where the next governance level up (state) is best equipped to secure individual rights from local majoritarian tyranny while limiting itself on the problem-solving side to only those knowledge/problem situations that local flounders with or can't solve. And the next level up (federal) is best equipped to secure individual rights from state majoritarian tyranny while limiting itself on the problem-solving side to even more limited situations (let's call them enumerated powers). Basically, it accepts the physicality of us as individuals - where our right to govern ourselves really is a local right that goes up not a global right that is imposed down. Which does make it possible for near-neighbors to be in different governance entities - say a city resident right next to a suburb resident.

      What I actually find scary is that for all the hoohaa about how wonderful the Internet is as a source of permanently accessible knowledge - the most famous speech FDR made re that seems to have fucking disappeared from the Internet. All that remains is the microfiched for-money reprint available from the 1930 NY Times archive.

      1. Cool. It looks like FDR's home rule speech did not disappear from the Internet. It merely disappeared from all search engines.

    3. Why not? We're allowed to choose different insurance companies, different banks, different credit cards, etc. Take it a step further and choose different legal systems. There doesn't need to be a local police monopoly. Historical and contemporary evidence teaches us that monopolistic police forces abuse their power all the time. You could have one public court system and independent police forces that would have to get court orders or warrants to pursue dangerous criminals or collect evidence of wrongdoing.

      Or go one step more and let people choose their government and follow its rules. In conflicts between people with the same government, go to that government's courts. In conflicts between people with different governments, go to a neutral court. No victim, no crime, unless you voluntarily joined a government and gave them the right to lock you up for smoking something or taking something.

      Too complicated? Start with the national political parties. Join the Dem or Repub government, maybe the Libertarian or Green. Sorry, you have to leave everyone else alone. Require a party to have one million people (or some suitably high number) to be a legal option, to avoid having gangs and warlords take over.

  4. Believe me Greta Thornburg will not be happy about you living as you wish.

    1. You've stolen her childhood, she will NOT let you steal her smugness.

    2. Greta Thornberg needs to be taken over my knee and spanked until my hand hurts.

  5. The problem being the 12 mile limit thing for trying to avoid falling under the jurisdiction of existing sovereignties is one of those too clever loopholes that those governments will ignore when they notice you and no one will object, because the only ones capable to effectively object are other sovereignties who have no interest in setting that kind of precedent.

  6. This could be a good way to get around pharmaceutical patents. Take a little trip out to sea to pick up your meds or get medical treatment.

    1. Sounds like a great way to get robbed/hijacked.

  7. Water water everywhere and all the boards did shrink.
    Water water everywhere nor any drop to drink.

    A word of advice to seasteaders: Don't drink unregulated sea water.

    Another of my faves:

    The boy stood on the burning deck
    Selling peas a penny a peck

  8. One major problem; if you live very close to a large body of water, sooner or later that water is going to come for a visit.

    Government is like fire; if you are young, vigorous, and skilled it is possible to live without it. Possible, but not usually comfortable.

    OTOH, if you live with it, you have to watch it constantly. And unlike fire, government is usually pretty boring to watch.

  9. The Great Libertarian Conundrum. The only way to be free is to segregate yourself among the like minded. But you're not really free until you open the borders. After which you will certainly not be living among the like minded, nor will you likely be free for long.

    1. Even segregated among the like minded, given enough members and time, the likelihood that someone offends your (civil) libertarian sensibilities constantly creeps towards 1. At which point, policies making them walk the plank start to seem reasonable.

      1. Even if you could get a perfect group of people who have no conflicts, you're just kicking the can down the road because it's incredibly unlikely you'll be able to pass on your values to 100% of your kids.

        So unless your utopia is willing to kick out your kids and force them to apply like any other common Joe, it's going to last one generation at most. How many Utopians are willing to kick out their kids?

        1. The NAP is all that has to be passed on and if it isn't they should be kicked out.

          1. Without passing on a willingness to put ideology before family, you're stuck at generation two.

    2. That's the total opposite of how to be free. True freedom is plurality, because, like, people are different, man.

    3. This is only a conundrum if the goal re liberty is incredibly tiny and pathetic. A two year old throwing a temper tantrum is basically the intellectual acme of 'everyone should agree with me' - even if they don't have the skills to simply walk away when others don't.

      idk - while I certainly enjoy playing an asshole online, irl I much prefer seeing/experiencing people who are coming at things from a different perspective - who don't agree with me - who may need persuading - who may in fact persuade me - who we may end up having to agree to disagree and figure out whether that is fatal to 'proximity'.

      To me, the great value of NAP is not finding a world where it is not needed but to live in a world where it is.

  10. Stossel's previous video was about how life is [already] better than ever. Now he wants to move out into the middle of the ocean? Guess he just can't tolerate any more of the good life. Don't let the paddle hit you on the sail out.

    I think it would be great if all of the countries of the world agreed to give libertarians a healthy chunk of ocean, so long as they all agreed to move their straight away. The "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" would be a great spot. It has a temperate climate, and lots of the plastic bags and straws that libertarians love. Plus, a pre-existing foundation to build upon.

    1. You know there are millions of people living on small islands in the middle of the oceans? How would seasteading be any different?

  11. Until we've perfected hydroponics and soilless farming, and other solid waste reclamation techniques such that you don't need land-dwellers and their economies, this is just a pipe dream.

    On top of that, you'll also need a really big gun such that whatever nation is annoyed at you has to be willing to take on serious casualties to take you out.

    The whole thing will probably work better if you aren't on a platform, but are on something like a retrofitted cruise ship or aircraft carrier, so that you can just leave when you annoy your neighbors.

    And if you can't do it alone because of food, fresh water, fuel, and other supplies? Then you have to play nice-enough with your neighbors that you can dock and go shopping. And also have some way of earning money in those economies.

    All of which is to say, there's a reason sea-state nations in science fiction are basically always dystopias, and not utopias.

    1. a retrofitted nuclear aircraft carrier would be the supreme option. the USS Enterprise was recently retired, maybe some libertarian billionaire can buy it. Comes with its own airport and power station, can stay at sea for months or years, can move if need be, and could even have its own air force (probably not allowed to be armed, but who's asking for permission?)

  12. Living on a man made island on an ocean is a great idea, but you would have to overcome quite a few logistical problems first, like fresh water, tsunami and tidal wave protection, food, electricity, etc.

    1. Of oil rigs and islands can do it I don't see much of a problem.

      1. Good point.
        I wonder how much $ it would cost to build one of these islands.

        1. A small oil rig is around $20 million and the sky is the limit.

    2. see Enterprise, USS, option above.

  13. I believe international law requires that any water vessel or structure must be under some countries flag. That's going to be a problem for seasteading.

  14. Guess who's been reading R. Buckminster Fuller?

  15. Thanks Stossel. And thanks to Reason for presenting.

    Old news but nice shareable content, well done.

  16. like Amber implied i didnt know thAt people cAn mAke $8187 in one month on the internet. did you look At this site HERE☛

  17. Next year is 2020. We’ll be living underwater in sea labs, if I recall that documentary from my youth, SeaLab 2020.

  18. yes Life at sea is calm and no noise traffic.. and but noise of sea waves..rev check

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