An Idea Fit for a Science Fiction, Galt's Gulch Future: Seasteading

By the Left Coast Rebel

Earlier today I was reading Legal Insurrection, Professor Jacobson's sidekick Kathleen links and excerpts a post by David Friedman, son of none other than the late Milton Friedman. David, it seems, is more controversial and far less known than his father due to his advocacy of anarcho-capitalism, versus Milton's focus on Chicago school of economics.

I read a little more about David Friedman and beyond a lot of very cerebral stuff, libertarian theory, et al., I came across a little blurb that David Friedman's son Patri Friedman also advocates something interesting and highly controversial called "seasteading".

Seasteading is thus described at Wikipedia as,

Seasteading, a portmanteau of sea and homesteading, is the concept of creating permanent dwellings at sea, called seasteads, outside the territories claimed by the governments of any standing nation. At least two people independently began using the term: Ken Neumeyer in his book Sailing the Farm (1981) and Wayne Gramlich in his article "Seasteading – Homesteading on the High Seas" (1998).

John Stossel took note of the concept, writing about seasteading at Reason,

What is someone looking for better governance to do? In 2008, Friedman set up The Seasteading Institute. His website states: "(W)e believe that experiments are the source of all progress: To find something better, you have to try something new. But right now, there is no open space for experimenting with new societies. That's why we work to enable seasteading communities—floating cities—which will allow the next generation of pioneers to peacefully test new ideas for government. The most successful can then inspire change in governments around the world."

The idea of a government-looter-free-zone, floating, 100%-free civilization piques my interest. My mind hearkens back to Galt's Gulch from Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, a place of refuge for the greatest producers and minds, a place to escape the looting hand of America's government. Sound familiar to today's reality? It sure does. As America slides into the morass of socialism, as producers and liberty is castigated as the cause of our ills today, we have nowhere to go.

As a child I read dozens of science fiction novels, Isaac Asimov, Ray Adridge, Ray Bradbury and lots of lesser-knowns captured my imagination. I recall stories of sanctuary civilizations -- similar to seasteading communities -- but most of the stories ended badly as either moral decay or despot rule spoiled the experiment.

This is an artist's rendition of what a seastead would take shape as:
Computer-generated model of a seastead per Wikipedia.

2008's 1st-person shooter Bioshock was based on a version of the seasteading theme -- "Rapture" in the game is an underwater anarcho-capitalist, Galt's Gulch-esque paradise that goes badly wrong as the founder of the city -- Andrew Ryan -- goes mad (among many other very bad developments). There's a lot of science fiction thrown into the mix as well but it's an awesome game:
Player duking it out with a "Big Daddy" in 2008's Bioshock

An article about seasteading appeared in Wired magazine a few years ago. The idea met the endorsement and down payment of PayPal founder Peter Thiel:

If a small team of Silicon Valley millionaires get their way, in a few years, you could have a new option for global citizenship: A permanent, quasi-sovereign nation floating in international waters.

With a $500,000 donation from PayPal founder Peter Thiel, a Google engineer and a former Sun Microsystems programmer have launched The Seasteading Institute, an organization dedicated to creating experimental ocean communities "with diverse social, political, and legal systems."

"Decades from now, those looking back at the start of the century will understand that Seasteading was an obvious step towards encouraging the development of more efficient, practical public-sector models around the world," Thiel said in a statement.

Wired has a lot more of the technical, techie stuff involved concerning the seastead concept.

The bottom line for me is that it is a fascinating idea, making for good science fiction and libertarian theory. It certainly captures my imagination. And although flying the Gadsen flag over a laissez-faire mini-civilization may sound like a noble concept -- even somewhat possible, given today's world -- I somehow believe that such a civilization would end up being looted by the same grabbing hands of the world's 190-or-so governments that it would be set up to escape the taxation and regulation of.

But, then again, who knows?


  1. Just by-the-by, Austrian economics is anything but ignored today. It's more enjoying a Renaissance, especially in the breakdown of the entitlement State.

  2. Writer - I should amend the post to say that Austrian economics is completely ignored by American politicians which as caused the majority of the problems that we face...

  3. Interesting. Though unlikely, anyone can dream.

  4. I agree, Les, the idea really captures my imagination as I'm sure it does many others.

  5. Milton Friedman was not doing "mainstream Austrian economics," or Austrian economics at all. His approach is usually referred to as the Chicago school.

  6. Thank you for dropping by, Professor Friedman. Amended as stated here.

  7. Big fan of your father, by the way.

  8. interesting until we get some nasty weather... then it gets really interesting!


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