How-to set up your own floating micro-nation

Over at Gizmodo, Adam Frucci conducted an interview with Patri Friedman, executive director of the Seasteading Institute, an organization devoted to trying to convince open seas frontiersmen to live on a gigantic slab of concrete in the middle of the ocean. It's a pretty fascinating discussion on the subject... especially this snippet, in which Patri (after being asked) talks about the problem of a micro-nation of pedophiles being set up:
Each community will decide and enforce its own rules. More importantly, each community will decide its own procedures for deciding on its rules. The point is not just to create one political system or type of system, but to make a turnkey product for creating new countries, so that lots of different groups will try lots of different things, and we can all learn from it. The one rule I think seasteads should enforce on each other is the right for individuals to choose their society. As long as people are freely choosing their society, then as far as I'm concerned the society can pick whatever rules it wants. Personally, I want a society that's very libertarian for internal affairs, except for strong national security rules against doing anything that will piss off a military power (exporting drugs, laundering money, polluting). Basically the vision of "As much freedom as we can reasonably get away with".
I think forcefully kidnapping 14 year old girls to service a floating nation of perverts would pretty quickly bring a battleship knocking. Patri's whole interview seems like what it probably is: a retired Google software engineer's crazy pipe dream of setting up his own Snowcrash-style Raft. But at least Patri's got the business model figured out: timeshares! How To Build Your Own Sea-Based Country for Fun and Profit [Gizmodo]
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10 Responses to How-to set up your own floating micro-nation

  1. Fnarf says:

    Been done. The Principality of Sealand has been out there in the North Sea on an old WWII platform since 1967 (sort of). Anyone claiming to have this “idea” without referencing the extremely well-known case of Sealand strikes me as dishonest from the get-go.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Since my most vocal interaction with “libertarians” are when they object to the “nanny state interference” imposed by pollution regulations, I can’t see this idea as anything but an environmental catastrophe.

    Do you think these “rugged individualists” are going to brook being told not to throw their trash overboard or dump their sewage into the ocean? Or the industrial waste that will inevitably follow if they manage to successfully set a precedent?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Inevitably the possibility of child abuse is mentioned when someone advocates a libertarian-style scenario. This isn’t all that surprising, since harming a child (especially sexually) is seen almost universally as an evil – if anything is justified to be punished, that is.

    The problem of course is that sexual abuse of children occurs here and now. It could be reduced by installing cameras in everyone’s home, monitored by government employees (like the competent TSA folk). As emotional as the issue is, the truth is that we could do more to prevent it, IF we didn’t care about the consequences to property rights and basic privacy.

    Another problem is the misconception that a police force prevents crime. As the saying goes, “when seconds matter, the police are only minutes away”.

    As to the original question..well, what would you do if you didn’t live in an area controlled by a monolithic agency of force (government), and you saw a child being abused? I know what I would do.

  4. kilranian says:

    It’s great to see someone like Patrissimo come in and defend his creation with logic and, possibly, SCIENCE!

  5. zikzak says:

    I think it’s an interesting idea, and certainly worth a shot if some rich people want to put money into it, but I agree with zuzu’s point about the “nature of the state”.

    You can create a micro-nation in your own backyard, or in the middle of a downtown street, if you can get enough people to do it with you. Nations are about context, about people’s expectations about what they can and can’t do, the roles they play, and how they should act towards each other. They have very little to do with physical location.

    It’s possible that a radical change in location can inspire people to reconsider their expectations and roles, but it’s an awful lot of trouble to go to just to inspire people. Why not use the tools available to us here and now to create micro-nations here and now?

    Micro-nations are like fairies. Whether they’re artificial islands or inner-city ghettos, they only exist if we believe strongly enough in them. Which is to say they always exist, and are just waiting for our imaginations to realize them.

    As they say “Beneath the cobblestones…a beach!”

  6. patrissimo says:

    Fnarf – if you bothered to read our book, you would see that we mention SeaLand – and a few dozen other projects as well. It didn’t come up in the interview because I wasn’t asked about previous projects.

    I am friends with both Ryan Lackey and Sean Hastings (founders of HavenCo), and both have had some input into the process. We are well aware of the historical context for our project.

    Sadly, it’s much easier to call people dishonest than to actually research whether they are.

  7. zuzu says:

    Anyone claiming to have this “idea” without referencing the extremely well-known case of Sealand strikes me as dishonest from the get-go.

    Ryan Lackey has been extremely insightful and informative regarding everything that went wrong with the jurisdiction of Sealand for operating a business like HavenCo. Basically it was a case of, “six of one, half a dozen of the other”; you trade one master for another. Sure, Prince Roy allowed internet gambling and other uses for a datahaven, but he also wanted to meddle in the day-to-day operations (with an “efficiency expert”) like a socialist/fascist (he is a “Prince” after all).

    Though to me this Seasteading Institute sounds mostly like a rehash of the Republic of Minerva.

    I think the real lesson is that governments are a social construction and what’s called for isn’t a physical structure, but a shift in perception.

    Doesn’t anyone remember Conan the Barbarian?

    Conan: The riddle… of steel.

    Thulsa Doom: Yes! You know what it is, don’t you, boy? Shall I tell you? It’s the least I can do. Steel isn’t strong boy, flesh is stronger! Look around you. There, on the rocks; that beautiful girl. Come to me my child…

    [The acolyte plunges from the rock to her death.]

    Thulsa Doom: That is strength, boy! That is power! The strength and power of flesh! What is steel, compared to the hand that wields it? Look at the strength in your body, the desire in your heart, I gave you this! Such a waste. Contemplate this on the tree of woe. Crucify him!

    c.f. The Milgram Experiment

  8. claud9999 says:

    Why not just see if the Lakota Nation would be willing to host your data center (something in me says yes) and what rules they will impose…Much cheaper, inside the continental US, and sure to be much more fun to argue Native American sovereignty.

    Oh, you know that the Lakota Nation has declared independence from the US, no?

  9. Oren Beck says:

    Social repression is a desire that defines character. Those who desire to cause repression Vs those who seek to end repression. Ask yourself which leadership path has the most land mass under it’s dominion. And then look at the how and why of that grim fact. Repressive power structures tend to fear sanctuary granting places even if only “Data” is so harbored. IF one dared try creating a physical place for free men? The fate of such a venture seems preordained by history. Or is it?

    Perhaps some brave souls may indeed incarnate a “New Atlantis.” The truly astonishing thing to me is how many folks seem to fear true freedom more than they fear death. An independent created nation beholden to none would arouse such loathing from freedom haters as to assure it’s doom. Thus micro-nations either need a credible deterrent instrumentality or a change in our world order that eliminates all violence.

    Despite how much we all wish it were not so, There is some force that loathes the concept of humans not having restraints imposed externally. The grim thought that makes me sigh and despair for our species is how few humans actually can function absent some external structures of control. The saddest part of the thought is that most of our wannabe controllers are the ones least sane for the duty. But we can keep on trying and someone some day might get the micro-nation bit right.

  10. patrissimo says:

    I think forcefully kidnapping 14 year old girls to service a floating nation of perverts would pretty quickly bring a battleship knocking.

    Me too! And I’m glad – I would certainly hope that countries protect their citizens from being kidnapped. But what does that have to do with anything? The original question said nothing about kidnapping.

    As for the craziness of the dream, we’re at a very early stage, and your skepticism is quite reasonable. Hopefully as we move closer to reality, you will be willing to re-evaluate it.

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