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    Homesteading was so 19th Century

    Homesteading was so 19th Century

    A few days ago, I saw the results from the Seasteading Institute’s business plan contest. Many of you are probably asking what Seasteading is and why it has an institute. Simply put, The Seasteading Institute (TSI) led by Patri Friedman (the grandson of Milton), is a libertarian movement for “creating permanent dwellings on the ocean – homesteading the high seas. A seastead is a structure meant for permanent occupation on the ocean.” As their website explains, “the world needs a new frontier, a place where those who wish to experiment with building new societies can go to test out their ideas. Unfortunately, all land is already claimed. Enabling the ocean to be the next frontier, allows for startup societies to bring experimentation and innovation to political, legal, and social systems.” In other words, a true experiment in societal public choice will be made possible on the ocean. The idea sounds far off, but the group cites innovations like modern cruise ships as indication that living off the high seas is quite possible with enough planning and infrastructure. They also believe in incremental approach to every area of seasteading or “breaking [their] ambitious visions down into small steps, and taking things one step at a time.” Patri and his team are constantly solving potential problems, finding funding, and devoting time to researching sustainable business models that can survive on the ocean. Though they can cite donors like Peter Thiel, the man behind PayPal, TSI is also intent on creating a substantive group of people interested in seasteading through social events in multiple cities. Regardless of its plausibility, I like the sentiment that Seasteading strives for – competitive, as opposed to omnipotent, government.

    As for the contest, I think there were some fascinating, creative companies that could be established on the ocean. Does anyone else follow TSI? I’d like to hear your thoughts.


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    There's a society called the Living Universe Foundation that advocates seasteading as a precursor to space colonization. The main book that defines the movement, while not so much into the political aspects, details quite a bit of the technology that would be required to live on the ocean long-term. (Book is The Millennial Project, in case anyone cares.) Of course, if it ever became really successful, it would attract the attention of unpleasant people with guns, but that's a problem that can probably be left until later.

    I've never heard of this but my first take on this is that it won't happen. It's not that I don't believe that people can't conceive of workable models and develop the required technology they most certainly can. I just don't believe that land-based governments will allow new societies to develop offshore.

    It's the legal issues that I see as the insurmountable problem. Those with navies and armies will insist on deciding who gets to do what and where while taxing profits. The law of the sea is generally defined as that which can be enforced. In other words, dem wit da guns make da rules.

    I've been a big fan of TSI for a long time. They have a great blog at

    Kathleen, I'm liking you more every day!

    Strunked! Shorely you jest.

    This whole thing smacks of social engineering and has a faint whiff of Malthusian doctrine. "all land is already claimed." is a slightly bizarre statement to make.

    @JohnJ, Glad to hear it! I know, I love Michael Strong's writing at athousandnations!

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