Seasteading startup plans to treat micronations as a viable business

Paul Raven @ 29-01-2009

This Wired piece on the Seasteading Institute doesn’t even attempt to conceal its withering contempt for the possibility of success, and pulls out a big list of previous failed experiments in ocean-borne libertarian havens to support its position. You can’t blame them, really – a lot of people have had a lot of crazy ideas about micronations in the past, and they’ve rarely worked out well.

Technologically, there’s no problem with the Seasteading Institute‘s plan; indeed, what sets them aside from the previous attempts is the input of engineers as well as political visionaries, and the current design [see image below, credit Kate Francis, borrowed from linked article] looks eminently practical.

platform plan from Seasteading Institute

The stumbling block, as the article points out, is political. No nation-state worth its reputation is going to let a cluster of platforms assemble in its offshore waters for the purpose of circumventing legal restrictions, after all.

But then the nation-state is a much shakier concept than it was, and the corporation a much stronger one. And there are a number of countries which don’t have the resources or (in some cases) the will to deal with something like this. Hell, some countries might even actively encourage it; GDP is GDP, after all.

Now factor in projected sea level rises producing a population retraction from many low-lying coastal areas, climate change wrecking land-based agriculture, and the resulting political instability weakening nation-states further still… and maybe the Seasteaders aren’t so much crazy as a little ahead of their time.