Seasteading startup plans to treat micronations as a viable business

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.

4 thoughts on “Seasteading startup plans to treat micronations as a viable business”

  1. Another possible factor to bear in mind is that, thanks to the global recession and many Western governments finding themselves desperate for cash, there’s a lot less tolerance for offshore tax havens (which I assume is at least a part of this scheme, given that funding for these habitats would have to come from somewhere). They’re receiving a lot of very close attention right now as governments scrabble to reclaim tax revenue, and there are some of the large fraud and tax evasion investigations in history currently underway.

    Also, oh god, the man’s the grandson of Milton bloody Friedman…

    Still, in purely engineering terms it’s an interesting concept, even if I find the libertarian political ideas underpinning it a little, ah, blue sky.

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