Response to Seasteading Coverage on NPR’s All Things Considered

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NPR’s All Things Considered is the latest prominent news show to take an interest in seasteading. Earlier today, the program aired a six-minute segment titled, “Don’t like the government? Make your own, on international waters“; we are grateful to the segment’s producer, Laura Sydell, for her more than year-long effort to put the story together. Overall, Sydell did a good job presenting our mission to NPR’s listeners. At the same time, we wish to address a few points where the story fell short.

Our biggest grievance was the segment’s failure to recognize seasteading as a movement to enable multiple competing visions of governance. Professor Holly Folk, the expert featured to provide a counter-argument to seasteading, demonstrated her incomplete understanding of our strategy by focusing on potential problems with starting a new libertarian intentional community. She alleges a desire by seasteaders to “game the global system,” and claims libertarians have “a worldview that’s going to be attractive to people who are in some ways probably not hard-wired to behave and take orders very well.” The segment contains no evidence for the first allegation. Folk’s second claim might have some validity, but only if we were advocating a single community based on a contrarian philosophy.

Another disappointment was the labeling of our supporters as “rich techies,” a framing which hardly does justice to the diverse composition of our movement. The defining feature of our local meetup attendees has always been passion for alternatives to the governing status quo, and dedication to enabling a broad range of new communities experimenting with innovative solutions. Being so close to Silicon Valley, many of our local supporters are naturally interested in harnessing recent technological progress to advance humanity in other realms, such as the rules for organizing into peaceful and prosperous societies.

Additionally, the references to profits as the motivation behind our efforts are overdone. Yes, the Institute explores ideas for making seasteads economically sustainable, but profits merely exist to signal which seasteads are meeting the demands of citizens and customers, and to encourage innovation. Seastead communities will not be “built around profits” any more than existing communities on land, which of course depend on the existence of economic opportunity to support their citizens.

As diverse as our support is, it continues to frustrate us when the media pigeonholes the concept of seasteading as exclusively libertarian. Fortunately, history will not remember us for a particular ideology, but instead for our pioneering of a movement to improve all of humanity’s relationship to its governments, and to the planet. We are hopeful our true vision will still reach many of NPR’s listeners, and we appreciate the opportunity to be showcased to their audience.

13 comments

  1. M Sorrick 10:23 pm

    I heard the segment today on NPR, and it prompted me to come to your website to learn more. I did not think that the “taste” I heard today represented the entire “pie.”

    I thought it was a really interesting piece, and did not find it to be derogatory to the work you are doing!

  2. Lisa Tansey 10:35 pm

    Hey there Seasteaders,

    As a shortcut to getting started, what about finding a chunk of land just under the surface of the sea and building on it?

    Best success to you in your endeavors! I hope to join some better governed land someday….presuming I can’t make the changes I want happen in my current lovely country.

    -Lisa

  3. Kelly Kay 5:21 am

    In your FAQ and on NPR your organization states the following

    “but others will be desperately poor people searching for opportunities and an escape from government oppression.”

    My question to your organization on NPR and on here, how will that happen? How could a desperately poor person make to your city and once there what kind of housing would be available to them? What happens if they become ill?

  4. Penne 5:52 am

    I had never heard of Seasteading before yesterday’s NPR story, so I am grateful for the introduction. However, as a listener, I thought Professor Folk’s comments were very trivial compared to the overall mission you’re trying to achieve. It’s the standard NPR flack, though – no one is as smart as them, everyone is just a little silly. Please know that at least one person listening picked up on their angle, overlooked it and made a note to learn more. Very interested in what you’re doing! Thanks.

  5. Mea 6:45 am

    i was excited to hear a bit of this on the radio the other day. even with all the forced errors i feel at least there is exposure. and yes i am libertarian by default. however i am feeling more like; libertarian is the least worst choice. i am not comfortable with libertarianism totally as its scope is limited and problematic, and i feel as a party would be subject to the same forces the major parties would be. i selected the party initially to foil arguements from an ultra liberal boss that hated republicans.

    i see greek city states as the closest thing to what is envisioned by seasteaders. and history knows what sort of huge accomplishments were engendered there thousands of years ago. athens as a sea oriented state would seem to embody the closest ideal. to improve on the athenic ideal i suppose a more structured fluidity might be appropriate.

    as for depending on the coast guard, i think seasteaders feel that existence in spite of the coast guard would be appropriate. its ususally landlubbers that mostly need those services. a year or two at sea and most seasteads would come to realize contingencies.

    and as for being a techie. i have been i suppose. but never rich. and i can do almost anything and have… to survive in remote iowa. so that label fits loosely at best. i think seasteaders are not thinking much about profit, but relief from dominance by a huge beaurocracy and a voting system that favors a slow evolution. while there is some safety in large government from other large governments, that is not inherit in the system.

    i do think there is one thing seasteaders might have in common however. intelligence. other than that i don’t see much in common.

  6. TallDave 10:04 am

    Indeed. My 2112 history book records that several communist seasteads were founded over the decades, all of which can still be toured at the bottom of the ocean.

  7. pau 10:42 am

    @ Lisa Tansey,
    It is my understanding that most of the “land just under the surface of the sea” is already claimed by existing governments. If you know of any land that isn’t please let us know!

    @ Kelly Kay,
    That really depends on the way the seasteaders choose to organize things. A seastead organized like our existing countries may turn them away. A seastead organized on libertarian principles would only let them stay of some people (or at least 1 person) chose to house them, at least temporarily. A seastead organized on communist principles might welcome them with open arms.

    As for how they get there…well, poor people find a way to move between countries now. I don’t think that will change. That said, there will be some incentive for entrepreneurs to bring them. In this case the poor people will have jobs when they arrive. Why build a factory in some other country to find cheap labour when you can bring the cheap labour to you? That happened in the past before strict immigration rules and minimum wage laws (with mixed results).

  8. Naomi Most 11:36 am

    > ” it continues to frustrate us when the media pigeonholes the concept of seasteading as exclusively libertarian”

    Well, then it wouldn’t hurt TSI to invite some non-libertarian thinkers and theorists to participate in a Seasteading Conference, and to reach out to non-libertarian communities.

    This has been the major “misrepresentation” of seasteading since its inception. Perhaps the common element at work here isn’t the media.

  9. Avatar of randolph
    randolph 4:26 pm

    @Naomi, thanks for the insight. At the 2012 seasteading conference we hardly put any focus on the political theory side of seasteading, and focused much more on the practical side of getting businesses in the water sooner than later. Seasteading may have been a libertarian oriented movement when first conceived, but I know that it has grown beyond that. In fact, while I am sympathetic to libertarian principles, I do not self-identify as a libertarian.

  10. Andrew 9:25 pm

    You definitely need to reach out more. To anyone who looks at the folks involved in seasteading, it looks like a rich techie libertarian project. Make it appealing to anyone–even bleeding-heart liberals who love government but want to make their own.

  11. Avatar of shredder7753
    shredder7753 5:44 am

    Andrew, Im a left-leaning moderate who loves the seasteading movement. I have no problem going toe-to-toe with any fox news believing underminer!

  12. spark 9:32 am

    This is the next frontier. This is where I want to go next.
    I have a sailboat. I am learning to sail. I will learn scuba diving too and other skills, like growing my own food airoponic way.
    I am not afraid to get sick and die on land nor on ocean.
    I know basic survival techniques and medical care. And there is more to learn.

    Is there anything else to do?

  13. spark 7:28 pm

    Hi;

    The comments:
    “game the global system” – that is the game, all corporations are trying to do that, why is that a sin for seasteaders? If seasteaders stay at land they would work for corporations that play the global system. And why would that be better?

    “not hard-wired to behave and take orders very well”
    On a ship, at high sees, there are going to be orders.
    Just the order need to be right. By the way I am one of those who “voted with my feet” beyond the iron, curtain in 1984, I was free to choose. I ran zig-zags.
    Ask a North Korean how it feels to “take orders well”.
    Did George Washington take orders well from King George?
    Why should a normal, free American “take orders well”? And from who?
    “rich techies,” you spot it, you got it. This bothers some people because they are unable to become one. I am not a “rich techie” and “rich techies,” do not bother me. I live in peace with them.
    “built around profits” All business transactions should be built around profits, where both side profits, if both are free to choose. All corporations are about profits. This is almost a myth. So called “non-profit” corporations use products or services from other corporations that do make profits. That way a non-profit organization is making profit for someone else. Why is that more noble?
    Profit is not necessary equal of exploitation, provided “free to choose”.

    My expressions may be harsh, but “behave and take orders well”, ohhh, neither at land nor at sea.
    This was the skipper talking. Over and out.

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