Autonomy and Sustainability
In short, yes. However, we do not expect this to happen for several decades. In the interim, seasteads will first operate using so-called “flags of convenience” from countries with open flag registries. Eventually seasteads will create alliances and negotiate treaties with other nations. When there are enough seasteaders—as well as mutual respect among the various seasteads and major world powers—seasteads are likely to seek recognition from the United Nations, and ultimately recognized sovereignty.
Seasteads will be autonomous mainly by setting their own rules. We don’t believe achieving material self-sufficiency is desirable or necessary. Diesel fuel is still the cheapest way to operate electrical power generators, but our team is investigating renewable energies such as wind, solar, wave, and OTEC as an alternative to fossil fuels. Importing meat will cost less than raising cattle on a seastead. Instead of producing everything themselves, we expect seasteads to specialize in industries where they have a competitive advantage (such as fish farming, or “aquaculture”) and trade for goods and services that can be produced more efficiently elsewhere.
Eventually a seastead could be designed which can be completely self-sustaining, but early seasteads will rely on trade for most of their goods. It will be more efficient to import foods and fuel than it will be using today’s technologies to try to farm and create one’s own power sources.
The first seasteads will operate under the same maritime laws as existing ships, which already have considerable legal autonomy. For example, Carnival Cruise Lines’ ships fly flags from Panama and the Bahamas, and Royal Caribbean International cruise lines fly flags from Liberia. Although these companies have major operations within the United States’ territorial waters, the U.S. does not interfere very much with their operations. This is due in part to the fact that cruise lines provide jobs and revenue to the U.S. economy. If the U.S. tried to interfere too much, cruise lines would likely move their operations elsewhere. Similarly, seasteads will trade extensively with land-based businesses. People who profit from trade with seasteads will encourage their government not to interfere and drive away the seastead’s business.
Since we are not initially seeking de jure sovereignty, early seasteads will not issue passports. This will not be a problem for most people, as most governments do not regulate or tax citizens living abroad. Americans are an exception. They get $95K in wages tax-free, while investment income, capital gains, and earned income above the $95K threshold is subject to US taxes. Americans may therefore wish to obtain a second citizenship, which will allow them to renounce their US citizenship (paying a one-time exit tax on unrealized capital gains over $600K). They can do this using the existing international market for citizenship, which costs $100K-$250K. So those earning less than $95K can retain their US citizenship without penalty, while those earning significantly more will be able to buy a new citizenship. For those earning a bit over the threshold, buying a new citizenship will be expensive and paying taxes may be the best option.
Overpopulation occurs when there are too many people struggling for too few resources. Seasteads allow us to use more of the space we have, and harvest more of the renewable energy resources. This means that while they add population, they also add capacity. Also, the main factors in world population are education, birth control, and economic development. Growth is decelerating and the UN expects world population to peak this century and then decline.
Posted on June 10, 2013 at 6:58 pm