Vision, Mission, and Goals
Over thirty million people a year already visit floating cities in the form of cruise ships. These ships provide water, food, power, service staff and safety from the waves at a cost as low as $60 per night. There are also 1,500 oil and gas platforms in US waters alone. So, while it is easy to imagine disaster scenarios for a floating city, floating cities are not actually a new engineering concept. Spending in related industries totals more than $150 billion per year.
None of this is meant to equate seasteads with cruise ships or oil platforms. We have different goals dictating different designs that create new challenges. However, the basic problems have been solved for a long time. Our task is to adapt existing technology to a much more exciting goal than vacationing or extracting resources: permanently settling the ocean. The biggest uncertainties do not lie in questions about whether safe, comfortable seasteads can be built, but whether they can be built at a low enough cost to attract permanent residents.
One of the virtues of seasteading is that it is an incremental, bottom-up, doing-instead-of-talking movement. We do not need to win any elections, we just need to find a core group of committed pioneers—people who may not be sure that seasteading will work either, but believe that it is worth a try. These kinds of people would rather convince through demonstration than through lengthy argument. If these individuals succeed, that is our answer. If they fail, we will either modify our approach or do something else. No matter what, we will all learn something.
Our goal is to enable experimentation with startup sovereign governments. Since there is no land unclaimed by existing governments, seasteading is the only realistic method for creating new nations. Even unoccupied islands are the territory of various countries’ Exclusive Economic Zones, in which countries exercise valuable rights over fishing and mineral resources.
It is extremely difficult and costly to significantly impact political outcomes. Brand new political systems are generally the result of violent revolutions or coups, which are undesirable for obvious reasons. Alternatively, we are employing peaceful methods of creating new structures of governance, and are making it easier to test out new socio-economic systems by enabling people to “vote with their boats.”
We believe that greater competition among seastead-based governments will actually serve to reform existing political systems over time. Competition from new nations will incentivize old nations to adapt and evolve—or lose out to these new nations. Also, our ecosystem of experimental societies will provide new data about better (or worse) ways to organize a society. Right now, government is like a company with no R&D department and very little competition. Seasteads will be the world’s first political R&D department—a kind of incubator for governments.
The Seasteading Institute wishes to enable the creation of ocean city-states in order to advance humanity through innovative startup governments. We believe that competition in government will lead to better government for the whole planet. Governments are ultimately the stewards of institutions, which are more or less the “rules of the game.” Looking around the world, it is easy to see that some countries have better rules than others. Good or bad, however, rules can become entrenched in the absence of competition from new market entrants. Currently no new governments can peacefully enter the “governance market,” but with seasteading, experimentation with new rules is possible.
Our legal team has not found any examples or precedent that would lead us to believe that international law will pose a significant threat to permanent ocean-city states.
No. While it is true that both founders of The Seasteading Institute have libertarian beliefs, our vision is open to anyone who desires to improve government through experimentation. The Seasteading Institute acts as an umbrella organization advocating on behalf of seasteading as a whole, not just one political disposition. We are eager to see seasteads experiment with a wide variety of political ideas in order to find out which are most desirable to their residents. As long as residents have the freedom to leave a seastead, we are not opposed to any political doctrines people on seasteads attempt to implement.
The seasteading community is diverse and will only become broader over time. We don’t believe that wealth accumulation is the primary motive for seasteading, although we do recognize that profitable industries will be a key ingredient to the success of seasteading. People who venture to seasteads will do so for a variety of reasons. Some may do so to achieve a lower tax burden, but others will be desperately poor people searching for opportunities and an escape from government oppression. Still others will be entrepreneurs with valuable ideas.
Most of our libertarian supporters do not expect to create a perfect libertarian paradise where they can do whatever they want without any interference. They are simply looking for a significant improvement over the territorial status quo. To see how large a gain this might be, try to imagine how a libertarian might handpick the best available policies from among existing states to create a new, single set of institutions.
For example, there are countries in Europe (Switzerland, The Netherlands and Portugal) with relatively more social freedom. There are economic havens (Luxembourg, Bahamas) with relatively high economic freedom. None are perfect from a libertarian perspective. The socially free countries tend to be left-leaning states with higher taxes. The tax havens tend to be more right-wing and socially restrictive. Libertarians feel the combination of these two types of freedoms is worth striving for, even if either is restricted to the maximum level currently tolerated by any of the powers that be. Such a government would be far more libertarian than any currently in existence without pushing the legal envelope or creating any radically new policies.
There are certainly some limitations on what seasteads can do. Actions seen as a serious threat to the security of other nations ought not be tolerated aboard seasteads, such as letting terrorists launder money, exporting drugs to countries where they are illegal, or researching or building weapons of mass destruction, particularly with nuclear capabilities.
Won’t the first seastead that conducts activity that results in interference from other nations ruin it for all seasteads?
We say this a lot, but it’s worth repeating: There is no “correct” way to do seasteading. Every subgroup is welcome to try different rules. Some rules will annoy existing countries enough that they will do something about it. Others will not. There may be severe consequences to certain individuals, which is unfortunate, but the system as a whole can adapt and move on.
While it is worth discussing how much freedom we can reasonably expect to get, we do not all have to make the same choices about how much risk of interference to run. The movement will not live or die based on whether any one seastead gets invaded. This is a decentralized movement, which makes it robust, nimble and inherently adaptable.
Ideally, seasteads will be mobile and modular—meaning that they can float on the ocean and join together and separate from one another. This is a key factor in enabling people to vote for governments by entry and exit (dynamic geography). That is, if people are happy with the governing body of a seastead conglomerate then they will stay and attract other seasteaders. If they are unhappy with their government, they will float their module to another seastead. However, we do not want to presume too much, and stationary seasteads may have benefits as well.
The Seasteading Institute does not plan on building a seastead itself. Instead, our purpose is to facilitate the creation of seasteads through research and movement building. As a nonprofit organization, The Seasteading Institute is not best suited to build or operate a seastead. The Institute is a resource to assist entrepreneurs and commercial entities in developing successful seasteads that achieve their particular commercial interests.
In all likelihood, the first seasteads will actually be retrofitted ships.
Our longer term vision requires larger, less mobile designs. Ultimately boats go places, while seasteads are living spaces. Boats are more suited to a nomadic lifestyle, whereas our designs will hopefully evolve into cities.
Posted on June 10, 2013 at 6:58 pm