May 15, 2008

Reagan’s Shining Cities on the High Seas

(A guest post from Joe Lonsdale, Chairman of the Board here at TSI)

At first glance, it might appear that an American working to create new systems of government on the high seas is not very pro-America.  How could working to create new, separate systems of government, external to our national sovereignty, be a loyal act?  We’re a diverse community – not every seasteader loves America or his or her home country, and many might be eager to escape.  Others will come looking for profit or adventure.  But in fact, many of us who are passionate about the cause of Seasteading are patriots, proud to serve and die for our country.

More than ever before, America is a very centralized system, and it’s not easy to experiment with radical new solutions.  Our goal is to build microcosms of success that will act as shining examples to be emulated on a grander scale.  Radical new ideas can be tested, and some will succeed, while others fail – but the lessons will not be lost.  Instead of just arguing back and forth about which way is right, let’s take action – let’s prove what works with thousands or tens of thousands of people in order to establish precedents to be followed by millions or tens of millions.

One lesson from America’s past success is that the entrepreneur is vital, playing the role of passionately convincing others to help bring to life a vision of a way that the world could be better.  Their creative trial and error process is the spring from which new ideas and processes flow forth to nourish innovation in the world.  Through the imitation of success, their accomplishments spiral upwards and advance the human cause.  We are working to bring this same spirit of entrepreneurship to the public sector.

Reagan loved to refer to John Winthrop’s “shining city upon a hill”, America as imagined by the early pilgrim, standing strong and proud as an example to the world.  From his farewell address:

I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it and see it still.

And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure, and happier than it was eight years ago. But more than that; after 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.

Reagan’s vision was compelling enough that America chose to put his policies into play.  We can disagree about the result, but the principal is solid.  If you make something truly great, it will be noticed and it will make a difference.  And no matter how great our country is today – and in many ways it’s a wonderful place – the ability exists to make it so much greater.

Later in the address, Reagan reflects on what were perceived as risky policies in the early 80’s and the economic recovery that followed, which led to many smaller-government reforms being emulated all around the world.  He noted that:

Once you begin a great movement, there’s no telling where it will end. We meant to change a nation, and instead, we changed a world.

We aren’t actively campaigning to make changes in America – and many of us disagree about what changes need to be made.  But our cause is to bring the American spirit of innovation to the public sector.

In a world of accelerating prosperity and innovation, and accelerating awareness of our environment and those in need around us, the possibilities are endless.  We’re a community that has hundreds of ideas about how communities and the public sector could work better and could make all of our lives richer.  Rather than imposing our ideas on others, we’ll create an outlet where this innovation can thrive in peace.  Our goal is to build shining cities upon the high seas that stand as proud examples of community and ingenuity to all.

And if we succeed, there’s no telling where it will end.