May 11, 2008

We will not live in a wretched hive of scum and villainy

In the forums, tannerpittman asks whether seastead communities would attract undesirable elements like organized crime, or be unpleasant to live in because of all the vice shops:

Admittedly, most libertarians would say that we prefer to live in a society where such activities are permitted than one in which government is powerful enough to stop them (with the exception of the kitten baseball thing – I think I’d convene a citizens’ militia to stop that.)

But most would also probably prefer not to live in a society where every street in every neighborhood is lined with shops pedlling vice – like the Las Vegas strip but much, much smuttier.

Eelco gave an excellent response, which included (emphasis added):

The way i see this: Say you have a one-family seastead, which is your property in the same sense that a house is typically regarded. It is connected to a bunch of seasteads of people that you share a lot of values and ideals with, and feel like associating with, voluntarily. Probably there wil be some ‘public’ property within this community, where people get together to drink coffee and discuss their local politics. But this property will be equally ‘public’ to anyone not in this community as my house is: you dont get in without being let in.

Similarly, these small ‘tribes’ would probably feel like floating around near similar minded tribes, whom are perhaps not such close friends that you feel a need to be able to walk to their door, but whom you still would like to associate with on some level…The point being: society will be what you choose it to be. You might run into drug tourists in the wall-mart, but they probably will take some effort in making and enforcing rules that will make different kinds of people get along in their shop (probably to the detriment of the druggies).

The bolded section gets it exactly right.  Tanner’s worry includes an embedded assumption, commonly made and easy to miss because it’s correct about life on land – that you don’t get to choose and re-choose your neighbors and neighborhood.  But mobile, modular seasteads are a whole different situation.  The only way we’ll have "a society where every street in every neighborhood is lined with shops pedlling vice" is if that’s what people want.  But it’s not what I want , and I doubt it’s what y’all want either.

What I want is to live in a small, safe residential community with other people I like, trust, and respect.  And as long as I can find such a group, that’s what I’ll get.  It may be true that seasteads will disproportionately attract vice (I hope so – I like vice!), but so what?  In the new world we are creating, society and neighborhoods will be what we choose them to be.