February 12, 2009

A bunch of rich white guys? So were the founding fathers – and their success brought freedom to everyone.

_(This is new entry for our extended FAQ section in the book, written by TSI’s Director of Development Liz Lacy)_

Recently I saw a blog post from someone who had heard about seasteading and was turned off by the idea, describing it as “a bunch of rich, entitled white guys wanting even more freedom and entitlement.” Now, I can understand that response, in fact I’d be lying if I didn’t say that my first response to the idea was somewhat similar. Initially, I thought of it as a sort of “opt out” solution that would benefit a tiny group of people, while doing nothing for the rest of the world.

In my case at least, that initial response was simply a matter of a lack of serious consideration, and a lack of understanding of the mission of TSI. The Seasteading Institute does not propose to simply provide an opt out solution to the wealthy and dissatisfied, we plan to widen the range of options that exist to the world as a whole.

Will the first people to benefit from seasteading be the privileged few who can afford to invest in a strange new pioneering lifestyle? Almost certainly yes, but early adopters always pay for the right to be there at the beginning, and their adoption of a technology or new system of government makes it more accessible to the rest of the world.

There are, without a doubt, people who are interested in seasteading for purely selfish reasons. They want a better, freer life for themselves and they don’t have much concern for the rest of society. I suspect however, that these people are in the minority, because there are easier, more immediate ways for an individual to grab freedom for themselves. Seasteading isn’t about grabbing greater individual freedom, it’s about providing an opportunity for a freer society.

One can argue that the founding fathers of the United States were a bunch of entitled white guys who wanted more freedom and entitlement, and there is certainly some truth to that, but we know that they wanted more than just lower taxes for their poker buddies. How do we know that? Simple.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

What they were holding as self-evident was an idea sufficiently radical that I suspect there was a certain amount of irony in the way the framers chose to phrase it. Yes, they were wealthy and entitled, and yes they were interested in their own freedoms, but that didn’t prevent them from being interested in freedom for everyone, and they created something new that reshaped not only their lives and the lives of the people who joined them, but also the face of politics and ethics around the world.

What will be the self-evident truths of seasteading? Will the crazy, far-fetched idea that it should be easy to form your own government be as obvious in a few centuries as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are today? These are not questions that spring from our entitlement or our self-interest, but from our passion to change the world. We have looked at the governments of the world and found that there are questions left unanswered, problems that linger unsolved. Seasteading is not about opting out and ignoring those problems, it is about tackling those tough ethical questions head on and fighting until the answers are simply, self-evident.