December 30, 2013

Response to The Independent’s article “Super-yacht not big enough? Seasteads offer libertarians the vision of floating cities for the future.”

This is Executive Director Randolph Hencken’s letter to The Independent in response the article “Super-yacht not big enough? Seasteads offer libertarians the vision of floating cities for the future” which was published on December 26, 2013.

Dear Paul Peachey and Editors of The Independent:

Thank you for taking the time to explore and report about The Seasteading Institute. I enjoyed having the opportunity to speak with you and I think you did an excellent job in the meat of your article explaining our efforts with the Floating City Project.

However, I’m not clear how you construed from our interview that the first settlement was for very rich libertarians. When we spoke, I shared that seasteading is far bigger than just libertarianism. I told you that although our founders are from the libertarian persuasion, our movement is much larger than this and that our goal is to make seasteading a technology available to anyone who wishes to pursue a new form of governance. Perhaps it was your editor who chose the title to attract readers, but as a journalist isn’t it your responsibility to inform the reader objectively? Which, if you had done so in the text, the editor wouldn’t have chosen the misinformed headline.

Mr. Peachey, you and I discussed the pricing of the seastead concept at length. I articulated that we expect a small group of developers to finance the development and then sell or lease out real estate at prices similar to major metropolises. Purchasing a unit at 5,500 Euros a square meter is not only for “(very) wealthy” people. This is less than the average price of housing in London. At least one of your commenters was keen enough to see past your misrepresentation and put the facts together:

“To be clear, this is not outrageous money by the standards of the UK, or at least the London housing market. £104 million divided by 225 residents is £462,000 each.”

I also found it perplexing that you concluded we are all “right-wing American libertarian[s]” considering that I told you I never self-identified as a libertarian, and that I had in fact come up from a left of center background. I also shared with you that 45% of the 1,000+ people who expressed interest in moving to the seastead are from outside of the United States. How is it then that you described us as right-wing Americans from Silicon Valley?

When you asked me “who will clean the toilets?” you tipped your hand and demonstrated your agenda. I pointed out that your question was unfair and that you were suggesting our aspiring pioneers were incapable of cleaning their own toilets. You manipulated my quote out of context, and used language that I didn’t use – I did not say that we would pay people to do “dirty work”. Rather, I explained that like all villages there would be opportunities for people to come earn a living doing labor and maintenance work.

You told me that you had heard of seasteading via Cody Wilson, who has become well-known for developing the 3-D printed gun. When I asked you what Cody Wilson had to say about seasteading, you said he thought it was an interesting prospect on the horizon, but that he hadn’t supported it financially. Why then did you choose to use his gratuitous quote, “Get a group of libertarians on a boat and they won’t agree with each other… It’s in their nature to be anti-social”, while referring to him as an “ardent supporter” as a means of undermining seasteading and libertarians to conclude your article?

In my view you went out of your way to paint seasteaders as ultra wealthy libertarians who can’t do dirty work and can’t get along with one another. You chose not to write anything about our vision of enriching the poor by creating new spaces that welcomed immigrants where they could start fresh new lives; you didn’t write about how we hope experimenting with new systems of governance will help existing nations choose better policies after witnessing them tested on a seastead; you didn’t write anything about how we want to peacefully create new nations as a solution to the political bottleneck of nearly all established nations.

I’m sorry we weren’t given a fair shake to the readers of The Independent. It’s easy to imagine how many of your readers would be thrilled to stop arguing and start seasteading if they had only been provided an unbiased explanation of our goals.


Randolph Hencken, Executive Director

The Seasteading Institute