Governing Seasteads: An Outline of the Options – by Brad Taylor

TSI has published its first research paper on seastead governance. Written by economics intern and Thousand Nations author Brad Taylor, the paper covers a range of topics from policy models to structures of governance. From the paper’s introduction:

Seasteading is the practice of creating politically autonomous communities on the ocean – homesteading the high seas. The goal of seasteading is to allow experimentation and innovation in political, economic, and social systems (P. Friedman & Gramlich, 2009). Seasteading changes the ecosystem from which government emerges; the metarules (structure) and rules (policy) chosen by seasteads will be diverse and dependent on the preferences of individuals. In a sense, attempting to anticipate concrete rules is pointless and against the spirit of seasteading, since we will only learn what works through trial and error. There are, however, lessons which can be learned from how current and past governance systems and rule-sets have worked out in practice. In the early days of seasteading, there will be few ventures and thus less opportunity for the right solutions to float to the top. Innovation needs to start from somewhere, and having some idea of what will and will not work from the outset will be extremely valuable.

This document will lay out the governance decisions seasteading polities will have to make, at both the structural – ownership, collective choice, constitutional constraint, monocentricity – and policy – commercial law, internal dispute resolution – levels. These options will entail tradeoffs; the goal of this document is not to recommend any organizational structure over others, but to make those tradeoffs explicit and to flag the conditions under which particular forms of governance will be particularly desirable or undesirable.

There are two crucial elements of governance:

  • 1. The procedures for making decisions about what government will do (the structural level)
  • 2. The outcomes of those decisions (the policy level)

After outlining the criteria for good governance and reviewing the experience of governance on land, this document will lay out the general considerations relevant to each of these levels. Since seasteading polities will be created from scratch, the initial content of the policy level will often be decided differently from how decisions will be made later. For example, a marine real-estate developer might create by dictatorial fiat a set of rules which can later be altered or replaced through democratic mechanisms.

The article is available at our research page or can be downloaded directly here.


1 thought on “Governing Seasteads: An Outline of the Options – by Brad Taylor”

  1. I haven’t had time to read it all yet, but this was a very good article. Thanks for the broad summary of the economic and political issues; it helps to avoid rehashing things that have already been discussed at length.

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