Tuesday, 8 March 2011


There is a great new article in latest issue of The Freeman (March 2011, Volume: 61, Issue: 2) entitled Seasteading: Striking at the Root of Bad Government by Patri Friedman and Brad Taylor. Brad in a UC grad in pols, although his masters thesis was co-supervised by Eric Crampon, so he has some redeeming features!!! Brad is also is a research associate at The Seasteading Institute. He blogs on seasteading and competitive government at Let a Thousand Nations Bloom and is writing a book on seasteading with Patri Friedman and Daniel Holt.

Friedman and Taylor open their article by saying,
Libertarians have done a wonderful job of pointing out the inefficiency and cruelty of government and identifying some of the causes. We know that current policies are bad; we know that such policies are the inevitable outcome of unrestrained democracy; and we even have some ideas about what would work better. The most fundamental problem with government and the most promising form of activism have been largely ignored, though. If we want liberty in our lifetimes, we need to think more carefully about why we have bad government and how best to improve things.

To think about this question, we need to avoid being either too romantic or too cynical about governance. While readers of this publication are at no risk of being romantic about government, there is a chance of excessive cynicism. Government currently works very poorly, but this doesn’t need to be so. Competition would force providers of governance to offer high-quality rules and public services at a reasonable price, unleashing institutional innovation and making the world a much better place.

So far, most libertarians have been hacking at branches, while a few come tantalizingly close to striking at the root. We’re going to try to convince you that the root at which we should be striking is a tangled mess of barriers to entry and costs of switching in the governance market. The ax we should be using is the technology to settle the ocean.
Having people being able to move between governments has many advantages. For start it increases competition between goverments:
As it happens, the ocean has another important benefit. Water makes it easy to shift large objects around cheaply. This is what allowed the global shipping industry to prosper, and it could also help make government more competitive. We normally think of buildings as being tied to land, and this has serious implications for competition. Government can do a lot of harm before it becomes worthwhile for someone to move away. The fluidity of the ocean, in contrast, allows people to vote with their house by sailing to a neighboring jurisdiction. If a seasteading government announces an unpopular policy, it could find that it rules over nothing but empty waves. This would allow bad governments to die without bloodshed and force governors to think about what people really want.
Friedman and Taylor end by saying,
While the challenges and uncertainties in settling the ocean are large, there are only a few core problems and none are insurmountable. To make seasteading a reality we need to take a pragmatic, incremental, and business-focused approach. Rather than creating a multibillion-dollar vessel straight away without any clear way to finance it, we encourage seasteading entrepreneurs to think carefully about the business case for particular industries for which seasteading has a comparative advantage. Many industries are overregulated, and a seastead off the coast of a major U.S. city offering medical treatments not yet approved by the FDA, for example, would be a very lucrative proposition.

We know it is possible to live on the ocean; we know there are ways to make money there, and our mission is to drive down the costs of seasteading to transform the ocean from potential frontier into real frontier and eventually into just another option with some serious advantages. This will lead to experimentation and innovation in governance and force existing States to improve or wither away for a lack of residents. The challenges are large but the potential payoffs are much, much larger. By transforming the political problem of bad governance into a hard but achievable technological problem, which humans have a knack for solving, we make success possible.
Now go read the stuff between the beginning and the end, its well worthwhile.

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