Posted at 1:56 PM on May 19, 2008
by Sanden Totten
When it comes to choosing toothpaste, the options are vast. When it comes to choosing a government . . . good luck shopping around.
But that's where the Seastead Institute comes in. It's a plan to create autonomus mini-governments that exist on man-made islands. Think of it like a floating lab for testing new ways of organizing a society. Anarchists, libertarians or fundamentalists could buy one of these "Seasteads" and live their way of life without interruption from some stodgy old government.
In any other day and age, this would be some crackpot idea destined to sink, not swim. And maybe it is a crackpot idea . . . but it's now a crackpot idea with $500,000 behind it. Peter Thiel, of PayPal fame and glory recently gave the project's founders some money to get started. They are hoping to drop one of the prototype islands into the San Francisco bay by 2010.
Now, there's certainly some benefit to this plan. Innovation in government is very slow and often bloody. These Seasteads could speed that process up (minus the blood, hopefully). Plus, if California does slide into the ocean, the state's population would have somewhere to move to.
But I remain skeptical. I have worked at a few collectively run businesses before. Sure everyone has equal input and any form of organization is welcome . . . but the fact that we would have long labored discussions just to decide what kind of cleaning supplies to buy, make me wonder if everyday people have the stamina it would take to develop a society from scratch. Presumably these Seasteaders will have hobbies, families and jobs to keep them busy . . . unless of course, Peter Theil plans to subsidies their living expenses as well.
Addendum: A few folks have asked me why the Seasteaders would put the first base in the San Francisco Bay when the Bay is clearly not international waters. The Wired article linked to above call this first one a "prototype", which I guess means it's just for testing purposes. To create an actual floating nation they will probably have to go much farther out to sea.