The following is a guest submission by Charlie Deist, a former leader of Students for Liberty, UC Berkeley and current employee of The Seasteading Institute:
Seasteading Ambassador Matt Pritchard is not out to depress his fellow libertarian activists. However, he may have disappointed some students in the audience of Wednesday’s Webinar, “Building a New Frontier: How Ocean Cities Can Revolutionize Politics,” when he flatly proclaimed that traditional activism has failed, lamenting that libertarians spend a lot of time learning economics and arguing about philosophy, but rarely seem to make progress towards actually creating a free society. Channeling Patri Friedman’s theory of “folk activism,” Pritchard used the online lecture to argue that human brains evolved to cope with life in small bands, where one person could significantly impact political outcomes in the tribe by winning arguments and allies. That world is long gone; in 2012, when a single vote has virtually no chance of swaying an election, it has become rational for people to skip the debate and remain ignorant of politics.
Although the “gospel” of free-market economics has brought many to the cause of liberty in recent years, in large part through the high-profile campaign of Ron Paul, the low-hanging fruit have probably already been recruited to the movement. Educating the remaining people about the perils of interventionism is an uphill battle against rational ignorance. Let’s face it— statists are gonna state. But rather than give up and get depressed if Paul’s presidential bid soon comes to an end, libertarians should instead refocus their efforts on alternative methods of achieving liberty made possible by emerging technologies.
The Seasteading Institute is conducting research into one such set of technologies that aims to enable the establishment of permanent, autonomous communities on the ocean–seasteads–to experiment with freer, more innovative governments. If economics teaches us anything, it is that markets create the best products when consumers are allowed to choose freely between competing options. Pritchard cited Murray Rothbard in comparing competing systems of rules provided by governments to competing goods and services offered in markets, telling libertarians to stop arguing about politics and go shopping for better governance on the high seas.
However, before the platforms for new countries can be created, problems must solved in fields ranging from remote data transmission and alternative ocean energy, to international and maritime law and the development of viable business models. Right now, students with a background or interest in any of these areas can conduct practical research on near-term seasteading challenges, i.e. create the hardware that will eventually run the software of free societies. The Seasteading Institute has posted numerous broad areas of suggested research on its new volunteer webpage, along with a general guide to structuring projects and straightforward volunteer application.
Colonizing the oceans with archipelagos of free, floating cities is an audacious goal. It is also an urgent goal, and one that will require the help of dedicated problem-solvers and future seasteading pioneers and entrepreneurs. As Peter Thiel once said, describing the urgency of the vision of seasteading, “The fate of our world may depend on the effort of a single person who builds or propagates the machinery of freedom that makes the world safe for capitalism.” That person could be you.
If you’re curious about the philosophical underpinnings for competitive government, check out the blog Let A Thousand Nations Bloom, and learn why groups like The Seasteading Institute are working towards a Cambrian explosion in government. Also be sure to watch Pritchard’s other awesome videos on seasteading and more.