“Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow?”
Readers who have played Bioshock will remember Rapture, the underwater city built as a Randian utopia where its fictional residents sought freedom from society’s constraints against such things as using “plasmids” to modify one’s genetic structure in order to shoot hornets from one’s hands.
I have yet to see reports of plasmid research, but the idea of creating a new society in the ocean is reportedly a real one. The Lookout, via Details, reports Paypal founder Peter Thiel has given $1.25 million to “an initiative to create floating libertarian countries in international waters.”
Thiel has been a big backer of the Seasteading Institute, which seeks to build sovereign nations on oil rig-like platforms to occupy waters
beyond the reach of law-of-the-sea treaties. The idea is for these
countries to start from scratch–free from the laws, regulations, and
moral codes of any existing place. Details says the experiment would be
“a kind of floating petri dish for implementing policies that
libertarians, stymied by indifference at the voting booths, have been
unable to advance: no welfare, looser building codes, no minimum wage,
and few restrictions on weapons.”
Readers who have played Bioshock know that Rapture’s inhabitants ended up killing each other and challenging players’ notions on whether the concept of “free will” can exist, at least as it relates to the way video games can present players with the illusions of moral choice.
I can’t say whether any future seasteaders will face such grisly ends, but I will say that I’m not sure if I like the idea of looser building codes within an ocean-built city, but what do I know?
Here is the Seasteading Society’s perspective:
The vision of seasteading is an urgent one. We can already see that
existing political systems are straining to cope with the realities of
the 21st century. We need to create the next generation of
governance: banking systems to better handle the inevitable financial
crises, medical regulations that protect people without retarding
innovation, and democracies that ensure our representatives truly represent us.
Seasteaders believe that government shouldn’t be like the cell phone
carrier industry, with few choices and high customer-lock-in. Instead,
we envision a vibrant startup sector for government, with many small
groups experimenting with innovative ideas as they compete to serve
their citizens’ needs better.
Currently, it is very difficult to experiment with alternative social
systems on a small scale; countries are so enormous that it is hard for
an individual to make much difference. The world needs a place where
those who wish to experiment with building new societies can go to test
out their ideas. All land is already claimed — which makes the oceans
humanity’s next frontier.
You know what? Plasmids are not real. (I think). I want to see what happens. Go for it, Mr. Thiel.