Why Landlubbers Should Support Seasteading
At the TSI conference, Sean Hastings, founder of HavenCo, gave a fantastic talk about his experiences starting a data-haven on the offshore platform micronation of Sealand. One of the lessons he learned was just how difficult and dangerous living on the sea is. He often slept in a room next to one which housed a power generator; if the generator caught fire, it meant his probable death. A misstep during late night trip to the bathroom in the dark might mean falling down a long hatch and drowning. In the end, he lost a part of his idealism for self-sufficiency and accepted the fact that the nanny state would be a part of life.
I suspect that many people who are intrigued by the idea of seasteading feel the same way. The political incentives are great–competition between governments and all that–but they simply cannot picture themselves living on a seastead. They are risk averse, tempermentally conservative people who don’t want to give up their land-based creature comforts. Should they dismiss seasteading because they can’t picture themselves casting off one day? Should they turn their attention back to traditional forms of activism? No. A world with seasteading benefits everyone, and a world with a thousand nations is better for everyone, whether they live on a floating nation or terra firma.
Joe Lonsdale gave a talk about wealth creation on the ocean containing a graph demonstrating the relative costs of living on land vs the ocean. The x-axis was time; the y-axis was taxation. One line on the graph, the “government tax”, was rising steadily. Given the current economic state, people will likely embrace more government interventions, and given the deficits governments are accruing, taxes will have to be raised. The other line on the graph, the “ocean tax”, was falling steadily. Right now, the costs of living on the harsh environment of the ocean are high. As seastead production technology becomes cheaper, engineering knowledge grows, and economies of scale emerge, this “ocean tax” will continue to fall. (This graph will become clear once the videos are released.)
Right now, the ocean tax is greater than the government tax, but as the trends continue, there will come a time when the lines cross and living on the ocean will be cheaper than living on land. Lonsdale went a step further in arguing that we shouldn’t be so disheartened about enlarging government because one side-effect is hastening the time at which the lines cross.
At the right side of the graph, i.e., in the far future, the government tax which had thus far been increasing begins to decrease. As seasteading becomes a viable option for sovereignty, jurisdictional arbitrage, and discovery of optimal rules, land-based governments will have to adapt and change their policies or lose their citizens. In the far future, everyone wins, including those of us who get seasick in a pedalo. And that’s why landlubbers should support seasteading.