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A Line In The Sand, Pointing To The Sea?

March 29, 2010

Arnold Kling writes:

I started out highly skeptical about it, but I have come around to where I think of the tea party movement as the last best hope for America. If they fail to elect a Congress and a President who truly are committed to shrinking deficits and shrinking the government, then those of us with a libertarian bent will be reduced to dreaming about seasteads or somesuch.

I like my title for this post so much that I don’t know that I can improve it by writing any more, but I’ll try :).

One of the things that I like about seasteading is that it offers hope for when times are darkest.  The worse the American health care system gets screwed up, the more customers for Salvare.  The more disempowered Americans feel, the more likely they’ll move to seasteads.  In other words, seasteading is a counter-cyclical political asset.  Global warming, sovereign defaults and zombie plagues will drive the world to our floating safe havens.

Our intuition is to look down on doomsayers, even when their predictions come true, due to suspicion that they may have helped make doom happen.  But if you understand Modern Portfolio Theory, you realize that the truth is just the opposite.  Counter-cyclical projects like seasteading reduce the world’s overall risk profile.  They are like insurance, kicking in just when they are needed the most.

Unfortunately, this can make it tough to find supporters, because most people prefer to put their efforts into attempting to salvage the current system rather than insuring against its failure.  And because things are going bad so slowly (there’s a lot of ruin in a nation!), people will keep redrawing the line of “this country has gone to hell”, finding new rearguard battles to fight, and finding a new hope, rather than turning to system-level fixes and credible alternatives.

That’s why it’s important to set people up years in advance, getting them to commit to lines in the sand.  Ask them: “How far is too far?”, “What would make you give up hope for America getting better?”, get them to think about the long-term arcs of history rather than simply whatever they are incensed about and hopeful for right now.  This helps ensure that people don’t fight a hopeless rearguard action forever, but instead begin looking for, creating, and supporting the alternatives to a system which is clearly doomed over the coming decades.

Arnold’s statement conveniently illustrates this.  If the Tea Partiers do manage to elect enough fiscal conservatives to avert the trainwreck, I will be very surprised but also very happy.  If not, well, apparently The Seasteading Institute will have won a new member.

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One Comment
  1. kurt9 permalink
    March 29, 2010 4:24 pm

    I’m the same way. I thought the tea party movement was flaky when I first heard about it. Sometimes I still think it is. If they can get real limited government candidates elected in November, I will be impressed.

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