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Governing Seasteads

November 9, 2010

The Seasteading Institute has just published my paper on governance mechanisms for seasteads. As I point out in the paper, trying to predict what will work ahead of time is not what letting a thousand nations bloom is all about. We do, however, need to start from somewhere and the experience of customary law, private communities, and corporate governance have a lot to teach us. From the conclusion:

Perhaps the single most important point we should take from these case studies, though, is that humans will find ways of solving their problems when low-cost experimentation is possible. In some sense, governance is a hard problem: we simply cannot foresee all the problems ahead of time and devise a good system of rules. In another sense, though, the problem is easy. We know from history that institutional evolution works on land, and there do not seem to be any barriers to it working on the ocean. Of course, this institutional evolution will require careful thinking: it is through conscious effort that good ideas are developed. The magic of ex-post selection only happens ex-post, and a healthy dose of ex-ante common sense and historical knowledge will go a long way in ensuring that early seasteads do not fail due to poor governance.

The paper was a lot of fun to write.  It was great getting extensive feedback along the way from some very smart and distinguished people and putting some of the ideas we discuss here at LaTNB in a form which will hopefully prove useful to future marine real estate developers.


  1. none permalink
    November 10, 2010 5:40 pm

    For the love of $DEITY, please please please do not give instant runoff voting (IRV) a minute more of consideration in any future papers – it produces highly perverse results (way more so than even plurality, which is saying something).

    Simple approval voting is far far superior and simpler. But that’s not just my opinion, here’s a detailed paper why.

    The only worse voting method than IRV is to randomly select an absolute dictator from among the population. IRV is a terribly bad idea.

    • Brad Taylor permalink*
      November 10, 2010 9:57 pm

      All voting rules are bad, but you’re right that IRV leads to a weird results fairly often. I think I only mention runoff voting in passing in the paper and certainly didn’t mean to endorse it.

  2. Jayson Virissimo permalink
    November 10, 2010 12:37 am

    If I were researching this topic I would seek out the advice of Elinor Ostrom, Paul Romer, and Anthony de Jasay. I am convinced that each one of them would provide valuable insight into what it will take to make seastead governance work.

    • Brad Taylor permalink*
      November 10, 2010 12:46 am

      I doubt any of those scholars would have the time to comment on this, but their ideas are certainly important. I use Ostrom’s ideas quite a bit in the paper, cite Romer, and mention the unenforceability of constitutional constraints a la de Jasay.

      • Jayson Virissimo permalink
        November 10, 2010 2:43 am

        Good show. I see you have this under control.

  3. November 9, 2010 10:59 pm

    Nice, Brad! I look forward to reading it.

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