Why Most Libertarians Are Missing the Point

I just finished reading a fascinating paper about “seasteading“. This is the concept of creating towers of small communities designed live on the sea, a little like oil platforms. The ideas is that once these small communities evolve, if the members of the communities disagree with governmental policies, they can just take their seastead elsewhere, literally overnight. The switching costs for moving societies will be virtually eliminated.

This has come together from a bunch of libertarians, and is funded by Peter Thiel ($500k), who cofounded Paypal, is an early investor in Facebook and is now one of the top fund managers in the US. He’s also someone I have a tremendous amount of respect for.

Those who know me well know that I’m a huge fan of Ayn Rand and believe that Objectivism is a very important philosophy, especially for entrepreneurs. I was impressed to learn that Peter Thiel is also a big fan of Objectivism, and this may be why he is funding Seasteading.

Many libertarians I’ve met believe libertarian principles of society will truly work if they were given the chance. But since that chance never arrives, they never truly know if their system works.

Well, I’ve lived in an almost-libertarian state since 2001 – in the Caribbean, called the Dominican Republic. Here we have a weak police force, rule of law which isn’t very strong, and almost anything goes.

As a result, there are two principles which govern day to day life here:
1. how well connected you are (where your family comes from, who your friends are)
2. how much money you have

Thats it. So if you have a problem with your neighbour playing his music too loud, you can count on the two principles above if you want to sleep in peace. If you get into a car accident and kill someone, those two principles will determine your survival if the family of the deceased comes after you.

It *does* work.. to a degree.. but its scary sometimes and it means you need to stay on your toes. It also means that if you aren’t well connected and you don’t have money, then you are screwed if a bad situation that comes your way. Many would-be expats leave countries like the Dominican Republic after just a few months with lots of horror stories. Not understanding these two simple rules is the reason why.

I am sure Peter Thiel and the founders of seasteading have great intentions with the society they want to build. It will be great for them, since they will have both money, and connections (after they have the fame of building this libertarian society). But for regular people who are living in it as regular citizens and have neither, life on a seastead won’t be much fun.

Libertarians have some really interesting ideals and we should listen to them. But a fully libertarian society like seasteading will not be one that respects the rights of all its citizens, and will not reach the visions of the founders. After 6 years in the Dominican Republic, a place I do enjoy living in, I now know this first hand.