Outer Edges II

Riversteading:

One has but to look toward the better parts of a movie like Waterworld or an experiment like Sealand to imagine the possibilities in a modular, mobile system capable of holding 1400 tons of cargo per barge (soil for farming operations, housing structures?) at costs incredibly far below the average island, or yacht, or WWII weapons platform off the coast of England, or custom-built waterborne structure. That these barges and towboats are already designed to house people for long periods and be modularly (dis)connectable on a large scale increases their potential utility, while every day more of these units are discarded, abandoned, fall to ravages of disrepair. Every major city along the Mississippi, the Ohio, and the Missouri rivers has a transport industry of significant size, and it is showing cracks at every stage of the process. I contend that this industry is ripe for pillaging and repurposing, and that it is only a matter of time before the river economy hits a startling bottom that, while destructive and fragmentary to the extreme for certain industries and industrial zones, could be very fruitful indeed for the intrepid seasteader.

While clearly sub-optimal from a jurisdictional and security perspective, as an economically-feasible boost-phase, it could provide invaluable learning opportunities.

Quotable (#105)

Craig Hickman is considerably less than thrilled about this prospect, but that doesn’t prevent him from taking a look:

… in our time we’re beginning to see a new breed of Aquapreneurs who are performing vast oceanic DIY projects for offshore utopian floating cities. Modular cities built on both personal and collective scales based on algae farming on the oceans of the world. Once such place is the Seasteading Institute where the notion of building an actual test pilot project city off the coast of South America may possibly offer a path. Whether the project succeeds or fails it is fascinating to see people seeking alternatives to our present decaying and dying civilization. Another such DIY Utopia is Blueseed a techno-libertarian Silicon Valley start-up that touts itself as the “Googleplex of the Sea”, and plans to launch the ship in 2015, offering living and office space in an elegantly designed modern tech environment, attracting top entrepreneurial and technology talent from all over the world to Silicon Valley, where they can create companies and jobs, and develop disruptive and innovative technologies.

Legitimacy

As the conclusion to a quality piece of Singapore gloating, Kishore Mahbubani outlines the crucial principle of regime legitimacy that liberal-autocratic East Asia is honing for the world:

Singapore has its fair share of detractors. Its political system was widely viewed as being an “enlightened dictatorship,” even though free elections have been held every five years. Its media is widely perceived to be controlled by the government and Singapore is ranked number 153 out of 180 by Reporters Without Borders in 2015 on the Press Freedom Index. Many human rights organizations criticize it. Freedom House ranks Singapore as “partially free.” […] Undoubtedly, some of these criticisms have some validity. Yet, the Singapore population is one of the best educated populations and, hence, globally mobile. They could vote with their feet if Singapore were a stifling “un-free” society. Most choose to stay. Equally importantly, some of the most talented people in the world, including Americans and Europeans, are giving up their citizenship to become Singapore citizens. Maybe they have noticed something that the Western media has not noticed: Singapore is one of the best places to be born in and to live in. [UF emphasis]

Jacobinism is typically too lost in its own evangelical universalism to recognize its limits in political philosophy and in space, if not yet quite so demonstrably in time.

Age of Exit

Mark Lutter’s forecast for the general landscape of 21st century politics leaves plenty to argue with, from all sides, and even vociferously, but the basic trend-line he projects is persuasive (at least to this blog):

… the costs of exit are going down. Increased mobility and smaller political units will allow people increasingly to vote with their feet. The old political questions of which ideological empire controls which territory will give way to a choose-your-own-governance meta system. […] Thus, to be successful, political units will have to attract residents—that is, to providing better services at lower cost. Increased competition among smaller political units will spur innovation, leading to new forms of governance. Many will fail. But the successful will be replicated, outcompeting more stagnant forms. Singapore, Dubai, Hong Kong, Switzerland, and Lichtenstein show the beginnings of such success. […] Not all the governments will be libertarian. In fact, most probably will not be. Some will experiment with higher levels of redistribution; others with petty tyrannies, zealous zoning and even social exclusion. However, competition will eliminate unsuccessful models. Ultimately, the meta-rules that are emerging are decidedly libertarian in flavor, as choice will govern the survival of political units.

The left won’t like this, for obvious reasons. It is dissolidarity incarnate, with an egalitarian-democratic promise that is minimal, at best. I’m not sure whether the criticism has developed beyond indignant scoffing to calmly-formulated theoretical antagonism yet, but it surely will.

The right’s objections are likely to be more diverse. Most pointedly, from the perspective here, there is room for deep skepticism about the harshness of the selection mechanisms Lutter is counting upon. Driving a state into insolvency, and liquidation, is no easy thing. For those, especially, who would be delighted to see effective inter-state Darwinism cropping micro-states for adaptive excellence, cold realism concerning the capabilities of states to forestall such outcomes is essential. If widespread conflict-free high-functionality futures sound too good to be true, they probably are.

Quotable (#43)

Some grounds for consensus on seasteading?

… Yeah there is a huge disconnect between the idea of seasteading as a platform for experimenting with various forms of governance and the reality that the vast majority of people interested in pursuing it are orthodox libertarians who see some kind of anarcho capitalist libertarianism as the inevitable winner in a ‘fair fight’ between political systems. I really think that a belief in libertarianism is linked to a distinctive and relatively rare neurological type, and therefore will never convince the vast majority of people who tend towards a more altruistic and collectivized morality.