Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Socially Stupid Seasteaders

Five years ago I mocked the seasteaders. One year ago, responding to news that Peter Thiel is an undercover citizen of New Zealand, Eric Crampton mounted a non-economic* defence of that secret decision and rubbed it in with strong support for the seasteading mission.

But new shit has come to light, dude, and it's starting to look like seasteaders are just another corporate looking for a hand-out.

Seasteading is a libertarian fantasy, driven partly by Milton Friedman's grandson and financed partly by NZ's own Citizen Thiel, where in Eric's words
people could set up a wide variety of different ways of organising society could be attempted on the high seas. Think of a Seastead as being like a body corporate, but with complete freedom to set whatever rules it wanted – about everything. And its residents, if they didn’t like how things were panning out, could simply unmoor their boat from the Seastead and float on over to an alternative. (emphasis added)
The cool thing is that no-one is imposed-upon because all this happens on the high seas, beyond the environment as the late-great John Clarke might have put it.

Sadly, sometime recently this beautiful theory ran aground. The "high seas" became a lagoon in French Polynesia and the local residents became NIMBYs. Have you already guessed that our old mate Citizen Thiel found another schmoozable government?

Oh yes he did. A deal was struck between the seasteaders and the French Polynesian Government back in January 2017. Then in May 2017 a big conference was held in Tahiti, presumably to persuade local residents that dumping a floating resort in their lagoon would be a great idea. 

Not all were persuaded though and if you've had much to do with Pacific lagoons you'll understand the initial hurdle pretty well. Add to that questions about taxes the floating resort would pay and exactly what benefits would be guaranteed to locals.

You'd think the uber-rational seasteaders would have thought all this through right? They'd have prepared the ground with detailed and honest discussions. Ooops.

Independent film-makers with the seasteaders permission interviewed people around the May conference. Their output included strong local opposition to the whole thing.

At this point, if you were in Citizen Thiel's shoes, you'd realise that your prep-game was massively under-done. That whole line about no-one being imposed-upon is not ringing true here.

So now, if you subscribe to the creed, you have to make things right with the aggrieved.

Or, you could ratfuck them. Maybe that'd be cheaper?

So here are your choices

  1. We hate governments and all that social stuff but we can't persuade people to buy islands floating on the high seas so we need to make a deal like this to get the business proposition rolling but the whole thing is so valuable we can afford to buy out all the opposition.
  2. Who the fuck do these people think they are? Yes, maybe we could buy them out but we made a deal with the government, and we're on a mission to create a better world. How dare these impudent locals challenge us. Let's ratfuck them.

Guess which one the seasteaders picked? Oh yeah. As reported by Rhizome they basically stole the IP of the independent film-makers at that conference.

These people are a social menace.


* Eric's argument is non-economic because it doesn't consider the counterfactual scenario. He assumes that a brilliant tech investor, knowing about great opportunities in NZ, would forgo them unless we breached our own citizenship rules. 

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