Does seasteading have a future?

by on December 7, 2016 at 10:49 am in Economics, Law, Medicine, Political Science, Travel, Uncategorized | Permalink

I was pleased to see their title for the column: “Go Wet, Young Man.”  Here is one of the claims:

Counterintuitively, I see the greatest promise for seasteading as a path toward more rather than less human companionship.

…some of the elderly have started living on cruise ships full-time. A good assisted-living facility might cost $80,000 a year in the U.S., more than many year-long cruises. (Cruising could also be cheaper than living in an expensive neighborhood.) Furthermore, the cruise offers regular contact with other passengers and also the crew, and the lower average age means that fewer of one’s friends and acquaintances are passing away. The weather may be better, and there is the option of going onshore to visit relatives and go shopping.

The cruise ship removes the elderly from full-service hospitals, but on the plus side, regular social contact is good for health, passengers are watched much of the time and there is a doctor minutes away. Better health and human companionship could be major motives for this form of seasteading. I could imagine many more of the elderly going this route in the future, and some cruise lines already are offering regular residences on board.

The goal of this seasteading enterprise is to pack people more tightly together rather than to open up broad new vistas for a Wild West kind of settlement. The proprietors make physical space more scarce, not less, to induce better clustering. So seasteading does have a future, but it is to join and build a new and crowded communitarian project, not to get away from one.

Do read the whole thing.

1 prior_test2 December 7, 2016 at 11:06 am

Get wet young woman would be a lot more appealing slogan, assuming that any of those young men have ever had any experience with such women.

2 robert December 8, 2016 at 9:28 am

“Is that an eel in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?” might have workled, as well.

3 mpowell December 7, 2016 at 11:16 am

You need to ask yourself why an assisted living facility would be more expensive than a cruise. I suspect the assisted living component is critical. What is the leverage you think exists here? Do you really believe this is just about the cost of real estate in assisted living centers? Its certainly not easier to provide facilities on sea as opposed to land. International labor costs are lower? All the advantages you list should be available for lower cost on a land-based facility.

4 JWatts December 7, 2016 at 11:59 am

“International labor costs are lower? ”

Cruise line wages are low. And they don’t fall under a lot of the regulatory regime of a First World country.

5 bluto December 7, 2016 at 12:33 pm

Yep, it’s a way to have Panamanian, Liberian, or Bahamanian labor costs, but the seniors don’t have to move to those locations.

6 Dan Hill December 7, 2016 at 3:31 pm

Yes, and you could probably get the same benefits at even lower cost moving to an assisted living facility in the Philippines…

7 Boonton December 7, 2016 at 8:11 pm

Yes working in assisted living facilities is the ticket to high wage jobs in the US and other developed nations.

8 Thomas December 7, 2016 at 12:35 pm

If you need assisted living, you can’t make it on a cruise, end of story.

9 Troll me December 7, 2016 at 2:57 pm

Maybe replace 90% of the doctors and nurses with food and alcohol servers and “assisted living” would reduce in price.

10 Mark Thorson December 7, 2016 at 10:44 pm

Substitute Chinese and Cuban doctors and Philipino nurses, then add a casino (which many cruise ships already have) and maybe the business model would work.

11 John December 8, 2016 at 4:22 pm

I suspect there may well be a case of those who can afford the permanent boarding are valuable for the cruise line in terms of coving the fixed cost more reliably so removing some of the need to discount last minute passengers as highly — or perhaps off set the failure to fill a room.

12 anon December 7, 2016 at 11:22 am

I would like a suite on The World, but to use the other number from the article, $300 per day is pretty steep compared to land based alternatives.

If you could defeat zoning and build cruise ship sized suites in popular cities, what would they cost?

13 Troll me December 7, 2016 at 2:58 pm

Do you know land based alternatives which can compete with the view?

14 bellisaurius December 7, 2016 at 11:26 am

I take it that cruise ships are easier to get around on then navy vessels. I wouldn’t wish those hatches and ladders on anyone under normal conditions.

15 rayward December 7, 2016 at 11:42 am

I refer to cruise ships as “sea prison”. I need space, and even the largest cruise ships don’t have enough of it. If you don’t like my term for cruise ships, how about “nuisance tides”. That’s how ostriches, I mean the chamber of commerce, refers to rising seas and periodic flooding, as occurred in November when the moon came closer to earth than at any time since 1948. As for Cowen’s floating platforms, do you really want to be on one when hurricanes are a year-round phenomenon. I suspect that Cowen is floating the idea of seasteading because he is as concerned as rest of us sane Americans that the American ship is about to hit an iceberg and sink and he doesn’t want to sail to Canada because its tax rates are too high.

16 bellisaurius December 7, 2016 at 11:52 am

The hurricane part is a feature, not a flaw. If you live in florida you have to deal with a hurricane somehow. I cruise ship can just avoid it entirely

17 JWatts December 7, 2016 at 11:52 am

“The goal of this seasteading enterprise is to pack people more tightly together rather than to open up broad new vistas for a Wild West kind of settlement. The proprietors make physical space more scarce, not less, to induce better clustering. ”

“induce better clustering = induce crowding

This looks more like a rationalization than a reason. This strikes me as purely a cost cutting initiative and I’m doubtful that people will enjoy less physical space.

18 Troll me December 7, 2016 at 3:03 pm

In tourism accommodation revolving around creating social interaction, you give up a lot of accommodation space to provide more and higher quality common space (where the “clustering” happens).

Seems odd to call it “clustering”, but I gather he’s thinking of it from the perspective of costs analysis in providing whatever services draw those people to the clusters.

19 Axa December 7, 2016 at 11:58 am

Living without alcohol? Beverages packages are around $50 per day in a cruise.

20 Jan December 7, 2016 at 12:30 pm

Seriously? One would have to be drinking Johnny Blue exclusively or be #neversober to fully take advantage of that.

21 Anon December 7, 2016 at 5:54 pm

That is why you sneak alcohol on board.

22 RonF December 12, 2016 at 9:49 am

You don’t need to buy a beverage package to drink on a cruise. You can simply buy your booze by the drink, which is what I did. If you’re not having 10 drinks a day it’s cheaper.

23 Brett December 7, 2016 at 12:30 pm

Living full-time on a cruise ships seems almost more like living on the road in a motor home, stopping for gas, resupply, and sights. I wouldn’t call it “seastedding” in the way it’s usually used.

Actual sea-stedding seems unlikely to me. You’d be almost totally dependent on imports, and so even if you wanted to make it Libertarian Island you’d be constrained by the treaties you ‘d have to sign with other countries for trade purposes (assuming said countries don’t just show up and claim your island/platform, like with Minerva Reefs).

24 Dan Lavatan-Jeltz December 7, 2016 at 5:49 pm

Legal issues aside, it isn’t too hard to be independent. Use renewable energy and fish for food and you are doing as well as pacific islanders were doing for centuries. You also don’t really need a treaty to export stuff, someone from the originating country can just load it on a boat and take it wherever. Generating income is harder but could be done via intellectual type stuff like publishing, software, music, and perhaps legal or financial work.

25 Troll me December 7, 2016 at 9:02 pm

It’s a cruise, not a backwater camping trip. But maybe no harm in taking in more in the direction you suggest.

26 Ricardo December 8, 2016 at 6:37 am

This is what doesn’t make sense. Is life in developed countries really so awful that people will give up modern medicine, toilet paper and bacon cheeseburgers to get away from it? What are you running from exactly? Pasteurized milk and flouride in the drinking water? If it’s taxes, wouldn’t it be easier to look for a job in a place like Dubai?

27 Bill December 7, 2016 at 12:54 pm

Sounds like Libertarian paradise.

Except for the Captain.

28 Thor December 7, 2016 at 1:08 pm

There’s nothing wrong with a good mutiny every now and then, should some Captains get the idea that they are essential to the enterprise.

29 zbicyclist December 7, 2016 at 1:15 pm

“some of the elderly have started living on cruise ships full-time.”

1. I didn’t see any attempt at quantifying this.
2. I doubt if these are the type of elderly who would need assisted living.
3. My guess would be that if you needed much in the way of extra care, you’d be put off the ship, wherever it happened to be.

30 mkt42 December 7, 2016 at 2:37 pm

Yes, I don’t think this idea will scale. A big cruise ship with maybe a dozen frail elderly passengers? No problem. But if this becomes the way that we warehouse our elderly, as the cruise ships’ percentage of frail passengers grows there will be a tipping point where the younger healthy passengers will flee for a cruise ship that’s not a seaborne assisted living facility. And the result will be a big cruise ship filled with unhealthy passengers with high needs — and their health care will either be inadequate and rationed or the ship will have to employ a ton of trained health personnel and caregivers, and those $80K annual costs will turn out to be unsustainable.

31 Daniel Weber December 8, 2016 at 11:19 am

It would be one of those “It works until it doesn’t” plans. You’ll have your one-year cruise, and the staff will take care of you even if you become very disabled during that year, but you won’t be able to get back on board for next year.

32 mkt42 December 8, 2016 at 3:02 pm

Yes, that sort of “seasteading” (I think it’s a misnomer; a better name would be something like “retirement cruising”) could totally work, in fact it’s what a lot of retirees do right now.

But the article is going further than that, proposing that cruise ships substitute for assisted living facilities and even hospitals. I.e. that the cruise ships would not refuse to let frail passengers aboard, but like current assisted living facilities would be actively seeking out more customers who need assisted living.

And that’s a totally different business model from what they have now, and more importantly I think it’s an unworkable one.

33 Cooper December 7, 2016 at 3:23 pm

I can imagine this being a popular option for the top decile of young retirees who don’t want to be tied down to a single location in the 60s.

I’m not sure how this is sustainable for people in the 80s or those without retirement incomes comparable to current upper middle class workers.

34 Abelard Lindsey December 7, 2016 at 4:15 pm

10-20% tax rates as cited in the article are certainly not enough to drive seasteading. However, the U.S., supposedly the freest market capitalist society in the world, has tax rates considerably higher than this. Additionally, there are many regulations as well, especially in bio-medicine. Indeed, it is the development of regenerative and anti-aging medicine in a DIYbio enterprise that is one of the most significant motivations of interests in seasteading. Basically ALL existing countries over-regulate medicine. Few regulate it as much as the U.S. and Europe. All of the existing medical establishments seem hostile towards the development of effective anti-aging medicine (Aubery de Grey calls this the “pro-aging trance”). Much of the interest in seasteading is on the part of those of us who want nothing more than freedom and autonomy from this “pro-aging trance”.

Reducing total U.S. taxes to 20% range for everything, abolishing the FDA and medical licensure (which would effectively end the AMA monopoly on medicine), and reduction of other myriad regulations, and the interest and need for seasteading would be greatly reduced.

35 Anon December 7, 2016 at 6:04 pm

A single doctor can only do so much to help you in medical emergencies. Good luck convincing a significant number of old people to go out into the middle of the ocean far way from hospitals.

36 Boonton December 7, 2016 at 8:14 pm

Doesn’t “seasteading” imply actually being economically productive on the sea? The seasteading schemes talked about here all seem to depend upon someone first making a lot of money in a developed country and then going to sea where they will ‘be free’. A true seasteading scheme would involve the seastead actually producing goods or services that it would sell to land based communities or other seasteads.

37 Cliff December 7, 2016 at 10:21 pm

Plenty of people can do their work anywhere with an Internet connection

38 Daniel Weber December 8, 2016 at 11:21 am

And Internet connections are only getting better. SpaceX’s plan for 4000+ satellites will make being at sea (except near the poles) as soon as a broadband connection in a suburb is today.

39 chuck martel December 7, 2016 at 9:33 pm

Why cruise at all? Just anchor the ship offshore somewhere. Inmates could travel back and forth to land as desired. Melville’s crew on the USS Neversink in the novel “Whitejacket” spent a year in Rio de Janeiro harbor without shoreleave.

40 N750P-S0 December 8, 2016 at 6:26 am

I refer to cruise ships as “sea prison”. I need space, and even the largest cruise ships don’t have enough of it. If you don’t like my term for cruise ships, how about “nuisance tides”. That’s how ostriches, I mean the chamber of commerce, refers to rising seas and periodic flooding, as occurred in November when the moon came closer to earth than at any time since 1948. As for Cowen’s floating platforms, do you really want to be on one when hurricanes are a year-round phenomenon. I suspect that Cowen is floating the idea of seasteading because he is as concerned as rest of us sane Americans that the American ship is about to hit an iceberg and sink and he doesn’t want to sail to Canada because its tax rates are too high.750W Dell poweredge 2950 server power supply Z750P-00 N750P-S0 7001072-Y000
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41 byomtov December 8, 2016 at 5:08 pm

This is a great idea for people who never want to play golf, take a walk in the woods, try a new restaurant, experiment with cooking, see a play or hear a concert, go to a movie of their own choice, etc.

Of course some are too frail for all that, and what they tend to value is visits from family and friends…

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