Update on seasteading in French Polynesia

From Emma Harris:

But the Seasteading Institute and the new for-profit spin-off, Blue Frontiers, have racked up some real-world achievements in the past year. They signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of French Polynesia in January that lays the groundwork for the construction of their prototype. And they gained momentum from a conference of interested parties in Tahiti in May, which hundreds of people attended. The project’s focus has shifted from building a libertarian oasis to hosting experiments in governance styles and showcasing a smorgasbord of sustainable technologies for, among other things, desalination, renewable energy and floating food-production. The shift has brought some gravitas to the undertaking, and some ecologists have taken interest in the possibilities of full-time floating laboratories.

…The next step in making the island a reality will be the passage of a law defining the ‘special economic zone’ that will cover the synthetic island. Blue Frontiers isn’t asking French Polynesia for any subsidies to build the island, but it is asking for a 0% tax rate, among other regulatory exceptions. It has hired French firm GB2A, based in Paris, to prepare legal research and a set of requests, which Blue Frontiers presented to the government at the end of September. The team hopes to see a bill emerge before the end of the year.

In the meantime, the Seasteading Institute is building excitement and courting potential investors with a series of gatherings. In May, it held talks, networking events and tours in Tahiti. Speakers included Fritch; Tony Hsieh, chief executive of online retailer Zappos in Las Vegas, Nevada; Tua Pittman, a master canoe navigator from the Cook Islands; and engineers, nanotechnologists and a ‘blockchain strategist’, a specialist in the distributed information systems behind cryptocurrencies. The seasteaders hope to use such systems to handle their financials, as well as any scientific data that they generate. But the event wasn’t all work. An announcement for a party on outrigger canoes cheerfully suggested: “Do not wear heels. Bring a swimsuit for an optional moonlight swim.”

On 22–29 October, Blue Frontiers will hold an Insiders Access Week for supporters and potential investors, a mix of tours, discussion and morning yoga with Hencken. Always ambitious, the team hopes to have draft legislation from the Polynesian government by then, and some detailed architectural plans. The goal is to break ground — or rather, sea — in 2018.

In the Nature article there is much, much more.

For the pointer I thank Michelle Dawson.


Emma Mariss.

I for one certainly wouldn't hesitate to invest money in something that involves a ‘blockchain strategist’, who is a specialist in the distributed information systems behind cryptocurrencies, which they plan to use to handle all their financials. The only thing that could make me feel more secure would be if someone involved possessed a Princedom of Yobe, Sokoto, Imo, or one of the other major fiefdoms of Nigeria.

Possibly the most hilarious sentence was "the shift has brought some gravitas to the undertaking."

They are going to get taken to the cleaners by the French. Bet on it.

Why do you need cryptocurrencies if your tax rate is zero? Switzerland, Luxembourg, the Cayman Islands, Singapore, etc. would all be more than happy to provide banking services to Blue Frontiers. Until one can reliably buy construction materials, diesel fuel, food, clothing, etc. using bitcoin, cryptocurrencies are a solution in search of a problem here.

It will be a VR city in a VR calm sea.

"Why do you need cryptocurrencies if your tax rate is zero?"

I'm guessing it's for when they change their minds and try to make it > 0.

Utter waste of resources.

The entertainment value that will be derived from all these egomaniacs descending into infighting when the whole thing collapses is not a waste of resources.

Lord of the Fish

In what world is a tax exemption not a subsidy?

At the point where the State goes beyond the maintenance of truly public goods taxes are just transfer payments. So at some point, an exemption is just you getting to keep more of what's yours by right. It's complicated, and I agree to lesser or greater extents these people (assuming this ever gets off the ground) are free-riders.

What this actually demonstrates is the practical impossibility of libertarianism without exit rights to a frontier. But in a world of 7 billion people there's really no frontier left. Libertarian theory always ends up with all the genius-libertarians going off to Galt's Gulch (with its elaborate and well-maintained borders) to sell steel and hamburgers to each other.

Roads aren't non-rivalrous and non-excludable so no, I wasn't talking about roads.

Simply putting a muh in front of whatever criticism you are faced with doesn't make that criticism go away. Roads still exist.

Here's another problem I see with libertarianism:


Now, the libertardian response is that it's wrong for the NYC government to tax its rich residents to give money to the homeless. And some will condemn the homeless as moochers and fantasize about taking away their right to vote so such things don't need to happen. But the rich in NYC prefer them to happen. They have plenty of money, more than they know they deserve, and want to give some of it to the bums rather than keep it and have them exercising their "freedoms" around them.* The natural political structure of the twenty first century is for the wealthy to give the poor "go away, live on the opposite side of the highway as us, and don't riot" money.

*The third alternative, cracking down on said freedoms, is considered unacceptable by both liberals and libertardians.

There's always Marie Byrd Land.

The nature article does not deals with the big question of "who wants to live there?". Most of sailors, oil rig workers and other isolated people are from poor countries. Why successful people would go there?

If it ever gets off the ground it will be populated by a bunch of weirdo bloggers and completely go to shit within a month.

They'll trade witty comments to each other for food and water.

There are large swathes of Polynesia where central governments have never really held much sway. If there was amazing economic opportunities to be had there without governmental control, it would have already happened.

The sea is somewhat of a libertardian paradise already. You can fly the flag of Liberia and be subject to it's regulations, the only regulation being that there are no regulations. Libertardians don't celebrate it, as it looks too much like what a libertardian paradise would look like in reality.

The World (condo cruise ship) seems a more efficient (and fun) approach. Add some greenhouses if it floats your boat.


He said "liberTARDian". How cute and clever.

Great article, but with wrong on a not-minor-to-seasteaders point: protecting coral. With any luck, Nature will run this correction, sent in my capacity as Blue Frontier's legal counsel: "Contrary to the figure caption, seasteaders will keep the floating platforms well away from any coral, moored 20 m above the relatively barren floor of the lagoon's protected inner waters. Though nearby coral may experience a mildly beneficial side effect of cooling caused by the platform's shadows--an effect Blue Frontiers' scientists will carefully monitor--the platforms will not shade the reefs ringing the lagoon."

What happens if someone commits a battery on a seastead? What laws would apply? Common law (Tort), contract law (e.g. a boilerplate agreement all seasteadera must sign before setting foot on a seastead), or French penal law, or all three? (And regardless of their source, who would enforce these rules?)

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