"We only need to rebuild civilization once"

...a belated report on the First Annual Seasteading Conference.

The key point: the government-doesn't-work problem has remained unsolved for millenia.

The solution - whatever it is - has got to be "big, sneaky, clever, and different." Past results have mostly ranged from disastrous (Marxism) to pointless ("if a different group of people runs stuff, government will work!").

The intuition:
we need a testing ground to try out ideas.

I wake up at 5:30 a.m. to catch the Caltrain to Burlingame from Stanford, where I'm an undergraduate economics major.

Patri Friedman opens with a great presentation. He gives a regression of growth rates - 6 percent for an OECD country with 10% government sector versus 1 percent for a country with 50% gov't sector, ceteris paribus. What that would mean over the next 50 years. And then the kicker:

"Keep in mind, these are numbers about human lives."

He offers a compelling critique of government. Sure, I like libertarian rhetoric, but it's less useful than Patri's incisive industry analysis.

Think of government like a modified car market: 10,000 people band together, pick their favorite car, probably a beige Toyota Corolla, and all buy that car, year after year. Consider the following problems:
- Toyota would keep making the same car, and only one; that is, government can't sell in niche markets.
- Concurrently, it can't try truly different ideas; the last (successful) experiment was the American Revolution.
- Quality might be good in the beginning, but what incentive would Toyota have to improve/maintain its product quality? Little or none. Same with the government.
- Simply put, "the barrier to entry is insane." You have to win a war, an election, or a revolution.
- Now throw in resulting factors like lock-in and switching costs: "you think OS is bad? Most industries can't kill, murder, and steal from their customers and get away with it."

The ultimate problem, Patri argues, is that there is *no frontier*. The solution, then? Re-create one.

"I first looked to the ocean because it was unclaimed. But then I realized, it's better. The bad news: we've built almost all of our civilization in the wrong place. The good news: land-based systems can ossify. But we only need to rebuild civilization once."

One big problem was how to start, so the rest of the conference was dedicated to making seasteading economically viable. The problem was finding ideas that could scale, or help create scale. Business models like medical tourism or factories of Indian programmers, located a short boat ride from a major metropolitan area.

Such models would make seasteading viable for long enough to let the huge long-term structural advantages come into play. Demographic factors are in our favor: the "ocean tax" of building in a hostile environment will decrease with better tech, but the "government tax" of building in a hostile (read: any current) political system is a percentage of national wealth - which is growing.

It's a beautiful vision. A far more productive use of my nights and weekends throughout my working years, than promoting political and economic freedom landside. That's noble, but largely futile and easily repealed.

A leftie conference attendee noted that in the type of small communities made possible by seasteading, different social agenda would start to converge. Social democracy might not be so different than libertarianism.

From the libertarian side, building a new way of life that could generate freedom and prosperity for a vast number of humans, would be wonderful.

But I am especially entranced by "co-housing seasteading": the idea of sometime throwing in my lot with a couple hundred families and helping to make life on a new frontier viable.

For me, this is partly religiously motivated. Latter-day Saints have a rich tradition of migrating to the frontier to create a better society of more virtuous people. We call our goal Zion. But it's only one expression of a striving for the light that seems to be written on the human psyche.

Government as we now know it isn't the only force preventing the realization of this deep-set yearning. But it's one of the main ones, and it's time to change that.

Coming back early to attend a class dinner at a prof's house, I mention the conference to the professor, a director at a consulting firm, and the teaching assistant, an econ Ph.D. student. Though skeptical, they think it's an interesting idea and note that it's easy to criticize ideas. But the TA gets the final word.

What was the male-to-female ratio of people at the conference, he asks. Like most libertarian gatherings, I reply: about ten to one. We laugh together.

Share this

I don't want to give up TA

But the TA gets the final word.
“What was the male-to-female ratio of people at the conference” he asks. I reply “About ten to one.”

I know what T & A is but what does TA mean? It is a sad commentary that T & A would be reduced to 10% as far as an interest in going Seasteading.

Dave

Teaching assistant. It's a

Teaching assistant.

It's a hard rule : any interesting event will attract 10 males to 1 female.

The word you're looking for is 'counter-economics'

The key point: the government-doesn't-work problem has remained unsolved for millenia.

Well, then turn to the one thing that has trumped governments' intents everytime and allowed improvements of life even when under the harshest of communist regimes: counter-economics.