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May 31, 2009 11:30 AM   Subscribe

The Seasteading Institute (previously) is the brain-child of former Google engineer Patri Friedman , and seeks to set up independent governments in international waters. In April 2009, the institute received $500,000 of seed funding from PayPal founder Peter Thiel. After reading it's revised manifesto, Brad Reed (of Sadly, No) remains unimpressed.

"The seasteaders briefly address the threat of piracy by explaining that "most pirate attacks are either very small-scale, preying on unarmed ships, or very large-scale, with organized groups stealing entire cargo ships. A seastead will be too tough for small pirates and not financially worthwhile for big ones." Really! An entire sea platform filled with highly profitable illegal drugs would not be financially worthwhile for pirates to attack! Good luck with that."
posted by The Whelk (98 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
The neoconservatives have formed a virtual death cult surrounding Dick Cheney and torture advocacy that's eerily reminiscent of the bomb worshipers in Beneath the Planet of the Apes.

QFT
posted by Joe Beese at 11:36 AM on May 31, 2009 [6 favorites]


I believe I've said it before, but the more I hear about libertarianism the more I am convinced that it is nothing more than pure-selfishness codified as a political doctrine. So let me be the first in this thread to say "Fuck you, you selfish dicks. I hope you sink."
posted by Caduceus at 11:40 AM on May 31, 2009 [25 favorites]


sealand did it first. yawn.
posted by the aloha at 11:47 AM on May 31, 2009


Indeed, Thiel thinks democracy in the United States has been a dead end since the 1920s, when "the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women -- two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians -- have rendered the notion of 'capitalist democracy' into an oxymoron."

Wow, that's cute. How dare those women ask for silly things like equality? I mean, it's not like they deserve any sort of "freedom." They're clearly meant for nothing but bearing my children and baking me pie.

Also, I'm rather of the opinion that the real destruction of democracy stems from (at least) the 1980s, when crazy deregulation started leading to a second round of robber-barons heading up near-Monopoly corporations, which not-coincidentally has led to an enormous economic collapse.

Idiot.
posted by Caduceus at 11:53 AM on May 31, 2009 [12 favorites]


Part of me wants to see this built. It would be a tremendous waste of resources, but my god, the comedy value:

All these overprivileged libertarians complaining about living in a concrete boat while hordes of stoned drug-addicts and pirates nip at their heels. As the structure falls apart at the seams they're trying to order cruise missiles out of this paranoid terror that some government is going to Shut Them Down.

Cut to: a pair of coast guard officers watching via satellite, facepalming as the whole thing sinks into the ocean.
posted by Ndwright at 12:01 PM on May 31, 2009 [6 favorites]


All these overprivileged libertarians complaining about living in a concrete boat while hordes of stoned drug-addicts and pirates nip at their heels. As the structure falls apart at the seams they're trying to order cruise missiles out of this paranoid terror that some government is going to Shut Them Down.

And they're all rich Transhumanist dorks too, so you know it would go from zero to catastrophe in 60 seconds. I say we let them go Akhenaten on the ocean and film the resulting chaos as an object lesson in the social contract.
posted by The Whelk at 12:05 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow, I don't see what all the hate is about. You don't dig your government, you see it as a failed system, so you move.

I think it's actually a cool idea, but the basic premises behind it are questionable.

My problem is that I feel seasteading is assuming that governments and their shortsightedness are behind many of the problems in people's lives.

While this is undoubtedly true, it seems to me that HUMAN NATURE is the main reason things in any given society are fucked up.

Work on improving the human nature part first, and you might get to a solution. I don't know if fiddling with the structure of the society, whether it be capitalistic, socialist, fundamentalist, communist etc, is gonna be more than a bandaid to the idea that people will continually find ways to fuck things up.

If they have a seastead of supergeniouses, there might be some hope for whatever society they create. But that would be true for any kind of society.

However, if it's just regular old human beings with limited self-awareness who are gonna be seasteading, well, good luck! At best you'll have a bunch of above-average IQ folk moving around a lot, me thinks, from one seastead to another. At worst, a North Korea.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 12:41 PM on May 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


All of me wants to see this built. It's comedy gold.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:42 PM on May 31, 2009


Maybe they should build it, like, UNDER the sea. And call it "Rapture". And then later we can run around shooting the deformed remnants of their failed experiment in enlightened self-interest.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:51 PM on May 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


Yeah, Sealand already did this, with a sea platform they didn't have to build, and mooching some defense and other expensive infrastructure from the UK. Sealand actually stuck together better than I expected it to, honestly. There was a good piece written on its troubles (and HavenCo's) a couple years back, which I can't be bothered to find right now.
posted by hattifattener at 12:52 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Goddamn, I should learn to read the post titles.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:52 PM on May 31, 2009


I heard about this years ago. It's a win-win, really. Give the libertarians a grand project to work on, and they'll be less bothersome to those who disagree with them. Hell, I hope they make it to space.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 12:55 PM on May 31, 2009


Thanks for the tip hattifattener. The history of Sealand really intrigues me...should be a case study...or something.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 12:57 PM on May 31, 2009


Fun Fact, for those who weren't aware: Patri Friedman is son of David Friedman, a prominent anarcho-capitalist economist, who in turn is son of Nobel laureate and moderate libertarian Milton Friedman.
posted by champthom at 1:01 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Heh. I want to see it built, but I think it'll fail horribly. The libertarians will likely find out real fast why those social programs they ran away from existed... probably starting with the need for a military.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:01 PM on May 31, 2009


Why Thiel expects any woman would willingly give up her right to vote to join him on his oceanic dorktopia is puzzling.

They'll all be chasing his big fat wad, obviously. The female population of Thieldonia will be populated exclusively by migrant lap-dancers.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:16 PM on May 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


I believe I've said it before, but the more I hear about libertarianism the more I am convinced that it is nothing more than pure-selfishness codified as a political doctrine. So let me be the first in this thread to say "Fuck you, you selfish dicks. I hope you sink."

To be fair, I thought the idea was being able to build any particular type of society, depending on the seastead. So someone could "found" a communist nation as well.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 1:18 PM on May 31, 2009


That's your solution to everything: to move under the sea. It's not going to happen!
posted by Krrrlson at 1:18 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Indeed, Thiel thinks democracy in the United States has been a dead end since the 1920s, when "the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women -- two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians -- have rendered the notion of 'capitalist democracy' into an oxymoron."

Wow, that's cute. How dare those women ask for silly things like equality? I mean, it's not like they deserve any sort of "freedom." They're clearly meant for nothing but bearing my children and baking me pie.


Caduceus: I don't think they're saying that women shouldn't be enfranchised, I read that as they see that as more people become eligible for welfare, and as women started to vote, there was a tremendous growth in support for the socialization of the government. Women tend to support social programs more than men, as do those who receive welfare. It's kind of an inevitable outcome. I see that as a good thing, they see it as a bad thing. I can disagree with what someone votes for, without disagreeing with their right to vote.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:18 PM on May 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Tsunamis, Rogue Waves, Hurricanes, Typhoons and/or Cyclones. Good luck with them.

What government will be there to air lift your drowning asses when/if one or the other strikes?
posted by ericb at 1:20 PM on May 31, 2009


Waterworld 2.0!
posted by ericb at 1:22 PM on May 31, 2009


The ____ of Justice: I guess that's possible, but you don't hear anyone besides libertarians talking about seasteading, and it's always in the context of them whining about taxes and welfare recipients and the government being terrible. Considering that all the libertarians doing the whining are upper-middle class or richer privileged white men whose (often incredible) success has been enabled by the social system and public infrastructure set up by and paid for by the government and taxes, I'm distinctly unsympathetic. The "I've got mine" tag is very appropriate, as that's precisely the attitude of every libertarian I've ever met or heard about. I'm all for freedom, but the libertarian version of freedom is "I should be able to do whatever I want and have whatever I want," and that's bullshit.

blue_beetle: Well, when you put it that way, I guess that makes more sense. He's sure not doing himself any favors with his phrasing. Though I suppose that also might be better in context.
posted by Caduceus at 1:40 PM on May 31, 2009 [5 favorites]


ericb: Tsunamis, Rogue Waves, Hurricanes, Typhoons and/or Cyclones. Good luck with them.

Well, some of the plans involve giant boats, which can move out of the way of an incoming hurricane and some other kinds of weather systems. Tsunamis aren't a threat to vessels at sea (without a coast to pile the wave up, they're only a couple of feet tall.) Truly large vessels aren't threatened by rogue waves either (think of aircraft carriers and cruise ships - I doubt they even make it up to the deck.)

The real question is, what do you do when North Korea decides they want your ship for a free aircraft carrier, or some Middle Eastern nation decides you piss them off? Mercenaries can't compare to any sort of real navy, and if you rely on the US or other countries for your defense that definitely reduces the amount of freedom you have to thumb your nose at them. In particular, the US would be pretty neutral to anyone acting as an obvious tax haven or anyone not complying with their drug policies.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:40 PM on May 31, 2009


I am convinced that it is nothing more than pure-selfishness codified as a political doctrine

To be sure, this accurately describes Objectivism -- without even offending the Objectivists. At least your garden-variety Libertarian has some public impulse to their position. And, after all, there are libertarianisms of the left; even Chomsky accepts the label libertarian socialist.

(That's a fun fact that you can use to blow the mind of a libertarian you meet in a bar. Chances are they've never heard of Bakunin, and may consider him a hoax.)
posted by dhartung at 1:40 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


China Mieville's classic article on the topic.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:52 PM on May 31, 2009 [5 favorites]


Didn't they all agree to move to Vermont or some such? Make up your minds, people.
posted by Meatbomb at 1:55 PM on May 31, 2009


Come on, let's get one of these wacky libertarian utopia projects rolling so that it can fail spectacularly and ring in a new era ala Titanic.
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:57 PM on May 31, 2009


Why is it that everyone expects these utopias to be destroyed by pirates? Isn't it more likely that they'll be put under a trade embargo and simply run out of food and other supplies?
posted by daniel_charms at 2:05 PM on May 31, 2009


Yarrr!
posted by Artw at 2:09 PM on May 31, 2009


daniel_charms: Why is it that everyone expects these utopias to be destroyed by pirates? Isn't it more likely that they'll be put under a trade embargo and simply run out of food and other supplies?

Nah, the number of rogue states and other actors willing to sell supplies in violation of an embargo is substantial. They might get gouged and have trouble with certain high-tech parts and supplies, but food and fuel are unlikely to be issues.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:10 PM on May 31, 2009


Some good locations
posted by Artw at 2:11 PM on May 31, 2009


From the last linkFear not, though, because the seasteaders have come up with a brilliant solution to these issues: They're going to base their economies on illegal activities. In the "business models" section of their book, the seasteaders sketch out a variety of plans to bring money into their oceanic platforms, many of which involve using seasteads as havens for activities banned by most countries.

To be fair, then not all things that are illegal somewhere are necessarily bad. Illegality is not intrinsic to them. I think some of these illegal activities could actually work a decent profit; this, in turn, would lead to their adoption by the "mainland" societies.
posted by daniel_charms at 2:18 PM on May 31, 2009


Also: Gene splicing.
posted by Artw at 2:19 PM on May 31, 2009


Ah, I see that's already covered. Oh well...

How about this? 10 Greatest Libertarian Science Fiction Stories
posted by Artw at 2:21 PM on May 31, 2009


> this, in turn, would lead to their adoption by the "mainland" societies.

adoption --> bombing
posted by darth_tedious at 2:33 PM on May 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Companies that don't want to obey patent laws, meanwhile, can use the platforms to "implement some portion of a patented process on a seastead" to sell cheap goods without paying royalties.

So wait, for property rights or against? You can only choose one else you're a bunch of hypocritical assfaces. In fact, you're probably just assfaces anyway, but at least you can be consistent about your assfacery.
posted by Sova at 2:42 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not concrete platforms! They need to buy the Enterprise, and then encourage hundreds of thousands of refugees to tie their own boats to it!

Also, The thing I always wondered about: Once you've declared yourself an independent nation, what exactly stops other (real) independent nations from simply declaring war on you? Okay, maybe you bought a few silkworm missiles. Do you also have SAMs? Anti-missile defenses? Sonar and depth charges? Guards everywhere on high alert watching for frogmen? Modern nations, as it turns out, have a lot of capacity to wage war. 10 bucks says that Thieland is a lot easier to pacify than Samarra.
posted by agentofselection at 2:53 PM on May 31, 2009


Companies that don't want to obey patent laws, meanwhile, can use the platforms to "implement some portion of a patented process on a seastead" to sell cheap goods without paying royalties.

The irony is that anyone who thinks that operating on a floating sanctuary from law will protect them from international corporations has an unrealistically positive view of them.

Guys, if you live in a place where they can't sue you because there isn't any authority, it doesn't mean they're going to leave you alone. It means they're going to kill you.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:59 PM on May 31, 2009 [9 favorites]


I believe I've said it before, but the more I hear about libertarianism the more I am convinced that it is nothing more than pure-selfishness codified as a political doctrine.

A Libertarian is an anarchist who wishes to be protected from his slaves.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:00 PM on May 31, 2009 [5 favorites]


I doubt it would fail so easily. Since these guys have a lot of money, they'll just be able to hire lots of help and then, I guess, dump them into the sea when they stop being productive. Look at Dubai or something. They hire all these workers from other countries, then take their passports and force them to work for less money then they were promised.

If this is a success, it will be a two (or more) -tier society. And that's what Libertarianism is really all about. Vast wealth for some, minimal poverty for others. After all, if people are able to save money, well that's just capital sitting on the table! It's only fair that money be taken by regulatory rents squeezed out of a corrupt government!

So wait, for property rights or against? You can only choose one else you're a bunch of hypocritical assfaces.

Only if they think that "Intellectual Property" is the same thing as real property, and there isn't actually any reason to do that.
posted by delmoi at 3:00 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Guys, if you live in a place where they can't sue you because there isn't any authority, it doesn't mean they're going to leave you alone. It means they're going to kill you.

Heh. What they'll do is get their local governments to impose sanctions. I don't think Theil or the rest of the 'leadership' of the island's take on intellectual property will be so liberal once all their U.S. assets are frozen.
posted by delmoi at 3:02 PM on May 31, 2009


The first thing out of my mouth when I saw the Seasteading people at maker faire was "Does this require that I found my own micronation?" The guy said that half the group was just interested in the engineering and development challenges.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:30 PM on May 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Considering that all the libertarians doing the whining are upper-middle class or richer privileged white men whose (often incredible) success has been enabled by the social system and public infrastructure set up by and paid for by the government and taxes, I'm distinctly unsympathetic.

I dunno about this. I know several non-upper-middle class, non-white females who have strong libertarian tendencies (legalize pot, lower taxes) and at least one who is a registered Libertarian.

It's kinda unfair to characterize all of them as rich white men, though I will concur many, if not most, of them are.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 3:35 PM on May 31, 2009


Drat, I meant legalize pot, lower taxes = "weak libertarian tendencies". Not strong. Strong libertarian tendencies would probably mean the person believes in the gold standard.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 3:40 PM on May 31, 2009


The "I've got mine" tag is very appropriate

Oh, those are spaces? I thought it was one of the illegal drugs that they'd be selling.

"And today, our bathtub chef's specials include amphetamine, ketamine and igotmine."
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:42 PM on May 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


the more I hear about libertarianism the more I am convinced that it is nothing more than pure-selfishness codified as a political doctrine

Yes, because it's not as if 'libertarian' is a broad term encompassing many political views.
posted by Monochrome at 4:11 PM on May 31, 2009


...most of them contradictory, stupid or selfish.
posted by Artw at 4:20 PM on May 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


The creation of a functioning independent, non-organic economy is quite interesting to me.

This floating platform idea would make as fun Sim____ game as the original SimCity.

Finding a sovereign island state like Tuvalu and provisionally basing their capital construction around that might be a better approach.

What these people are really after is allodial title, to be a sovereign entity on this world. That is the ultimate attainment of wealth; most multimillionaires can assemble a simulacrum of this via legal device, but to be an actual freiherr in fact must be attractive.

The US offers the next best thing, "Conservation Easements", wherein the rural landowners sell off their development rights, which are then legally extinguished, in exchange for reduced if not eliminated property taxes.

This is not a permanent state since the property is still subject to eminent domain, but it's a pretty good deal for the landowners who are happy to keep their land undivided and relatively undeveloped.

If these independent-types really had drive they could work with the Hawaiian sovereignty movement to recondition Kahoʻolawe into a dual homeland / free economic zone.

There's also the Channel Islands off California, just sitting there, unused.
posted by @troy at 4:21 PM on May 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


I say we give them that floating mound of garbage that's circling the Pacific.
posted by Artw at 4:22 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Meatbomb: That's New Hampshire you're thinking of.

agentofselection: No, no! Pykrete! Pykrete is the answer!

I'm fascinated by these sorts of things, because I do think that people should be able to go off and form little experimental societies if they want to, even if most of them do have philosophies I wouldn't want to live within a hundred miles of. On the other hand, they mostly seem to fail even before they get to the point of really testing their idea(l)s, just from ordinary internal disagreements. You can't just gather a bunch of people on an island with a vague plan and expect to have a functioning society. (Hm, has there been much study of that? Beyond just collecting case studies?)
posted by hattifattener at 4:33 PM on May 31, 2009


In my experience, Libertarians aren't usually really very rich; they're upper-middle class at best. Rich people know good and goddamn well how beneficial having a government to protect their assets and keep the lower classes in line is.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:36 PM on May 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


I say we give them that floating mound of garbage that's circling the Pacific.

you laugh, but that's actually not a bad place to locate a free-floating island-state. Nice insolation, pretty much out of the typhoon zone, and convenient to both Asia and N America, with Hawaii as the closest logistical support center.

Dunno how much plastic crap is actually floating around there, but it'd be cool if it were enough for the technolibertarians to collect and recycle into useful goods.
posted by @troy at 4:43 PM on May 31, 2009


well how beneficial having a government to protect their assets and keep the lower classes in line is

yup, this fiscal year we are borrowing $750 billion from rich people to pay for the protection of their property interests here and abroad.
posted by @troy at 4:46 PM on May 31, 2009


I've heard libertarianism defined as "anarchy for the rich." This is a shining example.

Also, I'm astonished that no one has yet mentioned Snow Crash.
posted by drdanger at 4:48 PM on May 31, 2009


Dunno how much plastic crap is actually floating around there, but it'd be cool if it were enough for the technolibertarians to collect and recycle into useful goods.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Oprah Shines Light On Great Pacific Garbage Patch (video).

"David de Rothschild’s plan to sail across the Pacific Ocean on a 'bottle boat' made entirely of recycled materials. A highlight of the trip will be a visit to a region of floating plastic trash and particles known as the Eastern Garbage Patch." *
posted by ericb at 5:16 PM on May 31, 2009


I'm fascinated by these sorts of things, because I do think that people should be able to go off and form little experimental societies if they want to, even if most of them do have philosophies I wouldn't want to live within a hundred miles of.

They are fascinating, different in so many ways. The only thing I've ever found to be relatively common with experimental societies is rampant child molestation.
posted by Brian B. at 5:21 PM on May 31, 2009


yup, this fiscal year we are borrowing $750 billion from rich people to pay for the protection of their property interests here and abroad.

I have no idea where you pulled that number from, but whatever. It's a lot less then they'd lose without that protection.
posted by delmoi at 5:33 PM on May 31, 2009


The amount of hate, both direct and subtle, in this discussion is astonishing.
posted by nightchrome at 7:13 PM on May 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


You know, best of luck to them... I thought of doing something something similar, but then I turned 15. The logistics fail from the get go, even if you ignore malicious forces such as pirates, hurricanes, hostile nations, and giant squid. For example, how are you going to keep all those customers coming from their oppressive homelands for drugs, sex, and bittorrent from getting rowdy - not to mention the prostitutes and drug suppliers on which your economy relies. Oh, and then how are you going to distribute the very, very limited resources your floating nation provides. It just falls apart.
posted by deliquescent at 7:52 PM on May 31, 2009


So, who would take out the garbage and where would they take it? It's the little logistical things that kill ideas like this.
posted by MikeMc at 7:53 PM on May 31, 2009


Just throw it on the garbage island as it floats by!
posted by Artw at 7:59 PM on May 31, 2009


What keeps another nation from declaring WAR ON YOU? Are you kidding me? The average dhow full of Somali Pirates would kick the shit out of an island full of fat overprivileged libertarians and still have time to be home for dinner. Libertarians are just people who think they are hot shit cuz they won the sperm lottery. Big hats, no cattle, as they say.
posted by jcworth at 8:03 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


The amount of hate, both direct and subtle, in this discussion is astonishing.

If you can have an emotional response to Libertarian capitalism that isn't "fucking eww", you're disturbed.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:14 PM on May 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Libertarianism in the abstract was cuter when I hadn't met any of them and hadn't heard any of their opinions on non-abstract things.
posted by Artw at 8:15 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you can have an emotional response to Libertarian capitalism that isn't "fucking eww", you're disturbed.

You seem to have enough anger to cover my share, so thanks, I'll remain neutral.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 8:51 PM on May 31, 2009


It's good to see we're judging people based on our emotional reactions to them now.
The best way to show you're better than people talking about individuality is to hate on them en masse using blanket generalizations coming from your gut.
posted by nightchrome at 10:08 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Eh. It's always worked for me.
posted by erskelyne at 11:24 PM on May 31, 2009


Small ell libertarianism is not the same as Libertarian party libertarianism. If you aren't libertarian, you are authoritarian. I support almost none of the planks of the Libertarian party (except pot perhaps), but I prefer to err on the side of libertarianism over excessive authoritarianism, which I think only reasonable. Indeed I suspect it is actually the default position of most Mefites, at the very least in reaction to the excessive authoritarianism displayed by the last administration, if not the current one as well. However, I'll admit after even the briefest perusal of the manifesto that the Seasteaders have some wack jobs in charge of their propaganda machine. I haven't seen language like that since the super cheaper shopping bags (now there was a Libertarian lol).

Can't we move on to discuss the sublimely ridiculous and yet awesome technical aspects of designing a project like this and leave some of the politics behind? I suppose if I started talking about reviving blimp travel or pneumatic tube delivery systems we'd be bogged down in discussions about Nazi Germany and/or the triumph of fascism in the movie Brazil?

The idea of Seasteading could result in new nation states that would probably have a high rate of failure in the first manifesto waving utopianist wave, but, if modular, what was left behind could become an awesome infrastructure for a new meta-community, an artificial archipelago of nomadic islands accreting around the community of the week, a set of resources, airstrips, universities, retirement communities, festivals etc... Urban blight and inner city flight could become a thing of the past as communities expelled failed neighborhoods or businesses and tightened around thriving cores.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:08 AM on June 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Libertarians don't give a shit about individuality. They just want to benefit from society without contributing to it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:08 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Um, Pope Guilty, that's like the majority of people I know.

And their not even libertarians.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 12:20 AM on June 1, 2009


excuse me, they're
posted by The ____ of Justice at 12:20 AM on June 1, 2009


If you can have an emotional response to Libertarian capitalism that isn't "fucking eww", you're disturbed.

I pretty much share the antipathy for economic libertarianism, but this is just lazy and ad hominem to boot. Nightcrome's right. There seems to be an awful lot of simple spleen-venting in this thread for a crowd that prides itself on its thoughtfulness. If it's all so obvious, it really shouldn't (and isn't) so hard to point out the fundamental problems with the philosophy and let people make their judgments.

I doubt it would fail so easily. Since these guys have a lot of money, they'll just be able to hire lots of help

Yeah, assuming they have the resources, I don't think the threats cited in the article are insurmountable obstacles, or even the biggest threats... which are probably going to be an anti-cooperative ethos and incompatible ideals.

What's going to happen when one of the players decides something that'd be best for the project as a whole conflicts with their personal preferences or even their self-interest? I suppose it's possible enthusiasm and personal zeal for the project could lead to lots of voluntary cooperation, but my guess is that human nature's going to assert itself. The organizational problems that a libertarian political party faces from within precisely because of their social philosophy combined with inevitable philosophical differences would seem to be a pretty strong indicator of the likely problems any kind of libertarian society would end up facing.

Only if they think that "Intellectual Property" is the same thing as real property

It's true that there are some obvious differences, but it also seems to me that property itself more or less a legal/social fiction. It may have pretty deep roots in the human psyche, it may be a very convenient fiction indeed if you want to have a society, but the idea that property of any kind is "real" in the sense that it's part of the natural order of things is itself pretty tenuous. So it does seem somewhat incongruous when libertarians, who elevate this idea to a central place in their ideology, decide not bring along any kind of respect for rights commonly associated with intellectual/creative investment.
posted by weston at 12:29 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Truly large vessels aren't threatened by rogue waves either (think of aircraft carriers and cruise ships - I doubt they even make it up to the deck.)"

Rogue waves are pretty high and they don't have to actually break over the deck to sink a ship. The RMS Queen Mary came within 20 cms of capsizing when broadsided by a 28m rogue wave during the war. In 2005 a trio of rogue waves significantly damaged the Norwegian Dawn, a 965 feet long, 105 feet wide, 92,250 gross ton passenger vessel. Cabins as high as the 9th and 10th decks were damaged.
posted by Mitheral at 1:43 AM on June 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Super-tanker München which sank in 1978 is now believed to have been sunk by a rogue wave.

As a naval recruiter told a friend of mine who was enlisting, "if it floats, it can sink".
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:45 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are seafaring libertarians the archetypal I'm-All-Right-Jacks?
posted by MuffinMan at 5:04 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


LOLANARCHOCAPITALISTUTOPIAS

I agree that this project is kind of absurd, but delmoi, BrotherCaine, and weston make some good points. I know MeFi loves to hate libertarians, but I've lost count of the adhoms and strawmen in this thread. The whole "libertarians are just a bunch of millionaires who want to smoke crack and have sex with babies and then kill the babies with their piles of guns and enslave less fortunate people to make money for them in money factories" thing is just silly.

(Disclaimer: I'm definitely a social libertarian [small L], which I think most MeFites are, but I have issues with most of the economic stuff. Hell, I voted for Obama. I don't subscribe to any ideology; I just don't like to see ideas misrepresented.)

As others have mentioned, libertarianism (again, small L) is actually a pretty diverse branch of sociopolitical thought, and some of it is more nuanced than you might think. The basic premise of libertarianism is the sovereignty of the individual: that everyone has the rights to life, liberty, and property, so long as they don't impinge upon the same rights of another person. Reasonable enough, right?

(Fun fact: the original draft of the Declaration of Independence actually included property among those famously inalienable rights. A lot of libertarian thought is based on the political philosophies of the American founders. Not that the founders were infallible, but the basic libertarian platform is not as radical as people seem to think—if anything, our current political norms are a departure from the libertarian ideas of the founders.)

Different libertarians extrapolate from this basic premise and arrive at different perspectives on education; health care; defense; class issues; the relationships between markets, businesses, and individuals; law enforcement and jurisprudence; infrastructure; intellectual property; and all the other issues that one expects a political philosophy to address. I disagree with many of their conclusions—and, yes, many of those conclusions are insane—but some of them are quite reasonable, and most of them are at least motivated by good intentions, even if they also have a naïve view of human nature.

On intellectual property: IP is most certainly different than physical property, for at least two reasons. One: physical property is exclusive—only one person can have possession of a pineapple at a time, so for another person to take it would deny the first person of the pineapple. IP doesn't work this way: it can be duplicated indefinitely. Two: it can be argued that we have a natural, inborn sense of physical property; anyone who has watched an animal defend food or territory from another animal will understand this. The same cannot be said of IP, which seems to be a modern and artificial notion (a useful, even justifiable one, perhaps, but artificial nonetheless). AFAIK, the concept of IP is unknown to tribal societies, and would probably be utterly weird to them.

I'm not interested in starting an IP debate. I'm just pointing out that there are differences, and it's not necessarily hypocritical to believe in real property but not IP.
posted by ixohoxi at 5:59 AM on June 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


artw, thanks for the libertarian stories link, but i have to say it misses what imho is the best libertarian piece of fiction ever written: Visit Port Watson! free @ http://www.sonsorol.org/port_watson.html

( i like libert; it's arian im not so sure about. )
posted by 3mendo at 6:07 PM on June 1, 2009


If you aren't libertarian, you are authoritarian.

I disagree, regardless of your false dilemma. If you are libertarian, then you are authoritarian. Big or small, there's no way to have a government that serves only property rights without it being feudal in nature. That's what feudalism always was, a private form of government with its barons and dukes based on titled ownership, everyone else a serf or slave of some kind. It makes perverse sense that the property-less people would be "owned" in this regime, because the ideas to stop this from happening would be banned and we would need to reinvent the struggle for equal rights all over again.

I personally don't care to entertain all the weakened dilutions of the yellow piss that is libertarianism, because like communism or fascism, I only see a total loss of control behind it either way, as if voting in a dictatorship during a crisis and expecting it to honor some kind of preexisting arrangement. It's a simple delusion of a docile cat coming out of the bag. It's very weak thinking based on a fantasy, basically.
posted by Brian B. at 8:43 PM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Brian B., I'd agree that a government that serves only to protect property rights is an authoritarian enterprise. I disagree that that is what libertarianism is about, but I don't think it would be fruitful to have a semantic argument to hash out what libertarianism represents beyond the etymological fact that libertarian is the antonym of authoritarian. I'd agree that the end result of Libertarian party policy would merely seek to substitute corporate or capitalist tyranny for statist economic control.

Unfortunately, the Libertarian party has been composed of marginalized extremists for so long that their policies have come to rely on completely idealized and oversimplified models for human behavior and economies. As I've said before, if the US had a true multi-party system (probably unattainable without implementing different systems for elections such as instant runoff) the Libertarian party would probably draw a lot more moderate viewpoints, and its policies would shift to hopefully saner concepts. Some libertarians are leftist social progressives, who are fairly anti-property, or who want to tax wealth rather than income. It's a very broad political ideology which has sadly been so tarred by a few nutjobs that I sometimes say anti-authoritarian or anti-fascist in place of libertarian in order to avoid precisely this kind of derail.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:12 PM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I suspect the word he's actually looking for is "liberal", but Americans have funny associations when it comes to that word.
posted by Artw at 11:26 PM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you are libertarian, then you are authoritarian. Big or small, there's no way to have a government that serves only property rights without it being feudal in nature.

I thought I was going to avoid participating in this thread, but I just can't let the above pass without comment.

A couple of quotes:

"Government has no other end, but the preservation of property." - by the well known authoritarian, John Locke.

"The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. Property must be sacred or liberty cannot exist." - from that champion of feudalism - John Adams.

There is no absolute distinction between property rights and civil rights; they are interdependent upon each other. Each person is his own property. This underlies such offenses as murder, rape and enslavement. If the two quotes above don't show how the right to property helped direct the thinking of the Founding Fathers on all the other rights, then read this essay by James Madison, where he contrasts the "particular application" with the "larger and juster meaning", and affirms them both.

The comments made regarding "property-less people" who would be "owned" in a regime focused on property rights, are irrelevant nonsense. If you want to think of property rights from the perspective of feudal times, then the above is more than enough to show that it has no relation to libertarian (that is, classic liberal) thought.
posted by BigSky at 12:16 AM on June 2, 2009


Your posting really don't benefit your side as much as you think it does.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:19 AM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


- by the well known authoritarian, John Locke.

Quote from Wikipedia on John Locke:

Appraisals of Locke have often been tied to appraisals of liberalism in general, and also to appraisals of the United States. Detractors note that (in 1671) he was a major investor in the English slave-trade through the Royal Africa Company, as well as through his participation in drafting the Fundamental Constitution of the Carolinas while Shaftesbury's secretary, which established a feudal aristocracy and gave a master absolute power over his slaves. They note that as a secretary to the Council of Trade and Plantations (1673-4) and a member of the Board of Trade (1696-1700) Locke was, in fact, "one of just half a dozen men who created and supervised both the colonies and their iniquitous systems of servitude"[6] Some see his statements on unenclosed property as having justified the displacement of the Native Americans. Because of his opposition to aristocracy and slavery in his major writings, he is accused of hypocrisy, or of caring only for the liberty of English capitalists.
posted by Brian B. at 1:12 AM on June 2, 2009


I suspect the word he's actually looking for is "liberal"

Sure, but someone else mentioned libertarianism sneeringly (as opposed to Libertarianism), and I felt I had to jump in on that. I've defined myself as a progressive and as a classic liberal at various times, and don't see much difference. All those terms are fairly overloaded, but that's political jargon for you.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:32 AM on June 2, 2009


Your posting really don't benefit your side as much as you think it does.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:19 AM on June 2 [+] [!]


Pope Guilty, I'm not sure what your own comments have done in this discussion other than make me feel metafilter is not the best place for exchanging any kind of political idea.

If there's one place where I think Mefi could really use improvement, it's to be something other than a "yay liberals, fuck everyone else" political forum. As it stands those are the most outspoken members regarding any political topic on the blue. And while it's great to cheer for one's own team, I'm not sure if the team itself is getting any smarter or wiser by shutting down opposing viewpoints with sheer hostility and ad hominem attacks.

To be fair, many libertarians, as others have said earlier, suffer from the same kind of ideological blinders as do proponents of other systems. You are certainly right to challenge the idea that a purely free market is a sustainable or desirable system.

But as others have said, I think you are doing a disservice to yourself by categorizing all libertarians in a single category. For myself, I feel there is a type of libertarianism that serves a useful purpose--the type which expresses a healthy skepticism of politicians who promise the world and the masses willingly embrace whatever military campaign or government program because it "sounds really good."

This kind of "crochety old man"-type libertarianism supports the infrastructure-building role of government, yet is extremely wary of how humans tend to find all sorts of loopholes in the system to help themselves, at the cost of the whole. Or as I've heard it said, "nobody watches anybody else's money as carefully as one's own." I'm not sure if any party at the moment is concerned with the nuts and bolts of financing a project as much as libertarians tend to be, and in so far as they are, I can't dismiss their message entirely.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 5:17 AM on June 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Hypocrite he may well have been. The point of my reply though, was to show that believing government's chief function is the protection of property has nothing to do with promoting an authoritarian or feudal society view of society. The excerpt which you quote, "his opposition to aristocracy and slavery in his major writings", indicates what he concluded given his beliefs on property.
posted by BigSky at 10:02 AM on June 2, 2009


Clearly he did believe in an authoritarian society, run by the people who had property. That's the essence of libertarian capitalism.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:55 AM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Authoritarian-Libertarian? That seems odd, because Libertarian is a breed of Totalitarian in its own wacky way, what with Libertarians so often demanding "everything within the market, nothing outside the market, nothing against the market." As I read in the comments, some are just simplifying Libertarian to Authoritarian, but that isn't really the case either. Authoritarians tend to presume their subjects don't understand and don't need to, while Totalitarians approach their subjects like they do understand and have to. Libertarians definitely seem to think that in their ideal state everyone is on the same page and everyone is a libertarian. You can't say the same about most banana republics, classic monarchies, or Straussian authoritarians. In those, what the masses think just don't matter, they just need to obey, and if they don't, well the state can do anything it wants to them already so... But while under a totalitarian rule, if they don't follow their commands that means they don't understand, and if they don't understand, they must be outsiders, or alternatively they do understand, and know what they are doing by disobeying the state and so can be punished for treason.

But if we replace Libertarian with the word 'Totalitarian', that means the spectrum is between Authoritarian-Totalitarian. And I'm not quite sure about that.
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:34 PM on June 3, 2009


The real issue is that pretending there's a single line that runs between the extremes of "Libertarian" and "Authoritarian" is stupid and childish and won't help you understand reality at all.

(Well, that and the presumption that "Libertarian" means "Randian capitalism", an idea that would get you laughed at anywhere but the US.)
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:58 PM on June 3, 2009


No, I don't think there is a single line, thus the "hrm" ending of that post. Which I guess, given the weirdness of text communication, may come across as accepting the conclusion of the comment. It is a very artificial construction. There isn't a single or two dimensional graph of structures of the state (though I personally find the fascism OR anarchy choice an interesting one to think about.)

And yeah, in the US Libertarian == Randian Capitalism is a very common thought process, but I was not calling the Rand strain Totalitarian, within the leaky distinction made before, it is much more Authoritarian. But, uh, who talks about Libertarianism at all outside of the states?
posted by TwelveTwo at 2:07 PM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


But if we replace Libertarian with the word 'Totalitarian', that means the spectrum is between Authoritarian-Totalitarian. And I'm not quite sure about that.

You might have something here. I don't think a libertarian state is even remotely possible, sort of like finding a man on the moon, though it can be imagined and it can inspire people to build their political rockets. The only way they could maintain a libertarian timocracy is through force, and if we define authoritarian as government by the not-elected, then it fits on one end, because they must cancel elections at some point to achieve their state of demophobia, and then this would evolve into a brand of dogmatic totalitarianism based on theory. Their type of economy won't ever come to their rescue to perpetuate a pan-prosperous libertarian bliss that people won't resist, and among themselves they are confused about these claims, because it was argued as the superior economics for a long time (implied to be a benefit for most people), while some always knew it was only to benefit a few. Now it's more or less argued as definition (with some proponents behaving as though they own a religious belief that requires our tolerance, as though it was never intended to be practiced on everyone else).
posted by Brian B. at 7:23 PM on June 3, 2009


and if we define authoritarian as government by the not-elected

Yeah, let's not.


You can have an authoritarian government with elections, they just tend to claim to have knowledge of the good of the people, and tend to weigh the good greater than the will of the people. As for totalitarian governments, they too can have elections, however they tend to claim to have knowledge of the will of the people, which is either the same as the good, or irrelevant to the good, but usually the former.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:51 PM on June 3, 2009


Yeah, let's not.

It's a pretty standard definition, without all the subjective assumptions of goodness, or greater will or claimed knowledge. That makes it, I suppose, a narrower definition, and more concrete.
posted by Brian B. at 10:59 PM on June 3, 2009


To clarify: Authoritarians don't need to have elections at all. Totalitarians don't need to have elections either, but they hold them anyway because every election is unanimous.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:09 PM on June 3, 2009


It's a pretty standard definition,

Ok, but only if Robert Greene sets the standard. My problem with it is that it just mystifies it in something that sounds dubious and dangerous and anti-democratic! What is the difference between an elected leader and a not-elected leader? The set of states with a 'government by the not-elected' can either contain all states or none of them. The Athenian slaves did not elect their leaders, and Turkmenbashi was elected. Totalitarianism and Authoritarianism is more of an aspect of state ideology, and the relation of citizen to the state. But 'not-elected' doesn't really say anything about that, it just implies that authoritarianism isn't democratic.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:18 PM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ok, but only if Robert Greene sets the standard.

You may be referring to the general defintion found here, while I'm referring to the specific one (the second one). It may or may not be important to placing in a continuum with totalitarianism.
posted by Brian B. at 11:37 PM on June 3, 2009


I'm not referring to any dictionary definition, I'm referring to how they function comparatively. I was not trying to get to a description of them individually, but in relation to one another. The assumption being that the difference between the two may open up a spectrum in which Libertarianism can be placed. The dictionary is the wrong tool for this task.
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:40 AM on June 4, 2009


I'm not referring to any dictionary definition,

You seemed to doubt, earlier, that it was standard usage.
posted by Brian B. at 9:16 AM on June 6, 2009


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