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Comment on this entry

Seasteading: Some problems on the way to Castle Sovereign

David Brin

Contrary Brin

August 25, 2011

Inspired by Ayn Rand, PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, along with Patri Friedman and others, are helping the Seasteading Institute plan a floating ‘start-up country’ off the coast of San Francisco, built on oil-rig like platforms in international waters.


Complete entry


Posted by Nathan Wosnack  on  08/25  at  07:54 PM

In interpreting the motivations of Peter Thiel’s initiative I lean towards thinking he is doing this for the profit motivation. Thiel is a business man, and as such will work diligently to attract investors and partners onto this nation, and businesses that bring in a healthy Return on Investment (ROI). I wonder if this effectively means ‘citizenship’ into this self-proclaimed floatilla will be on the basis of one’s existing financial wealth and portfolio. Given that no minimum wage and welfare is an option here, I’d guess only highly skilled people able to be useful to this SeaSteading initiative will be welcomed, unless perhaps the founders are also looking for cheap, homegrown unskilled labor? I’m personally doubtful of the latter given the negative publicity it would probably attract from the international media on production exploitation.

“Legal Standing. Because of the way that WG is forming on Planet Earth… with the judiciary and bureaucracy first and the legislature last… the chief effect is to ensure that individual humans have no legal standing before international agencies. Only sovereign nations have standing, can file suit, negotiate treaties, or assert rights and privileges.”

Looking at an earlier example of a “start-up” micro-nation or ‘unrecognized state’, The Principality of Sealand (near the UK), it has not been recognized as a sovereign state by any other sovereign state/country, supranational entities like the UN and others, without multi-national trade agreements between itself and other nations. It now sits alone in the ocean, in ruin and for sale. If Thiel’s flotilla doesn’t have sovereign recognition by the US and other nations, will those engaging in activities on this floating island be subject to the laws of their nation, or will they be excluded from follow the laws of other nations if it’s on international waters? Will their courts, not having official sovereign state status, be able to enforce their ‘laws’ and will they have the final say (above UN international law, laws of other nations from which the citizens originate)?

What if the US claims it’s within their territorial waters, or the US extends its territorial waters? How will Thiel and Co., successfully fight this? America has a history of permanent military bases, and interventionist wars with those it considers a threat, so could this be invaded or taken over by the US government? What if the micro-nation of Thiel’s angers the US (defining him and citizens as ‘traitors’ or ‘terrorists’) and they put a trade embargos on it, effectively blocking all citizens and companies from doing business with them?

- Nathan Wosnack

Posted by Kid Panda  on  08/25  at  10:08 PM

&$@! them. If Thiel and his dilettante wannabe pseudo-rugged-individualist hypocrites have any sack or integrity, they’ll start from scratch and eschew every technological, financial and social connection to the society—to all the institutions, rules, regulations, authorities, and established civilities—that made their wealth possible.

But of course they won’t. They might be leeches on civilization’s fat belly, a bunch of uber-rich welfare queens in libertarian wrappings, who wave Atlas Shrugged with the bullying viciousness of Bible-waving Inquisition priests, but they’re not dumb. Because if they had to live by honest toil and their so-called principles, they’d be picked clean in a week.

Posted by Dan Dascalescu  on  08/26  at  01:43 AM

As an ambassador for The Seasteading Institute, I would like to clarify that The Institute does not have specific plans of building floating colonies off the coast of San Francisco. ( The Institute’s primary purpose is research and movement building, and as a non-profit entity, it will not engage in projects of such a substantial nature.

However, Blueseed (, a for-profit seasteading venture, does plan to create a high-tech entrepreneurship center in close proximity to Silicon Valley, 24 miles offshore, in international waters.

Posted by Matt Brown  on  08/26  at  02:29 AM

If Thiel’s stated goal is for these islands to be mini petri dishes in government experimentation then making them entirely reliant on the mainland for the inhabitants wealth (at least as they are described here) seems somewhat counter-productive.  A true test would be to build self-sufficient societies that had to rely soley on their own political and economic systems for survival.  Otherwise all he’s doing is creating the ultimate gated community.

Posted by Matthew Bailey  on  08/26  at  06:46 AM

I have some ex-friends, whom I used to work with in the 1980s, who are just salivating at the chance that Mr. Thiel and Company will built their Seastead in the Caribbean or Eastern Pacific.

These people are all ex-Colombian Special Forces, and now high ranking members of Drug Cartels.

They can’t wait to pillage such a lush target…. Or, to take advantage of it (by threat of such piracy) to make use of it to smuggle drugs into the USA.

Posted by Matthew Bailey  on  08/26  at  06:52 AM


My earlier comment was addressing some of the concerns raised in Mr. Wosnack’s post concerning legal status.

The reason that these “Pirates” in South America are salivating over their perceived opportunity is that the upper strata of many of the Drug Cartels are highly educated and affluent people, most of whom are aware of the problems that befall nations or states that do not have international recognition (such as Sealand).

Posted by Exa  on  08/26  at  08:41 AM

I propose full state expropriation of assetts held by anyone egomaniac making a suggestion like Thiel’s. The world needs less, not more, hiding spots for tax criminals.

Posted by Erich Kofmel  on  08/26  at  11:47 AM

Let me just highlight the two main problems with your argument. When talking about world government you are talking about the time *after* state sovereignty. We see this happening now. Sovereignty loses much of its meaning and importance. Small and medium states are forced to adopt the same policies as the bigger and mightier nations they wish to do business with. The small sovereign island states that you mention are in fact not even able to staff their own UN offices now. There’s at least one NGO (“Islands First”) that helps them by providing interns free of charge. The rich of this world don’t need to spend money on building seasteads to get small island states at the brink of financial ruin to do their bidding. You say the local population might not agree? But the rich would face the same problem on their own seasteads. The people who may ultimately bring a sovereign seastead into existence are not necessarily the same that would benefit from its sovereign standing in a legal manner should world government ever materialize. There might be rebellion on a seastead too. I wager seasteads “will wind up being more complicated, onerous and problematic” than even you envision.

My Google+ profile:

Posted by Nathan Wosnack  on  08/29  at  03:44 PM

“They are doing this not in order to escape government, but because we on Planet Earth appear to be heading, inexorably, toward a world government.”

- David Brin; if Peter Thiel is investing in this venture to escape ‘World Government’, as you assert, then why is he listed as a member of the Steering Committee* for the Bilderberg Group which consists of powerful government/political/business of large multi-national corporations to discuss world issues (likely with ‘projects’ and active initiatives in secret)? Though they claim no resolutions are proposed - along with no votes, no policy statements issued to the public - it is difficult to impossible to tell what is really going on there without relying on second-hand ‘leaked’ information that may or may not be reliable.

With secretive Bilderberg meeting attendees at Peter Thiel’s disposal, including Princes, Federal Reserve chairmans, and other powerful ‘globalist-minded’ people leads me to immediately think “world government” and not “Libertarian paradise”.

(* Source: - USA   Thiel, Peter A.    President, Clarium Capital Management, LLC)

- Nathan Wosnack

Posted by Evan Landry  on  08/30  at  09:14 PM

Does the author, David Brin, know that people have commented and have asked questions (including direct ones to him)?

Posted by post-post  on  08/31  at  12:42 AM

It’s so tiring reading about the Bilderberg Group;
and don’t forget Halliburton! It began with JFK assassination conspiracy books; it has never let up since. If only you knew how stale it has become, Nathan. Every wingnut with a notebook full of flawed conspiracy info wants to write a book.

Posted by Nathan Wosnack  on  08/31  at  02:46 PM

Post-post there is nothing conspiratorial about what I posted, and I resent the fact you compared the Bilderberg group to conspiracy theories. Here you have global-minded thinkers, elite and powerful leaders, meeting in private to discuss world issues of finance, war, technology in private from a central location and the details aren’t made public. Fact. Not a conspiracy. Try reading their website or any reliable source on the Bilderbergs; you might learn something.

So you have Thiel participating with these people. It just seemed a bit odd that Libertarian-minded person wanting to create a sovereign flotilla initiative away from a system of welfare, high taxes, gun rights, and at the same time closely associate in private with those who are big on welfare, high taxes and gun restrictions. It makes me, because I’ll only speak for myself, wonder what his real intentions are. No tin foil hat conspiracy theories here.

@Evan Landry; good question. I don’t think Mr. Brin likes communicating with his commenters. Too bad; he should be more accountable and defend his writing.

Learn the difference and stop blasting people, with your holier than thou attitude, for bringing up Bilderberg Group, Trilateral Commission, CFR as if they’re pseudo-intellectual swear words; the context is key, and the context in which I was using it was perfectly fine.

Posted by jason  on  09/04  at  02:44 PM

I made a short about seasteading. pls watch if you’re interested:

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