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That Trick Never Works

But maybe this time. Peter Thiel has provided seed funding for a libertarian ocean colony.



Paul Breed wrote:

Wrong Link Rand..... ;-)

Brock wrote:

Click on my name for the correct link.

It's an interesting concept. It has some features that make it slightly more feasible than past experiments:

1. Concrete slabs are cheaper than steel hulls. A lot cheaper.
2. You don't need a shipyard. Build at sea.
3. You don't need permanent engines or fuel (rent a tug when you need one).
4. Internal volume increases much faster than diameter or surface size, so it's possible to make these things big enough even normal people can live on them (assuming they're comfortable with Tokyo/New York/Hong Kong style density).

The artist's conception at Wired seems very, very small relative to what is possible. If Hong Kong hadn't been swallowed up by China (allowing excess population to move inland) I bet they would have built these things a city block at a time. These could also be popular as tourist destinations if built in tropical areas near good sailing or scuba diving - line along Hawaii's many shoals.

Big D wrote:

I love the fact that they will be completely independent, yet pirates will never bother them, and nations will let them be as long as they fly a flag of convenience.

Yet another Utopian vision that only has a snowball's chance of working if somebody else pays the price to secure it. That said, most of the planet is a de facto free-rider on the high seas these days, so it's not impossible.

Outside of the "new nation" Utopianism, the concept doesn't look that wild. It'd probably be easier to sell as close offshore luxury resorts and homes for the rich.

Brock wrote:

"That said, most of the planet is a de facto free-rider on the high seas these days, so it's not impossible."

You hit the nail on the head here. These colonies will be pretty safe for the reasons given. Cargo ships with $100MM worth of goods and 10 crew (as opposed to 1000 armed citizens and less than $10MM in goods) are a much softer and profitable target. Also, who would bother to invade something like this? There aren't any natural resources to take and slave raids are rather passe on the Pacific ocean.

I think it would be pretty neat though if they paid 1% of their GDP to the US government anyway, as a "Our Navy Protects Your Ass" tax.

Edward Wright wrote:

I love the fact that they will be completely independent, yet pirates will never bother them, and nations will let them be as long as they fly a flag of convenience.

Most cruise ships fly flags of convenience. How often are they attacked by pirates? They don't travel with naval escorts, either. If I recall correctly, most piracy these days is committed by drug traffickers who are stealing boats to smuggle drugs in.

If I recall correctly, there was a libertarian millionaire who bought his own oil rig and declared independence a while back. I think he finally ran into trouble with the British government but I don't recall any problems with pirates.

I also imagine the inhabitants of a platform might have some guns and shoot back at any pirates who showed up.

I can't see this being a very popular lifestyle, however. How many people would want to incarcerate themselves on an oil rig to avoid paying taxes? If you stop paying taxes, the government will incarcerate you for free, probably in a minimum security prison that's nicer than most oil rigs.

Ed Minchau wrote:

Edward, you may be thinking of Sealand, which was a WW2 gunnery platform that was just outside British territorial waters. Some guy bought it, declared himself Prince of Sealand, and lived there with his family and a small group of people for a number of years - once even repelling an attack from some German nutbars. It has since been leased to a secure data storage company.

Robert wrote:

For those not familiar with the story, this is great reading:

And this is worth looking at:

ken anthony wrote:

Enjoyed the Sealand History link and was very impressed that England seems to be doing the right thing with regard to recognizing it's sovereignty. Also thought about how this related to the earlier topic of space property rights. Sealand had to defend itself both with lawyers and guns. Might a space settlement?

Also, what prevents some space cadets, after setting up a colony, from declaring themselves the crown family of a new nation?

BDavis wrote:

It wasn't impossible to build Rapture at the bottom of the ocean, Andrew Ryan would say of his creation. It was impossible to build it anywhere else.

memomachine wrote:


1. Wouldn't they be able to use the temperature differential between surface and ocean depths to generate power?

2. Being libertarian ... anyone making book on whether or not they'll bathe regularly? I've known a few libertarians who seemed to be independent of soap along with common sense. I suppose they were more anarchistic than libertarian.

3. It's an interesting concept. But since rogue waves happen on a regular basis wouldn't these things eventually fall victim to a rogue wave?

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on May 22, 2008 8:42 AM.

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