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Earth Science

Paypal Founder Helping Build Artificial Island Nations 692

MadMartigan2001 writes with a pretty crazy article on a project involving floating libertarian paradises. From the article: "PayPal founder and early Facebook investor Peter Thiel has given $1.25 million to an initiative to create floating libertarian countries in international waters. Thiel has been a big backer of the Seasteading Institute, which seeks to build sovereign nations on oil rig-like platforms to occupy waters beyond the reach of law-of-the-sea treaties."
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Paypal Founder Helping Build Artificial Island Nations

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  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @05:20PM (#37112094)

    This idea has been tried several times and it always ends the same way (with fail []). Think about it, if it were really that easy to declare your own country with its own laws, every asshole with a sea-worthy boat would be proclaiming his own little kingdom. Idiots who believe you can do this are the same morons who think that you can murder someone in international waters [] and not face prosecution or that you can get out of paying taxes [] by sending a letter to the IRS stating that you refuse to recognize their authority (ask Wesley Snipes if that shit works).

    The only real way to establish your own country is to get the people of an existing country to elect you dictator or to stage a coup overthrowing the existing leader (or at least seize a portion of their existing territory). And even then, your rule is only as stable as your ability to defend it (from both internal and external threats).

    So if you plan on setting up your own little kingdom on some old oil rig just off the U.S. coast (or coast of any country) and doing whatever you want, you had better damn sure be ready to defend yourself when the Navy shows up in a big, heavily armed ship looking to introduce you to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [] and the concept of Universal Jurisdiction []. And if it's the U.S. Navy, you're probably going to need a *lot* of firepower on your little oil rig, Your Majesty.

    • I was always amused by the heaps of love /. gave "Sealand." What a joke that was/is.

    • by Herkum01 ( 592704 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @05:24PM (#37112138)

      I say it is great social experiment to prove how idiotic the whole idea can be.

      So let these people have their paradise and maybe they will stop going bug-f*** on the rest of us.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by N_Piper ( 940061 )
      A standing militia of lawyers can and will pose more of an obstetrical to the U.S. Navy than all the guns you can squeeze onto an oil platform, I don't see a military raid being an option in any case.
    • you had better damn sure be ready to defend yourself when the Navy shows up in a big, heavily armed ship looking to introduce you to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

      Only if you think the navy is likely to waste the time and money to travel to you. Which, sorry to hurt anyone's inflated ego, they're not going to unless you try to take with you a nuke or lay claim to an oil rig.

      If you're really worried about it, get citizenship from some small country, preferably a landlocked one, THEN declare your island independent. Luxembourg doesn't have a navy, for example. If you're not a US citizen on paper, the US navy probably won't come trying to enforce Luxembourg's ta

      • Old joke (Score:4, Funny)

        by sourcerror ( 1718066 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @05:43PM (#37112414)

        Old Hungarian joke:
        - Where do you work?
        - At the Ministry of Naval Affairs.
        - Are you kidding, we don't even have a seashore!
        - Hey, we got a Ministry of Public Welfare too.

      • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *

        If you're really worried about it, get citizenship from some small country, preferably a landlocked one, THEN declare your island independent. Luxembourg doesn't have a navy, for example. If you're not a US citizen on paper, the US navy probably won't come trying to enforce Luxembourg's tax laws.

        Doesn't work that way. If you're an American citizen and try to do this, the U.S. can just declare it a fraud under the aforementioned United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. You can't just fly any flag on your little island, you have to have a real *legitimate* connection with said country. And even if they did accept your obvious attempt at fraudulent abuse of a new citizenship, you're still subject to the aforementioned Universal Jurisdiction. Either way, they'll get you if they want you. and if

        • If you are an American, you can renounce your citizenship by going to practically any embassy or consul office and making a formal statement disclaiming your citizenship. After that, you have about ten years to continue to pay income taxes if you don't want the U.S. federal government going after your for tax evasion. You do get credit from the IRS where you can deduct taxes paid to another government if those taxes are higher than what you would have paid if the money was earned in the USA. After that clock has run out, you are completely separated from American society and you are free to do whatever you want to do in that regard. You may be a stateless person [], which has its own set of headaches and most embassy officials will try to discourage you from renouncing citizenship for that purpose alone.

          Some other countries have similar laws for renouncing citizenship.... but not all of them. I know Greece and Turkey have citizenship claims for up to three generations after a citizen leaves their nations, as do a few other countries as well. That counts if you are a young man and suddenly find yourself drafted into the armies of those respective countries even though you may be a third generation removed from anybody in those countries. Michael Dukakis, for example, technically held dual citizenship with Greece when he ran for President of the U.S.A. and was also eligible to run for the office of President of Greece. Citizenship can be a tricky thing even if you want to get out of it completely.

          As for establishing a new state, on a practical matter I think the grandparent post pretty much summed it up. If you have big guns to fight off would-be pirates and other idiots, have enough firepower where major military action would be needed to enforce laws upon your hunk of would-be real estate, and if you are some place that otherwise a country has no claim..... you may have the potential to create a real country. The rest is self-sustainability so you don't necessarily need cooperation from other countries.

          One of the problems with Sealand is that they were so dependent upon the United Kingdom that they might as well be a part of that country too. Electrical power, groceries, and even most transportation links went through the UK and the "country" was so small that it really didn't have much to offer except strictly as a tax haven or trying to evade the law. If somehow some significant industries could be built or a service could be provided which sets your country apart, your independent sovereign claim is much easier to enforce and there is a higher likelihood that other countries will "recognize" your claim. If you can get a large enough group of people to join you, it also makes it easier to claim "nationhood", as most "microstates" are usually a single family or very small group.

          In other words, being genuinely independent in all areas of life really is the key here. If you depend upon the assistance of a government in some capacity, you lose at least some of your independence regardless of how other governments think of you. Then again, it was many decades where the People's Republic of China was not recognized as a legitimate country. They still existed and pretty much went about their business not caring if anybody else wanted to deal with them.... until it was impossible to ignore a billion people as a market for products.

      • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @06:07PM (#37112760)

        "Luxembourg doesn't have a navy, ..."

        Not anymore. We have half a navy ship, shared with Belgium. :-) []

        Navy or not, there are 150 ships registered in here in Luxembourg and running under its flag.

    • by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @05:39PM (#37112354)

      Not only that, but it's entirely feasible to set up your own "nation" within an existing governmental structure. Buy some land in the middle of nowhere, make sure you pay your taxes, and handle everything else internally. The overhead of paying taxes to the existing government is small change compared to the running costs of an off-shore sea platform. There already are or have been communes for every brand of "government" you can think of: from flower-power hippies to hardcore anarchists to bureaucratic paradises (also know as HOAs) to survivalists. What do they have in common? They all vanish after a few years, because once those communes get past a certain size, they become what they were trying to get away from. So they either stay small and completely under the radar, or they grow big and get absorbed by their environment.

      The more I hear about Libertarians, the less I'm impressed. None of them seem able to learn from past mistakes, understand why things are the way they are now or what the straightforward, repeatedly demonstrated consequences of their pipe-dreams are.

      • Hmm. So you are saying that our current system is working? With a huge disparity in wealth never seen since 1920, a unprecedented level of international and domestic debt, and corporations holding 90 percent of all intellectual property, I really don't see the current system as working either or learning from past mistakes at all.
        • yes, our current system is working, as compared to the usual bullshit the idealistic college sophomore believes

          no, the current system is not working, as compared to the easily identifiable problems we all agree on

          follow up question, since you know the morons are right around the corner: no, revolution does not fix our problems

          WORKING IN the system and FIXING IT by PARTICIPATING in it does

    • Forget about the US Navy; if these folks are so rich it's worthwhile to establish a new country to avoid taxes, then I have a feeling that a navy if privateers, er pirates, would be more than happy to extract their own pound of flesh.
      • if these folks are so rich it's worthwhile to establish a new country to avoid taxes[...]

        Right. In fact, so rich that they could not find a single country in the world with more favorable taxation, to the point where living on a sea platform seems favorable by comparison.

    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
      No you can create your own kingdom any time, anywhere. The problem is keeping it when some country objects and sends their police/armed forces to point this out to you. But as Tolkien wrote: "A king is he who can hold his own".
    • Pretty much (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @05:59PM (#37112670)

      Basically, there are two ways to be a sovereign nation:

      1) Get international recognition as such. You get the UN members to recognize you as a sovereign nation and support your rights to that end, and you are good for the most part.

      2) Have enough guns that nobody can question your sovereignty. If you have a powerful enough military, it doesn't matter what other nations want to say, you are sovereign by the fact that they won't do anything about it.

      If you have both of those things, then you are really golden.

      However that's it, those are all you have. You either get the big boys to say "Yep you are your own nation," or you have the ability to force it.

      You might notice history has worked this way. The US is a sovereign nation because it was able to become so via arms. They said "We aren't subject to Crown law anymore." The Crown disagreed with that and a war was fought, the US won, that made them sovereign. Was shit the British could do at that point, they had been defeated.

      The southern US states are not a sovereign nation for the same reason. They declared their sovereignty and left the union to become the Confederate States. The US decided that no, that wasn't ok, union membership was permanent once given, and a war was fought. The Confederate States lost, so they weren't sovereign, they had to be a part of the US again.

    • Let's assume the nations of the world, out of the goodness of their hearts, decide to ignore your offshore entity. It's still not going to work because such an entity is going to be intrinsically politically unstable.

      The first thing is that the artificial nation is going to have a very small population. Probably the closest analog we could name would be intentional communities, or communes. They generally don't last very long -- certainly not as long as a nation. Most fail in a year or two, a few go on fo

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I chose... Rapture. A city where the artist would not fear the censor. Where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality. Where the great would not be constrained by the small. And with the sweat of your brow, Rapture can become your city as well.

    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *

      Would you kindly stop reading Ayn Rand

      • by Ixokai ( 443555 )


        BioShock, dude.

        (Granted, Andrew Ryan has some serious Ayn Rand influence, but still)

      • Bioshock is the reference there. Which is not exactly a ringing endorsement of libertarianism any more than it is an endorsement of gene splicing humans to give them superpowers.
      • would you kindly stop shooting fucking BEES out of your arms!!!!? it's freaking me out.
    • We all know that Rapture didn't float. You're thinking of the setting from the game after Bioshock Infinite.

  • Make billions. Build islands out of awesome tech stuff.

    Next step?

    Build mothership!

  • and what is the hurrcan plan?

    • Ask the US to send the Navy out to rescue you.

    • Well, quoting from the article:

      Details says the experiment would be "a kind of floating petri dish for implementing policies that libertarians, stymied by indifference at the voting booths, have been unable to advance: no welfare, looser building codes, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons."

      So, given floating platform with loose building codes, I think that the hurricane plan is probably disintegration. This may also be the tropical storm plan, the nor'easter plan, the water spout plan, and the

  • by cheebie ( 459397 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @05:28PM (#37112194)

    It will be interesting the first time a band of pirates (the killing and looting kind, not the sharing kind) storms one of these 'sovereign nations'. I'm guessing they will develop a sudden affection for the country with the nearest naval vessel who can save their bacon.

    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @05:33PM (#37112274)

      That'll make for an interesting story for the grandkids. "We came to this land to pirate software freely, but then we ran into those looking to freely pirate our land."

    • by IrquiM ( 471313 )

      I'm guessing they will develop a sudden affection for the country with the nearest naval vessel who can save their bacon.

      Kind of like Norway

    • These people are all anti-government until they are become the exploited themselves.

    • by fyngyrz ( 762201 )

      Frankly, I would expect a libertarian enclave to be considerably better armed than a group of pirates. Partly because without having to support a ridiculous number of government services, they'd have more money left from whatever earnings they managed to achieve; partly because no decent libertarian enclave would have a problem with individuals and groups owning anything from pocket knives to full on missile emplacements; and partly because libertarians are simply more inclined to defend themselves than hav

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        So what you're saying is that this will be an island of really rich people. Who will clean their phones or serve their food? Other really rich people? Yeah right. No one would be able to afford a phone cleaning. So they'll have to import labor. Who'll want to work for little money and no social security? Other countries provide far better benefits, so poor people have no reason to emigrate to these countries.

        This will end up the same way some smaller Middle East countries are "importing" from poor South-Eas

  • I know! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Thud457 ( 234763 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @05:30PM (#37112214) Homepage Journal
    You know what would come in real handy?!
    A barge with a nuclear reactor to provide electricity!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Quarantining rabid libertarians out in the middle of the ocean? Where can I send my contribution to this marvelous project?

  • by Ossifer ( 703813 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @05:39PM (#37112362)

    ... tech billionaires used their cash to say, help find a cure for malaria, instead of telling kids not to get an education, and this latest anti-societal rant?

    • Don't you know cures are not good investments?

      It's palliatives and maintenance meds where the money is... not something that somebody takes one.

      The good of humanity is such just a meaningless concepts to these people.

    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
      Just goes to underline that luck is a huge factor in gaining a fortune and yes, sometimes even idiots can get rich.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Abreu ( 173023 )

      Yeah, say what you will about Bill Gates, but at least he's using his money for realistic philantropic efforts, not this egotistical libretardian bullshit.

    • Billionaires don't find cures, they find treatments.

      Cure = lost a customer.

      Treatment = cashflow.

  • by sirwired ( 27582 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @05:40PM (#37112364)

    For a paltry $1.25M, a random Rich Guy bought his name in the press, which he will use to stay in the limelight for a little bit. He will then trade on this temporary fame during the launch of his next business venture and keep his Wikipedia entry from being deleted.

    Come on... $1.25M? Nobody's building any kind of large-ish sea-worthy vessel for that kind of money, much less a floating office building, data center, residences, etc.

    Also, unless he builds it in international waters too (using money he has yet to allocate), how is he going to manage to get it through territorial waters into international waters to begin with? No national authority is going to let a vessel of any size sail out of the dock without registration with an actual country. It doesn't have to be registered in the country it's built in, but it's got to be registered somewhere.

    • >>Come on... $1.25M? Nobody's building any kind of large-ish sea-worthy vessel for that kind of money, much less a floating office building, data center, residences, etc.

      It'll buy you an in at the Sultanate of Kinakuta. Then you just need to find a large stash of hidden Japanese gold from WWII, and you're all set.

      If you'd read his business plan, you'd have seen all that.

  • by he-sk ( 103163 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @05:41PM (#37112394)

    So their gated communities with their private security services aren't enough for these fuckers. Now they want to live in their private countries.

    What a waste! There should be a tax on anti-social behavior.

    • Burbclaves, they're the future. As long as we get Delivators it won't be a total loss.

    • So you're saying forming communities of like-minded people is... anti-social? I don't think that word means what you think it means.
  • Kevin Costner when you need him?

  • By its very nature, be it libertarianism, objectivism, or even polygamy, cannot exist on it own and isolated from the larger society, as it is inherently parasitic. There is much it is incapable of addressing (such as welfare), so it deals with it by simply removing the "problem" from their faux society. So if they do manage to get this off the ground, expect to see a constant flow of people both coming and going just to maintain the untenable ideals of their utopian society.

    • That's the nifty thing. People can come to earn their fortune, lose it all, and be unable to afford passage off. Thus ensuring a perpetual underclass of dirt-cheap labor living in whatever abandoned corridoors they can set up a shelter from sticks and blankets in. We can call the slums Down Below.
  • This is just another tax dodge by someone with too much money. We are heading towards a Phillip K. Dick type world filled with corporate anarchy and the pace is accelerating by the day.

  • by RobinEggs ( 1453925 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @05:45PM (#37112472)
    After all the unilateral shit we've dealt with from paypal, are we surprised to see their founder try to become his own nation?

    After all the times we've heard about paypal indefinitely freezing funds without a court order or automatically refunding the buyer in any ebay dispute, this doesn't surpise me; after all the times we've heard them claim they're not a bank and therefore not subject to finance laws (all while holding deposits, issuing debit cards, offering money market accounts, etc.) we should have been surprised if their founder didn't try some hare-brained libertarian scheme to achieve personal sovereignty.
  • They've been able to grow rich in large part because of the infrastructure of developed countries, but they're too dishonest to want to help pay for it.

    • The developed countries should have been smart enough to charge them upfront before giving them access to the infrastructure. </libertarian>
    • This needs to be brought up every time one of these jokers complains about welfare.

      Does anyone know a study that compares how the poor and rich benefit from ALL government services. I am not talking about just welfare, but from roads, infrastructure, police protection, etc? Someone needs to do that study. My instinct says that the rich and corporations benefit a lot more in terms of dollars than anyone that is on the dole.

  • Libertarians, they're always good for a laugh... While the specifics are the exact opposite, the level of practicality is right up there with Trotskyites.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @06:22PM (#37112934) Homepage

    The Seasteading Institute's Patri Friedman says the group plans to launch an office park off the San Francisco coast next year, with the first full-time settlements following seven years later.

    Like that's going to work.

    People have talked about building artificial islands and setting up their own sovereign states. There are areas of the Caribbean where the ocean is so shallow that this is feasible, and there are plenty of submerged and semi-submerged islands around the world. With enough money, barges, and rock, building an island is possible.

    But, under current international law, that doesn't yield sovereignty. The Law of the Sea treaty reads "a naturally formed area of land, which is above water at high tide". Nor can countries expand their territory by building artificial islands. (One of Japan's key boundaries is defined by an island that's worn down to the size of a small bedroom. [] A protective breakwater has been built around it at great expense.)

    If do-it-yourself sovereignty were going to work, the oil industry, which puts up many offshore structures, some of which are actual islands, would have done it years ago.

  • by Dr. Spork ( 142693 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @07:03PM (#37113334)
    If these guys want total lawlessness, free access to guns and zero government services, shouldn't they just move to Somalia? Isn't that the ultimate libertarian paradise? Or is the problem that other "libertarians" are there already? I know this sounds like a troll (ok, it is to some extent) but I'm genuinely curious why this isn't seriously being considered. If a bunch of milky libertarians really did move there and defended a chunk of territory, Somalia might actually be the one place in the world that would benefit from their arrival.
  • by Corson ( 746347 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2011 @08:12PM (#37113830)
    Excellent idea, from an intellectual perspective; unfortunatelly, those cities-at-sea are also easy targets for terrorists and pirates.

    Think about it: 100,000 years ago humans were free to walk on the beach and catch fish to eat. They could also be attacked by the next tribe of canibals looking for food. Everything comes at a price.

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker