Victor Tiberius (2017): Seasteads. Creating New Small Societies From Scratch



In this essay, I discuss seasteads as new small societies on the open sea, their potentials for freedom and progress, and the prerequisites for their success. I start the paper with the notion that thinkers like futurists, utopists, and philosophers have always investigated alternative societal configurations. Unlike utopias, we are now facing a technologically feasible option to make these thought experiments come true.

As seasteads are located beyond the jurisdiction of nation-states, they do not come under any national laws, thereby circumventing the legal restrictions that limit human actions. Seasteads are, therefore, artificial settlements on which societal frameworks can be designed from scratch. When there are many different seasteads, a large variety of societal approaches can be realized and experimented with. Time will show which systems stand the test. As seasteads are small, the effects of these experiments are limited to a rather small group of people who voluntarily commit themselves to a specific system.

What are the drivers for the development of seasteads? I take a look at a couple of current societal shortcomings of mankind and I especially focus on those that concern current political systems and governments. The dissatisfaction with these circumstances pushes certain individuals—whom I call pro-active and productive—into escaping as they realize that reforms of the current systems are hardly or not possible at all. For them, liberal seasteads represent a fresh start without those restrictions and shortcomings.

The criticism presented here doesn’t claim completeness. Other critics would probably focus on other problems they regard as more pressing (e.g., capitalism in general, corporatism, social injustice, poverty, etc.) and come to other conclusions. As stated before, any societal system can be realized and experimented with on seasteads. Also communist, monarchist and other seasteads are feasible.

Seasteads with coherent values will attract individuals who share these values and pursue similar personal goals. Unlike in large (democratic) nation-states with heterogeneous values that confusedly meander from crisis to crisis, seasteaders can single-mindedly head towards bringing their visions to life.

Based on the presented criticism and because I regard liberal seasteads as the most promising ones that also will be given the most approval by pro-active and productive individuals and groups, I further discuss liberal designs of seasteads. They explicitly won’t regard themselves as states, but non-state societies with as few public matters as possible. However, there are some issues that have to be structured and regulated. Therefore, I investigate aspects of settlement policy, public goods policy, internal and external security policy, financial policy (trying to avoid taxes in the conventional sense to the maximum extent possible), future regulations, and on how to keep political issues as small as possible in the long run. Avoiding the proliferation of state-like structures is an important matter if a liberal seastead is to stay liberal. While at the time of writing there is hardly any research on this topic, I present a few of my own thoughts.

There is so much more that has to be discussed when it comes to seasteads, as they face the same numerous and manifold matters the existing populations on the mainland have to deal with plus some additional—especially technological—ones. This volume certainly can’t cover them all. Therefore, I mention some further aspects that others are currently discussing and suggest some ideas that future discussions should focus on.

I conclude the essay with a positive outlook. The driving circumstances, the available technological solutions, and the striving actors make the realization of seasteads more likely than ever. Where seasteads face greater than expected challenges, charter or private cities could represent an alternative to the alternative.




1    Starting From Scratch: From Thought Experiments to Reality
2    Seasteads as Multiple, Alternative Societal Experiments
3    Seasteads vs Utopia
4    Political and Governmental Shortcomings as Drivers for Seasteads
4.1    Crisis of Democracy
4.1.1    Lack of Future Orientation vs Excessive Actionism
4.1.2    Representative Democracy: Unattached Rule by Administrators
4.1.3    Democratic Show: Rule by … Even Someone Else
4.1.4    (In)justice in Voting Rights
4.2    Governmental Mismanagement and Nation-State Deficits
4.3    Oppressive Nation-States
4.4    Nation-State Failure: Problem Summary
5    Fight or Flight: Withdrawal from Society?
5.1    The Pro-Active, Productive Individual
5.2    Seasteads as Communities of Shared Values
6    Liberal Seasteads as Small Communities with Reduced Public Policy Matters
7.    Design of Liberal Seasteads
7.1    Settlement and Population Policy
7.2    Public Goods Policy
7.3    Internal and External Security Policy
7.4    Financial Policy (without Taxes)
7.5    Future Regulations: Development of New Rules
7.6    Keeping Public Matters Small and Avoiding State Proliferation
8    Contributions in this Volume
9    Further Aspects
9.1    Architecture and Infrastructure
9.2    Foreign Relations and Trade
9.3    Energy Supply
9.4    Waste Disposal
9.5    Finance, Currency and Monetary Transactions
9.6    Media and Culture
9.7    Food and Water Supplies
9.8    Defense
10    Conclusion




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Victor Tiberius (2017): Seasteads. Creating New Small Societies From Scratch, in: Victor Tiberius (Ed.): Seasteads. Opportunities and Challenges for Small New Societies, Zurich (vdf), pp. 3-63.