Long time readers of Brothers in Anarchy will now be entirely convinced of the benefits of living in freedom, both economic and social. The only question can be: but Phil and Steve, how do we realise this earthly Libertopia? Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is to colonize the oceans by building giant floating platforms.
Monopolies reduce consumer choice and allow the monopolist to make supernormal profits at the expense of the consumer. A lack of choice in which supermarket to shop at, increases the prices consumers face and also encourages inefficiencies at that supermarket. The same is true of governments. When a government has no competition, it has no incentive to make the country a better or more free place for its residents. Of course, there is some competition in the governance market; people migrate between countries. But the costs are very high, and the market is obviously not perfectly competitive. Individuals must sell their house, leave their old job, get a new one, leave their friends and learn a new culture. This huge cost is a disincentive for a government to do a good job – the costs of switching government providers is so large anyway, that no matter how bad a job the government does, the emotional and economic costs involved are enough to offset any benefit an individual might get from moving. Tied with this is the huge barriers to enter the government market. There isn’t much land left on earth to set up a government – all the good spots have been taken. These two market inefficiencies result in terrible incentives for governments, and individuals pay the price of living in bad places.
Given the benefits that result from competition, we should all welcome competition in the government market. The question is how to do it.
One answer is to allow and encourage individuals to create micronations out of floating platforms. Called ‘seasteading’, (www.seastead.org) this idea directly attacks the barriers to entry and the costs of moving, and will result in better governance for all people on earth, not just those who move. Some readers of our last column found the idea of different laws for different individuals distasteful; the good news is seasteading can deal with the same problems without the foul aftertaste.
Moving land is hard – it’s fixed to the earth. However, if some of us move to floating platforms, we can move the blocks across the sea and attach to other countries like Lego. This reduces the economic costs of moving, but what of the emotional? Increases in technology, such as lower costs of phoning home, cable television and the internet all allow us to feel more connected with our ‘home’ country. It is only natural that these inventions and others like them will further reduce these emotional costs in the future (think virtual reality parties with all your old friends). As to barriers to entry, I could create a theoretical country in an afternoon (try it, it’s about as much fun as you think it would be). The next step is getting my platform, moving it to the sea and setting up my country’s blog or podcast to make sure people know about it. Then I wait for the like minded individuals to come join me.
So what are the problems? Some might say, but what about the poor people who can’t afford to move? The biggest costs in moving are emotional rather than economic, and rather fortuitously rich and poor both share emotions, so this concern is exaggerated. Even if this concern was founded, taking it to its logical extension would be ludicrous – should I not be allowed to buy wine that costs more than $15 a bottle just because some others can’t afford it? Restricting some people’s opportunities so others don’t feel left out is hardly an attractive proposition to anyone who values freedom at all. But what if all the rich people move to platforms with low tax? I think I like this question the most, because it shows the true nature of socialism and fascism. I’ve been called a fascist before (I think people find it easier than thinking), but who is the real fascist? I’m not the one enslaving people to pay for what I deem to be in the public good, the socialists are. To me that seems fascist. If it turns out that most people want to live in countries with less tax, then so be it. The only complaint can be “I want their money, give it to me”. That’s a very common refrain, but not one with any philosophical or moral merit. Besides, who is really helped by lower taxes and less government control? It’s not the poor Americans jumping on car tyres to float to Cuba, but in fact the other way around.
The best news of all is that this won’t necessarily result in capitalist utopias for all – if you want to set up a commune with your friends, that’s fine. It may even work. You just won’t be able to expect to enslave those who want to live in a different way from you. This would even increase the performance of socialist and communist countries. At the very least, communists won’t be able to say “We just didn’t do it quite right this time”; they can try again.
The result would be more efficient governments the world over, and those people who wanted to live in a certain way would not be hamstrung by fascists telling them how to live.