Libertarian Billionaire Plans Artificial Island Utopia – Like That’ll Ever Work

PD Photograph of the Principality of Sealand, the model for a new libertarian utopian nation.

PD Photograph of the Principality of Sealand, the model for a new libertarian utopian nation using off-shore platforms.

The idea of a “Libertarian nation” has been floated for centuries. Yet, every time it is attempted, the results quickly disintegrate into anarchy or despotism. It does not matter how often they proclaim that it will work, it never does. The real world always hits them over the head with a clue-by-four.

Yet, here comes another attempt, another statement that it will work “this time,” coming from PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel. His solution to making it work now isĀ building artificial living spaces off-shore, in international waters, so as to avoid any pesky regulations. Of course, the idea of owning a residence which is not on dry land is not a new idea, as residential cruise ship MS The World demonstrates. Mr. Thiel’s proposal pushes this to the next level, beyond even the ill-fated Freedom Ship, which has been little more than concept animation for over a decade with no real development underway.

The attraction for libertarians is the perception that they would have no regulation, no laws to restrict them, and what they consider freedom. By the use of technologies derived from oil platforms, the reality is that it is more than technologically doable. But would a libertarian utopia function for long?

The reason why MS The World endures is partially because while at sea, the Captain is an absolute authority, a dictatorship, per the law of the sea. While on port, it has to follow the laws of the nation it is visiting. A floating island nation would have no such safety framework in place. Instead, it would have to set up its own government and organization, just like the failed Galts Gulch Chile did.

A better example would be the ill-fated “Operation Atlantis” of Werner Steifel. His dream of a pure Libertarian paradise sank, literally, after the seagoing vessel he had built, Atlantis 2, failed to be properly maintained or even run with any competence. It capsized several times, kept having issues of icing, and eventually sank after encountering a hurricane. Libertarian values rejected those pesky regulations about ship construction methods, weather maps, or using government services like weather reports.

Then there is Michael J. Oliver’s Republic of Minerva, which was an ambitious plan to convert miles of reefs into an island nation. With absolutely no taxation, it relied upon voluntary donations to operate. This turned out to be a bad idea when Tonga decided on invading, conquering the fledgling nation almost overnight. Being a volunteer state leaves one wanting for military defense it turned out.

The closest which the Libertarians can point to a true “Libertarian Utopia” it turns out can be found in the now torn-down Kowloon Walled City, a small area of Hong Kong which had absolutely no regulations, laws, or rules. Due to the lack of regulations, eventually over 30,000 people called the area home, just under 6.5 acres, with the result being overcrowding, crime, and illicit activity. Opium dens, prostitution, unlicensed medicine, unsafe construction methods, the small city-within-a-city was a death trap just waiting to happen. And that is precisely what Mr. Thiel’s dream will become should it happen.

Without laws and regulations, any concept of safety or security becomes a farce. Activity that civilized society would consider horrid becomes normal. Remember, in 2003 the Libertarian Party platform was in favor of child prostitution, and only removed the reference to children being given open access to “voluntary exchanges of goods, services, or information regarding human sexuality” after a cry of outrage. And that is but one of multiple currently illicit activities which would be permitted in such a Libertarian utopia. Drug use, gambling, prostitution, all a part of Mr. Thiel’s world he aimed to build. All permitted, acceptable, and if anything encouraged, due to the design of the system he hopes to set up.

For Mr. Thiel to get a feeling as to what would happen to his utopia, he should turn his eyes to the video game series Bioshock, with its Ayn Rand inspired utopia, Rapture. Instead of a well running society, Rapture became a place where the exploitation of children was permitted, industries abuse to no end, and drug addiction causing society itself to collapse. And, that is all which PeterĀ Thiel can expect, if the course of history is to be believed. A short-term euphoria giving the illusion of functionality, followed by a decay, and collapse, as the “Virtue” of greed sets in.