Thursday, September 24, 2009 71 Comments

Seasteading, without that warm glow

Having now been definitively disinvited from the Seasteading Conference, I now feel I would be extremely remiss if I did not post my complete thoughts on the matter. I promise that this will be the last discussion of seasteading at UR for quite some time.

I'll put my thoughts in the form of a conversation with Patri Friedman. Since I have not asked Patri for prior permission, I will not include his side of the conversation - just my own responses. Quote blocks have been replaced with code letters, which Patri can fill in, if he or anyone cares.

In case you are just done with this whole seasteading thing, to summarize: IMHO, seasteading is a brilliant example, in at least three regards, of What Not To Do. I persist with this business not to torment you (or Patri, or his equally excellent associates), but to illustrate general errors that anyone trying to solve the same problems is likely to make. These general errors have nothing to do with TSI or the ocean life.

Granted, seasteading is a better plan than anyone else's plan I have seen. But it is nowhere near as good as my plan - which is nowhere near good enough. Basically, everyone is understating how dire and impossible the situation is. Probably even me.

Patri: #A.


Indeed. I sincerely appreciate both the original invitation, and the time you've put into reconsidering it. I hope I've made your second decision as easy and painless as possible.

Patri: #B.


Patri, please don't take this the wrong way. But one thing that's nice about being disinvited from your conference is that now, I can say what I really think about seasteading.

If you recall, I had not exactly endorsed it. But I feel that, despite my self-destructive insistence on unconditional Carlylean veracity (note that Carlyle himself pulled this kind of trip all the time, remaining violently aloof from all position, patronage or alliance - which certainly did not render his existence any more fun; sometimes I want to invent a time machine, just so I can send him some Prilosec), my previous utterances, public and private, had portrayed seasteading in a somewhat warmer light than I feel, on reflection, it deserves.

Nothing in the picture was false. There was just a little flexfill on the face - a mild fake glow. Which now I feel the obligation to remove, for the same reason I felt obliged to revile Professor Romer. TSI, since it has chosen to wear the Ring and soar with the pigs, does not just suffer from Ring disease. It transmits Ring disease. To which I am by no means immune.

In the cold natural light of Carlylean veracity, the only problem with seasteading is that it is doomed. It is doomed because it depends existentially on a complete misconception of reality, and in particular of 20th-century history. This misconception, while part of the standard interpretation of the real world held by almost everyone in it, is nonetheless a misconception. The Romer incident illustrates it perfectly.

Perhaps you remember the original Doom, the single-player shareware version, which I was recently amused to encounter running on a seatback Linux screen on a Virgin America flight. A long time ago in a galaxy far away, I was so good at Doom that I could finish the game, slaying the Baron of Hell, without saving, and without using any weapon but the pistol. I realize that this will not impress the 21st-century gamer - but I mention it nonetheless. But the point is: you cannot win in Doom. Once you defeat the Baron and activate the pentagram, you fall into a pit containing an infinite number of demons, which destroy you in a few seconds. You are, truly, doomed. As soon as you start the game.

According to my own poor counterfeit of Carlyle's crystal ball, fate holds just this doom for seasteading. I am not saying that seasteading will fail because of this particular misconception. Many other demons could slay it first, and probably will. If it survives all the other levels, though, its endgame is the pit.

Or so I fear. I have never been wrong in this kind of prediction. But I have never made one, either. I hope I am wrong; and even if I am not wrong, trying can still be plenty of fun. Unfortunately, though, I know I am right.

The misconception appears in your use of the word "governments," plural. Your picture of political reality on Planet Three appears to be: the planet's land area is divided into 200-odd sovereign states, whose interactions are governed by international law. Its ocean is separated into territorial waters, which are controlled by the pertinent government, and international waters, which are regulated by international law. This is what everyone learns in school.

Now, you know this is not a perfectly correct picture. You know that many of the real ways in which the real world operates do not conform to this picture. You know it because you've read UR, and you knew it before there was a UR. No one with any sense believes that this is a genuine, accurate picture of Planet Three's political structure. But because this is Planet Three's nominal political structure, it remains the language in which we speak. We can still challenge it with a terrific effort of the frontal lobes; when we turn our attention elsewhere, it returns.

Take Professor Romer. To the readers of Time Magazine in 1997, he is just an ordinary person, a private citizen who teaches at an institution of higher learning, who happens to be one of the 25 most powerful people in America. (Previously, I had said "the world," but I just rechecked - not, as you'll note, that there is much difference. UR readers may also enjoy Reason's interview of Professor Romer, "poolside by his house, which overlooks a huge expanse of rolling ranchland owned by Stanford University." One can almost picture the fellatio.)

To me, the explanation is simple. Professor Romer is a senior government official. What would you expect one of the most 25 powerful people in America to be? A landscaping contractor?

Ah - but I made another little change in the quote. My mask of veracity is slipping! The quote was not: "one of the 25 most powerful people in America." It was: "one of the 25 most influential people in America."

Well, influential over what? Professor Romer could be influential over many things. Poetry, for instance, or landscaping. Or ghetto rap. So what is he influential over? Well... um... economics. And what is economics? The study of how the economy should be managed by... um... the government? So Professor Romer is (assuming the Time author is, and has remained, correct - which is a big if) influential over... the government? In what way, therefore, is the word power incorrect?

So in the pretend world, the formal world, the world implied by our use of the English language, Professor Romer is a humble teacher. In the real world, he is a government official, and a very powerful one - if not exactly one of the top 25, perhaps. (I have no idea how anyone would construct such a ridiculous ranking.)

Now, we remember our Carlyle:
It is probably the hugest disclosure of falsity in human things that was ever at one time made. These reverend Dignitaries that sat amid their far-shining symbols and long-sounding long-admitted professions, were mere Impostors, then? Not a true thing they were doing, but a false thing. The story they told men was a cunningly devised fable; the gospels they preached to them were not an account of man's real position in this world, but an incoherent fabrication, of dead ghosts and unborn shadows, of traditions, cants, indolences, cowardices,--a falsity of falsities, which at last ceases to stick together. Wilfully and against their will, these high units of mankind were cheats, then; and the low millions who believed in them were dupes,--a kind of inverse cheats, too, or they would not have believed in them so long.
So, basically: in the ghost world, the world I described earlier, the world of 200 countries and international oceans - the world that everyone thinks they live in, those dupes or inverse cheats - seasteading is, or at least might be, a viable plan. In the real world, which exists, it ain't.

In the real Planet Three, as we've seen, the government is much larger than in the ghost Planet Three. For instance, in the ghost Planet Three, Paul Romer is a private citizen. In the real Planet Three, he is a government official. He is not the only one.

And in the ghost Planet Three, USG governs America, on behalf of Americans. In the real Planet Three, an entity that includes USG plus its immense penumbra - call it EUSG - governs the world, on behalf of - God knows who. Itself, basically.

In the real Planet Three, USG is incredibly powerful. There is no reason to think that any ship or structure, anywhere at sea, will be able to sustain any nontrivial infringement of US law - especially if any part of its organizational structure includes US persons or US entities.

But EUSG is even more powerful. Because EUSG includes those nebulous and distributed forces that comprise "international public opinion." Ie, the organs which dictate international public opinion - since people, generally, are not philosophers and believe what they are told to believe. While these organs are not monolithic or hierarchically organized, they somehow magically seem to always agree with each other. The Washington Post never gets into an organizational catfight with the New York Times, or Harvard with Stanford. This, of course, is because all are ticks on the same horse - Washington - and must gallop together.

Imagine a stateless seastead city that could defy US law. You are probably fantasizing. But you might get away with it, if your seastead city had "international public opinion" on its side. Now, imagine a stateless city that could defy "international public opinion." You are really fantasizing - that is, under today's world order. You seek to change that order; you cannot assume what you are trying to achieve.

Thus the appeal of seasteading depends existentially on the very illusions it seeks to destroy. "Not a true thing, but a false thing." In the ghost universe, the oceans of Planet Three are a free space for new experiments in government. In the real universe, they are a space administered by a single government - and have been for over 200 years. Until 1914, that government was HMG. Since 1945, it has been USG. When you go to sea, you are swimming in USG's pond. Frankly, you might as well do your seasteading on Lake Superior.

Does international law assure you of this right, or that right, or the other right, at sea? No doubt Martian law also assures you of many fine privileges. Carlyle tells us: there is no right that is not also a might. Should your rights be violated, to whom will you appeal? If the judge of appeal is also the violator, or there is no judge, there is no law and no rights. More phantoms.

(You know this. In fact, you say it in your book. But knowing is one thing; realizing another.)

There are genuine lacunae in EUSG's global sovereignty. China, for instance, or Russia. These nominal nations, rebel provinces of a sort, approach something like real sovereignty - although their ruling parties are still descendants of American progressivism (ie, Communism), and they have not confirmed their independence by formally rejecting the transnational institutions of the American era. If China dropped out of the UN, we would really know that the Middle Kingdom had regrown a testicle or two.

But China and Russia are not new lacunae, and their quasi-sovereignty is maintained by one thing: military power. A seastead will never achieve military power, because it will never be allowed to start achieving military power. Terrestrial resistance to USG is conceivable under certain circumstances, preferably not including me. Naval resistance is inconceivable under any circumstance.

This is the demon-filled pit. The endgame problem with seasteading is that your "alternatives to government," your pelagic argosies, will either become sovereign, or not. Sovereignty, like virginity, being boolean.

Until you have a realistic plan to become sovereign, you have no realistic plan to escape. You can spend all the time you want, and have all the fun you want, pretending to be free. Or planning to pretend to be free. In Washington, however, they know the difference - and always will.

IMHO, no realistic plan for attaining sovereignty under the present world order can be constructed - unless it starts with one of the terrestrial provinces now known as "nations." And even then, it ain't no picnic. Old South Africa, as you may know, even had the Bomb. But what could it do against "international public opinion?" In the end, squat. Its endgame was the universal fate of all those who have opposed EUSG: unconditional surrender.

Yes, the future is infinite, and USG may weaken. It will weaken. It is already weakening. (The Boere might have had a decent chance if they'd held out another generation.) But if it gets weak enough that you can already set up your own country at sea, your goal is already in some sense achieved. We are nowhere near that level of weakness. A world in which it has arrived is so different from ours as to be unrecognizable, and no realistic plan can be made for it. Moreover, my magic snowdome tells me that any such degradation will be more catastrophic than gradual.

Thus, the promise of independence through seasteading is - if I am right - snake oil. That many people find it attractive and compelling is not evidence that it is actually an effective remedy. Most vendors of snake oil believe in their elixir, and of course TSI - if I am right - is in this class. Still, one does have an obligation not to sell snake oil.

However, it should be noted that while snake oil will not cure your cancer, it can still be remarkably tasty on a salad - especially if paired with a good balsamic. Do you want to live in a libertarian commune at sea? By all means, live in a libertarian commune at sea! Your expenses will be much higher than if you chose, say, Inyo County. But Inyo County has no bracing marine air, no enforced feeling of we're-all-in-this-together, no seagulls catching crusts off the poop deck. Heck, if your boat has good childcare, I might even apply to live there myself.

So I am certainly not advising you to give up your venture, not that you would anyway. I just feel required to warn you that it is doomed. But who knows what you will find along the way? The essential reference is Cavafy's great Ithaka:
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you are destined for.

But do not hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

so you are old by the time you reach the island,

wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.

She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,

you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.
Cavafy is definitely my nigga.

Patri: #C.


I have a different view of the matter - expressed in my Law of Sewage (which is not mine - if anyone knows the origin, please email me). The Cathedral indeed contains many shades. They are not shades of grey, however. They are shades of brown. A drop of wine in a barrel of sewage makes sewage; a drop of sewage in a barrel of wine makes sewage.

Of course, many professors and journalists are perfectly normal, decent people. Especially in person. The problem is not the people, but the system. The exact same thing could be said of the "people's democracies." Yet we still condemn them, and justly so. We also condemn the individuals who collaborated with them.

Suppose, for example, you were judging the life of a person who lived most of his life in East Germany. You know nothing about this person, but you are asked to fill in for St. Peter and judge him. Your first question will be: was he, in any way, involved with the government? If so, what was the nature of his involvement? Unless the first answer is no or the second is somehow mitigating, your initial judgment will be negative. You are applying the Law of Sewage.

Against sewage, total isolation is the only hygiene. You know the kind of isolation that you try to preserve between yourself and the Aryan Brotherhood? Or the kind of isolation that Professor Romer tries to preserve between himself and me? I mean that kind of isolation.

This is no more than history expects of a German in 1933-45, or an East German in 1945-89. It is not even slightly onerous. We have yet to see how history, once it can do so objectively, will judge our era and regime - but I don't expect it to be particularly kind. Do you?

Even the most well-intentioned and scholarly professor in the modern American university - your father, for instance - must be aware that he is going to work at an institution that claims to be oblivious to race, creed and color, but contains a Department of African-American Studies. Every time he thinks of this, which is as seldom as possible, he has to cringe inside and look away. He knows that there is something very deeply not-right here, and that it is getting worse rather than getting fixed.

How do you think a well-intentioned professor, a "person of good will," in the Third Reich or the Soviet bloc responded? Exactly the same way. The only difference is the magnitude. And the Modern Structure, being still extant, may not yet be guilty of its worst atrocities. (Though if you ascribe Communism and the Third World to it, these are surely more than enough.)

If you're curious about the mind of man under socialism, a long book but well worth reading is Victor Klemperer's diary from his East German period, published in English as The Lesser Evil. Klemperer, a brilliant linguist and social critic, and before the war a German nationalist, survived the Third Reich as a Jew in Germany (producing his more famous diaries, and the brilliant Language of the Third Reich), became a high-status member of the Communist regime, ending up in the East German Parliament (as an arts delegate). Everything you could ever want to know about the corruption of the mind is in these two works.

There is also a much shorter work I have recommended to you before, Czeslaw Milosz's The Captive Mind. In addition, C.S. Lewis's The Inner Ring (online) is not to be scoffed at. And please do read the Carlyle - it is genuinely relevant.

Patri: #D.


Ah! Now we are cooking with gas. Let me rephrase what you just said in terms of rings - Tolkien's, not Lewis's. Your three reasons, young Mr. Boromir, why you find it so prudent to don the Ring:

1: Seems to work perfectly - kills Orcs like a charm.
2: No adverse health effects whatsoever.
3: Can take it off any time I like.

Let me add a fourth, which you did not say:

4: Makes me feel big and warm and full of pep.

You may doubt this metaphor, but it is quite accurate. Let me explain. It is always a little bit of work to realize what the Ring's long-term adverse health effects will look like, but once you see them you know them.

There is a very simple reason why it is a bad idea to recruit seasteading supporters through the New York Times, or any other organ of the Cathedral. Assuming, for purpose of debate, that this is an approach which will be effective on an ongoing basis, and not just a curiosity of launch.

The reason again is a long-term reason. While I am not denying that using the Ring can add to your near-term success - as Rings always do - using this particular Ring makes it particularly impossible to achieve the political objective of seasteading, ie, sovereignty. Of course, we have seen above that this is impossible. Nonetheless, if you find your followers through the Times, it is impossible squared. I have heard of people doing the impossible, but never squared.

The problem is that the people you recruit in this manner will be people who read the New York Times. Now, I read the New York Times, you read the New York Times. We are not taken in by the New York Times - though resisting its pull requires our constant energy. However, if you only recruit people who read the New York Times, but are not taken in by the New York Times, you are not getting much out of its Ringly services.

Thus, a substantial percentage of the people on your ships will be people who believe in the New York Times. Are we getting warmer here? Are you starting to see how this might be an issue?

The fundamental problem is that the project of seasteading makes it easy to conflate (why is it that when I use the word "conflate" in ordinary conversation, people laugh at me?) two problems. Both are very difficult - if not impossible. But solving the first by no means implies solving the second.

The first is the problem of building a new sovereign, or at least quasi-sovereign, at sea. Or better yet, a thousand new sovereigns.

The second is the problem of building a new sovereign (or better, a thousand), with some other kind or kinds of government than exist presently in the world. To call the effort a success, you need at least one kind of sovereign: the kind you yourself prefer. You are not, after all, a Ringwraith yet - you still have a mind of your own.

We see immediately that while the first is a fun and interesting exercise, the second is your actual political goal. Whether one new nation or a thousand, if all your seastead communities are run like Ireland or Sweden or Costa Rica - ie, like all civilized governments on earth today - you have conquered the first demon pit, and still wasted all your time and energy.

You are making the classic error of assuming a normal distribution. You assume that if a thousand nations bloom, they will be a thousand different kinds of nation. Or at least two. Of course, we have two hundred nations - or "nations" - today, and they all run exactly the same operating system: Washington's, modulo various barbaric degradations.

What this tells you is that - as we've seen - these "nations" are not really independent. In the literal sense of a statistical variable. The forms of government in the "nations" of the world today are distributed all right, but they are not distributed around any absolute center. They are distributed around Washington. This cannot possibly be a coincidence.

To put it slightly differently, you are fudging the question of "sovereignty." You would do very well to look up the definition of Vattel, and stick with that. Under the definition of Vattel, Ireland and Sweden and Costa Rica are not true sovereigns; they are protectorates of USG. At best. "Provinces" is not an argument I will make, but it is not much of a stretch. In short, the "international community" is in reality the American Empire. Duh.

Therefore, if your spontaneous maritime community becomes sovereign in the same sense that Ireland and Sweden and Costa Rica are sovereign, it is (a) not sovereign at all, at least not according to classical international law; and (b) almost certain to operate under the exact same principles as Ireland and Sweden and Costa Rica, for the same reasons that Ireland and Sweden and Costa Rica operate under those principles. And if (c) your initial demographic resembles the governing caste of Ireland and Sweden and Costa Rica (and of the US), especially in the automatic credibility they ascribe to certain prestigious institutions of journalism and higher learning - your latitude for maneuver becomes extremely limited.

Why, exactly, are all civilized governments on earth run in the way they are? Because they are all run, more or less, by the New York Times. More precisely, they are run by civil servants, who were trained by professors, both of whose reward systems are administered by the New York Times. This is the direct path. On the indirect path, ten percent of the population reads the Times or a comparable highbrow organ; the other ninety gets its thought from more lowbrow intermediaries, who all read the Times and wish they worked there. Together, these paths form the Modern Structure, which if not indestructible is almost so.

The Modern Structure is certainly not confined to North America. It is, once again, global. Its physical power derives from USG's and its intellectual center is somewhere on the Atlantic seaboard, so it is safe in one sense to describe it as EUSG. But its purest realizations are in Europe. So the continent of Richelieu, Metternich and Frederick gives us "European socialism." It would not be the first time a product has been exported, then relabeled for import.

And why would all your seastead states - especially your first, which is at first your only - be operated according to the Modern Structure? Well, why wouldn't they? After all, most of your seasteaders, not to mention your investors and supporters, believe in the New York Times. Which is the Structure, at a crude approximation.

As Hume first observed, all governments are in a sense democratic. They require consent from at least their armed security forces. Public opinion always matters. An experimental community such as a seastead (if you are looking to start with a floating libertarian commune, by the way, don't miss Charles Nordhoff's Communistic Societies of the United States (1875)) is especially sensitive to it. There is nothing more fragile than a commune, although when it comes to communal cohesion being imprisoned at sea certainly doesn't hurt.

Thus, it is difficult to imagine that any first seastead can be governed in an authoritarian manner by TSI - unless, of course, TSI comes with its own ideology, and enforces it formally or socially. This could be done, and in fact I would recommend it. But it pretty much burns your bridges with the New York Times - for which the word "cult" will become both obvious and enticing. More on this later.

If disagreement is not filtered out by some such authoritarian mechanism - people will disagree. They will bicker and rebel and quit, unless you have elections. You will have those elections, and by finding seasteaders through the Times, you give the Times a vote in them. A large vote. (It already had a vote, of course, because it can move the arms and legs of USG. The enemy always gets a vote.)

By recruiting through the Times, your experiment in alternative government has stumbled into the web of adaptive, distributed Gleichschaltung that makes all Washington's ticks, or almost all, think, say and do the same things. It too becomes coordinated. In fact, I suspect it's quite likely that any successful experiment in seasteading will quickly develop a distinctly progressive flavor. It will be quite literally "alternative." Conquest's second law: any institution that is not explicitly right-wing becomes left-wing.

Great, you say - we libertarians will hop off the lefty ship, and start our own ship! A progressive seastead is better than no seastead at all. It validates the market, as we say in the Valley. And the ocean is big enough for everyone. So we can still hope for change.

True in theory, but not in practice. First of all, you have added an extremely difficult, stressful and traumatic phase to your program. The trauma is far in the future, like most consequences of wearing in the Ring. But if Conquest's second law applies (and if you doubt that it applies, try to think of a case in which it has not), seasteading will either fail by definition, or have to go through a painful process of division, purgation or self-purgation. Depending on who is in the majority.

This process itself is highly morbid and quite possibly fatal, and the sooner it is accomplished the better. Obviously, one can accomplish it immediately by starting as a right-wing extremist conspiracy - like UR. Obviously, this means no tongue baths from the Times.

If this separation is put off indefinitely, the consequences will be even worse. The mores of the emerging seasteading community (assuming that seasteading succeeds, and that Conquest's 2nd law applies) will be most decidedly progressive - like Europe, more American than America. Its collective attitude toward EUSG, or "international public opinion," will be one of complete and enthusiastic submission and collaboration. Every seastead will be green, sustainable and diverse.

And a community that attempts to violate these norms will simply not be permitted to exist. Just as all terrestrial nations must now conform to American norms. Toleration is not a historical characteristic of extreme Puritanism - of which progressivism is your current incarnation. Moreover, since USG and its navy still exist under all imagined circumstances, the mechanism for enforcement is easily apparent.

So, far from validating the market, a progressive seasteading movement may actually capture the market - permanently ruining any opportunity that may exist, and making it obviously and effectively impossible to establish any state both new and unusual. Even once seasteading is established and normal, if your fellow seasteaders fail to take your side in any dispute with EUSG, you are probably going to lose. Power has not been eradicated from the world.

A seasteading project that solves the first problem, but not the second - that becomes sovereign, but in a politically assimilated condition - has solved the hard and unimportant part of the problem, and ignored the easy and important part. It has established its temporal sovereignty. It has ignored the much more essential matter of intellectual sovereignty.

The truth about Ireland, Sweden and Costa Rica is that each of these governments is physically capable of achieving far more sovereignty than it has. It just doesn't want to. Its body, while not especially free, is far freer than its mind, which is slave to the latest Harvard fashions.

The second goal can be described as that of creating a new government (or "government alternative," or whatever euphemism you anarchists prefer), that thinks for itself. Clearly, the project of creating a new regime from scratch, via seasteading, political action, military action, or any other form of action, is a delightful alternative to the impossible task of convincing an existing government to think different.

However, the order in which TSI is proceeding is extremely peculiar in the light of this goal. One would think you would want to recruit a homogeneous base of supporters who all, or at least mostly, think different, then persuade them to go to sea. Instead, TSI recruits promiscuously, deploying the witcheries of the Cathedral and signing up whatever pops out of the pentagram.

In the parlance of today's democracy, seasteading is a "big tent." No one is turned away. Note, once again, that this is the obvious way to build any movement. More supporters are better than fewer supporters. The bigger the tent, the more people fit in it.

My advice to TSI: learn from Hitler. Or Stalin, if you prefer. Your big tent will do nothing but flap around in the wind. Said wind only blows in one direction: toward Washington. (All the trees in Fairfax County bend north.) The first thing you need is a party line. Also, when you get anywhere near governing, a shadow state.

All the really ruthless, effective political operations of the 20th century had both these things. The NSDAP, for instance, was prepared to run Germany at the flip of a switch, and so were all its extremist competitors, right and left. When you voted for any of these parties, you were voting to grant it absolute control of the state in order to implement its 25-point proposal, or whatever.

Of course, TSI is trying to create a new polity rather than conquer an existing one, but the same rules apply. Sovereignty is indivisible and ineradicable. Either you and your ideas control your new state, or someone else and their ideas do. Probably the Times.

The first thing you realize, once you compose your party line, is that followers who do not actually follow the party line are useless as tits on a boar hog. Perhaps you can trick them into giving you money, but that never lasts. You certainly don't want them on your boat - they will gang up and start outvoting you.

Thus, your operation must be selective. It must not recruit indiscriminately. Especially not through hostile propaganda organs! And when you reduce the number of supporters that fit in the inclusive big tent, to the number of supporters that fit in the exclusive small tent - ie, actually agree with you and each other - you have the number of supporters that you actually have. These are the people who are reliable and will support you in a conflict. As for the others - what do you need from them? Their money? Is it honest to take it?

For any kind of collective political action, whether capturing a state or creating a new one, a smaller, more cohesive, tightly disciplined and indoctrinated movement is much more powerful and effective than a larger, more amorphous, loosely organized and weakly indoctrinated one. Especially if the latter is heavily contaminated with actual opponents of your actual ideology - you know, the one you actually believe. (Not being a Ringwraith.)

Tolerance is not synonymous with indifference. It is easy to be tolerant while the actual points of conflict remain unimaginably remote, but since you intend to succeed, they will not always remain remote. Always better to resolve them earlier. There is always a small tent inside the big tent, because you yourself have actual opinions. (If this is not so, the battle is already lost.)

Doesn't this perspective just violate every fiber of your democratic body? If you have spent a little while at UR, you recognize this feeling of moral violation. It is the feeling that you're on the right track.

For a practical example of the problems with a "big tent," let's look at the whole "tea party" experience. For simplicity, we'll assume that the organizers got a million people for their 9/12 Washington demonstration.

It's an interesting word, demonstration. To demonstrate a gun, for instance, you can shoot a cantaloupe. The demonstration says: this cantaloupe could be your head. A demonstration in the political sense of the word says: these people are standing peacefully and holding signs, but they could be screaming like fiends, sacking offices, and giving GS-15s the Princesse de Lamballe treatment. In other words, every demonstration is an incipient mob. To demonstrate is to overawe and intimidate with the threat of potential violence.

Democracy itself encodes the threat of mob violence in the voting process. The State, as always, belongs to the strongest. Democracy models the process of mob violence, guesses who will win by counting heads, awards the state to the probable winner and skips the actual rioting.

When mob violence is no longer a possibility, the threat loses its force, and democratic politicians can be counted on to lose their power to some other structure. Here we see the first fallacy of the "tea parties," for of course the original Tea Party was exactly that: mob violence. Whereas the suburban white people who showed up on 9/12, contra your daily dose of brown-baiting, could barely lynch a fly. Individual madmen may be among them and probably are, but they are no material for a mob.

Leftist demonstrations, on the other hand, always carry their original implicit threat of mass extralegal action. Dr. King himself, or rather his speechwriters, were masters of this. The line is always: we are demonstrating peacefully, to show you how many people will be in the riot if we don't get what we want. This threat today is by no means what it was in 1968, but nor is it entirely impotent.

Thus, 9/12 fails as a demonstration of direct power. A million bipeds, even unarmed (and who says they have to be unarmed?) are one of the most dangerous things in the history of the universe. What are the million people of 9/12? A million votes. Which, frankly, is not a lot.

That said, this demonstration is doing pretty well for what it is, because - unlike most similar manifestations - it actually has a specific, unanimous demand: no "healthcare reform." Of course, "healthcare reform" is a broad and slippery thing, but the "no" is also pretty broad. This can most certainly be seen as a crude party line, of sorts.

Note, however, that this is a defensive demand. The tea partiers can organize to resist some action which was put on the table by their better-organized opponents. But they are not, actually, an organization. Therefore, this million people is not actually a weapon that can be wielded in any strategic or coherent way. They are not a mob, and not an army.

The real Washington is actually very sensitive to coalitions that are relatively small by electoral standards. Thus, for instance, the influence of exiled Cubans on USG's Cuba policy. The gusanos cannot by any means defeat Foggy Bottom, but they can dictate its policy on this one matter - within certain limits, of course - and have done so for almost half a century. It is especially sensitive to coalitions that have no organized opposition.

So: imagine the same million people demonstrating, but with a coherent offensive demand. Let's say they demanded, say, an end to race preferences in university admissions. The issue is not on the agenda. They organize, and choose to place it there. Is there any doubt that they would win?

It is probably the case that nine out of ten tea partiers hold this exact opinion - but no one will ever know. After all, they can scribble anything they want on their signs. They are a rabble, not a party. They may win on their one issue, for a time. On the scale of history, they will lose. What they would have to do to actually win is to multiply their numbers by about 10 or 20, and broaden their demand from blocking a minor policy change to creating an actual regime change. Ie, to not keep losing, they have to win the whole game in one step. Of course there is no possibility of this in the real world today.

The tea party movement, of course, has very different objectives than TSI. Still, both seek political change through collective action. Politics is one art. The advantage of cohesion over size is no secret to its practitioners. Of course, one would rather be both cohesive and large; but if you are small and cohesive, you still have a chance of becoming large and cohesive. Whereas once you lose cohesion, it is almost impossible to regain.

So why is the big tent so much more attractive? Simply, the seductive powers of the Ring. Democracy is instinctive in the human race (which of course does not make it good). Humans are built to measure their authority by their number of followers.

You yourself have invented an epithet that fits the "big tent" approach: folk activism. The desire to create the largest possible coalition, by deemphasizing differences rather than resolving them, is classic folk activism. It is instinctive politics, rather than calculated politics.

Of course, there is a second reason, which is that the Modern Structure is violently allergic to anything that looks like organized opposition - such as the above. (Interestingly, it shares this approach with the Chinese Communist Party. In modern China, you can think whatever you want, and say whatever you want. You just can't organize. Our own permanent government, while infinitely more subtle about it, is no less permanent.)

If you learn from Hitler, you will of course be made to look like Hitler, because you will look like Hitler. Times readers will be led, with little hints, to the obvious conclusion: seasteading is a plot to drown the Jews. What do seasteaders have in common? They're all white men. Why do they want to live at sea? Because Negroes can't swim. Etc, etc, etc.

One phenomenon that UR can be relied on to object to, everywhere and at every time, is presentism - the belief that the present time is somehow unique, and exempt from the patterns of history. The present time does not stand outside history. It is part of history. Professor Romer is not something special and different from Lord Cromer.

The antihistorical feature of the seasteading movement to which I object most strongly is its belief that political objectives can be achieved without political conflict. In other words, that it is possible to obtain practical independence, creating one or more new sovereigns, without fighting. That most ways of fighting (political or military) will not work is hardly lost on me, but this does not mean that any ways of not-fighting will work.

Yet there is no conclusion more congenial to the well-indoctrinated mind of 2009, which believes that conflict solves nothing. Again, this view requires a complete ignorance of history - most easily produced, in the intelligent, by an open contempt for it. History records no instance of sovereignty being created, captured, or sustained without a fight. History records novelties, of course, but the burden of proof rests quite solidly on their proponents. I would rather dispel this ignorance than take advantage of it, which is why you don't see me wearing anyone's Ring.

My view is that the first order of business, for this fight, is intellectual sovereignty. It is clearly possible to create intellectual sovereignty without temporal sovereignty - to secede in mind, not body. First, this carries its own rewards; second, it makes your political efforts much easier. Not that they will ever be easy. But the task of creating or capturing temporal sovereignty, which is impossible anyway, becomes doubly impossible if you have no idea what you're going to do with that sovereignty. Or if you do have an idea, but your so-called supporters are not privy to it.


Blogger Mitchell said...

Moldbug's passivism reminds me of Andrew Galambos, the libertarian theorist whose followers (as described in It Usually Starts with Ayn Rand) couldn't independently communicate his ideas, because of the Galambosian doctrine of intellectual "primary property". The wuwei approach to achieving change seems only to guarantee that you won't have any effect at all, or that if you do, it will because someone unafraid of a little "activism" has appropriated your words - but probably not your ideas.

Indeed, Mencius is saying as much here in his note to Patri, when he says that new sovereigns have never in history been created without a fight. When I read that, my first thought was of the 90s-tinged concept of a "temporary autonomous zone". Though Hakim Bey did go on to write an essay about how a TAZ might become a PAZ, a permanent autonomous zone.

September 24, 2009 at 3:51 AM  
Anonymous Nobody said...

So now we know that when MM posts a lame poem here instead of an excellent essay, it's because he spent that week bantering with PF. Excellent.

September 24, 2009 at 4:02 AM  
Blogger sconzey said...

Do add a link to your plan, MM. As fascinating as UR is, it is decidely difficult to know where to begin for those of us who only started reading recently, for each essay references others without links. :p:

My second point is this: sovereignty is not boolean. TSI tackle this numerous times, and it's a question that Patri's always asked in talks: Won't USG intervene? To which the answer is: not if it doesn't have to.

How much sovereignty does one need? One can form some very successful business models with only a minimal amount of sovereignty -- Surgicruse, if successful, would be one such example. Is it not enough to profit from pseudo-sovereignty until one has the financial or economic weight to start doing things that require true sovereignty; supporting guerrilla campaigns, constructing nuclear weapons, designing new psychoactive substances?

September 24, 2009 at 4:13 AM  
Blogger Kalim Kassam said...


If you're just beginning to dive into UR, I would recommend two blog-post series:

1. An open letter to open-minded progressives

2. A gentle introduction to Unqualified Reservations

September 24, 2009 at 5:16 AM  
Blogger Kalim Kassam said...

This is certainly of only tangential relevance, but I did come across an interesting piece of seasteading pre-history, an account of the libertarian micro-nation project Operation Atlantis, which also includes a Galambosian character named Myles Lieberman.

September 24, 2009 at 5:33 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...


USG is ALREADY interfering. Look at the behavior of Romer. It snapped and bit and, instead of shooting the rabid dog, TSI buckled.

It's already a zombie institution.

September 24, 2009 at 5:50 AM  
Anonymous josh said...


Some nice chap is archiving all of the posts. You'll have to go by the titles to find what you are looking for as there are no summeries.

September 24, 2009 at 6:26 AM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

To the strategy of soliciting NYT support, establishment money, investing it morally and then saying 'Gotcha!' as soon as the cow is milked;

Possible, logic says, but unlikely, history shows. An extremely risky venture.

"True in theory, but not in practice."

Doom is awesome. I have a friend who is still about as good as Mencius claimed to once be. He regularly plays it on Nightmare - the one that doesn't allow cheats.

"Against sewage, total isolation is the only hygiene. [...] Or the kind of isolation that Professor Romer tries to preserve between himself and me? I mean that kind of isolation."

Trash talking; making the sewage, of its own accord, take itself away from you. Handy!

Still not endorsing. Just pointing out there's real upsides.

"(why is it that when I use the word "conflate" in ordinary conversation, people laugh at me?)"

Well it's certainly pretty funny when you put it like that.

"As Hume first observed, all governments are in a sense democratic. They require consent from at least their armed security forces. Public opinion always matters." that something Mencius has always believed, and so the comments about crypto locks are to be put in context, or is it a partial retraction?

I do so enjoy it when I hear Hume agrees with me.

"For any kind of collective political action, whether capturing a state or creating a new one, a smaller, more cohesive, tightly disciplined and indoctrinated movement is much more powerful and effective than a larger, more amorphous, loosely organized and weakly indoctrinated one."

Discipline beats numbers every time, to the point where it hardly matters what you're disciplining to.

And trying to swindle money without discipline? Err...where's the popcorn? The fireworks are going to be spectacular.

"Doesn't this perspective just violate every fiber of your democratic body? If you have spent a little while at UR, you recognize this feeling of moral violation. It is the feeling that you're on the right track."

Do people actually feel this? (And end up agreeing with Mencius?)

I need to not forget to point out that while indeed seasteads - if one ever actually gets populated - may not succeed at their stated goal, it doesn't mean they won't be worthwhile.

Mencius encapsulates this too - "Heck, if your boat has good childcare, I might even apply to live there myself."

September 24, 2009 at 7:12 AM  
Anonymous Zdeno said...

From the "Plot" section of the wikipedia article on Doom:

"The player takes the role of a nameless space marine, "one of Earth's toughest, hardened in combat and trained for action", who has been punitively posted to Mars after assaulting his commanding officer, who ordered his unit to fire upon civilians."

I'm sure MM deeply regrets his many hours spent aiding and abetting a character with such antinomian tendencies.

* * *

I think seasteading is a valuable effort because a hostile reaction from the international community will make US Progressivism's fundamentally predatory nature painfully obvious. If the reaction is non-hostile, bonus.

Also, I'm not convinced that seasteading, and gradualist solutions in general, are necessarily impossible. The present administration would certainly not respect the sovereignty of an anti-democratic yacht-state, but consider: 1) The president's office is one of the only remaining levers of power that can be influenced by right-wing populism, and 2) It will ultimately be the president's call whether or not the Pacific fleet terminates Patri-land with extreme prejudice.

Is it so impossible to imagine someone like Ron Paul getting elected? Then, once we have a few seasteads and charter cities whose very existence proves the bankruptcy of social democracy, it's all over. The EUSG will lose it's legitimacy in the eyes of, if not the entire population, at least the armed forces.



September 24, 2009 at 7:18 AM  
Blogger Aaron Davies said...

why is it that when I use the word "conflate" in ordinary conversation, people laugh at me?

because it sounds like something derrida or foucault would say

September 24, 2009 at 7:44 AM  
Blogger Aaron Davies said...

so to summarize the summary, people would be better off moving to the moon and implementing the moon is a harsh mistress directly? at least on the moon, newton turns rocks into WMDs for you for free.

September 24, 2009 at 7:44 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...


No, it's better to wait and work towards collapse (or structuring post collapse) than to try to "take power" in any way while THE ONE is still in power (and I mean USG).

It's not surprising how well MM is tracking the Peter Wiggin principle -- if one reads the whole Ender Quartet it's made clear that Peter's power-play, though successful, still devolves into a vicious, interventionist "democracy" not unlike a galactic USG.

MM is trying to engineer away this failing. I (and he, I think) don't know that this is possible.

It's certainly fun to think about, though.

September 24, 2009 at 8:40 AM  
Blogger xlbrl said...

Seasteading is an idea that expresses the single most noble desire for what men generally lack, a love for liberty. Nothing else could explain the time and energy devoted by serious people to a cause so obviously, and absolutely, ridiculous.

It is not a scheme that even requires thinking out. When laughter is the first response it is often the correct one. But if we were to go to the trouble of thinking about it, why would we not address the most obvious minefield: the children. As Doc Brown said to Marty and Jennifer of the future--It's not you, it's your kids.

You will have more contol about what you are raising on this island, but you still have no idea what that is, because it has never been done. And when they see land, that may be the last time you see them. Good riddance, Mom and Dad, you have fun with it.

September 24, 2009 at 9:34 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

sovereignty is not boolean

Yes. And this is something that MM seems somewhat blind to. Also he is clearly blind to the logic of secessionism. To me it makes perfect sense to use the NYT, because one can secede from even a 99% progressive seastead community. Of course, as MM says the USG is still there. So you accommodate to that. You can still get a large amount of practical freedom, because USG cannot permanently occupy a million platforms and won't want to anyway.

Another aspect of secessionism in the context of non-fixed terrain is that it does not, in fact, require fighting. Political objectives can be achieved without political conflict, or at least without having to fight. (Those being seceded from may well feel conflicted, but so long as they cannot or do not do anything about, there is no war.)

One other point I'd make in favor on Patri on this issue, is that to the extent you believe USG is really sovereign over the entire world, an initially overwhelmingly progressive seastead community actually favors the movement. The USG (or EUSG) is powerful, but sclerotic, and highly succeptible to precedent. Get the precedents set while they still love you.

September 24, 2009 at 10:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone else has created a tagged index here

September 24, 2009 at 10:28 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Seasteading, like crypto-locked firearms, seems to me to be an idea conceived by someone who has taken science fiction too closely to heart. It is an idle and impractical conceit. Man is a landlubber by nature; there are severe diseconomies to living aboard ship or on a sea platform, much as there are to living on a small island without significant natural resources.

MM's suggestion of intellectual sovereignty, secession in mind if not in body, is on the other hand practical and cheap. Furthermore it is one that has ample precedent on the right, in sources as diverse as Albert Jay Nock's "Memoirs of a Superfluous Man" and Julius Evola's "Cavalcare la tigre." There is a kernel of wisdom in the little old lady's advice "don't vote - it only encourages them."

September 24, 2009 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...


Missiles. Nuff said.

September 24, 2009 at 11:50 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Perhaps not enough said.

USG feels competition from said Seastead. NYT says seasteaders

molest children
grow drugs
vote republican

ergo, missiles lobbed, problem solved.

Hell, they could just try to serve a warrant and use that as justification.

September 24, 2009 at 11:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think seasteading is a valuable effort because a hostile reaction from the international community will make US Progressivism's fundamentally predatory nature painfully obvious.

If bullying dogshit countries like Honduras, Serbia, and Afghanistan doesn't make that painfully obvious, then nothing will.

Is it so impossible to imagine someone like Ron Paul getting elected?

Read the archive. MM has already made it clear that the short answer is no, and if by some miracle the answer was yes, it wouldn't matter anyway.

Ron Paul exists so that suckers can delude themselves that the system could be fixed "if only" such a miracle occurred as his election. This delusion diverts them from the more harmful forms of dissent they might pursue if they thought the system was irretrievably broken.

September 24, 2009 at 1:18 PM  
Anonymous CVD said...

Of course sovereignty is Boolean. If you are "partly" sovereign the protector nation prevents you from doing things it doesn't like - in other words, you are only allowed to do things with the implicit blessing of the protector, i.e. you are not sovereign.

September 24, 2009 at 1:20 PM  
Anonymous CVD said...

Mr Moldbug,

I am happy to see you've (been forced to) sever the connection with TSI. At first I was happy to see that you were getting some broader exposure, but now I see that such exposure will no further you cause.

I am still not sure what will further your cause. Perhaps you are doomed to preach to a Nockian remnant that will never succeed but always be proved correct as events unfold. Anyway, assocition with TSI would have been entertaining but not helpful.

Good luck. I for one - and for what little it is worth - will continue reading regardless of how "inappropriate" your condemnations become. If it is inappropriate to call out a professor for plagarizing and passing off as his own ideas he otherwise condemns, then I'll raise my Laphroaig to inappropriateness.


September 24, 2009 at 1:29 PM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

GMP: we've been through this before, the first time seasteading came to the notice of MM. My point then, as now, is that progressives don't shoot first and ask questions later. They love talk and they love procedures. No conflict! More work for oh-so-many! In this case, a bureaucracy already exists. Huzzah.

September 24, 2009 at 1:30 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...


They don't like talking so much that they will let a right-wing outpost remain if they can do anything about it. Look at how Israel is slowly getting screwed despite having an effective military force, a dedicated population, and significant amounts of usable land.

September 24, 2009 at 2:48 PM  
Anonymous pwyll said...

The tone of this post seems much improved from the few previous - sounds purged of the bitter, angry vibe. I'm happy to see it, I think entries like this are much more persuasive.

September 24, 2009 at 3:51 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...


Besides "newt is right," proggies always shoot first when they think they can get away with it.

Which they will be able to. Spin is infinite if your target is dead.

CVD -- I share (though with Oban). Coming to Florida any time soon?

I'm pretty sure that fatherhood (when Menc made teh register shift) has made him realize just how much he doesn't give a fuck.

He's of an age (the 4chan age?) where comedians on TV used nigga and faggot (hell, "faggot" was a popular insult on MTV until the mid-90s) and certainly the folks on teh interwebs did (and if MM phreaked a little in his younger days the language was even a deeper blue). "Nigga" is part of his vernacular, and I don't think he gives a fuck anymore about pissing anyone off.

If I had money in the bank and no mortgage, neither would I.

September 24, 2009 at 7:24 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@GM Palmer

Thanks for the first half.

I think that the second half of your comment reflects an extremely important observation, namely that most people simply don't care about who is in power whether it be them, a dictator, a monarch, or some distributed idealistic pseudo-religious cathedral. They just want to get on with their lives. I think that one of the greatest things about a monarchy is that it lets these people do exactly that.

September 24, 2009 at 8:41 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

newt -- exactly -- when one reduces the number of folks in government (a la monarchy) one reduces the ability of government to meddle (note -- exactly why both commies and nazis were BAD).

September 24, 2009 at 8:55 PM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

"As Hume first observed, all governments are in a sense democratic. They require consent from at least their armed security forces. Public opinion always matters."

This is why I've never for once believed that Moldbug's ideal of separation of information and state will come to pass, or, if it does, remain stable.

No government, no matter how authoritarian, can be indifferent to public opinion. Perhaps less sensitive to it than democracy (though ours does an excellent job of that. See Steven Den Beste's proposed Constitutional Amendments. Probably 70% of the public would support them as policy, but there is no chance whatsoever of what they envision appearing on the political agenda in any form, much less Constitutional Amendments submitted for ratification).

Particularly, the governments he envisions, wanting to maximize revenues, have an incentive to "advertise" at minimum, to convince the subjects that currently live there to stay, and convince prosperous ones to come (one can see advert sections along these lines in The Economist frequently).

Under his vision, possibly correct, there is no way to enforce a separation of state and information, and no incentive for the state to be completely indifferent to public opinion and not work to shape it. It may very well not resemble what we get now in its particulars, but there will be state propaganda.

(Last season's "Kings" comes to mind, btw).

September 24, 2009 at 9:29 PM  
Blogger sconzey said...

Absolute sovereignty is boolean. Start building a space-based ion cannon, or making designer drugs that are twice as awesome as anything around today and do not be suprised when the USG send a carrier group your way.

Not only is a carrier group overkill, but USG is not a rational entity -- as MM cannot tire of re-iterating. Composed of rational actors, yes. But the whole is irrational, and acts irrationally.

Yes, Seasteads are a threat to the USG's power structure. We can see that. It is, if you will, obvious -- even if they are not making ion cannons or soma, their very existence is an anathema. However, the composite components will argue and infight about what to do, and what is done in the end will be what creates the most work for the most departments, NOT what is the most efficient.

The nascent seastead must -- in the face of dithering and inefficiency -- be ruthlessly efficient. Make money. Make a fuck-tonne of money. With money, you can approach Russia or China, who MM acknowledges quasi-sovereign through force of arms, and arrange some deal to your mutual benefit.

September 25, 2009 at 2:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The nascent seastead must -- in the face of dithering and inefficiency -- be ruthlessly efficient. Make money. Make a fuck-tonne of money. With money, you can approach Russia or China, who MM acknowledges quasi-sovereign through force of arms, and arrange some deal to your mutual benefit.

Yeah right. Unless your puny seastead make more than the $340 billion the US imports with China or the $27 billion the US imports from Russia, you don't have enough to induce Russia and China to offend the US. They stood aside while the US pounded on countries they actually liked and supported for decades, and where they had strong economic interests - Serbia and Iraq - why would they go to the mat for some American freaks on a boat?

September 25, 2009 at 3:37 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...


What dipshittery is pouring forth from your mouth? SDB's amendments wouldn't be supported by "um like 70% maybe" of the population because -- who said it here -- most people aren't philosophers and believe what they are told.



see anonymous-needs-a-name above.

So now we "know" what to do, right? Be really fucking smart and put correct information out there and wait.

MM will likely proffer some more shit but that's the gist so far.

The revipedia idea died in the water. I think Google knols has as well, though I haven't checked in a while -- la wik is supreeem.

Any other avenues for intelligent, pronomian information distribution?

September 25, 2009 at 4:12 AM  
Blogger sconzey said...

Well no, you're unlikely to be able to get the Red Army to intervene on your behalf outright, but you can probably assemble enough of a defensive capacity to make the military option unpaletable.

September 25, 2009 at 4:41 AM  
Blogger newt0311 said...


Do you have any idea of how much military might the US possessed? Hove you ever seen an aircraft carrier up close?

The only way to bolster defenses that much is to either get nukes or get seed capital of at least a few hundred billion and get mercenaries, both of which are infeasible.


MM's idea is to use crypto-locks. Once these are in place, the country may be "democratic" but as long as you ahve at least one regiment or one set of mercenaries on your side, you control the outcome. As discussed previously, against a professional army, millions of citizens are only so many bags of flesh waiting to be popped.

In the past, the sovereign indeed needed to worry about how loyal his army was. However, history demonstrates that armies usually follow whoever is willing to lead. In that case, a competent incumbent always wins out.

@GM Palmer

I don't think that establishing alternative information sources is sufficient. After all, weren't our current information sources accurate and independent at one point? If revpedia or uberfact ever gets off the ground, it will be taken over by progressives just like wikipedia, the press, and the universities.

I am reasonably convinced that the only real source of resistance to progressives is the military. Influence can only be countered with authority, not more influence.

September 25, 2009 at 5:57 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

weren't our current information sources accurate and independent at one point?

No. Never. The difference between our right-wing past and the progressive present is not that once there was truth and now there is falsehood in the media. The difference is the scale and impact of the media themselves. Religion used to be the opiate of the masses, but by comparison to TV is is a pretty pallid drug. Call it a teaspoon of hydrocodone, vs TV as mainlining heroin.

When a newspaper is full of lies, you still have to make an effort to import them into your mind. When the TV is full of lies and many other forms of explicit and implicit untruth (i.e. 1/2 of doctors are stunning young women), you have to make an effort even to see the untruth. And you have be very active indeed to disbelieve it.

Mencius was definitely onto something with his "know the truth" thing there for a while. But this is a small something, slowly building. The newest medium is not unfriendly to untruth, but neither can it hold any party line. So the truth does get out there.

September 25, 2009 at 6:38 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

Newt and GMT: well, they certainly are not taking out Israel, even though they can. What are they doing about Israel? Jawboning, is what. Talk, talk talk. (And lots of "aid" to the poor Palestinians.)

But as we discussed before: the right answer when your sovereign comes around and demands you jump is not "fuck you". It may not be "how high", either. But ultimately you have to decide whether or not the conditions the sovereign will impose are intolerable enough to fight them, and die. Usually, they are not.

In this case, the proggy sovereign is a long, long away from our hypothetical seasteader. This is spacial distance, but also bureaucratic distance. So, while I do not doubt that they will have the will, and thus be able to enforce laws against, say, slavery, some drugs, and tax evasion, they will not have the will to enforce, say, seat-belt laws. Helmet laws. Laws on working conditions. Many banking laws. I am sure I could go on almost endlessly.

This represents the upside of seasteading in terms of liberty. The downside is as Mencius has described it: like living in a prison of sorts.

And to TGGP: there ought to be a thing like a devil's advocate, except used to clarify things for the dumb. Call it a "dummy's advocate". I expect that's what you're up to above, on the matter of prisons. But just in case it is not crystal clear to you from the context, neither MM nor I was talking about using seasteads for actual prisons. Rather, we were comparing them to prisons.

September 25, 2009 at 6:52 AM  
Blogger newt0311 said...


Newt and GMT: well, they certainly are not taking out Israel, even though they can. What are they doing about Israel? Jawboning, is what. Talk, talk talk. (And lots of "aid" to the poor Palestinians.)

Not quite. Considering the military force that Israel possesses, it should be able to take over the entire region if it wanted to. It should at least be able to take over the West Bank and the Gaza strip along with perhaps the Sinai peninsula. However, the fact that it must sit by as terrorists groups fester in this region and launch attacks into its territory is obvious confirmation of the degree to which the US (or some other force) is blocking its actions.

As for what seasteaders will be able to pull off in terms of avoidance of laws, I doubt that they will be able to get away from taxes. Either taxes will be placed on them through high tariffs or through some other excuse like they are still citizens of their respective countries. If the taxes are still there, then there isn't much difference between the seasteaders and a luxury ocean resort. It makes them worth a visit but it doesn't really make them anything new in the political arena and it certainly doesn't accomplish TSI's stated purpose of demonstrating a new type of sovereignty.

September 25, 2009 at 7:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if Mencius ever wrote that speech he was planning to give at TSI. If he did, I wonder if he would post it here.

As an aside, I now understand why Moldbug preaches passivism. He earlier wrote, the the way one sought the "good guys" after the fall of communism and nazism was to find those who had eschewed politics, and had nothing to do with their rotten governments. Thus, the way posterity shall distinguish the "good guys" after the fall of progressivism is by seeking those who also eschewed politics, viz. practiced passivism.
Does anyone else agree/disagree?


September 25, 2009 at 9:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

newt0311:Considering the military force that Israel possesses, it should be able to take over the entire region if it wanted to.

Methinks all the "look how USG holds back Israel" comments suffer from a willful disregard of reality, considering the immense military power Israel possesses was made possible by a powerful benefactor --cough,*usg*,cough.

September 25, 2009 at 11:02 AM  
Blogger Malchus X said...

It would only take one disgruntled set of in-laws - or grandparents, for that matter - complaining about the "cult-like" atmosphere their dastardly son-in-law and misguided daughter were holding little Joey/Jill in out on that dreadful ocean platform, and before long there would be no "Seasteading" no more. Uncle Sammy lives and thrives on just such confrontations with those who no longer want to be held in his tender embrace all the live long day. Just ask David Koresh* - or Jefferson Davis** - for that matter.

(*obligatory "yes, I know Koresh was a fanatical loon" disclaimer. But even loons have the right to left alone)

(*obligatory "yes, I know Koresh was a rotten little apple compared to the magnificent orange Jeff Davis was" disclaimer for our neo-Confederate friends)

September 25, 2009 at 11:43 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Newt is right about taxes. U.S. citizens, for example, are taxed on their global incomes - unlike the citizens of most other countries, who may usually escape taxation in their countries of origin simply by expatriating themselves.

How is a U.S. citizen to escape the reach of the IRS? Even if he expatriates his assets they will in most places be subject to levy under tax treaties. The U.S. government has recently succeeded in pressuring Switzerland to abandon its traditional bank secrecy insofar as U.S. citizens' accounts are concerned. If a U.S. citizen has assets of a size to be subject to estate and gift taxation he cannot escape those taxes by renouncing U.S. citizenship. A tax penalty is imposed on persons of high net-worth in the event they renounce U.S. citizenship..

If in some remote event a seasteading operation should both surmount the inherent natural challenges to such an endeavour, AND manage as well to avoid the economic grasp of an extant government - whether that of the U.S. or some other country - I suspect G.M. Palmer's prediction will come true. In other words, it will be stigmatized as criminal and worthy of destruction, a Ruby Ridge or Waco at sea.

September 25, 2009 at 11:52 AM  
Anonymous Molyuk said...

I agree with Malchus X. For a preview of how a semi-successful seasteading would be treated, see the Branch Davidians. They were accused of all sorts of heinous crimes. Most of those accusations turned out to be bullshit - probably some were true, but who really knows? Either way, they were burned alive and their "compound" flattened. The Cathedral does not tolerate any group which smells even faintly of right-wing secessionism.

September 25, 2009 at 12:04 PM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

There's an easy way to prevent your seastead being Wacoed. When the Feds come, don't start shooting at them. When they demand entry, let them in. That's all there is to it. Koresh acted as if he were a free man, not a subject.

Yes, that means you cannot keep a harem including jailbait on your platform, ala Koresh and those FLDS types. No "child abuse". This is not, I think, unduly limiting, but others may differ.

September 25, 2009 at 12:20 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...


But then you aren't sovereign.

September 25, 2009 at 12:44 PM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

Correct. You are not.

September 25, 2009 at 12:50 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Leonard, it doesn't matter whether one avoids keeping jailbait on the platform, etc. If no offense actually exists, do you really believe the U.S. government will not make one up, à la Gulf-of-Tonkin resolution?

Seasteading with the intent of asserting independent and sovereign status, should it despite all its natural disadvantages ever come to pass, would constitute an open and contumacious defiance of state power. Some excuse would necessarily be found to suppress it.

September 25, 2009 at 12:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well no, you're unlikely to be able to get the Red Army to intervene on your behalf outright, but you can probably assemble enough of a defensive capacity to make the military option unpaletable.

No, you can't, especially because the US can sink your sorry ass without any fear of collateral damage and probably without any adverse publicity, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it.

Being on the ocean is the very worst place to be if you are an enemy of the USG. They will find you and they will sink you and you can't hide. You won't even know they're coming until the bob or missile or torpedo hits you.

Osama has more money, a better revenue stream, and many more disciplined followers than the seasteading cretins, and you notice he's not on a ship, he's hiding in a cave in Pakistan.

There's an easy way to prevent your seastead being Wacoed. When the Feds come, don't start shooting at them. When they demand entry, let them in. That's all there is to it.

They will invent something.

September 25, 2009 at 1:06 PM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

I disagree almost entirely with the idea that seasteaders can ever be sovereign. Because that means being strong enough to defeat any comers, by force. It is pointless to attempt to beat the USG in an arms race. Better that seasteaders should attempt a land war in asia.

Any attempt by seasteaders to vindicate their rights via force will certainly strike the EUSG as rebellion, and be dealt with harshly.

I do expect seasteaders to keep trying, though, to assert their rights based on the libertarian theory of righteousness. (I.e: the USA would never be so immoral as to violate my rights! So, I'm not paying any taxes this year, and I'll fight 'em if they come.) So you'll see the occasional Wacoing. This may not be difficult for the EUSG, but it will cause it much loss of face. (Waco is a fine analog.) More common will be the scenario where the seasteaders are not fools, and the EUSG's agents board a platform and search it, maybe arresting someone.

None of this means shutting down the movement as a whole, just as it is still legal to live in a compound in Texas. Or for that matter, it is legal to live in a car (or a Winnebago). It is quite possible to gain a substantial amount of freedom by living in a camper, staying on the move.

September 25, 2009 at 1:21 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@Anon 11:02

Methinks all the "look how USG holds back Israel" comments suffer from a willful disregard of reality, considering the immense military power Israel possesses was made possible by a powerful benefactor --cough,*usg*,cough.

Not at all. The US (and EUSG) obviously did a lot for Israel during its formative years. They basically created a country for all the people there. However, that does not change the fact that EUSG is holding Israel back now. Note that I am not arguing whether this is "good" or "bad." I am only pointing out that the US is currently interfering in the actions of Israel.


So... basically, taxes will be applied. At that point, we are not dealing with new sovereigns, we are dealing with luxury resorts. Come to think of it, TSI will probably have more success if it did set out to build luxury resorts in the middle of the ocean instead of full-on sovereigns.

September 25, 2009 at 9:56 PM  
Blogger danielj said...

You would only try to distance yourself from the Aryan Brotherhood in the relative comfort and freedom you enjoy currently.

If your kike ass ever wound up incarcerated you would be begging to get in.

September 27, 2009 at 7:14 PM  
Anonymous Scott W. said...

You would only try to distance yourself from the Aryan Brotherhood in the relative comfort and freedom you enjoy currently.

MM has on several occasions has expressed appreciation for the comfort and freedom he enjoys, so I'm not sure what your point is.

September 28, 2009 at 4:41 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Since the chaos has begun, I want to take this opportunity to say that I hear the title in Homer Simpson's voice -- like the Hallowe'en parody of The Shining:

"television's warm, glowing warming glow."

September 28, 2009 at 5:18 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

So... taxes will be applied. At that point, we are not dealing with new sovereigns

Taxes will be applied to Americans on boats, just as they are for Americans anywhere else. And who knows, but perhaps other countries will start to apply the same rules as well. But at least right now, it would be quite possible for anyone except an American to move to a platform and consequently not pay taxes.

And certainly you would get to determine your own law, with only modest interference from the EUSG.

We are talking about semi-sovereignty. If you demand sovereignty be a boolean quality, then no -- they are not sovereign. But they can become as independent as say Costa Rica is. As individuals, the people on a platform would have considerable more liberty than a Costa Rican does.

As for seasteading as a luxury, well, there are certainly people in that business already, more or less. But yes, lowering the price should certainly bring more customers. The notion of low-budget seasteading runs contrary to the standard course of all normal technology. Early adopters of all normal technologies are the rich; from there it spreads downward as technology improves and mass production can be applied.

September 28, 2009 at 9:03 AM  
Anonymous m said...

Mencius is still struggling with the idea that the only way to permanently engineer society is through religion. Additionally, he has yet to respond to TGGP's deeply insightful comment:

"The problem with Western civilization in the past that led it on the trajectory toward pacifism is Christianity. There was always the germ of a radical social doctrine preached by a madman that has inspired "progressivie" movements throughout time. Liberalism, even (or especially) in its atheistic form is a sect of Christianity. Unlike many self-proclaimed right-wingers, MM has not sought to disassociate himself from the Nazi regime and Hitler. He insists that Hitler was a genuine reactionary and any progressive or "revolutionary" indicators he gave off were bogus. Right-wingers that seek to disassociate themselves from Hitler (Spengler in his various forms in particular) emphasize his paganism and hostility to Christianity. Some also point out that he stated he wished Germany's religion had been Islam or Shintoism. There is Mencius' goal. Our society must be converted away from Christianity, and as Shinto holds limited appeal and has a short track record, the answer is Islam. Islam converted some nomadic Arabs with negligible impact on history to a world-spanning empire. Someone or other has mentioned that a society devoid of liberalism, or Christianity or feminine values is essentially one like that of the Islamic world. Islam only ran aground on the wealth and technology of the West, but it has sustained its faith despite that setback and embraced fundamentalism rather than liberalism as the Japanese did to a significant extent. Converting the West to Islam will turn the obstacle of the faith to an ally. This new civilization will both be militarily strong, technologically and economically advanced as well as reactionary and patriarchal, resistant to liberalism."

September 28, 2009 at 10:21 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Holy fuck.

That can't be a worse idea.

September 28, 2009 at 11:02 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

m, Mencius is not "struggling" with that idea. I'd wager that he flat-out disbelieves it.

Ideology of sorts is required for any stable society, but mass ideology is not, at least according to MM. Unlike democracy, neocameralism has the property that its policy is not necessarily popular. It doesn't take that many men believing it to run it. Also, a neocameral policy should have no ideological grounding whatsoever, other than profitability.

In any case, progressivism is the dominant culture in the West now, and it is simply daft to imagine a "Muslim West" as something realistic, much less worth aiming towards. Islam may triump, but what results will no longer be the West.

September 28, 2009 at 11:33 AM  
Blogger newt0311 said...


If MM's ideal of crypto-locks actually works out, there is no need for any ideology. People will of course find their own private ideologies to believe in but the state will always be run only for profit (on average).

Also, MM has never backed state religions. Ever heard of separation of state and education?

Also, as a state religion, Christianity works much better. Contrary to TGGP's claim, people had ideological democracies long before Christianity became a significant force. Either that or the entire history of Athenian democracy is a fabrication. Christianity already has a centralized hierarchy, the catholic church, amenable to state partnership as long as said partnership rules in a half-way decent manner.

September 28, 2009 at 11:41 AM  
Anonymous PeterW said...

Singapore is one example of a first-world nation that holds many positions repugnant to liberal elites, from restrictions on the freedom of the tabloid political press to corporal punishment. If a tiny city-state can contradict American liberalism, the power of the NYT crowd must be less than Mr. Moldbug thinks.

September 28, 2009 at 1:54 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...


Perhaps, but there are quite a few countries that have been taken out. Singapore seems to be an example of a country overlooked (though certainly reviled by leftists). Considering the pseudo-random nature of the progressives, it is not particularly surprising that there would be a few of these.

September 28, 2009 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

I am terribly sorry for the delay with relaying this post over to, as I think that this is precisely the kind of discussion for which Thiblo's format is better suited. But now you're welcome to discuss there as well.

However, this time I have a good excuse: I was popularizing Seasteading in Vilnius, Lithuania among a bunch of people from the Baltic countries (including Finland and Russia). :-)

September 28, 2009 at 4:50 PM  
Blogger Joseph said...

We will see an experimental test of whether a nation can defy "world public opinion" for long in Honduras.

September 28, 2009 at 6:46 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...


Nations are too diverse for this experiment to be useful. Neither are nations separate quantities. Ex: France, Germany, and the UK are technically different nations but it is far more accurate to just assign them all to a group called Europe which moves together. Likewise with the US, Canada, and Mexico. And with ... say Pakistan, Iran, and Syria. If you want to study the rise and fall of nations, you will need a lot more than puny Honduras with a population of a few million observed over a period of a few weeks.

September 28, 2009 at 7:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We will see an experimental test of whether a nation can defy "world public opinion" for long in Honduras.

The experiment has already been performed with a much more powerful nation than Honduras: South Africa.

Result: World Public Opinion 1, White Reactionaries 0.

September 29, 2009 at 7:57 AM  
Blogger Malchus X said...

"The experiment has already been performed with a much more powerful nation than Honduras: South Africa"

And SA is now pretty much a reeking craphole from stem to stern - and getting worse.

The more accurate tally in that instance would be: World Public Opinion 1, Reality 0.

September 29, 2009 at 9:42 AM  
Anonymous Steve Johnson said...

Malchus X said...

"And SA is now pretty much a reeking craphole from stem to stern - and getting worse.

The more accurate tally in that instance would be: World Public Opinion 1, Reality 0."

Well yeah, that's MM's point when he writes about the history of colonialism. The score is closer to WPO 100, Reality 0.

You can say the same about Egypt, the Congo, Rhodesia / Zimbabwe, etc.

This is a huge reason to despise a faggot like Romer. He knows that colonialism is the only answer for making the third world any better but remains dishonest about it because he wants to be influential. He's a ringwraith. He's sold his soul for power.

-Steve Johnson

September 29, 2009 at 2:52 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...


This is a huge reason to despise a faggot like Romer. He knows that colonialism is the only answer for making the third world any better but remains dishonest about it because he wants to be influential. He's a ringwraith. He's sold his soul for power.

It is very doubtful that Romer has any idea the extent to which colonialism was directly responsible for the decline of Africa. It is far more likely that he is genuinely deluded.

He is not despicable, only dangerous.

September 29, 2009 at 2:59 PM  
Blogger Studd Beefpile said...

Steve> Newt is exactly right. That romer is nakedly self serving does not mean that he is insincere.

Anon> The US gives Israel somewhat less than 3 billion dollars a year in aid, which amounts to 1 percent of GDP. Sounds like a lot, but we give almost as much to Egypt, and a billion a year to the Palestinian Authority so really it isn't a huge edge. You might be able to argue that past American aid was more decisive(I don't know the numbers), but then you'd also have to take into account all the Soviet aid Syria and Egypt got. I feel pretty confident saying that even without American money and technology the Arabs wouldn't have been able to kick out Israel.

September 29, 2009 at 8:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Mencius is very nearly as hostile to conservative populism as he is to the entity he calls the Cathedral.

Leaving that point aside, yes, it is impossible to imagine someone like Ron Paul being elected to the Presidency. You would first have to explain why the DNC and the Seven Sisters of the American Media: ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune would not immediately do what they did the last time they saw a candidate they feared might upset the status quo, H. Ross Perot.

There would be daily editorials about Dr. Paul, first damning him with faint praise, then declaring him a Thug! a Madman! a Bigot! a Nazi!!!!!!!1!11one. And the late-night TV comedians would all do identical monologues night after night about how craaaaaaaaaaaaaaazy, man, how way-out and insane and out-of-the-mainstream and just plain NUTS Dr. Paul and his followers are. Night after night after night. There would be sketches on Saturday Night Live of Dr. Paul sieg-heiling in drag while injecting heroin into his eyeball and raping an infant. All the big-name liberal editorial cartoonists at all the influential newspapers would draw him in clown makeup. There would be multiple weepy and earnest TV movies-of-the-week in which a thinly veiled caricature of the man, possibly named Pon Raul or something equally childish and unsubtle, ran a nefarious drug ring out of the Aryan Nations compound in Idaho. They will plant the meme in the heads of the booboisie that Dr. Paul is a cackling, mustache-twirling comic book supervillain, and do their damnedest to make sure no one ever takes him seriously again.

They did it to H. Ross Perot. They would have done it to Pat Buchanan or Fred Thompson, if they'd looked like they had any chance of getting the nomination. And if they feel threatened by Dr. Paul, they'll do it to him too.

Aye, the Internet is cutting into their influence. Aye, people are now able to express opinions that contradict them without fear, so long as they do so anonymously. Aye, their grasp slips year by year. But the influence they wield is still vast beyond most people's capacity to imagine.

When the Times and Post go bankrupt, when MSNBCBS goes off the air and its trademarks get bought by a venture capitalist from Korea and put on a line of plastic urinal deodorant holders, then you and Dr. Paul get back in touch with us. Then, and not before, we might be able to debate him and his platform on their merits without being drowned out by idiotic agitprop from the idiot box.

September 30, 2009 at 7:46 AM  
Anonymous Owen said...

'US Jews back military strike on Iran'

This is interesting in light of the common claim made by Mencius Moldbug and others that, in addition to being overwhelmingly liberal and Democratic, there's an overwhelming tendency on the part of Jews to pursue or advocate "suicidal" policies as far as Israel and its security is concerned.

Hard to believe how anyone (aside from the fanbois) could take Moldbug's claims on this seriously.

And no, you don't have to be some kind of crazed, foaming K-Mac worshiper to notice this.

September 30, 2009 at 10:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

apropos not much...

Democracy Now (and Arundhati Roy) go democraphobic:

Will they next host a silly conference and invite Moldbug before disinviting him?

September 30, 2009 at 10:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"When the Times and Post go bankrupt, when MSNBCBS goes off the air..."

Before that happens, they'll convince the booboise that its in the "public interest" to bail them out.

September 30, 2009 at 11:02 PM  
Anonymous Preppy said...

Studd Beefpile,

The US gives Israel somewhat less than 3 billion dollars a year in aid, which amounts to 1 percent of GDP. Sounds like a lot, but we give almost as much to Egypt, and a billion a year to the Palestinian Authority so really it isn't a huge edge.

The "3 billion" is only the foreign aid bill. More like 15 Billion if add all the other shiznit. Dissimulator.

October 2, 2009 at 3:24 PM  

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