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Seasteading: Competitive Governments on the Ocean


  • Patri Friedman,

    Founder and Chairman of the Board
    1. The Seasteading Institute, Sunnyvale, CA, USA
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  • Brad Taylor

    Research Associate
    1. The Seasteading Institute, PhD student, School of Politics & International Relations, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia
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    • We thank Will Chamberlain, Daniel Holt, Michael Keenan, Kevin Lyons, Ed Stringham, Michael Strong, the editors, two anonymous referees, and participants at the 2010 Australasian Public Choice Conference and 2011 Association of Private Enterprise Education Conference for comments and suggestions. This work was funded by The Seasteading Institute.


We argue that those advocating the reform of current political systems in order to promote jurisdictional competition are in a catch-22: jurisdictional competition has the potential to improve policy, but reforms to increase competition must be enacted by currently uncompetitive governments. If such governments could be relied upon to enact such reforms, they would likely not be necessary. Since existing governments are resistant to change, we argue that the only way to overcome the deep problem of reform is by focusing on the bare-metal layer of society – the technological environment in which governments are embedded. Developing the technology to create settlements in international waters, which we refer to as seasteading, changes the technological environment rather than attempting to push against the incentives of existing political systems. As such, it sidesteps the problem of reform and is more likely than more conventional approaches to significantly alter the policy equilibrium.