The title of this post comes from Ilkka Kokkarinen’s idea of “synergessays“, although perhaps it doesn’t count when they come from the same source.
The first is Patri Friedman’s talk at Cato on Seasteading, which roughly coincides with his initiation of this month’s Cato Unbound on the same subject. I’ve said before and I’ll say again (even contra Patri) that his is the only viable plan for libertarianism, though it would also help other ideologies achieve their country (to possibly misuse a phrase of Rorty’s). It could best off the ground quickly if there were a very profitable industry which would have a large advantage in operating from a seastead. Unfortunately, Patri notes that governments will likely reach out and crush any “libertopia” that goes full scale into legalizing anonymous banking and the manufacture/exporting of large quantities of illegal drugs, leaving more mundane law-skirting like medical tourism. As someone not especially socially liberal, I’m fine with settling for (if I could get in and obtain a good job) Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Singapore, Hong Kong & Dubai rather than insisting on combining them with the Netherlands or Sweden. However, just as we all gain consumer surplus from the penny-pinchers at the supermarket (to that spillover isn’t contained by coupons) I think the effect of competition and innovation on the rest of the world will outweigh the importance of any particular policy regime on a single seastead.
Though on a different subject, similar constraints popped up in Glenn Greenwald’s talk on drug decriminalization in Portugal. Tim Lynch introduces it with some background on the policies before 2001 with the quote “The U.S’ drug policy is the world’s drug policy” (or something along those lines). Portugal went farther than the Netherlands in that it applies to all drugs and the decriminalization laws are on the books rather than merely unenforced (citations have in fact increased over time, as there is less paperwork police need for mere misdimeanors). The commission that ended up recommending that change in the law convened with the starting constraint that full legalization was off the table (so trafficking is still a criminal offense) due to international treaty obligations. While seasteads do not start out with treaties in the first place, the experience of countries like Portugal (and I would add many tax havens, included landlocked ones like Liechtenstein) shows how far a small nation may go without incurring the wrath of other countries. We may need policy libertarians to retard the response of the U.S to those places pushing the envelope. Peter Reuter began his talk by noting that he doesn’t normally receive such large audiences when the subject is drug policy, though money laundering is another story as people are simply more interested in money. I think the people on the internet who were recommending policies for Obama to discuss were disproportionately drawn from those interested in marijuana, and money is where the real money is (obvious, I know) when it comes to starting up seasteads.
Finally, in a completely unrelated video, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita gives a TED talk on predicting the outcome of complex negotiations, and more specifically the Iranian nuclear program.