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Sunday, February 14, 2010


This is the argument for seateading
Think of the state as a business—but one with enormously high barriers to entry and enormously high exit costs. As it would in the business world, this set-up breeds sclerosis, inefficiency, and the tendency to treat customers like dirt.

From Patri’s point of view, Milton’s path of steady, sober education about the advantages of liberty wasn’t changing the basic negatives very much. And although David might be right that government isn’t even necessary, the fact remains that governments, however inefficient, control virtually every chunk of planet Earth. Winning control of a piece of land almost necessarily involves bloodshed, with very little likelihood of success. High barriers to entry, indeed. ....What if you could just move—not just you, but everything you own, including your home, and, if your neighbors agreed with you, your whole community? What if you could move all of it where no government would bother you at all, and you could make a new, better society?

The downside of it is that, whatever the political costs & it is quite likely the community of other world governments would be unsupportive, the cost of building land from the waterline up is considerable.

What about buying up a country going out of business, California is going bust. It is also the biggest state, population wise, in the Union. 37 million or 68 Wyomings. When it goes bust, if the Federal government doesn't bail it out, receivers would normally be put in. Suppose it were split up into about 20 new small states, cities indeed pieces of barely inhabited desert or mountain to have their State constitutions written by whoever does or guarantees paying off as much of the debt as the receivers think can be done. Unlike Greece, California has a heterogeneous cosmopolitan population not wedded to their own statehood. Some of these new states would have similar problems to the old but some would be likely to do well. If libertarianism is correct then somebody buying up a relatively small amount of coast & setting it up with the free market institutions that worked for Hong Kong might build a great city. Los Angeles was not founded on a more prepossessing site.

However for this to work it has to be, while under the sovereignty & protection of the US, not under to much bureaucratic control. The Founding Fathers had an idea along these lines. They called it the 10th Amendment.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
They did not envisage a centralised state but one where the central government, as well as protecting from foreign enemies & providing common economic rules worked more to restrain nannystating by individual state governments than to do its own ruling. The great advantage of federalism is that it allows social experiment whereby different states try different solutions & the most successful get adopted by others. A strong central government prevents experimentation by deciding what is best for everybody & enforcing it. The US Supreme Court has reinterpreted the Constitution to give it the power to enforce a national heath service, uniform schooling, treating CO2 as a pollutant etc but none of these are in the original wording.

A new US State free to enforce only the rules it wanted would be a very attractive place & would make most of the Former Californian Republics prosperous & indeed solvent. They would have most of the theoretical advantages of seasteads with none of the downsides.

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I can't see this as possible, the Feds wouldn't allow it, and to be honest I wouldn't allow it either.

I would like to see California split up into two states, along the straight line just north of San Louis Obispo, Kern and San Bernadino counties. As a practical matter both new states would be a lot more rational separately than they are together. The only two issues of significance that would emerge during a breakup would be water and divvying up the public debt between the two new states.

Southern California imports water from the Colorado river several hundred miles to the east and from northern California as well.

Incidentally, in southern California pricing water is a political art, see here.
I don't insist on a particular number of states being formed. The pure size of CA is unbalancing so I think at least halving it, as you suggest, would be in the general interest. The rolling back of central power via enforcement of the 10th Amendment seems valuable to me - whether a Federal government can be elected which agrees is another thing though I think the chances are improving.

I'm more setting up a framework than a rigid prescription, since I don't know the area personally. Water would certainly be a problem for any new State which consisted of a few square miles of coast & a libertarian constitution, but not nearly as complex as building a seastead.
There is no shortage of water in southern California, even with the massive population there. Most of the water used in the southern half of the state goes to agriculture, and the farms pay less than 10% of what everyone else does for water. If southern California were to adopt uniform wholesale pricing for water, or establish a wholesale market for water then a lot of the farms would go out of business, or would switch to crops that used much less water, freeing water for urban use.

That unit for water marked AF is an acre-foot.

While I am on the subject take a look at this and this.
I think that, if you want buy up a country (not a county) going out of business, you better avoid California and the US entirely and deal with some smaller, weaker entity.
I think about Haiti.
With enough money, pay for a chunk of the place with access to the coast (not need for a large chunk to start) free of inhabitants.
You would have a tropical place, free from preexisting population, near ship lanes and good markets (North America, South America and Europe).
The neighbors would be weak and easier to deal with. And buying the country from another recognized country would force others to recognize you as the former owner recognize you.

The real problem would be to convince the Haitian government to sell the land and the sovereign given they receive money and support from foreign powers so don't need the buyer money so much.
Haiti is heavily populated so I doubt you could get an empty part. I believe somebody was trying to buy up one of the Solomon Islands but it fell through. Some uninhabited islands would seem negotiable. I assume the reason why the British government maintains no inhabitants of Ascension Island (of which I have written as a spaceport) have a "right of abode" is to make such things easier.

On the other hand California is in a wealthy & relatively peaceful part of the world & within driving distance of amenities which neither Haiti nor a seastead are likely to be.
I understand Haiti is heavily populated, but a small (10-20 km2) would be enough to start. Hey, I would say 1 km2 would be enough, if it come with full sovereignty attached.

With full sovereignty later seasteading would be easier. It could be built on the shore, adding/building land or it could be extended to seastead platforms in other places of the sea.

Solomon Islands are far away from the main shipping lanes, where Haiti is near to many of them.

California is beautiful and near many amenities, but it is wishful thinking to believe that the US of A will cede any or all right to any land it own. Not peacefully. Not easily. Not cheap.

Anything inside the US will be under the Federal Government jurisdiction. How do you manage to prevent liberals from flocking inside your newly created state and after a few years overthrow the libertarian majority? They are citizens of the US as you and the inhabitants of the new state.

Haitian population? You keep them out with fences and firearms. If you need cheap manpower you pay them and they will return to their homes at the evening.
If you want to be in a wealthy and peaceful part of the world, then you could buy a piece of the Baja peninsula just south of California.
Good [point about being unable to restrict immigration in former California. Much of the rest of the benefits depended on the central US government having its interference severely limited by application of the 10th Amendment which isn't the case now but, optimistically, may become so. Certainly Haitia & all Carribean states are geographically acessible & many of them have seen pretty good growth for that reason. I would be open to sovereignty purchases almos anywhere - currently nobody is selling but 1 or 2 sales might well establish a trend.

I saw on TV recently that the poshest housing in Monaco (1 sq mile) is built in what used to be the sea.
If you want to be in a wealthy and peaceful part of the world, then you could buy a piece of the Baja peninsula just south of California.
That sounds good. No natural water sources but I assume this means not many indiginous inhabitants either & potentially everything California has but more sun. I can see this is an area where national pride might prevent them selling it to gringos but if Mexico were sensible they could turn it into an autonomous region like Hong Kong & as I have suggested previously build nuclear plants & seel the electricity North.
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