Monday, October 22, 2012

Charter Cities and Seasteading

The more people all over the world are geting sick of fake democracies, excessive corruption, political sleaze and an intolerably wide gap between the rich and the rest, the more diligently people are looking for ways out, either way. Some try to improve socio-economical conditions, others try to further corrode them. Just in one edition of German educational magazine GEO (October 2012, cf. p. 22, pp. 80-92, p. 150.) I found three articles dealing with different approaches.

Charter Cities
"Chicago Boy" economist Paul Romer's suggestion to establish city states (in host states like Honduras) governed by their own laws of pure market belief (see

Unconditional Basic Income (Basic Income Guarantee (or Grant, abbr. BIG)
Funded by a coalition of churches, labour unions and aid organizations, the inhabitants of the Namibian village Otjivero (Omitara) received monthly 700-800 Dollar per person, from January 2008 to December 2009 (see Global Basic Income Foundation, Basic Income Grant Coalition)

Floating Free States (Seasteading)
Kind of social labs at sea (sometimes called seasteads), outside the territory claimed by the government of any nation; autonomous ocean communities designed for performing social experiments with volunteers to find out the best way of government (see The Seasteading Institute). Proponents: PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel and Patri Friedman (grandson of economist Milton Friedaman)

Unfortunately, none of these projects were designed to run under scientific rules of experiment. Comprehensive data of the outcome of the BIG project in Namibia are missing.
Based on a totally different mindset, Charter and Floating Cities look like the ultimate outsourcing projects. Details regarding the living conditions of workers do no exist and those available are rather scary (it is half-way instructive to read both FAQs, e.g. in Paul Romer's vision of recruiting unskilled workers directly out of slums:

"Q: What kind of apartments could these workers afford?A: Small apartments. We know from existing data that living space varies linearly with income. As income grows, people will rent larger, nicer apartments. A city that starts by catering to people getting entry level jobs would start by building small, minimalist apartments and add larger ones with more amenities as incomes rise."

And in the Seasteading FAQ section, the question

"Are seasteading enthusiasts just a bunch of rich guys wanting to escape paying taxes?"

is already telling. Considering the lack of data in both projects, one has to rely on guessing, and my guess is that both are designed to acquire cheap labor slaves through a new legal back door, and yes, trying to create a new systematic loophole for escaping the so-called "regulators" - a term which the plutocracy likes to use for "legislators" and "executive authorities". (My guess is only based on what I found on their websites - which is very unspecific, leaving one with the suspicion that dubious reasons might be behind the lack of details.)

It's funny how well this mechanism of corroding modern democracies is working: first you do everything against the state (the bad regulator) and then you say it's the state that is responsible for the mess and that we have to minimize government (further corrode it). First you create international trading laws which favor large international corporations so that they can easily blackmail governments by threatening to move abroad where production costs and taxes are lower. At home, you proceed by corroding values like consumer and worker protection and introduce subcontracted labour. You reinvest your gains by employing lobbyists, think-tanks and mass-media infotainment who spread your gospel of the entrepreneurial saviour. Further you go by introducing outsourcing techniques - another blackmailing instrument. Finally, you end up by destroying millions of jobs in your own country by outsourcing to other countries, producing products with the help of cheap labor slaves abroad and selling these products overpriced back home, while at the same time tranferring technology to tother countries for free. Your own country is left to pay the price by being forced to pay all kinds of subsidies in order to save society from further disintegration and debt. And then you say the government is incapable of housekeeping.

If you firmly believe that such a downward spiral is good, it is only natural to assume that the final goal can only be your own entrepreneurial city state (or island) where you are the legislator and there are no limits, no rules, no regulations holding you back from doing business, whatever kind of business.

Seasteading's Patri Friedman comes straigth to the point when he finds democracy ridiculous in comparison with the allegedly high standard of entrepreneurial product innovation:

"Yet the governance technology that we use in most of the world - representive democracy - is 2 thousand years old. It originated in ancient Athens. And here in the US we use a constitution which is 200 years old. And that's ridiculous compared with consumer technologies, right? If you'd drive a car from 200 years ago, it would be a horse." (03:38)

Guess it's time to rethink some other more than 2000 years old concepts: e.g. rational thinking, deductive science, speeches in front of an audience, and - last but not least - brigandism and entrepreneurship. For some people with a certain mindset, Friedman's argument might appear compelling, but it's one of the weakest I have ever heard.

Democracy is a human longtime project like science - it is at any time only as good as its proponents, it is always prone to error and it is always improvable. Unfortunately democracy can be faked almost perfectly. (Scientists control each other, politicians do not.)

Related topic:
The Plutocracy Will Go to Extremes to Keep the 1% in Control


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