Cryptocurrencies history is heavily intertwined with the libertarian movement. Many early adopters and current players in the market believe that the government should only have minimal influence in the lives and financial choices of its citizens. They believe in the separation of banking and state, with decisions made bottom up by the citizens rather than by a central regulator. These crypto-enthusiasts are often referred to as the “hippies of the right”.
A recent survey revealed that 44% of bitcoin owners call themselves libertarian and around 10% of the entire American population now identify as such. In the 2016 US presidential election, the Libertarian candidate had their largest vote share ever with 3.3% of total votes.
Even Satoshi Nakamoto wrote in his Bitcoin white paper that “it’s very attractive to the libertarian viewpoint if we can explain it properly.”
A group of crypto enthusiasts who have amassed great wealth from crypto has decided to band together to create a project known as Free Society. The proposed crypto utopia was announced by Olivier Janssens and Roger Ver in 2017 and they plan to “purchase sovereignty” from a nation-state. Creating the world’s first crypto non-country. They believe in free market volunteerism. That interaction with the government should happen on a voluntary basis or not happen at all.
In November last year, Roger Ver stated that. “Volunteerism represents the difference between working for a living or being a slave.” He went on to say that “all throughout society in all your interactions in your day to day life, everybody deals with everybody else on a voluntary basis with a few exceptions. Murderers, rapists, thieves, and governments. So, if we all know that murderers, rapists, and thieves are bad people for dealing with each other via coercive non-voluntary means, what does that make you think about government?”
The founding members hold around 200,000 Bitcoins. At the time of writing that represents roughly $1.5 billion USD. The project has reportedly raised $100 million which will be used to purchase land with sovereignty.
Ver is adamant that this project is not an ICO.
The Minerva Reef
In 1972, Michael Oliver attempted to create a sovereign state, a short distance off the coast of Tonga. He chose a small reef and contracted people to dredge up an island from the seabed. The small island was named the Republic of Minerva, it declared its independence and minted its own currency. All was going well until the King of Tonga used his army to depose Oliver. As time went by the sea slowly reclaimed the sandy island and as quickly as this millionaires utopia came into being, it was gone.
The Seasteading Institute
Seasteading is the concept of creating permanent dwellings at sea, called seasteads, outside the territory claimed by any government. Parti Friendman, a former Google engineer and point man for the Seasteading Institute has his own plans for a Minerva 2.0. Friendman is also the grandson of famous free-market economist Milton Friedman. He teamed up with Wayne Gramlich in the early 2000s, a software engineer who proposed using plastic bottles to make floating islands. Together they published a book called Seasteading: Homesteading the High Seas. The book detailed plans for a waterborne homestead somewhere in the San Francisco Bay. The plans caught the eye of Peter Theil, co-creator of PayPal. The libertarian-leaning Silicon Valley billionaire wrote a cheque for $500,000, Friedman quit his job at Google and the Seasteading Institute was born.
Things didn’t progress quite as expected and the San Francisco “Baystead” never happened. A later plan for a “ClubStead” was thwarted by high costs. The plans were to make a 200-person floating resort off the coast of California. Friedman had stepped down at this point, he was succeeded by Hencken.
It was decided that a stateless ocean society would have major issues relating to ocean currents and reluctantly they turned their focus to calmer waters. Soon they were looking at French Polynesia. With their strong connection to the internet backbone and expansive lagoons, it seemed to be the most achievable location. The Seasteading Institute met with Tahitian ministers in January 2017 to sign a memorandum of understanding to build a tax-free floating society in Tahiti’s Atimaono lagoon. The economy would be based upon a new crypto-currency.
Recently the plan has hit further issues. After a campaign to stop it from opposition politicians the Tahitian government has publicly stated that the agreement was outdated and non-binding. Residents were uneasy at the prospect of a tax-free zone on the edge of their territory. Concerned as to how it would change the Tahitian economy. There were also concerns that the locals lacked the engineering skills to help make the platforms and suggestions of massive job creation were being exaggerated.
Utopian societies have a long and rich history of failure. What makes Free Society and the Seasteading Institute think that their vision will be different? Both the crypto world and the politics of libertarianism have their fair share of problems. With total freedom comes many societal problems that we currently use the government to help us regulate and resolve. How do you operate your prisons? Who pays for them? The position on abortion has to be pro-choice and people would be allowed to own unlimited weapons. Crypto has had its legality called into question on many occasions due to the ability to conduct anonymous trade with it. It has helped black markets flourish in a range of illicit activities including hiring hitmen, gun and drug sales. If we do manage to form these new crypto-nation states, they will have a dramatic effect on traditional government policies. Existing governments will need to consider copying their policies or risk the brightest and richest individuals leaving for pastures greener.
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