SeaUnsteady: Personal Sovereignty?

First they stopped painting everything grey, then they stopped safety checking their cell-phone chargers… eventually, it all went to hell.

Serious SeaSteading has primarily been the vestige of free market pioneers, entrepreneurs looking for a freer, more open space to conduct business. An important part of that ideal is personal sovereignty: life, liberty, and property. For a giant sea-going vessel, property will be a huge issue.

Can seasteaders truly own their state-rooms, their offices, or their facilities? Those familiar with ship-board life realize the amount of maintenance that often needs to be done in order to keep a ship sound. A normal suburban neighborhood doesn’t need to manage the distribution of weight amongst the properties to ensure landworthiness and structural integrity. Obviously, heavy weight and modification restrictions will apply to property. In this light, how would a seastead be governed? It is easier to leave your neighbors to their own devices when what they own and where won’t cause you to heel or when their home modifications won’t cause your deck to buckle. A homeowners’ association is bad enough when your poorly cut lawn won’t potentially undermine the integrity of the neighborhood’s fire-fighting systems or the water-tight integrity of hull frames.

Can a seastead ever be the libertarian paradise their conceivers wish it to be? Taxes alone may be excessive due to the the constant maintenance necessary for a huge metal hull in which a whole community is living day-to-day. The wear-and-tear would be greater than on any cruise ship. Additionally, along the line of thinking about national sovereignty brought up by CDR Hodges, what happens to the citizens of a seastead during periods of necessary hull repair? Ship’s return to dry-dock in order to have critical maintenance accomplished. How would nations grant access rights to seasteaders in a maintenance period? How do the sovereignties of two nations accomodate each other when one is dry-docked in another? If certain seasteaders are not allowed off the ship while in certain ports, would they essentially become accidental prisoners? Who would accept a refugee nation if their vessel were damaged beyond repair?

The problems with seasteading reach far beyond the black-box problems of how the ship-as-whole exerts influence over it’s surroundings legally, politically, and kinetically. When one transplants a community of free-thinking individuals onto a ship for more than the temporary joys of a pleasure cruise, the constraining dictats and harrowing risks of a life at sea must set the conditions for its survival. The challenge will be building a nation that cruises without treating the community like a crew.

Matt Hipple is a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy. The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy, although he wishes they did.

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