Many news outlets are reporting that PayPal founder Peter Thiel is investing more of his billion dollar fortune in a scheme to create floating libertarian city-states in international waters. Physically they would be similar to a large oil platform or artificial island.

Thiel has been a big backer of the Seasteading Institute, which seeks to build sovereign nations on oil rig-like platforms to occupy waters beyond the reach of law-of-the-sea treaties. The idea is for these countries to start from scratch–free from the laws, regulations, and moral codes of any existing place. Details says the experiment would be "a kind of floating petri dish for implementing policies that libertarians, stymied by indifference at the voting booths, have been unable to advance: no welfare, looser building codes, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons."

I've always wondered if it's possible for people who make a shit-ton of money in the real world to relocate to exclusive, private island communities and to live as though they are above the law. This experiment should answer that question once and for all. Thank you, Peter Thiel.

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  1. garry Says:

    i can't keep images of Water World out of my head.

  2. Jimcat Says:

    I'm with the pirates. Go ahead and establish an anarcho-capitalist state. Organized crime will always outgun you.

  3. HoosierPoli Says:

    "Peter Theil is building the world's most extravagant tax dodge" would be a more appropriate lede.

  4. J.R. Says:

    As I own a hammer and an assortment of 2-3 sockets (with no wrench) I'm going to make a bid on building these islands for them. With "loose" building codes I assume that I can use the hundreds of cereal boxes I have in my basement as the primary structure. I'm no chemist, so I don't know how cardboard will react with sea water, but I assume it will be fine.

    Also I'm a bit upset that Mr. Thiel is spending my money on this project. I once sold a hairdryer and comb (I lost all my hair in a freak flamethrower accident at the local NRA meeting) on ebay, but the money was sent to the wrong email, one not associated with paypal. I assume when this happens it goes straight to Thiel's "Money to blow on idiotic ventures to help already wealthy white people achieve idiotic goals that will turn out poorly instead of money for poor starving children dying of diarrhea whose only toys are the bones of his/her dead parents and siblings" account. I will add the amount owed to my construction bid.

  5. punkdavid Says:

    Waterworld sucked.

  6. Elder Futhark Says:


    Pirates need some type of an organized framework under which to operate. they need, at the very least, a "fence" to sell off their booty. For example, the Somali pirates are all stationed out of the government controlled north of the country. There are no pirates operating from out of the anarchic south.

  7. judith weingarten Says:

    They deserve it.

  8. Brian Says:

    @ ADM "What's this about "and few restrictions on weapons." Why a hedge on restrictions there?"
    Torpedoes and depth charges?

  9. N Says:

    Prince Roy did this already, on Sea Land, and he's trying to sell it. I learned about it on the Stuff You Should Know podcast about how to start your own country, they discuss it in detail toward the end. The wiki entry is here:

    Maybe Peter Thiel should start there.

  10. ABK Says:

    I was going to mention Bioshock, but then got beaten to the punch. That's free market competition for ya.

    Oh well, maybe Thiel can hitch his floating city to an avanc, go find the Scar and spare us all the trouble. If the delicious combo of "loose building codes" and "few restrictions on weapons" doesn't do the job first. I lived in a place like that once. It was called "the Balkans, early '90s." I wonder how well shiny cruise ships react to .50 BMG fire.

  11. JBH Says:

    Y'all needn't worry. According to the Cato Institute, the big, bad socialist US Gub'mint will never let them leave. Well, at least not without paying the IRS or something.

    Wouldn't you know their entire concern would be about the money?

  12. Fearguth Says:

    All I needed to learn about Peter Thiel's utopia I learned from watching Waterworld.

  13. Nunya Says:

    I shall become a pirate and these structures will become my Spanish Main.

  14. Chris Says:

    I never thought I'd say this, but please, please make this a reality TV show: PLEASE!

    I agree: somebody notify the Somali pirates.

    Also, didn't the rich guy from Jurassic Park basically have the same idea?

  15. Jim Says:

    I for one welcome our new cackling, hand-wringing, super-villain mad scientist libertarian overlords.

  16. Noskilz Says:

    Isn't the under two million this fool has put toward this project basically negligible for something on the scale they seem to be fantasizing about.

    It's a ridiculous idea, but if they're serious about it, they're going to need a whole lot more money and resources. His contribution seems more like kicking in to keep this utopian fantasy football league going.

    I'll be very surprised if anything is ever actually constructed, and even more surprised, should their watery Laputa actually see the light of day, that it doesn't turn into a comprehensive demonstration of everything that can possibly go wrong with such a scheme.

  17. ixnay Says:

    Yeah, Waterworld, but without the bitchin' trimaran. Gills would help too.

  18. pjcamp Says:

    Hey PayPal guys!

    Y'all don't let the door hit you on the way out. Nothing but love to you. Be sure to write.

  19. mngstrfy Says:

    Noskilz: Yeah – after all the Waterworld references in this thread, ask yourself this question: how far did 1.25 million go towards getting those sets built? Now try to work out how much it would take to build something like what these tossers are getting at.

  20. Another Luke Says:

    This thing wouldn't be anywhere near Somalia, but as close off the coast of the US as they can manage, as they will want to keep mooching off of us real American taxpayers, the leeches, for fine luxury goods, necessities, banking, investments, protection, all without paying the taxes that make those things possible. The thing would lack any true self-sufficiency and depend for its existence on the friendly indulgence a real nation and an (untrusted) underclass that actually runs and fixes and transports around everyone and everything that makes it work. The perils would include violence from all the openly carried weapons on the boat/island, ever-escalating costs of operation and maintenance, invasion, rough diplomacy, and pirates or navies who would come from much closer to home than Somalia.

  21. ixnay Says:

    Something like Southern NH and its proximity to Boston.

  22. bb in GA Says:

    "The perils would include violence from all the openly carried weapons on the boat/island"

    On 01 July 2010 Virginia enacted a law that allowed concealed carry permit holders to carry in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol.

    In the following year, incidents involving the illegal use of guns in those establishments droppped 5.2% in the face of people like you who predicted 'barmegeddon' or 'shoot out at the Long Branch.'

    Now the stat I don't have is how much business may have dropped (and the likelihood of fewer customers) during the year.

    Another set of stats we need (to make intelligent statements) is what has the year to year variation been in say the last 10 years so we could establish a singles control chart to test the 5.2% reduction as significant (or not.)

    But, on the surface, it looks like at least a wash and maybe a slightly lower incidence.

    No 'barmegeddon.'


  23. blahedo Says:

    @bb, so after Va. enacted law making it legal to carry a gun in a bar, incidence of illegally carrying guns in bars went down? You don't say.

    Don't get me wrong

  24. blahedo Says:

    @bb, so after Va. enacted law making it legal to carry a gun in a bar, incidence of illegally carrying guns in bars went down? You don't say.

    Don't get me wrong—following the recent debate over concealed carry in Illinois I actually came around to more or less supporting it. BUT, I think if we're going to do that we should regulate firearm use at *least* as well as we regulate car driving: mandatory training before licensing, for one thing, and restrictions on use while intoxicated. Strangely, most of the people who support concealed carry seem to find this completely unreasonable.

  25. Amused Says:

    There have already been a number of these experiments since the 1970's, some hyped as Libertarian utopias more than others, but none of them have ever got off the ground — ostensibly because the "moochers" maliciously failed to create ideal conditions for their utopias to thrive. In reality, if more Libertarians, especially the Randian branch, used their brains, they'd see a common denominator in how these projects invariably fail: whatever other difficulties they may encounter, they get mired in vicious bickering, rivalry, litigation and all kinds of bad blood. And this shouldn't be surprising to anyone — when you have a commune consisting of members who are ideologically opposed to the very idea of community and cooperative compromise, how is that commune supposed to survive? Every member, being a rugged individualist, feels absolutely entitled to have a thing his way, even if every other member thinks it's a bad idea. If he's thwarted by a vote, it's "oppression by the majority". Ideologically speaking, he cannot acquiesce in what others want because that would be giving something up for the communal good — a cardinal sin for the Randroids. And thus, you end up with a principled standoff on every single thing: from the number of days your floating utopia will spend at Dubai to the color of carpeting in the cigar lounge.

    Money and technical details aren't the central issue here. A cooperative founded on opposition to cooperation is an absurdity.

  26. bb in GA Says:


    I did a poor job of communicating.

    Not counting the actual possession of the weapon itself as a crime, but the actual misuse of a gun in the establishments, you know, like shooting people or threatening them with it or robbing the damn place.

    "I think if we're going to do that we should regulate firearm use at *least* as well as we regulate car driving:"

    The big difference we always get stuck on here is that driving a car is a licensed privilige of the State. Keeping and bearing arms is a guaranteed Individual Right (see recent SCOTUS ruling) in our Constitution.


  27. Robert Says:

    The part of me that likes crazy things like this tells me
    "Why have a floating island or a kinda-sorta drilling platform? They could just buy Clipperton Island from France ( and use that as the vacant lot. Build out from the shore on pylons, build a tower over the lagoon – you would get much more infrastructure bang for your buck. Plus, islands tend not to sink."

    Then, in about sixty years when ocean levels rise another yard, they'll be forced to abandon the whole thing, and it can be colonized by post-Collapse anarchists. Win-win!