Timothy C. May: Libertaria in Cypherspace

jim bell jdb10987 at yahoo.com
Sat Jun 27 13:21:24 PDT 2020

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Timothy C. May: Libertaria in Cyberspace

Here are a few points about why “cyberspace,” or a computer-mediated network, is more hospitable than physical locations for the kind of “crypto-anarchy” libertarian system I’ve been describing.

Several folks have commented recently about ocean-going libertarian havens, supertankers used as data havens, and so forth. In the 1970s, especially, there were several unsuccessful attempts to acquire islands in the Pacific for the site of what some called “Libertaria.” (Some keywords: Vanuatu, Minerva, Mike Oliver, Tonga)

Obtaining an entire island is problematic. Getting the consent of the residents is one issue (familiar to those on the this list who weathered the Hurricane Andrew diversion debate). Being allowed to operate by the leading world powers is another… the U.S. has enforced trade embargoes and blockades against many nations in the past several decades, including Cuba, North Korea, Libya, Iran, Iraq, and others. Further, the U.S. has invaded some countries— Panama- is a good example— whose government it disliked. How long would a supertanker “data haven” or libertarian regime last in such an environment? (Stephenson’s fascinating Snow Crash didn’t address the issue of why the “Raft” wasn’t simply sunk by the remaining military forces.)

I should note that the recent splintering of countries may provide opportunities for libertarian (or PPL, if you prefer to think of it in this way) regions. Some have speculated that Russia itself is a candidate, given that it has little vested in the previous system and may be willing to abandon statism. If several dozen new countries are formed, some opportunities exist.

The basic problem is that physical space is too small, too exposed to the view of others. “Libertaria” in the form of, say, an island, is too exposed to the retaliation of world powers. (I won’t go into the “private nukes” strategy, which I need to think about further.)

A floating private nation (or whatever it’s called) is too vulnerable to a single well-placed torpedo. Even if it serves as a kind of Swiss-bank, and thus gets some of the same protection Switzerland got (to wit, many leaders kept their loot there), it is too vulnerable to a single attacker or invader. Piracy will be just one of the problems.

Finally, how many of us want to move to a South Pacific island? Or a North Sea oil rig? Or even to Russia?
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