Thursday, August 6, 2009

Start a New Country Up

As it happens, Patri Friedman — the man I’m going to hear speak at 7:30 tonight at the New York Junto (20 W. 44th St.) — has sparred a bit on the Cato Institute’s website with the man I endorsed for Arkansas state senate (and president) in my Book Selections blog entry on Tuesday, Dan Greenberg.

Each man is part of an ideological dynasty and is in some sense trying to be the family member who puts ideas into practice. Dan Greenberg is the son of conservative columnist Paul Greenberg, who helped popularize the Clinton nickname “Slick Willie” — and Dan’s trying to promote freedom by being a fiscally-sane member of the Arkansas legislature. Patri Friedman is the grandson of Nobel-winning libertarian economist Milton Friedman (lately maliciously misrepresented in the writings of vicious economic crank Naomi Klein as a villain and in a resultant campaign of stickers and posters as the “father of global misery”) and the son of even more libertarian (technically anarcho-capitalist, like me) economics writer David Friedman.

Whereas granddad Milton is associated with Chicago and father David with anarchic medieval Iceland, grandson Patri is now associated with, of all things, artificial islands — for it is only there, he has reluctantly concluded, that freedom from governments is likely to be found (and he has little patience for people like Dan who are still trying to do things the old-fashioned, electoral way). That’s what he’ll speak about tonight — and during the early-October “Ephemerisle” gathering in San Francisco Bay that Helen and I might just attend. (Brian Doherty did a great overview of this so-called “seasteading” movement in Reason.)

You might think it surprising that my somewhat paleo-leaning girlfriend would be sympathetic to something as unconventional and untraditional as newly-built countries — but then, Patri Friedman, surprisingly, is himself a paleoconservative in addition to a radically tech-loving libertarian. Tonight, maybe someone will ask him how he reconciles those tendencies.

Some more wiseass questions that will likely not be raised but would be funny include:

•Didn’t Aquaman’s defeat of the villain Black Manta, who claimed to lead a movement of black men seeking to live freely in the ocean, prove the futility of this gambit (even if DC Comics later rewrote history to suggest Black Manta was merely feigning interest in that cause, once more deferring the dreams of the black man)?

•If Gilligan destroys the radio made out of coconuts that is used to communicate between the artificial islands, how would he be punished in an anarcho-capitalist system?

•And, as my friend Nick Slepko wonders, when will Indonesia start trying to tax Singapore for all the highly-valuable land Singapore has built out of piles of garbage shipped over from Indonesia?

The more practical questions I leave to the engineers, and at the Junto, there will likely be some.

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