Wednesday, January 28, 2009

One Man is an Island

Milton Friedman is one of the 20th century's great economists - Nobel prize winner and Reagan advisor, the ultimate champion of the free market. His grandson, Patri Friedman (pictured), wants to build an independent country in the ocean.

I couldn't resist the contrast though their differences are probably more generational than ideological. Patri Friedman, formerly a Google engineer, now directs the Seasteading Institute which aims to create a new ocean frontier and floating civilizations. These kinds of things generally don't end well, on land or water. The strangest example in the Wired article is the Republic of Minerva:

In 1971, real estate millionaire and committed libertarian Michael Oliver dumped large quantities of sand on two coral reefs in the South Pacific and dubbed it the Republic of Minerva, a land with "no taxation, welfare, subsidies, or any form of economic interventionism." Minerva was soon invaded by the nearby kingdom of Tonga, and it dissolved back into the ocean shortly thereafter.

You can't forget about Tonga. Friedman insists that this isn't a utopian vision and is about creating a system, using market efficiencies, to try out new governments and ideas. There are lots of historical and practical reasons to doubt it will work. But I admire his imagination and libertarian spirit. And he makes some interesting arguments (think experimental medicine and huge parties), check out the Seasteading conference here.

photo credit: Dustin Akslan, wired.com