Do libertarians like Peter Thiel really want to live in America?

By Sally Kohn
September 1, 2011

By Sally Kohn
The opinions expressed are her own.

It sounds like “Fantasy Island” meets “The Twilight Zone” — a privately funded island nation created for the sole purpose of escaping government.

In the olden days, corporate titans just hired pricey lawyers and accountants to dodge the watchful eye of government regulation and the law.  But thanks to record economic inequality that has enriched the already-wealthy more than ever, a group of investors has the spare millions to build an entirely man-made ocean-bound nation where they can make the rules up themselves.  It’s Libertarianism 2.0: the final, floating frontier.

In a recent profile by Details magazine, it was revealed that PayPal founder and libertarian activist Peter Thiel has contributed $1.25 million dollars to the Seasteading Institute, a plan hatched by the grandson of free market economist Milton Friedman to establish “new sovereign nations built on oil-rig-type platforms anchored in international waters — free from the regulation, laws, and moral suasion of any landlocked country.” The Details profile explains, “They’d be small city-states at first, although the aim is to have tens of millions of seasteading residents by 2050.”  Already, plans are underway to launch an office complex off the coast of San Francisco next year, adding full-time housing settlements on the island seven years later.

Don’t like the idea of tax dollars paying for public schools or highway construction or Medicare — or don’t like the idea of taxes at all?  The brave new floating world offers just the solution.  And if the self-appointed creators wish it, there would be no restrictions on guns or automatic weapons.  Or, for that matter, no prohibition against murder.  Pesky “moral suasion”!

The seasteading project is a bright and shiny warning buoy, heralding the dangerous agenda of otherwise tame-seeming libertarians.  It raises the question of whether libertarians want to prune back American government or eliminate it altogether. This is not an idle concern. Prominent Libertarians want to abolish the Federal Reserve, FEMA and the TSA and that may be just the start. Until 2006, the Libertarian Party Platform explicitly supported the right of political entities, private groups and even individuals to secede from the federal government. Fearing this seemed too extremist, Libertarians replaced that platform plank with a clause about the right of people to abolish the government anytime it destroys individual liberty — a very narrow and ominous reinterpretation of the Declaration of Independence.

Fringe movements, of course, rarely cast themselves as obviously fringe.  Racist, anti-civil rights forces cloaked themselves in the benign language of “state’s rights”.  Anti-gay religious entities adopted the glossy, positive imagery of “family values”.  Similarly, though many Libertarians embrace a pseudo-patriotic apple pie nostalgia, behind this façade is a very un-American, sinister vision.

Sure, most libertarians may not want to do away entirely with the idea of government or, for that matter, government-protected rights and civil liberties.  But many do — and ironically vie for political power in a nation they ultimately want to destroy.  Even the right-wing pundit Ann Coulter mocked the paradox of Libertarian candidates: “Get rid of government — but first, make me president!” Libertarians sowed the seeds of anti-government discontent, which is on the rise, and now want to harvest that discontent for a very radical, anti-America agenda.  The image of libertarians living off-shore in their lawless private nation-states is just a postcard of the future they hope to build on land.

Strangely, the libertarian agenda has largely escaped scrutiny, at least compared to that of social conservatives. The fact that the political class is locked in debate about whether Michele Bachmann or Rick Perry is more socially conservative only creates a veneer of mainstream legitimacy for the likes of Ron Paul, whose libertarianism may be even more extreme and dangerously un-patriotic.  With any luck America will recognize anti-government extremism for what it is — before libertarians throw America overboard and render us all castaways.

33 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

It is nice to see that disclaimer before the actual opinion piece in which Reuters distances itself from Sally lack of research.

http://reason.com/archives/2011/09/02/li bertarians-hunt-humansmdasha

Maybe next time she will make good use of Google before using Reuters as a platform for her ignorance?

Posted by StateExempt | Report as abusive

You put up a straw man and then knock it down. Your premise if flawed and you are confusing libertarians with anarchists. Libertarians are not anti-government. They are any BIG government.

Why is it so difficult to acknowledge that our constitution does limit the powers allocated to federal and state authorities? Are you just ignorant, or are deliberately ignoring this simple fact?

Posted by ablinder | Report as abusive

We all should be careful about using labels to describe individuals or groups of people. Labels such as conservative, liberal, left, right and others mean different things to different people. They are often used to convey derogatory sentiments. As such they are generalizations, obfuscatory and divisive forms of discourse. The use of such language is no different than the the derogatory words used to characterize Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Italians, Irish… throughout our cultures history. The significant difference between these two groups of language is merely semantics.

Posted by coyotle | Report as abusive

What happened to “love it or leave it!” that you statist pigs used to always cheer? Heaven forbid people be free to choose how to live their own lives.

Posted by Austrian | Report as abusive

Unfortunately Sally Kohn doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

This is ridiculous
“Or, for that matter, no prohibition against murder. Pesky “moral suasion”!”

The entire argument of libertarians is precisely that they believe murder, theft, fraud, torture, and slavery are wrong. They believe it is so wrong that State officials should never be allowed to engage in those activities. Unfortunately the state system is only able to function by engaging in activities that are illegal for everyone else. It depends on institutional injustice. Which is why people dependent on the state freak out whenever libertarians suggest that maybe it isn’t ok for the state to rob, defraud, kidnap, torture, and kill people.

While I don’t think Sally Kohn explicitly supports criminal behavior, she doesn’t seem to realize that she does condone institutional injustice.

In 2011 we live in a world in which is state officials admit to torture. It used to be that torture was un-American.

Libertarians simply take very seriously the idea of equal rights – if it is wrong for one person do something wrong it is wrong for everyone else. Peace, liberty, and property go together, you can’t have one without the others.

I’d love to hear Sally Kohn’s explanation of why it was ok for the American colonists to secede and declare their independence. Or was it un-American of them?

Posted by amikkelsen | Report as abusive

The author is a talking head on FOX News, as she boasts on her web site. Evidently, FOX is taking the same “logic” that they’ve used to advocate hard-right-wing extremism in the past, and starting to apply it to hard-left-wing extremism too.

This piece has all the same elements of a FOX article — assertions of dark conspiracies behind “ordinary-looking people,” hyperbole about “destruction of the country,” etc.

The author even posted a self-congratulatory “dear libertarians” piece on her web site, claiming to have received lots of criticism and instructing libertarians to not be Evil Anti-American Murderers if we don’t want to be criticized by her again.

The left now has an Ann Coulter of its very own. :)

Posted by BrianSanFran | Report as abusive

As an anarchist, I’m not sure why the author has a problem. We’re not trying to topple the US government as the author spuriously claims, but are merely trying to leave and go elsewhere. Are you saying expatriation is dangerous? What about all the 19th and 20th century leftists that have expatriated? Ever heard of Earnest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald?

Are you saying that people are not allowed to leave the US if we would rather live elsewhere with more freedom? Is this East Germany behind the wall?

Furthermore, what happened to our imagination? People used to think that the future would look like the Jetsons…why are you limiting the various ways human society organizes itself? If seasteading is possible, it’s an amazing development in the progress of humanity. We’ve been living on land for hundreds of thousands of years. I say perhaps it’s time to think outside the box and be creative. If seasteading can work for free societies, then ultra statists societies would also be free to seasteading if they can fund it. Perhaps a 1984 type seasteading state would be more to the authors liking.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

I was always under the impression that socializing Land equally across the entire spectrum of humanity was the only way for each of us to have True Liberty which opens the door to Pure Democracy and a Pure Capitalistic Marketplace where we each have an equal footing to “play the game”. There is an easy way to accomplish this where individuals retain control over their property while the Land is held in Common by the Community -)

The Foundation of any Social Structure is the stabilizing factor. In terms of Life, Land is the Foundation. Treating Land as a commodity has been called the mother of all monopolies but on the flip side Socialized Land is the Mother of Liberty. Socializing Land across the entire human spectrum is The Secure Foundation. Using the United States as an example, there are currently over 3000 counties in the US. The way this works is the people of each county maintain 100% ownership of the Land in that county. Basing Land values on the currently assessed values, each “landowner” pays a Lease Fee into a Community Land fund which is then redistributed (100% of it) back to each resident in the county equally in the form of a yearly Land Dividend. Owners no longer own Land but lease it from the community. All of the improvements (houses, barns, gardens, etc…) are personally owned while the Land the improvements sit on Belongs Equally to every individual in that county. When someone sells his/her home they do not sell the Land but only the improvements. The new owner of the improvements takes over the Lease Fee. Sharing the Land in this manner effectively makes the Lease Fee on the average piece of Land exactly equal to the yearly Land Dividend. This makes Land equally affordable for everyone no matter income status. When individuals and families have security in Land they gain security in Life and are no longer beholden to another to procure Life’s basic necessities. It returns responsibility to the individual and in turn the community.

The reason why this needs to be done county by county is that the size of a county is small enough that individuals can actually get involved in the decisions that will directly impact their lives and by spreading these principles across 3000+ counties nationwide (in the US anyway) it makes it much more difficult to subvert such a system.

The Socialization of Land described above is The Foundation for Universal Liberty and the doorway to a True and Pure Capitalistic Economy in which local (county) resources are owned equally by Everyone in that county (Pure Democracy) and which rewards those who are Creative, Cooperative, Compassionate and Hard Working.

Posted by TheRoots | Report as abusive

Weren’t libertarians the ones who advocate ending government monopoly on printing money? Historically, currency anarchism in a country has always brought it’s economy to collapse.
Governments and private monopolies/corporations are both evils, but libertarians seem to notice only the latter. How come?
That’s like destroying the police, but leaving the mafia.
I wonder, which of the two would pay to promote such an initiative?
Libertarians, especially the right-wing kind, simply pretend questions like the above have never occured to anybody.
Their silence is a sign of confirmation.

Posted by GeorgeNorth | Report as abusive

The article is hysterical in the sense of a Batman parody. Surely the author does not intend us to take this distorted vision literally. If interpreted metaphorically, and with the aid of the stash that the author appears to indulge in, I could go with the vibes of this article if there were nothing good on the RetroTv channel.

Posted by kevinbjornson | Report as abusive

I always find Sally Kohn amusing. She’s the ditzy blonde of Leftover lesbian politics. She’s never smart or well-read enough about whatever she is gassing on about not to put her foot in a big stinking pattie. The idea of her trying to read and comprehend any libertarian author – Nozick, Hayek, Mises, Rothbard – gives on a chuckle.

She’s afraid, as all the pro-regressives are, because they have always been intellectually outclassed by the libertarians, way back to when Mises demonstrated that socialism cannot allocate resources intelligently and when Hayek showed that Keynesianism actually causes business cycles. But now all kinds of average voters are reading Tom Woods, or Ron Paul, or Johan Norberg, or Cato Institute publications, and understand how government control of the money supply causes our problems too.

Funnily, Sally Kohn was on the hannity radio show a few months ago saying she would let Iran and Palestinian radicals wipe out Israel — or at least she would not prevent it. So her idea that libertarians — who believe every person owns himself and his life, body, time, energy and productivity — are homicidal is just projection from her ditzy teeny mind.

Posted by BruceZMajors | Report as abusive

Sally Kohn unintentionally proves the need for projects like Seasteading. No one should have to live with or be governed by dishonest and intellectual deficient ideologues like Kohn.

Posted by BruceZMajors | Report as abusive

What a charlatan. This writer is so ignorant but so arrogant and confidante in her assumption of libertarianism. God. Why do people not do their research before saying something?

Posted by Summer12 | Report as abusive