The Dangers of Living the Anarchist Dream

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The Dangers of Living the Anarchist Dream

Post by Broomstick » 2019-04-23 09:07am

Wasn't quite sure what the appropriate title would be for this one, but due to a mix of arrogance and, I don't know, ignorance about how the world really works, a US bitcoin trader got himself and his Thai girlfriend into some serious legal trouble. I suspect there's an element of white/wealth privilege at work here, too, leading this guy to think he could set himself up as completely independent without realizing just how fucking seriously governments take borders and territory.

Owner of "seastead" off Phuket, Thailand and his girlfriend could face the death penalty.
(CNN)An American bitcoin trader and his girlfriend could face the death penalty after they were accused of threatening Thailand's sovereignty by building and living in a "sea home" off the coast of Phuket.

Chad Elwartowski and his partner Nadia Supranee Thepdet have fled their home, built atop a platform around 12 miles off the coast of Phuket, and gone into hiding after authorities revoked the American's visa.

He had promoted "seasteads" on social media and claimed his home did not fall under the sovereignty of any country, which Thai authorities have said is untrue. He repeated the claim on Thursday, writing the home is "outside of Thailand territorial waters."

The couple could face life imprisonment or the death penalty under the country's Immigration Act, but authorities told CNN they are unaware if the pair are still in the country or its waters.

"Nadia and I are still safe," Elwartowski wrote on Facebook on Tuesday, adding he was unsure whether their home had been destroyed. "Whether it is still there or not does not matter much to me. I'm more concerned about Nadia being driven from her home country and her family. Her son is worried. I hope they can be reunited some day soon."

"It was my home," Elwartowski added. In an earlier post, he said the pair did not design or construct the home but worked with the company that did.

"As long as Nadia and I are able to live through this that is all that matters to us right now. We just want to live," he wrote.

Thailand's navy has said the pair are threatening the country's sovereignty. "By claiming they own a floating house and using social media tried to sell this kind of house, also they claimed that their house is not under any country's sovereignty, which is not true. And this could cause other people to misunderstand and it is threatening our national security," said Colonel Kataporn Kumthieng, the chief of Phuket's Immigration office.

He described the case as "urgent."

The Thai Navy had previously posted a video of the home on Facebook, writing that "the navy is required to resolve the problem."

Elwartowski had taken part in videos and podcasts promoting the use of "seasteads," frequently mentioning how he was unaffected by policy decisions and taxation laws set by governments.

The "seasteading" movement, which began in earnest in 2008 in California with the financial backing of Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, has been likened to the phenomenon of micronations for its vision of establishing sovereign communities outside the control of existing states.

Ocean Builders, the company behind Elwartowski's seastead, said in a statement on its website that it had constructed the home, the first in what it hoped would be an opening round of 20 units. The couple were "volunteers excited about the prospect of living free", it added.

Insisting the six-meter platform was 13 nautical miles from Thailand and in international waters, the company accused the Thai authorities of acting as "judge jury and executioner of the historic very first seastead." It hoped to resolve the issue "diplomatically," it said.

The Seasteading Institute, the organization backed by Thiel, is currently in negotiations with the government of French Polynesia to build a floating city in a semi-autonomous "seazone" within its territorial waters.
Among the problems I see with this sort of activity:

Very few places on Earth aren't already claimed by one nation or another. Those places that aren't claimed tend to be either wildly inhospitable (Antarctica, extremely desolate like Bir Tawil). Hence the building of "seasteads" because international waters are basically the only places you can say "this is mine" without involving a government and still have a tolerable climate.

Be very sure you know where your "seastead" is located. Looks likes this guy wanted to be just outside Thai territory, presumably because they wanted to at least occasionally go back to civilization. Given that nations fight all out wars over where lines are drawn on a map individuals had better be pretty goddamned careful where they site their little havens. As noted, the Seasteading Insitute is in negotiations with the government of French Polynesia over locating some of their units - I'm guessing Mr. Elwartowski just went out and had his built without consulting with anyone about "hey, is this really outside Thai authority?"

You have no safety or security. A nearby government gets pissy about your new home? Good luck arguing with an actual navy. Not touched on in this instance is the fact that pirates are still a reality out there and if you aren't under the protection of a government you're basically a tasty slab of meat out on the savanna with everything from lions to hyenas to vultures circling your tender ass.

You know, if this guy and his gal had just set up housekeeping and shut the fuck up about it they probably could have done this and the Thai government would be unlikely to notice them, or care much if they did. Once you start saying "hey, build shit here and no government can touch or you tell you what to do!" the neighboring sovereign nations are going to start checking their maps and paying a lot more attention to you. One person doing this is an annoyance, a herd of people doing this and yes, a government is going to Do Something About It. If you're that first person and start making a lot of noise they aren't going to wait for another seastead, they're going to Do Something About It Now.

Going by this very incomplete list there are no guarantees. Looks like third-world countries, which might be appealing to various sorts of libertarians/anarchists due to money going further and perhaps perceived lack of effectiveness of their government, tend to be VERY serious about discouraging this sort of thing and dismantling/blowing up the "seasteads". You're actually more likely to get away with this next door to a major world power which is just going to laugh and not take you seriously because any time they want they can just crush you like a bug. Or maybe they'll laugh AND crush you like a bug.

The other thing these folks never seem to consider when building their libertarian paradise is that if you ARE out on the high seas and something bad happens you are fucked. Hurricane hits? Too bad - who the fuck cares about saving your ass? If you can't do it yourself you're fucked. Pirates invade? You're fucked. Infrastructure supplying power and water breaks down? Hope you have a working boat otherwise you're fucked. You wind up in a servant class instead among the people on top running the place? You're fucked.

Sure, you might come up with wonderful innovations and solutions with all that unfettered FREEDOM! but with no government and no police you could have all sorts of nasty things happen - like people brought there to work who wind up as more or less slaves. If there is theft or murder but no police... well, too bad if you're a victim. Rape? Tough shit, unless you can appeal to others to help you your just shit out of luck. Denied access to transport to leave? Too bad for you, but you chose to come so live with it, right?

I'm not thrilled with governments, either, but there are reasons they exist and are pretty much universal. The libertarian FREEDOM! notions are great... if YOU are on top. If you're on the bottom it sucks. Because where there is no law strongmen and bullies take over. Hell, that can happen even where there ARE governments and laws.
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Re: The Dangers of Living the Anarchist Dream

Post by Zaune » 2019-04-23 10:05am

Broomstick wrote:
2019-04-23 09:07am
Going by this very incomplete list there are no guarantees. Looks like third-world countries, which might be appealing to various sorts of libertarians/anarchists due to money going further and perhaps perceived lack of effectiveness of their government, tend to be VERY serious about discouraging this sort of thing and dismantling/blowing up the "seasteads". You're actually more likely to get away with this next door to a major world power which is just going to laugh and not take you seriously because any time they want they can just crush you like a bug. Or maybe they'll laugh AND crush you like a bug.
See also: The Principality of Sealand, whose founder did have the sense to make sure the old offshore flak battery he was taking over really was extraterritorial. (It may have helped that he was trying to set up a quasi-legal business venture and the delusions of grandeur came later.) The British government's tolerance was surprisingly high, given that the shenanigans the Sealanders got up to included gunfire, hostage-taking, international money laundering and a brief flirtation with becoming the global headquarters of The Pirate Bay.
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Re: The Dangers of Living the Anarchist Dream

Post by Lord Revan » 2019-04-23 11:03am

The pirate threat isn't even theoretical that area is one the pirate hotspots (the waters near the horn of africa being another one though might be dying down due how heavily those waters are patrolled these days).

Though I suspect that these people expect the local goverments to drop everything to come save them, then leave them alone once the threat is gone.
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Re: The Dangers of Living the Anarchist Dream

Post by Broomstick » 2019-04-23 11:55am

Most attempts at a utopian living situation end in tears. It's not like people haven't already spent tens of thousands of years of working out how to survive in the world, defend against violence both in and from outside the community, and so forth. We can keep tweaking what we have, of course, but the notion of dispensing with governance and laws is a recipe for disaster.

Setting up a new society is hard - even if you all agree to rules and laws among yourselves it is still very hard to come up with a system that's viable long-term. Or even short term. And some of the viable systems that are stable long-term have vile features, like castes/classes, slavery, systemic subjugation of women, and so forth.

So the notion that just any devotee of libertarian ideals can march into the wilderness and set up a mini-paradise strikes me as deeply delusional.
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Re: The Dangers of Living the Anarchist Dream

Post by bilateralrope » 2019-04-23 12:11pm

Lord Revan wrote:
2019-04-23 11:03am
The pirate threat isn't even theoretical that area is one the pirate hotspots (the waters near the horn of africa being another one though might be dying down due how heavily those waters are patrolled these days).

Though I suspect that these people expect the local goverments to drop everything to come save them, then leave them alone once the threat is gone.
Even if the local government does that, I expect them to complain about any damage the rescue force caused. Even if the rescue force tries to minimize damage.

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Re: The Dangers of Living the Anarchist Dream

Post by Lord Revan » 2019-04-23 12:36pm

bilateralrope wrote:
2019-04-23 12:11pm
Lord Revan wrote:
2019-04-23 11:03am
The pirate threat isn't even theoretical that area is one the pirate hotspots (the waters near the horn of africa being another one though might be dying down due how heavily those waters are patrolled these days).

Though I suspect that these people expect the local goverments to drop everything to come save them, then leave them alone once the threat is gone.
Even if the local government does that, I expect them to complain about any damage the rescue force caused. Even if the rescue force tries to minimize damage.
Obviously these people are more or less the personification of selfish elitism, with the idea that "the others" have to pay for their utopia while all they have to do is reap the rewards.
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Re: The Dangers of Living the Anarchist Dream

Post by mr friendly guy » 2019-04-23 07:47pm

There is one way to see if it's within Thai territorial waters, see if it's 12 nautical miles away from this territory. I suspect there was most probably a Thai island or something close by which threw his calculations out of whack.

Keep in mind, by definition if there is a rock or more specifically a structure above sea level at high tide, it can be claimed and entitled to the 12 nautical mile territorial water.
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Re: The Dangers of Living the Anarchist Dream

Post by bilateralrope » 2019-04-24 01:32am

Sure, there is the 12 nautical mile range for territorial waters. But there is also the exclusive economic zone, which goes out to 200 nmi. How many of these micronations are violating that ?
An exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is a sea zone prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea over which a state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.[1] It stretches from the baseline out to 200 nautical miles (nmi) from its coast. In colloquial usage, the term may include the continental shelf. The term does not include either the territorial sea or the continental shelf beyond the 200 nmi limit. The difference between the territorial sea and the exclusive economic zone is that the first confers full sovereignty over the waters, whereas the second is merely a "sovereign right" which refers to the coastal state's rights below the surface of the sea. The surface waters, as can be seen in the map, are international waters

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Re: The Dangers of Living the Anarchist Dream

Post by Eulogy » 2019-04-25 12:43am

Broomstick wrote:
2019-04-23 09:07am
The libertarian FREEDOM! notions are great... if YOU are on top. If you're on the bottom it sucks.
You hit the nail on the head here. Those who get seduced by libertarian ideals end up learning this lesson the hard way. It's really no mystery why the vast majority of humans are living under a government of some form or another, and even the countries that aren't superpowers don't have to be shitholes.
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Re: The Dangers of Living the Anarchist Dream

Post by Surlethe » 2019-04-25 10:39am

Worth noting that US citizens have to pay taxes to the federal government no matter where they live. You can't escape Uncle Sam so easily.
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Re: The Dangers of Living the Anarchist Dream

Post by K. A. Pital » 2019-04-25 11:48am

Surlethe wrote:
2019-04-25 10:39am
Worth noting that US citizens have to pay taxes to the federal government no matter where they live. You can't escape Uncle Sam so easily.
Pretty sucky to pay for holding a passport.

On-topic: see the sad story of anarchocapitalists vs cartels if you google “anarchapulco”, guys. It would make your day, maybe. :P
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Re: The Dangers of Living the Anarchist Dream

Post by NeoGoomba » 2019-04-25 12:12pm

People need to get it in their heads that Bioshock was not a "how-to" guide for going independent.
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Re: The Dangers of Living the Anarchist Dream

Post by K. A. Pital » 2019-04-25 03:20pm

Too good not to link at least:
John Galton Wanted Libertarian Paradise in ‘Anarchapulco.’ He Got Bullets Instead.
A bitcoin millionaire created a haven for ‘anarcho-capitalists’ in Mexico. When one of his followers was killed, he said it was just the cost of doing business.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/john-galt ... ts-instead
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Re: The Dangers of Living the Anarchist Dream

Post by Broomstick » 2019-04-25 05:00pm

Not much of a haven if you have to worry about getting shot....
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Re: The Dangers of Living the Anarchist Dream

Post by mr friendly guy » 2019-04-25 10:28pm

bilateralrope wrote:
2019-04-24 01:32am
Sure, there is the 12 nautical mile range for territorial waters. But there is also the exclusive economic zone, which goes out to 200 nmi. How many of these micronations are violating that ?
An exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is a sea zone prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea over which a state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.[1] It stretches from the baseline out to 200 nautical miles (nmi) from its coast. In colloquial usage, the term may include the continental shelf. The term does not include either the territorial sea or the continental shelf beyond the 200 nmi limit. The difference between the territorial sea and the exclusive economic zone is that the first confers full sovereignty over the waters, whereas the second is merely a "sovereign right" which refers to the coastal state's rights below the surface of the sea. The surface waters, as can be seen in the map, are international waters
Yeah, 13 nm is clearly within Thailand EEZ, so his home falls within Thailand EEZ. EEZ grants Thailand certain rights like customs, ability to grant companies right to drill for oil etc. Not sure if he was violating any if those, however one would think if his micronation behaved like a real nation and had EEZ rights it could threaten Thailand own EEZ with his competing one. If he was just treating it as international waters, it should still raise theoretical concerns, like what if one day Thailand wanted to fish in the area his micronation was located.
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Re: The Dangers of Living the Anarchist Dream

Post by bilateralrope » 2019-04-25 11:57pm

Given that the EEA includes fish stocks, I'd start by questioning how they are feeding themselves.

If they could get away with claiming an EEZ for their micronation that takes a chunk out of someone else's, I'd expect some corporation would have started that ages ago for commercial fishing.

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Re: The Dangers of Living the Anarchist Dream

Post by K. A. Pital » 2019-04-26 03:22am

But hey, this raises an interesting question: is there still a Terra Nullius in our world?
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Re: The Dangers of Living the Anarchist Dream

Post by Broomstick » 2019-04-26 05:04am

Yes, a very few - I mentioned a couple in the OP. The Bir Tawil is one such, lying between Egypt and Sudan and claimed by neither. There are some small bits of territory between Serbia and Croatia that, like Bir Tawil, are claimed by neither nation. A couple of been "claimed" by various groups of libertarian types but so far as I can tell none of those claims have been recognized by anyone else. They're tolerated because neither state currently views them as a threat but I imagine that could change in a hurry. A good chunk of Antarctica is unclaimed. There are rocks out in the middle of international waters nobody has claimed yet.

Aside from the bits along the Danube between Serbia and Croatia most of these have in common that they're inhospitable to human life. Bir Tawil is desert with no water resources. Antarctica - well, it's Antarctica. Mid-ocean rocks are difficult to get to and often have no reliable sources of fresh water. Modern technology makes living in these places possible, but none of them have a means of generating revenue or even subsistence levels of production (outside of the Serb-Croat bits) so you'd need to be independently wealthy to live there long term. (Bir Tawil does get nomads passing through but none stay there long term).

All of the really desirable areas on the planet, and even the not-so-desirable-but-tolerable areas, have already been claimed.
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Re: The Dangers of Living the Anarchist Dream

Post by Surlethe » 2019-04-26 04:17pm

NeoGoomba wrote:
2019-04-25 12:12pm
People need to get it in their heads that Bioshock was not a "how-to" guide for going independent.
Ahhh, but was it above water at high tide?
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Re: The Dangers of Living the Anarchist Dream

Post by Sky Captain » 2019-05-02 03:53pm

Looks like Thai government is way overreacting to this. That structure would be gone after the first storm. At most the US guy violated some visa laws, slap him with fine, deport and case closed.

To be realistic a nation would need to have at least few thousand inhabitants to be viable as I think there are working island nations of that size. An eccentric billionaire probably could pull that off If there are some shallow areas in international waters outside any EEZ. Buy lots of old scrap ships load them with rocks and run firmly aground there to form basis for artificial island few square km in size as that is about the size of smallest island nations, then fill remaining spaces with more rocks to make solid erosion resistant foundation. Being run or backed by billionaire or rich cooperation also would help to get it legally recognized by rest of the world as money really helps in legal matters.
How to make it self sustaining is a different matter. maybe declare it tax free zone, mine the nearby ocean floor for resources if there are any, fish. Obviously such nation would have to adhere to international laws to be recognized.

That kind of project is something far beyond the means of some modestly rich kids. Few people who have the means and money to pull something like that off apparently are not interested in building their own nations as there are far better ways of investing billions of $$$. What I have sometimes wondered is why no one has built a villa in Antarctica. Not because it would be something terribly practical, but because mega yachts are too mainstream and could be done for a price of your average mega yacht.

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Re: The Dangers of Living the Anarchist Dream

Post by Broomstick » 2019-05-02 06:26pm

The mega-rich can just buy an actual island. The don't need to build a house on stilts just offshore.
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Re: The Dangers of Living the Anarchist Dream

Post by Lord Revan » 2019-05-02 06:52pm

Broomstick wrote:
2019-05-02 06:26pm
The mega-rich can just buy an actual island. The don't need to build a house on stilts just offshore.
I have to wonder how many of these "I want to live without rules" rich people are second or third generation wealthy at the very least aka they didn't earn their wealth only inherited it and thus have flawed view on what it takes to get wealthy and stay wealthy.
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Zaune
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Re: The Dangers of Living the Anarchist Dream

Post by Zaune » 2019-05-03 12:06pm

Broomstick wrote:
2019-05-02 06:26pm
The mega-rich can just buy an actual island. The don't need to build a house on stilts just offshore.
They're still subject to the jurisdiction of whatever country claimed the island in question, which means they can't keep slaves or execute trespassers. Some of the more hardcore "seasteaders" consider that a deal-breaker.

What happens when the governments of the civilised world declare that international law still applies even if you're in terra nullius (or would it be aqua nullius?) and someone sends in a couple of warships to shut their really-social-darwinisst-but-we're-calling-it-Libertarian paradise down with extreme prejudice is something they tend to be rather vague about.
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Re: The Dangers of Living the Anarchist Dream

Post by Elheru Aran » 2019-05-03 12:33pm

Re Antarctica: I'm reasonably certain there are international treaties that prohibit anybody from settling there anyway. So anybody trying to set up house on the Antarctic coast would find ships from various countries in their front yard rather quickly with eviction notices, I suspect, if not simply cut off from supplies and allowed to freeze.
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Re: The Dangers of Living the Anarchist Dream

Post by Zixinus » 2019-05-03 01:28pm

The thing I don't understand with "living in a nation of my own making" is this: say you managed the impossible and have your own patch of extremely remote piece of land that no nation is going to bother contesting you for. Now what? Even if you are well-prepared and have equipment to, say, make your own water and able to grow/fish for food, you're still utterly dependent on a big nation for medicine, equipment, repairs, fuel, refined materials like steel or paper or clothing... either you are living a primitivist life or just gave yourself the biggest commute in the world.

That, or trying to run a pirate base.
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