By Nicholas West
As regular readers of Counter Markets might remember, in Issue 9 I covered some of the new trends in secession and the rising desire for independence from the State that have been emerging in various forms. One of the more offbeat trends I noted was “seasteading.”
For those unfamiliar, proponents of this movement have been looking to international waters as one way of geographically circumventing State control over their personhood and, by extension, their assets and all basic freedoms. The hope is to literally move off the radar and become a truly sovereign entity physically and legally.
The idea of living at sea either as an autonomous sovereign individual or as autonomous communities has been around for some time, but the movement gained much more exposure with the rise of the Seasteading Institute in 2008 and the subsequent involvement of PayPal’s Peter Thiel when he donated $500,000 to the cause. The Institute has far-reaching goals that include the formation of full-fledged cities designed to offset larger economic, social and environmental issues. A quick video can be seen here:
But at their core, the Institute highlights the fact that nearly half of the planet is not governed by any nation-state. Free of regulation, it’s a very appealing concept to innovators and entrepreneurs.
However, the very same core notion embedded in all Voluntarism — basically the right to be left alone and pursue permissionless happiness — doesn’t need to operate as an alternative society, it can just be one individual (or a couple) who sets themselves adrift. This is what American bitcoiner Chad Elwartowski and his Thai girlfriend Nadia Supranee Thepdet thought they doing when they began occupying a small structure 14 miles outside of the territorial waters of Thailand.
As National Post reports, the structure seems to have been provided by a seasteading company called Ocean Builders that might have miscalculated the fact that Thailand claims a territory that extends up to 24 nautical miles which allows “some control in order to prevent ‘infringement of its customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws and regulations within its territory or territorial sea.'” In this case, Thailand appears to be citing a shipping lane as the source of contention.
Although this seems like vague guidelines at best, the couple is facing such severe punishment that they have now gone into hiding.
As reported in the Bangkok Post, the Royal Thai Navy filed a criminal complaint with police about the two occupants, American Chad Elwartowski and his Thai girlfriend Nadia Supranee Thepdet, under a section concerning threats to national soveignty [sic]. These offences carry sentences of life in prison or death. Thai authorities also say they have revoked Elwartowski’s visa.
“This is ridiculous. We lived on a floating house boat for a few weeks and now Thailand wants us killed,” Elwartowski said in the Facebook post, now hidden from the public. He said he and his girlfriend were safe, but hiding from police.
It’s always an irony to libertarians and voluntaryists who are perceived as threats to the sovereignty of government when they are doing their best never to engage the government at all, and are instead pursued quite literally to the ends of the Earth only to be reeled back in for their non-involvement. Nevertheless, this is the nature of the worst that Statism has to offer.
While many of the details of this particular story remain unclear at this point, it is always worth remembering how much the State wants a part of us even if we want nothing to do with it. It is for this reason that any undertaking — no matter how innocently intentioned — must be viewed as potentially perilous. Deep research into every angle of one’s approach to staying out of the crosshairs of the State scope is essential for avoiding the many pitfalls that could lead to tragedy.
Read the official statement about this event from Ocean Builders and follow updates HERE.
You can also see the 4-part video series about the construction of Chad and Nadia’s seastead on YouTube HERE.