This week, French Polynesia signed a memorandum of understanding with a San Francisco based group to study the engineering and legal support for a floating city. This is the latest variation in efforts to construct libertarian utopias, free from taxes and government regulations. We have details from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.
The concept is called seasteading, a floating island in international waters that would attract individuals and businesses yearning to breathe free. The most prominent supporter of the idea has been Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal who famously backed the Hulk Hogan lawsuit that bankrupted Gawker and supported Donald Trump for president. Thiel donated 1.7 million dollars to the SeaSteading Institute of San Francisco, but resigned from its board in 2011 and recently told the New York Times that floating cities on the open sea are not yet feasible.
Apparently, the Seasteading Institute agrees. Its plan in French Polynesia calls for the construction of two or three platforms in the sheltered waters of a lagoon. That solves a lot of engineering problems, but it would be inside the legal jurisdiction of an overseas French territory. So, in exchange for exemption from all taxes, Randolph Hencken of the Seastading Institute promises jobs, economic growth and environmental resiliency. Construction could begin as soon as this year.
Maybe the closest parallel is the Republic of Minerva, the brainchild of Las Vegas real estate developer Michael Oliver, who poured sand atop the sunken Minerva Reefs near Tonga in 1971. The Minerva Republic raised its flag in February 1972 but was removed by Tongan troops in June of the same year.