Two years ago, Brian Doherty wrote a long, smart take for Reason about the Seasteading Institute -- dreamed up by Milton Friedman's grandson, a plan to build small societies in the sea where they wouldn't be subject to international laws.
Friedman is no longer with Google. He is president of something called the Seasteading Institute. He thinks he has a feasible plan to accomplish something neither his father nor his grandfather managed, for all their inspiration to him and hundreds of thousands of others: actually creating a libertarian society. Even if it’s a small, floating one. “I would be sad if it doesn’t happen in my lifetime,” Friedman says. “But even looking at optimistic scenarios, I can see it will take several decades before I can say I really changed the world.”
Again: Two years ago. And 10 months ago, Jacob Weisberg wrote about Seasteading, too. So why is there such a frenzy about a new story pointing out what Seasteading is, and that Peter Thiel has given Friedman $1.25 million? We knew that factoid already.
My theory is that the persistance of Ron Paul and other libertarians in the current political debate means that liberals are more interested than they have been before in making fun of libertarians. This desire outmatches the desire to find out the details of the thing being made fun of. The fact that this is the third annual Seasteading news cycle suggests that Seasteading isn't actually catching on yet. (It took the Free State Project roughly a decade to have a winning political influence in New Hampshire, but it's still only around 5 percent of the way toward its population target.)
I look forward to the next "Hey, have you heard about these crazy libertarian islands?" story in 2012.