John Stossel

Here's a novel idea: Escape the suffocating chains of intrusive government by starting your own country!

That's Patri Friedman's idea. He comes from an impressive line of libertarian thinkers. Milton Friedman, the Nobel-prize-winning free-market economist, was his grandfather. His father is David Friedman, author of the libertarian classic "The Machinery of Freedom." Milton Friedman advocated severely limited government. David Friedman thinks we need no government at all. And now Patri believes he has an effective solution to bad government: communities on the ocean surface, or seasteading.

As a fan of the free market, Friedman understands the benefits of competition. The competitive process teaches us ways to do things we otherwise never would learn. This is important because resources are scarce and we want the most from them. In the crucible of entrepreneurial rivalry, where consumers are free to say yea or nay, competitors are pushed to do better, and under this pressure they come up with things no monopolistic bureaucrat would ever think of. That's why F.A. Hayek called competition a "discovery procedure."

Governments provide various services, but they do so monopolistically. This makes them inept, even when performing valuable functions. You can move to a different city or state to escape government burdens, but it doesn't seem possible to start a whole new country. Governments claim every square mile of the earth.

What is someone looking for better governance to do? In 2008, Friedman set up The Seasteading Institute. His website states: "(W)e believe that experiments are the source of all progress: To find something better, you have to try something new. But right now, there is no open space for experimenting with new societies. That's why we work to enable seasteading communities -- floating cities -- which will allow the next generation of pioneers to peacefully test new ideas for government. The most successful can then inspire change in governments around the world."

In Friedman's view, there is no time to lose. Skyrocketing spending and crushing debt push governments toward crisis. Political incentives being what they are, there is little will for the needed overhaul. The retirement benefits promised by governments are totally unsustainable, and yet proposing significant cuts in benefits has been political suicide. While there is at least serious talk about cuts now, powerful constituencies will mobilize to try to portray any cutter as a monster.


John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at >johnstossel.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. ©Creators Syndicate