Justice on a Seastead: Corporate Law or Maritime Law?


Law, at its most basic, is intended to resolve conflict. Law provides a set of rules. Equal application of the law assures everyone plays on a level playing field. Law is inherently neither good nor bad – although specific laws can have positive or negative consequences.

I understand there are many libertarians and anarchists on this board. I also understand there is a fierce independence in almost everyone thinking about seasteading. It may be the ultimate answer to my question is “neither”. It’s possible that a sovereign city-state seastead will have its own unique legal structure and its own system of jurisprudence. But to assume that there will be no law is simply unrealistic given human nature. (Use the word “rules” instead of “law” if that makes you more comfortable.)

I’m not thinking about building codes, selling unpasteurized milk, growing opium poppies or licensing your dog. I’m thinking about stuff that hurts people or the seastead.

If you espouse a paradise where “anything goes” then you basically support the idea that “might makes right”. Eventually there will be a person, or a group of people, who see an opportunity to be gained by working in their own self interest in opposition to the larger community. What will prevent that from happening?

How would grievances be settled? How would criminal offenses be resolved? Even if the preferred resolution was “ex-communicado” there is no chance to un-rape or un-assault a person. There may be no way to restore property destroyed or stolen. What would happen in cases of fraud? Does the transgressor just leave with a promise (or a threat) to never return?

The legal framework must apply to property and people. It also must be fair, enforceable, scalable to a large community, and designed to last over time.

(.) #2

Thank you for sharing your thoughts about that.

(Chad Elwartowski) #3

My thought on justice is to follow the old Icelandic system that worked for hundreds of years.

  1. There has to be a victim. No victim, no crime.
  2. If found guilty, the victim (or victim’s family in case of death) is compensated.

From there it is semantics and the details can be determined by the systems set up on each seastead.


Also depends on the size/type of seastead, who owns it, placement etc.

Mine is mine, then only subject to National registry (USA), applicable laws and regulations, etc., plus applicable International and local laws, if it goes somewhere outside the US territiorial waters.

My goals don’t coincide with those of TSI, in many aspects.


Please let me know the going rate for raping or killing your wife.

Stupid example? Extreme? Probably both. But it’s been said the devil is in the details.

(Chad Elwartowski) #6

The penalty for rape would be determined by the parties or if there is no agreement the fine would be determined by the court.

In the Icelandic system if someone was charged with murder they were outlawed. Anyone killing an outlaw was not prosecuted. Housing or aiding an outlaw could result in prosecution (fine to the family or being made an outlaw as well).

Killing was different from murder. If the death was not murder (manslaughter), a fine is paid.

The murder rate for those 300 years in Iceland was much lower than current US murder rates.

The compensation method as opposed to our method is more economically efficient. A fine is a costless punishment; the cost to the payer is balanced by a benefit to the recipient. It is in this respect superior to punishments such as execution, which imposes cost but no corresponding benefit, or imprisonment, which imposes costs on both the criminal and the victim (through taxes).

The downfall of the Icelandic system was when the Catholic church came in, essentially disrupting the power balance that had evolved over centuries. They were able to use their economic imbalance to usurp the political structure much in the same way that large nations subsidize their own political system on smaller nations (ie Russia funding Cuba’s communism, the US funding western systems around the world, etc.).

On a seastead I would take the victim compensation a step further than what they had in the past. A victim who was poor would have a hard time paying to prosecute the offender. So they would essentially sell their case to someone who did have the means to see the case all the way through to the end. The owner of the case would then be paid the fine. I think this is a good opportunity for blockchain technology. Create a new blockchain token that represents the case, people can buy and sell based on whether they think the case will be won or not and what the compensation will be. The victim can sell their tokens to pay for prosecution as they see fit.

(Larry G) #7

Apples and oranges. Population density, tolerance for crimes that in our modern society do not actually put the entire ‘tribe’ at risk of starvation and death, lack of racial/ethnic/cultural homogeneity, mobility of individuals and sub-populations, and technological capabilities all contribute to a society that could not be run by the moot hall as Icelandic society was run. Some things simply don’t scale.

Indeed you are overlooking the benefit to be had- which is a guarantee that the individual will commit no further crimes, and thus overall societal safety, resilience, and resource allocation is improved. The society you are talking about also imposed indenture and slavery on people, sometimes in lieu of fines or to work off a fine. That is imprisonment.

In some (perhaps many) cases, victim and observer outrage cannot be overcome by any form of compensation. In these cases, your system simply doesn’t work. Part of the system of justice that we have is a sense that wrong-doing is punished, and that is a fundamental part of every human society. every society has some sense of right and wrong, even tribal societies where the concept is defined entirely in relation to benefit to the tribe. It is not purely a logical need for balance- it is a partially emotional need for redress, and that will never go away while human beings are biological. Any system that doesn’t serve this emotional need WILL fail.