Planning for the metaverse libertarian urban paradise

The quest for a free online city continue with the help of a prominent architectural firm:

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) has revealed renderings of the “cyber-urban” Liberland metaverse, a small virtual city made of futuristic, curving buildings in the architectural style that made the late architect’s firm famous. When complete, it will offer users the ability to traverse the hub as an avatar, and feature a city hall, collaborative working spaces, shops, business incubators, and a gallery for NFT art shows. The community it hopes to foster will have a focus on self-governance as well as fewer rules and regulations.

Those ideals are based on the so-called Free Republic of Liberland, a real-life micronation founded by Czech politician Vit Jedlicka in 2015 with a goal to implement small government libertarian values. Wedged between Serbia and Croatia, the 2.7-mile territory, which is larger than the Vatican and Monaco, is a disputed land and claimed by neither country. Since its founding, no one has moved to Liberland, which lacks any infrastructure, nor has construction started in earnest. But it does have 7,000 approved residents and 700,000 applications, according to Jedlicka, who told CNN in an email. The micronation also has a national flag, anthem and currency — the cryptocurrency Liberland merit…

Though many metaverse concepts have been born out of video game aesthetics — Mark Zuckerberg’s concept for a Metaverse, for example, looks similar to Nintendo Wii’s avatar design — the digital architecture of Liberland is meant to be more grounded in reality. The buildings, while hyper-futuristic, are similar to the glossy look of typical architectural renderings. But they were made with parametric design — a method that employs algorithms to create complex forms…

But while many online forums and social media companies have had to grapple with how much to moderate their users, with sites like Reddit having to move away from their ideals of unmitigated free speech as their user base ballooned, Liberland will start out as an exclusive space and expand slowly, in order to keep its community in check. Jedlicka confirmed that Liberland citizens and residents will have first access.

This combines several ideas with their own fan bases – the metaverse, libertarianism and small government, this architectural style – and tries to put them together in once place. I wonder if this hints at a fragmented metaverse where people of different interests and community ties come together in a few settings but they do not go elsewhere.

It is also worth noting that while this is only a online place, it is not disconnected from the offline realm in multiple ways. First, the online realm tries to imitate the offline with its use of space, buildings, and architecture. Second, those who operate in the online realm still have physical bodies and interactions outside of Liberland. This will be billed as new and exciting because it is in the metaverse…but physical matter still matters in multiple ways for this new community.

When libertarians run a suburb

What would happen if libertarians had the majority in a suburban government? A suburb of Minneapolis offers a case study:

It paid $13 million in cash when it needed a new public works building, taking the money from its savings accounts and shrinking the city’s reserves by nearly one-quarter.

Pay-as-you-go wisdom or long-term financial folly? However it eventually works out, the decision is just one example of how the Crystal City Council approaches civic issues a bit differently. The reason: A majority of its seven members are Libertarians or are sympathetic to the party’s philosophy of maximum personal freedom and minimum government…

In addition to paying cash for civic improvements, Crystal has undertaken a cleanup of the municipal code to get rid of ordinances considered outdated, unenforceable or just plain silly. And it has all but eliminated the city’s human rights commission. At the same time, in a seeming departure from Libertarian principles of thrift, the city has raised property taxes and water and sewer fees…

Critics said the tax increases are a direct result of the Libertarians’ financial mismanagement: Their use of cash to pay for infrastructure has depleted reserves and left the city unable to produce the kind of investment income that for years helped hold down taxes.

Two quick thoughts:

  1. As the article notes, local government members tend to be officially non partisan even if they align with particular political beliefs. So, is it to this group’s advantage to be something different – libertarians – even in a place where people don’t really want to talk about parties? On the flip side, is it worth seeing this as a test case for libertarianism in practice if local government is supposed to be non-partisan?
  2. The article suggests the new group has a new approach or outlook but also has made some decisions that may not fit libertarian ideals. This reminds me of the the claim many big-city mayors make: local governments simply have to get things done and can’t worry as much about abstract ideology. For example, you may not want to have to take on bonds to fund necessary infrastructure but if the alternative is terrible, you may not have the option.

One final mini-thought: cleaning up local ordinances that don’t make sense or are expired plus officially getting rid of a committee that has no members requires the tag of libertarianism? Any political party might find some advantage to getting rid of pieces of government that are non-functional but asking the established parties to get rid of anything might be too much to request these days…

Building libertarian cities in the middle of the ocean

This has been talked about for a while but here is a brief update on independent libertarian cities to be built in the oceans:

Pay Pal founder and early Facebook investor Peter Thiel has given $1.25 million to an initiative to create floating libertarian countries in international waters, according to a profile of the billionaire in Details magazine.

Thiel has been a big backer of the Seasteading Institute, which seeks to build sovereign nations on oil rig-like platforms to occupy waters beyond the reach of law-of-the-sea treaties. The idea is for these countries to start from scratch–free from the laws, regulations, and moral codes of any existing place. Details says the experiment would be “a kind of floating petri dish for implementing policies that libertarians, stymied by indifference at the voting booths, have been unable to advance: no welfare, looser building codes, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons.”…

The Seasteading Institute’s Patri Friedman says the group plans to launch an office park off the San Francisco coast next year, with the first full-time settlements following seven years later.

While this sounds like some post-apocalyptic scene, these cities could provide an interesting Lord of the Flies situation. Even though these places will (or may) be built in order to escape regulations, they will have to adopt rules and norms of their own in order to survive. I will be interested to see what sort of society will develop in these new cities.

I also imagine that someone will try to control what happens on these islands. Although these places may be in international waters, I think there will be a discussion about how these rules should be altered. Won’t someone want to tax what happens on these islands or to make sure that they are not national security threats?