Imagine a capitalist paradise. An island utopia governed solely by the rules of the free market and inspired by the fictions of Ayn Rand and Robinson Crusoe. Sound far-fetched? It may not be. Over the past half-century, the wealthy have sought to escape regulation, taxes, and society by creating private enclaves beyond national borders in what Raymond Craib terms “libertarian exit.” These have been attempted from the southwest Pacific to the Caribbean to the North Sea, often with dire consequences for local inhabitants.
Taking Nevada libertarian and land developer Michael Oliver as a case in point, Craib explores in careful detail the ideology and practice of libertarian exit. Through meticulous research in archives in the US, the UK, and Vanuatu, as well as in FBI files acquired through the Freedom of Information Act, Craib uncovers an array of figures behind Oliver’s story: Fidel Castro and the Koch brothers, American segregationists and Melanesian socialists, Honolulu-based real estate speculators and British Special Branch spies, soldiers of fortune and English lords, Orange County engineers and Tongan navigators, CIA operatives and CBS news executives, and a new breed of techno-utopians and an old guard of Honduran coup leaders. Oliver’s story is the story of our time. Given the new privatized exitbeing pursued–floating seasteads, free private cities, and space colonization–it may also be the story of our future.
Raymond Craib is the Marie Underhill Noll Professor of History at Cornell University and the author of The Cry of the Renegade: Politics and Poetry in Interwar Chile, Cartographic Mexico: A History of State Fixations and Fugitive Landscapes, and with Barry Maxwell, co-editor of No Gods No Masters No Peripheries: Global Anarchisms.
Sasha Lilley is a writer and radio broadcaster. She’s the co-founder and host of the critically acclaimed program of radical ideas, Against the Grain. Sasha is the author of Capital and Its Discontents and Catastrophism: The Apocalyptic Politics of Collapse and Rebirth, among other works, and is the editor of the imprint Spectre for PM Press.
A virtual event featuring author Raymond Craib in conversation with Against the Grain host Sasha Lilley to discuss Craib’s new book, Adventure Capitalism: A History of Libertarian Exit, from the Era of Decolonization to the Digital Age.