Did ‘Ready Player One’ Give Us A Model To Shrink The State?

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Many libertarians have pontificated about the best way to reach a society of self-ownership and free markets. The most conventional route has been that of the Libertarian Party which seeks to get elected officials that will pass legislation to gradually shrink the size of government; while the counter to this, agorism, as proposed by Samuel Edward Konkin III, seeks to starve the beast of the state by participating in black markets as to avoid taxation and regulation.

Both solutions seek to work within the current system of society to enact change, but not all libertarians see this model as being conducive. They believe that the system cannot be be transformed quickly enough so as to produce real change within their lifetimes, so they have resorted to the role of a blacksmith, by building a new nation from the ground up in order to accomplish the libertarian goal.

Most covered in the press are three such attempts: the settlers of the uninhabited strip of land between Croatia and Serbia called Liberland, Patri Friedman’s Seasteading Institute, and Roger Ver’s Free Society. In the most Lockean sense, Liberland utilized homesteading to attempt to create a “Free Republic” nation out of unoccupied land emerging between Croatia and Serbia’s border disputes. The 7 kilometer-long country has not been officially recognized by its neighboring countries, which claim that Liberland’s president has no legal basis for claiming the land.

The Seasteading Institute has run into its own difficulties, as a once-promising agreement with French Polynesia fell through earlier this year putting a stopper in front of the envisioned floating nation. Ver’s organization claims on its website that it’s gained more enthusiasm than expected, but due to non-disclosure agreements, they can’t publish which nations they have begun negotiations with to buy land for a libertarian country.

But the frontier that hasn’t been considered to create this society is the digital landscape, an idea that was demonstrated to me by the blockbuster Ready Player One. In the film, a futuristic dystopian Earth completes all of their business and pleasure on a virtual reality video game called “The Oasis”. The digital world is the ultimate bastion of freedom as anyone can change their appearance at will and do anything they desire.

What’s interesting about the film is the lack of police or a governing agency within the Oasis, while the outside world contains them. Even with police in the real, they seem to be frugally employed since most people in the Oasis have a separate identity, so finding someone who committed a wrong is much more difficult. But what truly makes the movie a model for a potential stateless or limited state society is that the game’s currency, simply called ‘coin’, has replaced the dollar as the world’s primary money.

Because of everyone’s dependence on the game to have meaningful interactions and communicate, coin is used to purchase in-game weapons, skins, and vehicles, but it is also used to acquire real world items. Since the game has the player lose all of their coin and items when they die, voluntary interactions are essential.

Many players test their might by going to Planet Doom where they acquire coin and items from defeating other players, but no one is forced to participate in the violence and there are just as many players that get coin through transactions. One of the main characters sells custom vehicles like the Millennium Falcon and the Starship Enterprise.

Ready Player One gives libertarians another model within the vein of starting a new nation that could overcome the oppressive state. Social media has already reached the point where it is nearly an essential part of life and it is redefining how people develop friendships, networks of professionals and deliver information.

Through Facebook, I have been able to volunteer for Larry Sharpe’s campaign for Governor of New York, even though I live in Missouri. I have started a writing and journalism career from the comforts of my home, without having met in person any of my editors or fellow contributors. Some might say that it’s crazy to live in a digital reality, but I argue that the world has already reached that point.

The first time I read Isaac Asimov’s The Naked Sun, I thought that the inhabitants of that world were crazy for never interacting in person and only communicating through holograms that appeared in their homes; but the story perfectly describes how I interact with most libertarians, minus the physical agony that the citizens of Asimov’s story felt when confronted with one’s physical presence.

Virtual reality is potentially the next bastion of libertarianism that falls into the same vein as those trying to create a new country. The difference is that the digital realm is much more accessible to everyone than would be moving to Liberland, the floating nations envision by seasteaders or wherever Free Society purchases land. There will be no need for passports or government permission to enter the electronic libertarian utopia, only access to an internet-capable device and a desire to be free.

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Luke Henderson

Since joining the Libertarian Party in 2016, Luke Henderson has been active in the liberty movement through journalism and political activism. Luke is a paraprofessional for the Special School District of St. Louis, composer of fine art and electronic music, and contributor to multiple libertarian news sites.