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Project February 15, 2018

The Tech Libertarians Buying New Zealand


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View of Lake Wanaka. Image by Mark O'Connell. New Zealand, 2017.

For years now, New Zealand has been the focus of intense interest among the wealthy technologists of Silicon Valley. A politically stable nation with abundant clean water, relative insulation from the effects of global warming, and positioned well out of range of aggressive nuclear powers, it's a desirable location for an international elite who view it as a suitable retreat for potential scenarios of global catastrophe or collapse.

Though American tech entrepreneurs like Peter Thiel, who recently acquired New Zealand citizenship, are seen as bringing investment and innovation, foreign ownership of land became a major issue in the country's recent election, with many citizens uncomfortable about the extent to which these Silicon Valley billionaires have been directly influencing the country's immigration policy.

But few New Zealanders are aware of the extreme libertarian ideas that underpin the buying up of land in their country. Ideas, for instance, about the decline of liberal democratic nation states, and the rise of a class of so-called "sovereign individuals" whose wealth will free them entirely from the restraining influence of governments.

Reporting from New Zealand, Mark O'Connell investigates the land deals themselves, as well as the unsettling libertarian ideas and apocalyptic anxieties manifested through them, revealing the ways in which the country has become a microcosm for broader global political trends.


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Land Rights

Land Rights
technology and society


Technology and Society

Technology and Society