Re: Polemics for longevity

From: Robert Bradbury (
Date: Sun Jan 23 2000 - 03:54:42 MST

On Sat, 22 Jan 2000, Howard Rothenburg wrote:

> On Sat, 22 Jan 2000, I wrote:
> >
> > On Sat, 22 Jan 2000, Technotranscendence wrote:
> >
> > > Ecological disruption is, to a large extent, caused by government
> > > protections and subsidization of unprofitable economic development.
> >
> > Huh??? I would say the fundamental cause for ecological disruption
> > is a failure to account in an economic sense (meaning in the
> > accounting and tax laws) for "theft" from the global commons.
> > The solution to this is not "less" government regulation, but "more".
> Then why are the governments that regulate their populations the most the
> ones with the worst environmental problem areas (even where officially
> they have strict environmental protections laws).

Are you refering to Russia or China? And the answer would be because
the laws are ignored in the favor of development.

> If a company is using an environmental resource it has an incentive to
> protect it, at least enough so it can continue to use it.

No, there is a perfectly rational strategy that would say, use up
a "free" resource, generating enough profits to move into an entirely
different area of business. If you are clever about it you can probably
do it in such a way that you leave the liability behind in some shell
company. Companies shift their "business" all the time. Perkin Elmer
is a company that comes to mind. I believe they used to make semiconductor
fabrication instruments, now they seem to have most of their eggs in
the "genomics" business.

> Governments, despite the rhetoric, seem to make the problem worse, the
> more they are involved.

Well, governments, particularly totalitarian variants, that are not
really governments as much as the expression of the will of a few
individuals making choices about how to grow. Grow fast by
stealing from the commons, or grow slow while preserving it.

Now, having observed the "miracle" of Russia, you cannot help but
be amazed at a country that went from a feudal state to one that
built things like the Moscow metro, high quality jet fighters,
space stations, a large nuclear arsenal, etc. in less than 100 years.
They did trash the environment in a number of areas in order to achieve

However -- if the Almost Anything machines arrive on the expected
time scale (to do the environmental cleanup), then the Russian
developmental approach will be viewed as the correct one in terms
of lifting the greatest number of people up to the highest standard
of living for the longest period of time (while letting technological
advancement clean up the mess left by taking shortcuts). So the
only thing you can gripe about is the fact that they didn't know
the approach would work in advance so they were taking a big risk.

Though the more libertarian among us may not like the idea of totalitarian
states, they may make a huge amount of sense if the population as a whole
is unaware of what may be achieved. Now, whether these same achievemnts
could have been accomplished using a free market system or a democratic
political system or with greater environmental awareness or substantially
less loss of life are questions that I will leave to the political analysts
and historians. For me to answer the question I'd have to run an experiment
(being of a scientific bent...) and I don't thing the environmental impact
statement would ever make it out of committee...


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