Re: Is rational patriotism anti-extropian? I don't think so...

From: Charlie Stross (
Date: Tue Apr 18 2000 - 03:32:16 MDT

On Mon, Apr 17, 2000 at 01:47:14PM -0700, john grigg wrote:
> And yet isn't extropianism an ideology also that has guiding principles to
> 'influence' or even 'pigeon-hole' members? I realize that Max has written
> "these Principles are not presented as absolute truths or universal values."
> I am just playing devil's advocate here.
As ideologies go, it seems to me to be fairly loose -- there's an intrinsic
contradiction between encouraging individual transcendence and getting
everyone marching in lockstep and wearing a uniform and willing to lay down
their lives for der Fuhrer. Right? That's not to say that extropianism
doesn't have drawbacks, but it's not obviously a fertile breeding ground
for totalitarianism. Which is a good thing, IMO.

> you continues:
> I'd also like to note that from a non-American perspective making children
> swear an oath of allegiance in school each day looks positively Orwellian,
> and I don't see massive military power as being admirable, either.
> (end)
> I sure don't consider children taking the oath of allegiance to be
> 'brainwashing!' There is nothing similar in England? I am surprised.

Nope, there ain't. There's a law dating back to 1945 requiring an act of
worship every morning, which is more of an embarrassment than anything
else, but there's no nationalistic stuff. There's no oath of allegiance
in the UK, period, unless you count whatever oath members of the military

> I have never thought of the connection with the divine right of kings, very
> interesting. The social contract between the citizen, other citizens and
> their government is supposed to bind us together in mutual self-interest.
> And at least in theory, when a citizen or group of them want to change
> something, the mechanisms are in place to at least give them the chance at
> being heard and having something done about it.
> I still think much of the authority of the gov't does come from the law
> enforcement departments and the military, or in other words, from the barrel
> of a gun. But being a democracy, we have ways of changing things that don't
> entail starting a violent revolution! lol Unlike some other nations where
> that is a regular occurence.
One other thing weirds people over here out about the US; it's the assumption
that natural rights exist. But that's another matter. (In general, there
are two concepts of rights. One is that 'nature' somehow assigns certain
rights to human beings, and those rights exist almost in a platonic sense;
they're real things and you can't abolish or add to them. Another philosophy
of rights is that rights are an emergent phenomenon, that comes from people
behaving towards each other as they themselves would like to be dealt with;
your right to life is the corollary of my refraining from killing you. This
view of rights is that they're all essentially social constructs, and while
they're desirable and necessary they're in no way automatic.)

> you continue:
> The national system we've been bequeathed is just a degenerate form
> of the monarchical system, with the powers devolved to a national level
> which is just a replacement for the Crown.
> (end)
> Modern democracies are just a degenerate form of the monarchial system? For
> reasons stated above I would have to disagree.

And I repeat that assertion. The system is clearer in the UK, admittedly.
What happened here is that an absolute monarchy granted some rights
to its feudal lords, and they in turn delegated more rights downward,
until the whole thing spun out of control. There was a definitive dust-up
over who was the source of legislative power, which ended with a rather
conservative king getting his neck shortened; his successor took a rather
more relaxed view of parliamentary power and essentially delegated all
his law-making authority to a notional body called The Crown. The Crown
is to the king as the Presidency is to a specific President; it's an
office, with powers that accompany it. The Crown acts in accordance with
the wishes of the Government, as led by the Prime Minister. _In_theory_
the Crown can do anything it likes; in practice, it's simply a rubber
stamp for the democratic institution that executes its authority. This
is the legal basis of constitutional power in the UK; feudal monarchical
power delegated to a democratically elected government.

The US government is less obviously based on this system, but nevertheless
its government derives its theory of power from a similar source; an
attempt to replace a feudal monarchy's powers with those derived from the
citizenship is as much a descendant of the original system as is a feudal
monarchy that's had a democratic indirection layer inserted into its way
of doing business.

> I do think I understand your point as being that ultimately, the federal
> gov'ts of even democracies still have incredible power over the citizenry,
> even if it is generally more fairly used. And we are expected as citizens
> to be generally loyal subjects to not a king anymore, but our flag and p.m.
> or president.
King, president -- these are people. The underlying institutions -- The
Crown, The Presidency -- are rather more similar than most of us like to
contemplate. And one may argue that the additional checks and balances
added in the past two centuries are just the inevitable parephanalia that
go with the expansion of nations from a population of 2-3 million to 60-260
million people. There _have_ to be ways of delegating authority; the original
institution simply couldn't scale up and retain adequate control.

> you wrote:
> I suppose for me the acid test is, do you feel pride and a touch of
> emotion when US Navy ships fire cruise missiles at factories in some
> other country because of a rumour (no more!) that they're supplying
> nasty raw materials to a third party?
> (end)
> Initially, when I hear we are shooting cruise missiles at terrorist-aiding
> facilities, yes, I do feel pride that we are doing something. But later, if
> I hear U.S. intelligence sources were wrong and that innocents were hurt and
> killed, then I feel very sad about it.
Do you know how many American citizens are killed by terrorist incidents
in a given year? And how many are killed by being struck by lightning?

(Terrorism is a _very_ good propaganda tool these days -- for the state.
The reality of it is a lot smaller and a lot more marginal than the media
bother telling us -- mostly because bad news is what sells advertising

> Sometimes in cases like this the military is not to blame, they are
> receiving information and taking orders from other parts of the government.
> Ultimately though, it is all part of the same government. The U.S. should
> only act when we have solid intelligence and the reason for the cruise
> missile launch is to impede aggressors and not to boost presidential
> ratings.
> So Charlie, how do you think the U.S. and British government should deal
> with terrorist (aggressor) nations and organizations? How would you handle
> them? Would P.M. Stross ever order bombing raids? And what would cause him
> to?

Depends how ruthlessly dedicated to hanging on to personal power I was ;-)

By the way, do you know who invented the idea of "policing by bomber", when
they did it, and in what context?

-- Charlie

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Jul 27 2000 - 14:09:30 MDT