Re: Extropian principles - #5 - lets take a look

Date: Sat Jun 17 2000 - 07:05:18 MDT

In a message dated 6/9/00 11:37:43 PM Central Daylight Time, writes:

> I support this principle wholeheartedly; when I joined the list I did not.
> When I joined, I was one of those democratic socialist leaning types,
> basically thinking that western capitalism is nasty, and a bigger
> would help. Now I am much, much more in favour of dynamic, bottom-up
> solutions to social organisation; thank you. A caveat: I still support many
> current big-government ideas (such as welfare) out of pragmatism; they do
> not belong in my vision of the future to anywhere near the extent that they
> exist in my ideals about the present.

Although I certainly wouldn't describe my political philosophy of ten years
ago as "democratic socialist", I am much more libertarian now than I was
before I became actively involved in this community. Over the years, folks
like Max, David Friedman and Robin Hanson have convinced me that it is
possible to create structures of social governance that are much more
rational and free than those that characterize even the freest of our current

> I feel that capitalism, or standard "free"-market organisation, does not
> principle 5 very well.

Obviously "mainstream extropians" (how's that for an ironic oxymoron?) would
disagree. Let's see if I can talk about how below . . .
> ---------
> freedom of speech - Is this true in the corporate world?

Yes. And no. A society that lives up to the fifth Extropian Principle
would, it seems to me, allow people to voluntarily "restrict speech" within
certain defined parameters. I run a business. I believe that it is
perfectly consistent with principles of individual liberty for me to expect
that my employees will not spend all of their time at the office engaging in
abstract philosophical discussions, or disputations regarding the relative
merits of the Houston Astros and the Colorado Rockies. Is it OK for them to
do this some time while they're on my payroll? Sure. Do my employees know
that I "forbid" them to spend all of their time in "unproductive"
discussions? Yes. Am I thus a tyrant? I don't think so.

Likewise, if a non-employee publishes an article critical of my firm, may I
take legal action to oppose such speech - in a free society? It depends. If
the article contains lies, I ought to have the right to take some kind of
action against the slanderer, if she has caused me some tangible harm in the
process. I don't think this is inconsistent with Principle No. 5.
> freedom of action - Within strict boundaries. Particularly, one is excluded
> from any kind of real say in how any org is run, unless one runs or owns
> that org.

Again, I don't think it's possible to make rigid rules in this area. Some
"organizations" require fairly strict conduct guidelines. I think it's
consistent with individual liberty for an airline to prohibit its pilots from
flying while under the influence of drugs that can impair their judgment and
reflexes. Obviously many organizations have gone way too far in this kind of
thing and I think it's imperative that rational people work to oppose such
irrelevant restrictions on individual liberty. As a wise man once said, "the
price of liberty is eternal vigilance". I doubt that any society will ever
work out clear, mechanical rules that will define borders in every
conceivable case between rationally acceptable restrictions on individual
liberty and the natural tendency of some people to be "bossy" about their
associates' conduct.

In terms of having a "real say in how an organization is run", I think
there's an invigorating process of natural selection and evolution in a
maximally free society with market economics. Organizations that restrict
input into their policies too tightly will become ossified and uncompetitive.
 Consider how General Motors has seen a long period of decline relative to
the reborn Chrysler organization. GM's highly centralized, hierarchical
management structure has proved to be woefully maladapted to a world of rapid
prototyping and increasingly fragmented and well-educated consumer demands.
GM will have to learn to accept input from a wider sphere, from both within
and outside it's organization - or it will die.
> favoring the rule of law - No, we have the rule of money, which is entirely
> coersive in many cases

Yow! Emlyn, come spend a week in my office if you think that the rule of law
isn't a vital and important part of a modern capitalist society. "Money" is
a factor in the operation of law, but it is by no means the only factor. If
the rule of law wasn't important, then my clientele (which is mainly - but
not exclusively - large, well-financed institutions) wouldn't need my
services and could count on succeeding in all of their disputes with "the
little guy".
> bargaining over battling - Much of the really big, really influential
> behaviour by the big orgs looks a lot more like battling than bargaining;
> they just don't physically attack each other.

"Conflict" is a necessary part of any complex, dynamic, adaptive system. The
PROCESS of civilization is fundamentally the dynamic of "taming" this fact
and sublimating conflict into the behavior of bargaining. But competition is
an inevitable fact of life.
> exchange over compulsion - As above; the rule of money is all about
> compulsion (power), and coersion.

This may be a matter of personality and perspective, but I see maneuvering
for advantage in exchange relationships as an inevitable part of dynamic,
adaptive systems. Wishing it wasn't so is utopian fantasy that inevitably
leads to tyrannical stasist idealism.
> Openness to improvement rather than a static utopia - Within strict
> bounds!!! The market favours short term approaches, because it's such a
> fight. Improvement then is strongly limited to local solutions, and goes
> local maxima all to easily. However, it's not static, and it's not Utopia,
> so there is some fit.

I agree that the tendency toward short-sightedness is THE single biggest
problem with market systems as currently constituted. But consider
innovations like Robin's Idea Futures market and Sasha Chislenko's
"hypereconomy" ideas. We get better at things, if given the chance. I think
what's required is taking a broader view of what a market is. We DO have to
work on this point.

> I have two major problems with the free-market economy.
> 1 - Exclusion: Most people are excluded from having a say in most things.
> Parliamentary democracy was meant (maybe) to address this, and is an
> admirable institution... which looks like an anachronism in the context of
> the information/communication revolution.

Time constraints make it impossible for me to write fully on the "extropian"
view of parliamentary democracy, but increasing the scope of influence that
an individual has over their own life is fundamental to the extropian
world-view. As technophiles, we see improvement in this realm through
individual empowerment with the tools we can develop. The tension between
those who would restrict individual autonomy and those who see freedom as a
fundamental good is one those things that makes life interesting :-)
> 2 - Destructive competition. As far as I can see, there are two types of
> competition; constructive (lets run a race, first one to the end wins), and
> destructive (well, you are faster than me, so I'll trip you up, and then
> I'll win). Destructive competition is what people complain about with
> Microsoft, and it is hard to blame them for using it; that's how this
> works. While it is easy to see the benefits on all sides of constructive
> competition, the last-man-standing approach just seems like a bloody waste.
> I have the beginnings of a viable alternative, but I'll leave that to a
> later post.

I'd love to see your thoughts on it. For now (being on the run this morning
for an early appointment - hopefully I'll have more time to write later),
I'll just say that the tool fo the rule of law is the most important factor
that the Enlightenment has given us as a means for making competition
CONSTRUCTIVE instead of destructive.

       Greg Burch <>----<>
      Attorney ::: Vice President, Extropy Institute ::: Wilderness Guide -or-
                                           ICQ # 61112550
        "We never stop investigating. We are never satisfied that we know
        enough to get by. Every question we answer leads on to another
       question. This has become the greatest survival trick of our species."
                                          -- Desmond Morris

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