RE: Property Rights

O'Regan, Emlyn (
Tue, 11 May 1999 12:20:46 +1000

David Musick wrote:
>> "Property rights" is a good solution when people have little respect for
>> each other and would routinely deprive each other of the basic
>> necessities for living. But the concept of property rights does little
>> to heal the underlying hostility among humans. If people were not so
>> hostile towards each other, there would be no need for "property rights".

It seems to be a rare thing here that someone doesn't equate the transhuman future with the time when he/she can get to have everything in the universe, and tough luck to anybody else! Surely an increase in technological/sociological/xxxxological state implied by the Singularity must leave in tatters our ideas of property/free market, just as it leaves in tatters most other concepts of current western culture, which all appear to trace back to fundamentals of limited lifespan and scarcity.

Lee Daniel Crocker said:
>Your assumption that there exists "enough"
>physical resources for all humans rests on the faulty notion that
>there is such a thing as "enough", or such a thing as a "comfortable"
>standard of living. No such thing exists. The human will is infinite,
>and the resources to serve that will are finite. I "hoard" resources
>to my will not because I begrudge others their will, but simply
>because I value my own, and the two inevitably conflict. I genuinely
>want every human on the planet to be wealthy beyond their dreams, and
>every human /will/ be wealthy beyond the dreams of /today/'s humans
>tomorrow. But when that happens, the infinite desires of all humans
>will ensure that some will want more, and more, and more. That's a
>good thing. If our resources ever become "enough" to satisfy our
>wills, then our wills are too limited.

Rugged individualism indeed. But are there alternatives?

If there were some viable system of managing it (anyone?), then why not have resources available to all who need them. The premise behind this is that pragmatically, nobody really needs more than a small fraction of these resources at any one time. Of course there would end up being limits, but I don't think that they should be any worse than the limits of private ownership of property, where each person only has access to what he/she owns, what the government provides (at some cost!), and what others are willing to lend/give.

If it works well, then the resources available to most people would be far greater than those they might otherwise have access to. Maybe the Gates/Turner/Murdochs of the world might have to come down a peg, but for the rest of us, why can't it be beneficial?

I think that the concept of infinite personal wealth through capitalism is flawed. People are attracted to it because it is possible, whereas without property ownership it is not. But possible is not probably. Not many can actually do it, lots of luck is involved. and those who do either start with a massive kickstart or devote their entire lives primarily to accumulation of capital, which really is an empty and pointless pursuit.

So in the end, those who have truly noble pursuits in mind often don't have the means (because they are devoted to the pursuit, not to aquiring resources toward that pursuit), and those who have the resources often don't have any idea of what to do with them (except maybe for sensual stimulation and aquisition of more resources).

I'm interested in the nexus between the dream of technological salvation, and the dream of capitalist success. The idea that technological advance will benefit us all seems to clash with the reality that technological advance benefits the owners of the technology (wealthy people) and often disadvantages the great majority of the population. I don't think that the "crumbs from the rich man's table theory" (the trickle down effect) really makes up for the increased ability of people who already control large amounts of resources to get their hands on more, to the detriment of others.

The usual line of reasoning on the forementioned moves toward the conclusion that technology must be bad and it should stop. Of course I am not a going to take such a technophobic line, and in any case, trying to stop humans discovering/inventing/using new things is like standing in the surf trying to hold back the waves with cupped hands (good luck banning cloning). I am of the opinion that it is the economic/social system, not technological advancement, which causes these problems.

I'm not in favour of a socialist system, however - is anyone disposed this way on this list? Everyone seems to love the government...

What about some form of techno-anarchy, where we use the excellent communications which are now just developing across the world, and are going to advance wildly in the next couple of decades, to allocate resources to anyone who asks for them, on some kind of loan system. Maybe you keep track of who's had how much (ie: currency), or maybe you don't bother. Maybe you need other people to volunteer support to your "cause" to aquire more than a certain amount of resources, or maybe little governing committees just spring up around areas that they are interested in, without any higher level organisation (much like newsgroups/mailing lists, but with decision making power).

This is pretty basic, re-inventing the wheel kind of stuff, but I think it's important to realise that capitalism (or owning things) is not the only possible social system and may not be desirable as social needs change in the next century. I think that it will be altogether undesirable, as will fall as it becomes less stable and more of a barrier to our potential. It is an artifact invented by humans, and can be superceded by more advanced artifacts (invented by transhumans).


PS: But in the mean time, I'll be aquiring all the wealth I can get my hands on, because I think real life extension is going to be X-Pensive! Rugged individualism indeed!