RE: Liberty vs. Extropy

Billy Brown (
Mon, 24 May 1999 11:47:55 -0500

Raymond G. Van De Walker wrote:
> Why I am not an anarcho-syndicalist libertarian:
> I do not know of a solution to the free-rider problem of military
> protection. This seems like the central unsolved problem of
> anarcho-syndicalist libertarians: since they cannot tax, they cannot
> raise enough military force to defend against aggressive taxing
> governments. By the way, if anyone knows of a solution, I'd
> like to hear it.

That is one of the two fundamental barriers I see in the way of government-free society. I've never seen a good solution to the problem, and I'm pretty sure that there isn't one yet - we're going to need some kind of major innovation to deal with it.

The other fundamental barrier I see is the problem of restraining the use of force in the anarchist society. The problem is that market mechanisms are the only available means for restraining violence in an anarchy, but these mechanisms do not function properly unless the use of force is already constrained. We thus have the problem of setting up a system that establishes its own preconditions, which is a very difficult proposition.

> The U.S. was the real libertarian revolution, and we're living it. It
> could be improved, as David Friedman points out, but we already have many
> of the liberties that are possible in a libertarian society.

We've got some of the 'low-hanging fruit', but we are still far short of the point of diminishing returns. A government consisting solely of a criminal justice system, a system of civil law, and state and war departments, would allow substantially more freedom than our current system without posing any real practical difficulties.

Modern America is less oppressed than the rest of the world, but it still offers its citizens rather limited freedom. We don't even have the freedoms explicitly spelled out in the Bill of Rights, let alone the vast body of freedom implied by the doctrine of enumerated powers.

> The central weakness of libertarian philosophy is that it gives only
> negative advice about the nature of a good life: e.g. Don't initiate
> force, Minimize interference in other people's activities. It lacks
> advice about what's good.

Well, yes. OTOH, that is only a weakness if you are looking for a complete ethical system. As a purely political philosophy this is actually a strength - it means that anyone who recognizes individual rights and human fallibility can take part in the system, regardless of the details of their personal ethics.

If we try to build a unified body of thought that covers everything from personal ethics to epistemology to political theory, we will inevitably end up with a system that only a small group of people will be willing to adopt. The result is a political impotence that allows the forces of collectivism to have their way unopposed. By creating a political philosophy that does not rely on any one specific view of these other issues, we make it much more feasible for individualists of many different stripes to cooperate in the defense of liberty.

> If this analysis is right, freedom is not as limiting for Extropians as
> other resources. I at least, already have all the freedom I can use,
> (except I wish for less taxes) and the very existence of this mailing
> list is evidence of the same for its readers. If I could buy a
> space-ship, I could leave tomorrow. I _am_ free to pursue longevity
> techniques, and perform computer research.

Actually, it would be illegal for you to build or operate a spacecraft - you need a few tens of thousands of pages worth of permits and paperwork before you'll be allowed to play with toys like that. Research is subject to relatively light regulation, but actually using the fruits of that research is another matter.

Billy Brown, MCSE+I