Re: Extropian DOES NOT EQUAL Libertarianism! [was RE: Gore Shocks
Wed, 1 Sep 1999 08:20:20 EDT

In a message dated 99-09-01 00:29:34 EDT, (Robert J. Bradbury) write:

> > I think that someone who holds extropian 

> > values and ideals should by and large take the stance that people who
> > propose
> > a statist solution to a social problem have the burden of showing how
> > proposed solution doesn't do more harm than good by restricting the
> > freedom
> > of individuals to carry on their lives as they choose.
> Agreed with a footnote. We have to face the reality of *how* to move
> from the existing "statist" solution where the benefits & costs have
> complex evolutionary histories, to one where "states" strongly
> view their "mission statement" as one of minimal intervention.
> Change invokes the threat of survival and while the anarchists
> would like to do it tomorrow, I charge that *realistically* that
> will not happen (unless we can open a new frontier), so the
> requirement, if we are to avoid fantasies, is how to move step-by-step
> from the current reality *to* the "ideal" situation.
> My perspective, is that if the environment is depromoting
> rational thought the best situation may be to use the weapons
> of the environment against itself. The threat of school competition
> might motivate the teachers to rise up against pin-headed school
> boards. This is not a theoretical argument, it *is* a reality based
> argument.

I agree with this 100%, which was the point of my post some time ago about the relationship between libertarian political IDEALS and minarchist political POLICIES. I think it's not particularly extropic to recite one's libertarian political ideals in a hard-headed way every time a practical current problem presents itself and then dissent from any proposal that makes the current situation more rational or more free, even though it uses the mechanism of some state power to do so. People with strong and clear ideals rightly fear compromise and the "slippery slope", but not being willing to EVER compromise despite that fear is often actually a sign of weakness, in my opinion.

Now, I recognize that one can articulate a consistent libertarian ideology that dictates that ANY compromise is "wrong" in the sense that the tool of state power is so utterly corrupt and corrupting that NO incremental improvement is possible in ANY particular situation. However, I'm very suspicious of this particular brand of very radical libertarian ideology for a number of reasons. First, it has the same kind of hermetically-sealed intellectual operation that any all-encompassing philosophical system threatens: There's an answer for everything and it offers a simple way of avoiding a lot of dialogue that could conceivably challenge the basic principles upon which it is based. In that way, it's a lot like fundamentalist religious faith.

Second, such an "ideologically pure" libertarianism is inherently "revolutionary" in the historical sense. While embracing an ideology that calls for pulling down much of the existing social order offers a kind of personal satisfaction from basking in the warmth from imagined apocalyptic fires, history teaches us that plans for a complete and sudden remaking of the social order usually involve (1) violence and (2) don't work for the simple reason that social orders ARE complex ecologies: Massive, sudden disruptions usually cause disequilibrium that no ideology can restore, no matter how well-thought-out.

Finally, there's a pragmatic reason to reject "libertarian ideological purity": Insisting on precise and complete adherence to any set of principles will marginalize those who embrace them in the real world of practical social action. The recent history of the two main political parties in the United States should be a clear lesson of what happens when ideology is allowed to govern too completely over compromise and common sense.

> A key aspect of the discussion, as discussed in the Tough Questions
> thread and commented on by Hal in his eloquent comment regarding
> parents as "caretakers", is the issue of "freedom of individuals"
> and the problem that there are many individuals, who simply refuse
> to treat others (especially children) *as* individuals.

I think the "Tough Questions" thread is exactly the kind of discussion this group was originally formed to address. Lee Crocker is my personal hero of the moment for taking the responsibility to diplomatically and wisely set out what he sees as hard problems that arise from embracing extropian values and ideals: It's an act of intellectual courage to honestly state that your world view doesn't simply and completely and immediately offer a satisfactory response to each and every issue that arises. Having taken the time to draft this post, I probably can't get into that discussion until later, but I've scanned the discussion there and see some high quality thinking -- makes me proud to be a part of this number! (As Jim Morrison said . . .)

     Greg Burch     <>----<>
     Attorney  :::  Vice President, Extropy Institute  :::  Wilderness Guide   -or-
                         "Civilization is protest against nature; 
                  progress requires us to take control of evolution."
                                      -- Thomas Huxley