Re: A response to Rafal Smigrodzki, Part 2

From: Mike Lorrey (
Date: Sun Dec 23 2001 - 14:31:59 MST

> "Smigrodzki, Rafal" wrote:
> From: "Technotranscendence" <>
> > New Freedom, where free yeomen till their initially equal parcels
> > of land and pay only minimal taxes to support a freely elected
> constabulary.
> Taxes are coercive. Elections are coercive. You model already has
> coercion built into it.
> ### OK - you made my day. Let's say the colonists just arrive
> haphazardly from other planets, in small groups, like the Native
> Americans, Polynesians, Easter Islanders. With no constabulary,
> individuals with a penchant for rape and pillage will inevitably act
> up. A tribal warfare system will inevitably develop (or can you give
> me historical counterexamples?)

Actually, before the arrival of the Conquistadors, Native North American
societies (not including Aztecans and points south) were rather
peaceful, with inter-tribal warfare limited to ritualistic
confrontations for 'counting coup' similar to the jousting typical of
northern europe in medeival times. It was only with the arrival of
deadly communicable diseases and horses that indians in North America
took on a rape and pillage way of life.

Furthermore, as a historical counterexample, take medieval Iceland. The
sagas recount a really idyllic society with no government, merely an
informal priestly cast of 'umpires', where free trade was the norm and
the only coersion was that individuals honor their contracts. Nor was
this society isolated from the rest of the world, for the Vatican had
repeatedly sent a Bishop and missonaries to the island, and trade in
live animals (arctic falcons, etc) originating in Iceland spread as far
as Mecca and Istanbul.

> > land, you need land to buy land). This works like a ratchet. The
> > landless
> > people are willing to work for a pittance, as there is a large
> supply
> > of
> > them (it's much easier to produce a few humans than a new plot of
> > land, so barring pestilence, war and famine, there is more people
> > than land), they have no choice (there is no industry on this
> backward
> > pimple of a planet)
> Another unrealistic assumption. I'd expect some industry to arise and
> technological progress -- unless there were strict controls against
> it.
> ### How many thousands of years did take to invent the wheel (counting
> from the first emergence of ungoverned humans)?
> A government (usually a bad one) will form well before industry, and
> without stability offered by a good government, hardly any research
> will take place.

On the contrary, outside of agricultural trade in grain, olive oil,
wine, and many other goods, mining was the first heavy industry, traces
of which can be dated back as far as 5000 BC with simple metals like
gold, tin, silver and copper, while flint and obsidian mines have
operated for thousands of years into the Ice Age, trading their goods
over thousands of miles.

See "The Substance of Civilization" for further info.

Government arises, outside of purely tribal chieftan forms, when local
population pressure outstrips the ability of a hunter/gatherer or
subsistence farming lifestyle to support it and organized technologies,
like irrigation ditching, is required to boost food production, and the
division of labor becomes complex enough to require a significant
management overseeing a community.

One could make an argument that both food supply and population pressure
have been chicken-egging each other (and the need for government) onward
for all of human history, where local scarcity conditions have required
some level of 'lifeboat rules' to ensure that as many people get
relatively fairly fed as possible.

Government is only created when some portion of the population
encounters conditions of scarcity in the local area. Humans had been
innovating and industrializing long before this became necessary.

> -----
> > and they can only work for the large landowners,
> > as the small farmers do not need hired hands or couldn't afford it.
> This is no more than the basic economic scenario of Karl Marx being
> played out in an agrarian society on another planet. Notably, it's
> not
> the scenario that has ever played out in a real agrarian society
> without
> massive coercion involved.
> ### Coercion always comes first - government comes later. This played
> out in hunter-gatherer and agrarian societies hundreds of times
> (again, Native Americans, Polynesians......)

Coersion IS government. What part of the word "en-force" don't you

> ------
> > Every ten laborers you have working for you
> > means you can buy out another small farmer who is in trouble.
> > The freely elected constabulary will not do anything because
> > no crimes are committed. An oligopoly controlling land forms
> > spontaneously, stifling competition, slowing progress, ruthlessly
> > destroying its opponents. The rich soon form a hermetic
> > aristocracy, buy control of the government, and change the
> > name of the colony to New Colombia.
> This is unlikely for many reasons. One, as more land gets bought up,
> the incentive for people to band together against further buying up
> will
> increase.
> ### What do you mean exactly? Communes putting together their monies
> to buy land from the rich? Where on Earth did they form (aside from
> those insignificant credit unions)?

I think he is referring to land monopolies.

> ------
> Such cooperation happens "spontaneously" in many instances --
> from small businesses helping each other out to various corporations
> (why wouldn't landowners just hire the right people to manage their
> land
> for them and run it like a corporation?)
> ### Precisely what types of "small businesses" are going to help each
> other out, trying to stop land consolidation and how?
> Landowners do - they hire accountants, overseers, and hundreds of
> cheap peons to do the work, if such laboreres are available due to the
> scarcity of land.

Land scarcities are created by a lack of development. When you develop
an acre of land, it's utility increases such that it becomes the
economic equivalent of many more acres.

Unless their land is taken by force, landless individuals living in land
monopolies have only themselves to blame for selling out in the past.

The fact is that all people strive to earn a living. When they are
restrained from doing so by a monopolist of any sort, they will
challenge the monopoly in one way or another. Government is one way of
doing so.

> ------
> and other contractual
> agreements to ward off mergers and the like. (Sometimes, it's
> inefficient to do so, but beforehand, we can't always be sure that
> voluntary behavior is inefficient or that coerced behavior can do
> better.)
> ### Who is going to ward off mergers??? Why? How?
> We agreed there is no coercion allowed in this experiment, so you
> would have to be pretty smart, trying to stop landowners from
> consolidating their holdings by marriage.

The inaccurate assumption is that a merger of two firms will result in a
merger of two market shares.

> -------
> Two, land will go up in value if some want to buy more and more of it.
> The price will rise, meaning that owners of it will make more money.
> There's no way to tell how much, but this already shows how your
> scenario is a bit unrealistic.
> ### You are forgetting that the large landowners make more money than
> the small ones, both gross, and sometimes even per acre (they can
> afford the expensive, imported machines). The less land available for
> sale there is, the more difficult it is for the small operators to
> join the game.

Yet in your scenario, there are heaps of landless peasants available.
Machinery only does labor in place of man. If machinery is too
expensive, then human labor becomes competetive, and small operators are
also therefore competetive.

> ------
> Three, you assume that inheritance alone will preserve large estates.
> Historically, this has not been the case. In fact, inherited wealth
> often declines after a time. Surely, there are exceptions, but even
> the
> biggest family fortunes tend to get consumed over time and less
> entrepreneurial and frugal family members take over.
> ### Historically, that *was* the case, at least in countries with
> primogeniture (or can you give me specific and numerous
> counterexamples?). "From rags to rags in three generations" is mainly
> a phenomenon of the capitalist society, where you need to be on your
> toes to stay on top.

This is inaccurate. Rags to riches to rags in three generations is a
phenomenon reported in such places as medieval Vietnam (up to the
present day, even), India, and many other cultures.

Actually, the rags to rags phenomenon will occur faster, on average,
when primogeniture is NOT prevalent. Think about it: the more a fortune
is divided with each generation, the quicker a large fortune for one
person dissolves into merely a fortunate but small windfall for many,
which is quickly consumed in many cases.

> -----
> > This process, the concentration of a crucial and non-expandable
> Land actually is expandable in many ways. One, land that was formerly
> marginal can become profitable if it's physically altered, e.g.,
> cleared, irrigated, and plowed. Two, if the price of land increases
> overall, then more marginal pieces will be economically usable.
> Three,
> land can be created in the sense of reclaiming land from the sea or
> even
> building islands. Four, things like agriskyscrapers could create new
> land on top of old land -- if they became economical. We can't just
> assume static amounts and values.
> ### This is orthogonal to the issue of land concentration - land is
> expanded only if there is population pressure, with total demand for
> food exceeding the supply. It does not result in an unlimited supply
> of land at competitive prices - entrepreneurs cannot make money by
> offering cheap "land" in skyscrapers to undercut the traditional
> landowners (as opposed to memory chip makers being able to flood the
> market with every new advance in technology). Marginal land sometimes
> offers a refuge for subsistence farmers, but with enough pressure even
> they might end up being displaced.

But you just argued about there being a market balance. If there is a
balance, then displacement pressure will not occur. As technologies for
using land more efficiently becomes cheaper, subsistence farmers are
able to subsist on ever smaller (and therefore less expensive) plots of

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