NANO meets Social Security & Natl. Debt [was: Outlawing drug speech!]

From: Robert J. Bradbury (
Date: Mon Feb 14 2000 - 10:35:55 MST

On Mon, 14 Feb 2000, Ross A. Finlayson wrote:

> If the government defaults on its debt, which is to some extent made up of
> T-bonds bought by the should-be Social Security escrow, then when that
> happens then there would be no more Social Security, and all of those
> citizens having given the government peacefully their FICA taxes in return
> for expectation of minimal retirement income would find themselves bereft.

That's my point, the way the system is setup, the government is promising
to take from the future generations to support the retirement of the current
(or past generations). Now, I believe they will worm out of this by allowing
an expansion of retirement accounts and a pseudo-privitization of the S.S.
system allowing you to manage your own retirement.

Now, if at some point the government hands you or sees the development of
an "almost anything" box forthcoming, then it may feel free to eliminate
social security. [It would have to substantially change the form anyway
because there may be *many* fewer people working. (see below).] Sure,
some people will be annoyed, but the government can point out that it
is no longer needed. Since much of the National Debt has been bought
by the S.S. trust funds, the accounts cancel each other out.

I'd like to see a breakdown of the fraction of the National Debt owed
to private citizens or corporations vs. the amount the government owes
the S.S. fund(s).

> I agree that growth is in a long term upswing, but planning on it is an
> invitation to inflation.

No!!! The huge productivity increases allowed by the "A.A." boxes
should prevent any inflation. The key thing is do you have *growth*
in excess of inflation. You might even get "deflation" because once
the "A.A." boxes make you one of everything you need, you aren't
going to be buying much in terms of raw materials.

> Properly directed government funding is that towards research and
> development, as far as I know the only indicator of increase in
> productivity, that is the rate of increase in productivity is
> linearly and positively linked to R&D.

Nope, we've discussed this before, the rate of increase in things
like Medline articles is exponential (with a moderately low exponent).
You can probably go back through the archives for last year and find
discussions by Robin or myself on this.

> Well, people will grow older, and be older longer. Social Security will
> have to be reformed, as is evidenced by rising retirement ages.

Yep, raise them now to make it "look" good and not send people into
a panic and then eliminate the entire program sometime down the road.

> Health care costs would be a rising burden, that would have to be solved.

That's why its important to distinguish between health care treatments
that "fix" problems (e.g. replacement organs or gene therapies) vs.
treatments that "manage" problem (e.g. drugs). You have to invest
in "fixes".

> At least by that time contemporary drug patents would be expired so that
> the government could be mandated to purchase "generic" drugs in the
> majority of necessary cases.

Yes, but you still want investments (public & private) in things that
eliminate problems on a long term basis. Think about a syn-immune
system that recognizes all known viruses and bacteria and deals with
them efficiently without causing things like septic shock (which
kills a fairly large number of people each year).

> Could you explain what you mean by "almost anything box" some more.
There are some recent articles in the archives discussing it.

Its basically a Star Trek type "home" replicator based on nanotechnology
(meaning it draws its energy from the sun, and most of its raw materials
from air, water and soil). It has the ability to synthesize all of
food you need, manufacuture parts for your air car, produce large numbers
of semi-intelligent house lego-bricks (for reconfigurable shelter), etc.
It isn't an "everything" box, because it will only assemble "approved"
designs (see the NANO thread on how you have good security re: what
is "approved").

Now, the National Debt debate becomes irrelevant at this point.
You don't want to pay it, move someplace else (another country,
the moon, etc.) Since IMO, people won't have to work for a living
the government can't tax your "wages" for the S.S. system. (Note:
Robin disagrees with this, see his papers & posts for discussion.)
So the whole structure you have now breaks down. Moravec thinks that
the governments worm their way out of this by taxing the production
of the robots (or perphaps the almost anything boxes). But because
of the mobility people will have, the governments are going to be
in very strong competition with each other to keep the taxes
relatively constrained. I'd be living on the floating ExtroIsland in
the Carribean with the 0.0001% tax rate (just enough to fund the free
parties the government hosts on Friday nights).

Taxes and national debts work *only* so long as you can "imprison"
the citizens. You can see that in Russia now. There are three
kinds of people -- Those who have left, those who are ripping off
the state (and plan to leave) and those who are unfortunately
too unaware to figure out how to leave. But the combination of
brain drain, capital flight and poor health care are going
drop the Russian population by several million over the next
decade. That will not change until they fix the tax system
and the bureaucracy so that its a place people want to live.

I suspect ultimately that governments are going to have to
vary their tax rates to reflect how pleasant it is to live
someplace. When people can live anywhere, Sweeden will *have*
to have a much lower tax rate than the Bahamas. Perhaps
the biggest barrier to people relocating (especially in an
information economy) is language. How long will that last
when you get "wearable" translators?

> If it is meaning a nanotech or transmuter or combination, whoever makes
> one will become rich.

True, and thats why people will fund companies to go in those directions.
However, once the boxes are available and everyone has one, then our
definitions for the meaning of the word "rich" become very very different.
In some respects it may become a meaningless concept. Once the
public-service foundations realize this, they will be pushing hard
to make these available. These are the "great levelers".


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