Re: The Politics of Transhumanism

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Thu Jan 10 2002 - 20:11:05 MST

My transhumanist lawyer-philosopher pal Russell Blackford, currently
unsubbed due to pressure of work and study, allowed me to fwd these useful
comments on Hal's interesting post:


Hal's post strikes me as deeply confused.

For a start, traditional libertarians believe in property rights, but these
are essentially laws excluding people and corporations from doing whatever
they like with someone else's "property". Property rights are a social
compromise that overrides my freedom to do whatever I want with whatever I
want, whenever I want. They may be a *good idea*, but they are still

More importantly, he doesn't distinguish between (1) the view that
libertarian "rights" (I deny that such a thing exists except where positive
rights are created by some kind of legal or quasi-legal system, but I'll
accept the word as shorthand) can sometimes be overridden for a good reason
and (2) the idea that they can always be overridden for any purpose at all.
He seems to think that because the social democrat is committed to the
former that this entails a commitment to the latter. At least that's the
only sense I can make of his post.

Real live social democrats are likely to think that there are all sorts of
good economic reasons for overriding liberty (though my suggestion is that
they are not overriding liberty at all, merely overriding property rights
which are, if anything, an exception to the presumption of liberty). I don't
see why the social democrat should not otherwise demand a very high
threshold before thinking the state is justified in interfering with what
people believe, say and do - including transforming and enhancing
themselves. Hence, there is every reason why a social democrat could be a
good transhumanist.


[he added later that he regarded as more important his comment
about social democrats being able to]
support a position similar to classical liberalism on non-economic issues,
rather than my comments on property rights. While I believe the latter, I
also realise that it (1) raises deep and complex issues in political and
legal philosophy that will never get resolved on the list and (2) it is a
red rag to a lot of the extropes. As for the former, it seems to me to be a
fact that social democrats have a reasonable record of defending individual
freedom. Maybe the libertarians could have done better but practical
alternative to date has been the socially conservative (often, but not
always, religious) right. There is the real enemy of freedom within Western


Damien Broderick

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