Re: One humanity, all in the same boat

From: Peter C. McCluskey (
Date: Tue Jan 29 2002 - 09:41:11 MST (Chris Hibbert) writes:
>I don't see anything to disagree with here. Do you want to try further to
>convince me that competition is mostly bad?

 Not that the net effects are mostly bad, but that most competition includes
negative effects which we can imagine are sometimes avoidable.

> Or that "we" should do something
>about it?

 If "we" means people who selflessly care about the wellbeing of the
average person, then I'm saying we should weigh the negative effects when
deciding our political attititudes, in much the same way we should be
weighing other negative effects such as pollution.

>> > That's why life is so much better for everyone, including the worst off.
>> We can easily observe that some people are worse off than they were 10 or
>> 20 years ago, by observing the efforts they make to avoid changes.
>I'm not disputing that there are short term ups and downs. Is there something
>we (or the government) should do differently because of that?

 One thing that we (extropians) ought to do differently is to base our
predictions of future opposition to new technologies on the assumption
that such opposition will be motivated by expected harm (as opposed to the
nearly useless hypothesis of stupidity that is somewhat popular here), and
to criticise luddites as selfish rather than as stupid people.

>Perhaps if we require that those aristocrats consider the possibilities from
>behind Rawls' "veil of ignorance"
>( they'd agree that people are
>better off, even though the aristocrats (being in the aristocracy) had nowhere
>to go but down.

 Yes. I want to emphasize the difference between this and saying that
everyone is better off.

>Fine. I wouldn't have argued for an objective answer. But it seemed clear to
>me that most here (including you) would have agreed that people who know how
>to make buggy whips don't lose anything objective (anything they should be
>compensated for by the government or anything they should be able to sue for

 I do think they lose something objective, much like what a copyright holder
loses when a copyright expires. The existence of an objective loss doesn't
imply the existence of someone who ought to compensate the loser. A system
of compensation might cause less harm than some of the trade barriers that
governments create to protect jobs, but a better approach would be to create
futures markets whose prices communicate future wages in particular industries
and enable employees to hedge some of their risks.

>> It [...] seems to
>> be a symptom of the belief that because free markets are better than the
>> alternatives, we should ignore problems associated with them.
>I don't believe I've said that we should ignore such problems. If anyone
>That's fine. I don't mind if you work on that. I'm not bothered by the
>negative externalities. I think the positive externalities at least
>compensate, broadly speaking.

 Being not bothered by negative externalities sounds a lot like ignoring
them. Maybe that's appropriate when the negative externalities are an
inevitable consequence of what creates the positive ones, but in many
cases I doubt the connection between the two is inevitable.

>That seems like a remarkably precise estimate. Even if I assume that it's a
>ballpark number, what's the argument that reducing copyright duration from 4
>years to 3 (minus an "or so") would significantly increase society's level of equality?

 It sure looks to me like copyrights create some payments which make a small
number of very successfull authors and actors quite rich, and I don't see
any offsetting egalitarian effects.
 I don't know whether the net effect on equality would be significant,
but as long as there exists a point at which the marginal costs and
benefits of the other effects add up to zero, then any nonzero egalitarian
effect will have a nonzero effect on where the optimum lies.

>I wouldn't want people to lose interest in further wealth. If someone has
>earned 10s of millions of dollars by satisfying some desire of other people, I
>don't think we benefit by convincing her that she should stop doing so. We
>might arguably benefit by convincing her that she doesn't need to earn 100 or
>1000 times what her employees do in order to tell that she's still
>contributing something valuable.

 I like this way of phrasing it.

Peter McCluskey          | Free Jon Johansen! | 

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