Re: Will the free market solve everything?

J. de Lyser (
Tue, 25 Feb 1997 13:59:45 +0100

Since my name is still in here, (for some mysterious reason that evades me,
as there are no quotes by me anymore), i'll jump in.

William Kitchen wrote:

>Imagine each individual as an op-amp. Those who are wealthy
>(positive) beyond a certain admittedly fuzzy threshold will tend to
>become more wealthy (extraordinary stupidity can change that, but
>I'm talking about a tendency, not an outcome that is certain in
>every case), while those below that threshold will tend to lose
>ground. The further you are from either side of that threshold, the
>less likely it is that you can cross it by your intelligence and
>effort alone (or lack thereof, in the case of crossing the threshold
>in the negative direction).

Which is why equal chances in education are so important. And which is also
why a zero starting position like Michael Suggests may not work, and where
a starting situation that lies on that fuzzy treshold might. Problem is you
can't accomplish something like that without redistributing wealth. Young
adults have no wealth, and are therefore all by definition under that
level. Taking money away from their parents is an option, but what the hell
is the justification for such a system ?

Topping off the results of peoples efforts, is the single most damaging
thing to motivation for productivity increase today. (Mind you that I'm
very much on the wrong side of that financial threshold myself, as i'm
still young)

In Europe exactly those social measures that where intended to redistribute
wealth, are seriously hurting the effective social mobility. Young people
who want to start businesses face a similar threshold, but one created by
obligatory social and healthcare insurances, value added tax, and income
tax which results in a bankruptcy ratio of two out of three the first year.

>Would this be an area where the traditional a-c opposition to
>welfare might be relaxed?

Social security was intended to be a 'catching net' for people who fall
through the mazes of the system, it has completely lost that function.
Money should be spent on re-educating people, helping people help
themselves, not on keeping the pressure off the stability of the political
system. This is Populism instead of social feeling.

>Society does not owe anyone a living, but it does owe everyone an
>opportunity to be productive and to be fairly rewarded for that
>productivity. Proposing the idea that society "owes" anyone
>anything will probably ruffle some feathers, but consider: There is
>little purpose in constructing a society of any kind if not for the
>benefit of the members of that society.

Seeing the benefit that any productive individual contributes to the rest
of us, i view the loss of such an individual and his possible contribution,
as a loss to society. On that basis i feel the rest of us should feel
'responsible' to some degree for that individuals chances for success.

Besides providing education, theres the ethical question of not letting
people starve to death, which i feel is a moral responsability, but it
shouldn't go much further than food and shelter. (i'm not quite out of the
medication part, as illness is not societies fault in any way, should it be
it's moral responsability ? I like to think it is, but i haven't found a
justification for it yet)

If such a vision (that of the responsability for chances of success) is not
shared, then why do we have children ? what is the reason to continue the
human race ? Or is this maybe exactly why some of us seek life extension ?
To rather be a big fish that owns the small ocean it lives in forever, than
a little fish owning just part of the big ocean ? In other words: what is
more important ? The more rapid growth of ones personal property or the
(even) more rapid growth of the ocean ?

>> This is a decent idea so long as you don't propose taking wealth
>> away from people.

Exactly. In cases where market solutions cannot be found, we should at
least *consider* auto-financing ones (non profit, but cost-covering)
Non-profit, auto-financing institutions are doing very well in free market
systems, and are subjected to the same rules of that free market. Moreover,
anything one can come up with against them, based on unfair competition
etc, severely limits the individuals choice not to make profit. It could be
the perfect alternative to adapt altruistic or human/emotional tendencies
to rational, market based systems.

The fact that this option is so undervalued here, doesn't surprise me, but
i can't help but be negative about the fact that so little effort has been
made to find alternatives and second options. Dogmatism or extreme future
optimism ?, the second is to be respected, but the boundries can be vague

>However, I cannot say that taking wealth away is unacceptable in
>every possible case. If an economy becomes so imbalanced that one
>man owns everything, do the rest of us simply starve to death? Such
>a situation would most likely be corrected by a violent revolution.
>Probably well before it became that extreme. So when should the
>killing start? 20% with 80% of the wealth? 10% with 90%? 1% with
>99%? One guy with everything?

I'm still very positive that a system can be found that avoids such
(dangerous) imbalances, without the need for redistributing wealth. And
maybe even without the need for a state, and definitely without one that
the individuals (are forced to) pay for.

One of the positive characteristics of a free market is that it would
boost economic growth enourmously, and the effects of even a growing
imbalance, would diminish greatly. The way i see it conditions for this are
a guaranteed coninued economic growth, population growth (educated) , and
(continued) human expansion beyond it's current habitat (space- colonialism
?). One flaw in the system that halts this (like a limit ?), and the walls
come crumbling down though. That's when we need the alternatives you (and
i) proposed, or preferably built in security measures that deal effectively
(and coordinated, but exclusively for this) with crisis situations.

>Put aside your distaste for
>taxation for a moment and contemplate the outcome of this: A 100%
>post-mortem tax, but no other.

I proposed it myself a few weeks back (in the thread that lead to a thread,
that lead to this one), toyed with the idea, allthough not as radically as
you have. And came to this conclusion:

1) Why should the individuals power over his worldly posessions or his
property end at death ? The individual is the one that aquired it,
shouldn't he be the one to decide what happens to it ?

One great thing about extropianism and transhumanist movements is that it
tends to reject the powers nature (and all other) holds over the
individual. Should it not be a beautiful thing for that rejection to
include the loss of the power over ones property at death ?

2) Extropianism pursues eternal life and life extension, viewed not only in
this light, but also in the light of an ever increasing population growth,
the system you propose would be like throwing water on a hot plate.

Allthough i do not agree that everything proposed (yet) for a free market
system will work, i have come to the realization that any solutions for
problems left unanswered, must come from, or be adapted to the same
background, the same set of ideas and laws, that are inherent to the
theory, as much as possible, in order for it to work.

Finding solutions, and proposing to implement them in ways that directly
oppose the basis of such a system, has been my initial (and occasionally
still repeated) error as well.

J. de Lyser

>I realize that the possibility of extended lifespans screws up this
>scenario, but it is interesting to think about none the less.
> Peace,
> William Kitchen
>The future is ours to create.