RE: POL: Extropianism and Politics

Billy Brown (
Mon, 22 Mar 1999 09:07:26 -0600 wrote:
> Personally I prefer the fourth option: if government inevitably grows into
> a hideous monstrosity, then government is by nature bad and
> we should get rid of it.

I'm open to suggestions for getting rid of government. However, I do insist that any such proposal actually have a good chance of resulting in a better situation than what we would get with an intelligently designed limited government. Anarchist proposals are much more speculative than ideas for constitutional reform, which makes their actual results much more difficult to predict. Consequently, it would only be worthwhile to take a chance on such ideas if they seemed likely to give much better results.

Now, a limited constitutional republic can come fairly close to the libertarian ideal of complete personal liberty. If its powers are limited to law enforcement, national defense and foreign policy, it can provide a very high degree of freedom. It must still resort to compulsory taxation, but the actual tax burden can be quite small (maybe a few hundred dollars per person per year, or even less in peaceful times).

A successful anarchist scheme would offer very similar results. You would pay voluntary fees for police protection instead of taxes, but you would still have to pay. You would have a larger choice of legal regimes, but the kinds of laws we really care about wouldn't exist in either scheme. In principle you are somewhat more free, but in practice the difference in what you can do is fairly modest.

Now let's look at the down side. What would happen if our new society doesn't work out as planned?

With the limited government, the results are pretty predictable. The most likely result is a long, gradual erosion of constitutional restraints. After a few generations the level of freedom will have noticeably deteriorated, and in a few hundred years you might get something like modern-day America.

In contrast, the most likely failure mode of a controlled anarchy scheme is simple, uncontrolled anarchy. Those who have power take whatever they want from those who don't, which results in a society with all the problems of despotism and none of the advantages. Power groups coalesce fairly quickly, and fight it out for control of society. The end result is very unpredictable - you could get anything from a tolerant democracy to a totalitarian regime, and you can get it in a matter of a few years.

So summarize: pure anarchy is a monster far worse than all but the most oppressive of governments. Any scheme of controlled anarchy is a stroll along the edge of an abyss, with no past experience to guide our way. If it were the only path to freedom it might be worth the risk, but it isn't. We know how to achieve similar results with much less risk of disaster, and much better prospect for long-term stability.

> And given the kind of power than the technologies we discuss on
> this list would give to individuals, I have a hard time understanding why
> anyone would even consider that government will be a possibility for much
> longer. Even today, a small group of irate tax-payers could wipe out most
> of DC for a few million dollars; in a couple of decades, an individual
> should be able to do it as a project for a boring winter's evening.

I agree that we have problems here, but getting rid of government does nothing to solve them. Besides, the situation isn't nearly as bad as you seem to think (your irate group has to include some very rare specialists), and it is not at all clear that the problem is getting worse (sensors are improving much faster than destructive technologies, for example).

Billy Brown, MCSE+I