RE: POL: Extropianism and Politics

Billy Brown (
Mon, 22 Mar 1999 12:15:41 -0600 wrote:
> Hardly. David Friedman makes some very strong game theory arguments for
> his anarcho-capitalist ideas producing a stable society thru negative
> feedback, whereas any kind of government has positive feedback loops; if
> the government takes more power it can more easily take power in future.
> The whole point of anarcho-capitalism is that it doesn't have a 'likely
> failure mode', because it has negative-feedback systems which begin to
> act any time that the system starts to move from a stable
> state. This is why I, as an engineer, like it.

I refer to anarcho-capitalist schemes as 'speculative' because nothing like them has ever been tried before. Game theory is not capable of predicting the operation of an entire human society, and neither is any other existing branch of science. Work like David Friedman's can give us clues about what kinds of institutions might or might not work, but the results can not be considered definitive. As an engineer, you should know that theory is no substitute for experience.

As for failure modes, I think you need to consider the issue in more detail. Anarcho-capitalism relies on complex market mechanisms to restrain the initiation of the use of force by PPAs and other power groups. If these mechanisms fail, or if they turn out not to work in practice, there is simply nothing left to back them up.

You might expect the existence of an armed populace to make a difference, but it doesn't. History has many, many examples of armed populations and their behavior in the face of various degrees of anarchy. The intelligent thing for each individual to do in such a situation is to band together with his neighbors for mutual defense. The interaction of these local defense groups rapidly results in the creation of many small, government-like entities, which will mutate into real governments as soon as someone starts shooting.

> Uh, they do seem likely to give much better results. That's why many of
> us here think they're a good idea; or did, since a lot of the anarchists
> on the list seem to have dropped out in the last few months of statist
> invasion.

If you mean "better than modern-day America" then I certainly agree with you. But my point is that it is possible to accomplish almost all of the same goals without needing to resort to such drastic measures.

> For one or two generations, if that; then it's doomed because the system
> contains the seeds of its own downfall.

And anarcho-capitalism will live forever? For all we know, it leads inevitably to some new form of despotism. Now, you're certainly welcome to give it a try if you like - for that matter, I'll even help you get it going (I'm curious whether it could be made to work). However, I don't see that it can give me anything that makes the extra risk worthwhile.

> Why would you have to pay? If you don't want police 'protection' you just
> buy a gun or two and protect yourself. That's not an option in a
> system... and anyway, private protection will be a lot cheaper than
> compulsory tax-funded government 'protection'.

This is the kind of naiveté that gives anarcho-capitalism a bad name. You can't protect yourself. If you aren't signed up with a PPA, you are a legitimate target for anyone who finds it worthwhile to rob, kill and/or enslave you. If significant numbers of people choose this option, some organization will soon develop to exploit their lack of protection. Any such group will quickly learn how to field trained, organized teams of soldiers to do their dirty work, which means a lone man with a gun is essentially helpless.

> Sorry? What? Huh? Where do you get that idea from?

>From my definitions - I'm comparing the ideal anarcho-capitalist society
with an ideal limited government. An ideal limited government would have laws against theft, fraud, assault, murder, and a few other such crimes, plus tax evasion. A typical PPA would have a similar code, minus the tax evasion (but if you don't pay up, you loose your protection). The anarchist approach gives you some options on the details, but there is no reason for the big picture to differ by much.

> >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.
> Only if you assume that a couple of hundred million well-armed anarchists
> are just going to stand aside and hand over their money to a few thugs.

I'm not assuming, I'm quoting history. The well-armed citizens *are* the thugs. On of the most perverse effects of simple anarchy is that it gives everyone strong incentives to act like a criminal, and punishes those who do not.

> >So summarize: pure anarchy is a monster far worse than all but the most
> >oppressive of governments.
> So name a few anarchists who've killed tens of millions of their own
> people on a whim? I didn't think you could.

Despotism gives us one man who kills ten million people. Anarchy gives us ten million people who each kill one man. Which do you think is worse?

> Oh, the horror! Life might be different to the way it is today! Gosh, I'm
> so scared! Please Big Mummy, protect me from the evil anarchists and their
> ungodly 'freedom'!

If you are actually interested in a productive discussion, I suggest you refrain from ad hominem attacks. The fact that I do not believe your methods will work does not imply that I disagree with your goals.

In fact, I would very much like to see a society without government of any sort. However, after considerable study of the subject, I have reluctantly concluded that this goal probably cannot be achieved by gaussian humans. Attempting to replace naked force with subtle market mechanisms is a far more complex project than is commonly appreciated, especially in light of the need for long-term stability.

Now, if you want to gamble with your own life, feel free. But there are tens of millions of people who want real freedom, but don't wish to join you. For their sake, and that of the billions who have not even come that far, I think the taming of government is a worthwhile project.

> I'm not saying that getting rid of government would save DC; I'm saying
> that government cannot survive in a future with the kinds of technologies
> we talk about, unless it becomes a Borganism with complete control over
> ever member of that society.

If government is really doomed, and removing government doesn't solve the problem, then all of society is doomed.

This is a complex topic that has nothing to do with the topic of the thread. I suggest that we either take it to a different thread or let it die.

Billy Brown, MCSE+I