RE: POL: Extropianism and Politics

Randall Randall (
Tue, 23 Mar 1999 02:02:14 -0500

I've lately thought that on Mon, 22 Mar 1999, Billy Brown wrote:
>Randall Randall wrote:
>> The problem with this statement is that technology seems to be
>> moving in direction of more power for the individual. That is, a
>> large group of well-tained people is not significantly more capable
>> than a single person, when sufficiently high technology is had by
>> both sides. One hidden person with a fiber-guided missile is
>> approximately equal to a tank with three crew.
>This is an important issue, since the answer determines a lot about what we
>can expect to happen in the event of rebellion, oppression, and other
>unpleasant circumstances. It is also pretty important to the question of
>whether PPAs are even possible, and whether they are prone to becoming

Yes, I agree with that.

>With industrialization the trend really picked up steam. More and better
>technology was applied to warfare, resulting in a proliferation of
>expensive, specialized equipment. An military force equipped with heavy
>weapons, tanks, artillery and aircraft can easily defeat any imaginable
>unarmed mob. Armed civilians, who are limited to relatively inexpensive
>weapons, are at a severe disadvantage. It is true that man-portable weapons
>can sometimes defeat more expensive hardware (as in the case of a man with
>an anti-tank rocket), but these weapons are themselves rather expensive
>(think thousands to tens of thousands of dollars).

Note that the high cost of these weapons is purely a function of limited supply. I think it would be fairly easy to design such a man-carried missile to be mass manufactured for less than a thousand; no government would be pleased with this operation, though... In a free society, such things could be as common as .380 autos are now.

>At the same time, the complexity of military operations has increased
>enormously. Where once it was possible for a militia to grab their weapons
>and march straight to the battlefield, it now takes months of training to
>form a group of reservists into an effective unit. Civilians, even armed
>ones, would likely need a year or two of preparation to learn the
>intricacies of modern logistics, fire support, air operations, etc.

Eh? No one needs this to defend his house. If it were apparent that a standing force of some sort was necessary, people would pay for a private company to train one. I'm not trained to be a police detective, either, but I don't need to be one to defend my home individually, and if I do need one for something, I can call my crime insurance company (police force). It may be more efficient, in general, for a police company to also be a mass defense company, but probably not, IMHO.

>Today it is virtually impossible to defeat a modern army in conventional
>warfare unless you have one yourself.

Not so. The Somalis effectively defeated the force sent there in the early 1990s...the trick is to cause losses while making it clear that it will go on indefinitely.

>Getting a modern army requires much
>larger investments than any private effort is likely to be capable of - the
>minimum size would seem to call for several hundred thousand full-time
>personnel and an investment of hundreds of billions of dollars. If you have
>two different forces that both fall below that scale, the bigger one will
>have a dramatic advantage in combat.

I disagree that this is so. Iraq had the fourth largest army in the world in 1990. We sent a trivial force, in comparison, and it was higher technology, not numbers, that made the difference.

>Guerilla warfare has been shown to be fairly effective so long as the
>insurgents have access to safe havens and outside funding. However, where
>both of these conditions are not met they generally fail. Lack of safe
>havens means they have nowhere to train recruits, stockpile supplies, and
>plan strategy. Lack of outside funding means they rapidly run out of money,
>and will never be able to afford the weapons they need to win a battle. It
>is also worth mentioning that most insurgents in the 20th century have been
>fighting third-world governments which themselves were too poor to afford a
>modern military.

>In the future, we should reasonably expect these trends to continue. There
>are far more things a military might want to buy than they are ever likely
>to be able to afford. The near future will see the introduction of
>autonomous recon drones, robotic weapons, cheap precision munitions,
>automated surveillance systems, and many other expensive,
specialized sorts
>of hardware.

Hah! Gotcha. All of this stuff is predicated on computational power. Computers are so cheap (and falling) that this sort of equipment is expensive only due to scarcity. The cost of manufacture is low, compared to many electronic gadgets that people routinely buy.

>An organization that can afford to buy such equipment, and
>that trains enough to learn to use it effectively, will have a decisive
>advantage over anyone who does not do likewise. In the industrial age,
>warfare of any kind favors the deepest pockets.

There is another point, here, too. Any population that is slated for conquering is likely to have deeper pockets than the conquerer, for two reasons: one, the conquerer must feel that he will get his money back, or it wouldn't be worth it to try (no one can lose money indefinitely, after all), and two, while the conquerer is willing to spend some portion of his own wealth to get the conquered area, he cannot be willing to spend as much as the area in question will be willing to spend to keep him out. That is, I would be willing to use up all my wealth to keep someone from stealing my wealth. This is the rationale behind many wealthy people's actions of giving away more than they would have to pay in taxes, to reduce the amount paid in taxes.

Wolfkin. | Libertarian webhost?
On a visible but distant shore, a new image of man;
The shape of his own future, now in his own hands.-- Johnny Clegg.