RE: POL: Extropianism and Politics

Randall Randall (
Tue, 23 Mar 1999 12:37:51 -0500

I've lately thought that on Tue, 23 Mar 1999, Billy Brown wrote:
>Randall Randall wrote:

>A free market in weapons would probably result in lower prices, just like it
>does with anything else. However, it isn't going to make everything cheap.

No, but it will make devices with low material costs and manufacturing costs cheap. The most complex thing produced today is a microprocessor, and those *are* cheap.

>> >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.
>??? The Somalis killed a few soldiers, and the Clinton administration
>decided it didn't want bad press on the issue and pulled out. There was
>never any attempt to attack the warlords responsible, so it hardly counts as
>a war.

The point of that operation, I believe, was to restore State in an area where the local mini-States were having difficulty. Regardless of hype, the UN forces were supporting at least some of the warlords. I was in the US Army at that time, and some people from my unit (501st Signal Batt) went to Somalia -- they were confused, upon return, that family and friends thought that they'd been *looking* for a particular warlord, when in fact they'd been ferrying him around the country...

>Now, in a conflict between a big, low-tech country and a small, high-tech
>country I'd probably bet on the high-tech side. However, high technology
>tends to produce so much wealth that it is hard to find examples like that.
>The usual case is for one side to have better technology and a bigger

This is one reason why I believe that an anarchy will have no trouble defending themselves.

>> 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..
>No, its based on the arms race problem.
>Simply put, there is never a point at which military technology is 'good

Sure there is. No one has done research on more powerful explosives for some time, simply because we know hot to build high explosives (nukes) that are any desired size. This is an example of hardware that is good enough. The only exception, AFAIK, to this is computational power, which will be available in similar levels to everyone at low cost, as it is today.

>And BTW, the kind of systems I mentioned are not just computers.
>Military-grade sensors are better than anything in the civilian sector
>(except for scientific instruments, of course), and robotics are expensive
>anywhere. Also, the military version has to keep working after being shot,
>dropped, run over, rained on, and used as a hammer - all of which drives up
>costs considerably.

Another option is to have enough cheap tools to throw away the ones that get abused.

>Now, once again, I expect that a privatized system could produce better arms
>for less money than a government. However, that doesn't mean that arms
>would be cheap. Costs of some items might drop, but an intelligent military
>will opt for improved performance over reduced cost in almost all cases.

If they already have an unlimited budget, taken by force, yes. This begs the question, though. How is a ('til now) budget-conscious defense agency to spend all this money?

>This is true as far as it goes, but it ignores some crucial factors:
>1) In peacetime, an organization that does not plan to start a war has
>strong incentives to invest in productive resources instead of weapons.
>This tends to create divergent strategies, where peaceful groups maximize
>economic growth and warlike groups maximize military power.

Economic growth will be so much faster in an anarchy than in a State, that similar (in current dollars) military expenditures will be a smaller and smaller proportion of total wealth. This does produce a window of opportunity with current growth rates, admittedly. After five or ten years, however, I would expect the anarchy to be far more wealthy than the State.

>2) It takes time to convert economic power into military power. Raising an
>army takes years. Building a navy takes decades. Figuring out how to make
>your troops into a first-rate fighting force is along and uncertain process.

This depends on what you want. If you want a small, high-tech, high-auto- mation force to defeat a particular aggressor, it may not take so long.

>3) Warlike groups practice divide-and-conquer strategies. You don't attack
>the whole world at once. You pick some unpopular little group, and conquer
>them. Then you find another, and another, and another. If you're good at
>the game, you eventually pick off enough smaller groups to make the
>operation worthwhile. If not, your peaceful neighbors wise up and organize
>to oppose you.

Yes. This is why I am not sure that any of the current "free nation" projects

>4) Losses in wartime are not symmetrical. If my military is twice as
>as yours, and I invade your country, I can defeat 100% of
>your troops
>without loosing anywhere near 50% of mine (10% would be a
>more likely
>figure). If my advantage is even larger, my losses rapidly become

Note that a loosely organized local defense force is likely to lose fewer people, even if the invading force is better equipped. Cf Afganistan.

>5) Warlike groups don't have to show a profit. Market institutions must
>deliver a positive return on investment on a fairly consistent basis.
>Coercive institutions can show a net loss for years, and their only penalty
>is a lower rate of economic growth. In the long run this can be a fatal
>problem (witness the Soviet Union), but that is beyond the planning horizon
>of most despots. So, coercive institutions tend not to care if their
>operations are actually profitable.

If the conquering operation loses money consistently, it can never hope to conquer a significant portion of even the Earth, without collapsing. We no longer live in an era where empires can last...

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