Re: POL: Extropianism and Politics

Michael Lorrey (
Wed, 24 Mar 1999 02:03:33 -0500

Billy Brown wrote:

> Randall Randall wrote:
> > 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.
> The high cost of military hardware is due to two factors: intrinsic
> complexity and small manufacturing runs. An anti-tank missile is a more
> complicated machine than a rifle, so it will naturally be more expensive.
> Tanks, aircraft and other very high-cost items are also produced in
> relatively small numbers, which drives up costs by making manufacturing
> inefficient.
> 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.
> > 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..
> Depends on what the threat is. My point is that a force of 1,000 men with
> combined-arms equipment can easily defeat 50,000 individuals armed with
> rifles.

Funny, it didn't work in Vietnam, nor did it work in Afghanistan. It may work on 50,000 'summer soldiers' who are easy to deceive with government propaganda, but most people in this country aren't pushovers like the patsies in the cities.

> Unless civilian morale is very high, they can also terrorize
> several hundred thousand people into submission (we have to remember, most
> people are *not* willing to die for their freedom).

If they aren't willing to die for their own freedom, how about for the freedom of their families? Anyone who has nothing worth dying for has nothing worth living for (paraphrasing Martin Luther King Jr.).

> This is an important
> point to remember when you start looking at what a State or a rogue PPA
> could do.
> > >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.

Nor is the requirement of 'conventional war' necessary or applicable. Removing a tyrannical government with force obviously necessitates an unconventional insurgency.

> > 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..

It was better tactics and an abdication of air superiority long before the ground war started that won that war.

> The important measure of size is money, not people. In the modern world you
> will run out of money long before you run out of people.
> An organization with more money to spend can afford more R&D, more
> specialized equipment and better training. With modern technology the
> number of things you could productively spend money on is far larger than
> anyone's pocket book, so money tends to be the limiting factor.
> 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
> economy.

I bet on the low tech country, provided the low tech population is not a nation of cowards.

> > >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..
> No, its based on the arms race problem.
> Simply put, there is never a point at which military technology is 'good
> enough'. You want your equipment to be better than what your opponent has,
> and vice versa. Civilian buyers want to buy hardware in the 'sweet spot'
> where cost efficiency is maximized. Military buyers want hardware just shy
> of the bleeding edge, so they will have an advantage over anyone who doesn't
> choose the same option.

It depends on the marginal utility. Military buyers are looking much more to using equipment that is first available on the consumer market. The ground sensors for trip wires and mindfields are far better and cheaper on the civilian market, because civilians use the same technology for tracking wildlife, and for private surveillance. Moreover military contracts are overbid by several hundred percent, while spare parts contracts are 1000% or more overbid. Civilian products are priced at competetive market rates, so they get more bang fo the buck.

> 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.

I can buy night vision scopes for between $200-$800 depending on types, night vision goggles for $400 or less in the latest generation, and a rifle mounted night vision scope for around $1000. I can also buy NATO rated tactical personal body armor (45 layers of kevlar and titanium) for under $5000. I can buy encrypted radio systems with 2-10 mile ranges for a couple hundred bucks a set.

As for air defense systems, an EMP based terminal air defense system could be made that will work with tactical aircraft for a couple hundred hours of work and surplus electric company equipment. (scaling up the EMP device I made ten years ago.) Once Serbia gets wasted, Mikoyan-Gureyevich will be trying to shop its MIG-29s for a couple hundred thousand bucks again, as they were a few years ago. Were you aware that almost 10% of the military grade fighter planes operational in the US now happen to be privately owned?

The military is increasingly looking to civilian products, from radio controlled aircraft for tactical UAV's, to high-end consumer ATV 4x4 vehicles, to jet boats, and the gear that SEALs prefer is ALL on the consumer market.

> 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.
> > There is another point, here, too. Any population that is slated for
> > conquering is likely to have deeper pockets than the conqueror, 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..
> 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.

So thats how we got to be where we are at today, while Japan is in the pits.... sorry, I didn't notice that we disbanded the military here.

> 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.

The easiest fighting force to train is a group of local partisan insurgents. They already know the terrain, they know and gain sympathy from the locals, and they are trained in wilderness survival since childhood. Modern armies take time to train because they are manned by city boys from the ghettos who think Central Park is the great outdoors....

> 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.

Depends. The government here has been practicing divide and conquer politics for so long, with studied, gradual imposition of this little sacrifice of freedom here, a bit there, and pretty soon the government is a tyrant and nobody noticed when it happened, and most still don't notice they've been enslaved.

> 4) Losses in wartime are not symmetrical. If my military is twice as good
> 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 trivial.

If your home population is not seeing any benefit from their boys being shot to hell, even when your government controls the media, you will still lose. Afghanistan.

> 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.

Agressor governments must show a market value gain in either face, territory, resources, what have you, for the expense in equipment and lives. The market value as perceived by the public will change over time depending on the effectiveness of the propaganda organs of the two sides.

   Michael Lorrey, President
                        Lorrey Systems
"A society which trades freedom for some measure of security
shall wind up with neither."   -----Benjamin Franklin

"The tree of Liberty should be watered from time to time
with the blood of tyrants and patriots."
                               -----Thomas Jefferson
"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security
of a Free State, the Right of the People to keep and bear
arms shall not be infringed."  -----US Constitution,
                                    2nd Amendment
"You can have my gun when you pry it out of my cold, dead
hands..."                      -----Anonymous

"Once we got their guns away from them, taking their
money was REAL easy."          -----Unknown North Korean