Re: Justice and Punishment

den Otter (
Tue, 7 Apr 1998 11:22:14 +0200

> From: Anton Sherwood <>

> > > From: Dan Fabulich <>
> And why wouldn't this sentimentality be at least as effective in keeping
> smaller, commercially competitive forces in check, as it was in keeping
> (say) the KGB honest?

Because these smaller forces will probably be more like mercenary armies, and
these have less inhibitations when it comes to molesting the populace.

> > > den Otter, your state has a military, yes? What's going to stop it from
> > > squishing your exquisite statecraft, cutting out the electronic
> > > surveillance (at least on themselves) and surpressing the masses?
> >
> > Yes, my system would have a military, but this would not be the only armed
> > force in the empire. There would have to be several, to provide the necessary
> > balance. ...
> But all ultimately under the same command, unlike PPAs.

Yes, the system relies heavily on the competence and benevolence of
the leader (but of course he'll be elliminated by someone if he does too
outrageous things, so that's a safety). However, the president or
emperor or whatever you want to call this guy would have been selected
for competence, stability and basically a lack of thirst for power. You
want someone who does his duty but doesn't enjoy it _too_ much.
Some people on the list, like Anders for example, might qualify
(I think) ;-)

The system is more or less a constitutional monarchy, but not a hereditary
one. If it works you have a new age of enlightenment, if it fails...well, you
can always try anarcho-capitalism.

> > We have minimum wage because if you would go much lower people would be
> > starving. ...
> Who would accept a wage that doesn't pay for the food to supply enough
> energy to go to work??

That's the way it often was in ye olde days (still in this century, mind you),
and that's the way it *still* is in many 3rd world and even not-so-3rd-world
countries around the globe. Many people simply don't have a choice
(or at least they firmly belief that they don't have a choice) and those who
can't add to their insufficient income by such things as begging, stealing
& hustling will ultimately get too weak to work and die.

> You can't legislate a living wage. You can only forbid people to accept
> a wage that you think is too low. How on earth does that benefit them?
> How is it better to have NO wages than to be working for less than the
> average politician would accept?

Actually, it's not that bad: minimum wage means that corporations, shops etc.
with a (high profile) reputation to hold up will pay more than they would other-
wise to their workers (think Mc Donalds and such), and that those who are
willing to work for less can still sneak into a sweatshop or some other kind
of "illegal" work. Otherwise, more people would be badly paid then today;
companies need a minimal x amount of workers, and minimum wage is the
difference between 10 reasonably paid workers or 30 badly underpaid workers.
So those who *do* have a legit job benefit directly, and those who don't can
still find (illegal) work anyway.

> > Indeed, automation can make prizes drop, but if stuff gets so cheap you can
> > sell it for virtually nothing, then why not give it away for free all the same?
> Indeed, why not? The necessities of life may well be given away as
> advertising. But let's not tear down a very functional system (trade)
> on the chance that such might happen, hm?

In a system with practically-for-free production of certain kinds of food and
other basic stuff that's then handed out for free or extremely little there
still can be free trade in anything you want. The only difference is that
since you can't outcompete the gov in the "basics" sector, you'd have
to focus on "luxury goods" (anything else) to make of profit. There isn't
a real *monopoly* on the "basics", it's just that there is no money to
be made anymore in this field. The food factories etc. could even be
maintained with revenues from national (state) lotteries and such, so
that people aren't taxed for the benefit of others. This is a very market-
oriented state I have in mind...

> > Besides, a lot of people would otherwise simply have to beg to get even
> > those couple of bucks in a highly automated world, because virtually no-one
> > would want unreliable and inefficient people working for them if they can get
> > a cheap, trustworthy and super-efficient robot.
> Assuming robots can supply ALL services ...

Sooner or later, they will. If you'd push full speed ahead you could probably
elliminate the vast majority of "dumb" jobs within one or two decades. Why
get rid of these job opportunities? Because machines, when properly
programmed, are a lot more reliable, cheaper and generally user-friendly
than people. Right now too much of our infrastructure depends on
dimwits with red tendencies. I'd rather have them at home, well-fed
and having fun with VR.

> > > Uhm... how do you measure the quality of a psychological profiler?
> >
> > By the number of screw-ups he makes (how many people that were deemed
> > "OK" by him turned out to be inadequate ?)
> Okay, and who gets to decide which politicians are "inadequate"?

There are no more politicians in the usual sense. There's just the emperor
(well, let's call him that for the moment), the supreme court and various
other controlling organs. Yes, there could be parlaiment or some other
gathering of the people's represetatives, but I'd prefer direct electronic
voting (referendum) on important issues. The outcome isn't binding, but
a smart ruler won't go against the people's wishes *too* often.

The adequacy test is meant for government employees (especially in
important functions) and whether or not someone is inadequate can
be determined in exactly the same way as is done in corporations
etc. The new state is largely designed as a company, but one with
certain ideological motives.

> Oy vey. If anarcho-capitalism depends on everybody's goodwill, so
> what? If that's a serious flaw then we're in deep trouble, because
> DAILY LIFE IN ANY SYSTEM depends on everybody's goodwill to the same
> degree. Every single person in several counties is betting that I (and
> the rest of our neighbors) won't steal a car tonight and go burn their
> house down.

Oh really, well I guess we don't need the police then. Or PPAs for that
matter. Hey, all's cool if you can trust your fellow man. Needless to say,
it ain't so, we *don't* trust eachother and have good reason for it too.
The state is a product of the fact that on one hand we need a lot of
co-operation to thrive, while at the other hand we don't trust eachother
very much. The state is the context wherein civilization can exist.
PPAs are basically just small, weak states, and will therefore have
more limited means to uphold law and order (not to mention a
pleasant environment).

You can't compare any present security agency to a PPA btw, because
they play on a field that's maintained by the nation state. Once they
(and/or their customers) have no longer Big Brother to fall back on in
times of trouble, they might be in for a really hard time. You only realise
something's importance when it's gone.

> Where power is dispersed, no one person is much of a threat, and there
> are balances to every plausible threat. Where power is concentrated,
> the opposite is true.

In reality, no state on earth has enough power to just do anything with
its people, and the politicians know it. As long as you need them for
maintaining the system you can't just kill them. Only a Power is
fully independent (and that's why it is likely that humanity is finished
when we reach that stage).

Also, in anarchy there *may* be a better balance of power, so the chances
that a _big_ dictator kills you may be smaller, but the chances that a
"local" one will do it, or just any guy with a gun, are far greater. In any
case, anarchy inevitably leads to structure, and structure leads to
centralism. Why not skip the decades or centuries of little wars and
annexations and go right to the final product?

> Or by taking power away from the politicians; private parties, spending
> their own money, have no reason to take bribes.

Wherever there's an organized structure of some kind and capitalism, there will
be bribes.

> > Sure, but if you like it, it probably wasn't crap in the first place. I meant
> > *real* crap, like food so full of conservatives that you'll develop cancer
> > over time, or a television set with lousy sound etc.
> There are civil remedies for such things. Political control over the
> market cannot prevent them; it can only ensure that they happen more
> often.

Civil remedies still depend on a government to enforce them. Besides,
"political control over the market" doesn't have to the communist kind
of meddling, it can simply mean that useful new products may get some
extra help, and that there's a state-sanctioned "seal of quality" so that
you know what products meet minimum standards, or are outright good,
at a single glance. Products don't *have* to have this seal (and the testing
that comes with it), but buying them is at your own risk of course, while
products backed by the state entitle you to damages & refunds etc, in
case of a failure. The damages etc. are split between state (and have
financial repercussions for the responsible government workers) and
the producer of the goods. This way, everybody is motivated to deliver
a quality service. Of course today's "lawyerculture" would have to be
pruned back, no more damages 'cause you slipped over a coke bottle
in your own home or something silly like that. It has to be *real* damage,
and frauds will be prosecuted to the full extend of the law -- and beyond ;-)

> > > >I'm quite sure your PPAs would either
> > > >be a minority from the start (the rest being totalitarian clans, citystates
> > > >full- blown countries)
> > >
> > > Not if it takes place through a slow period of privitization.

Somewhere there must be a breaking point where politicians are no
longer in control. Yes, it could work out OK, but it will be quite hard
to dismantle such a venerable tradition. And what will happen to
all the former gov employees, who will get the army hardware, the
_nukes_ etc. Who will get the White House? Bill Gates? Does he
buy the nukes too (wholesale style), and a couple o' carriers too
when he's at it? Of course he would have to share with some other
wealthy folks, and maybe he would be poor by then, but in any case
I can well imagine a Russian scenario where former politicians and
bureaucrats sneak back under different "names" into the positions
of power, packed with cash made from the privatization process.
Also I can imagine all sorts of mafia types having a ball, no longer
hampered by even token government intervention. What is stopping
them from creating a new order under a different name and sucking
the people dry in only slightly different ways. Will the raw intellect
and bold dedication of Jack the Lad be able to stop them? Uh oh...

And then there's the problem that the transition from governments to
a free market world can never happen all over at the same time. Some
areas will simply be left out, and without western backing any hint
of fair rule will quickly fade from the less developed countries all over
the world. Their dictators will be quite interested in all the formerly
classified hardware and expertise that suddenly hits the market.
Saddam: "bring on the nukes! I have oil, you have weapons and
people to operate them -- we trade". Ok, business is business.

> Indeed, the transition is a delicate period. Best to disarm the
> politicians NOW so they won't be tempted. ;)

Oh, I fully agree! :-)

> But I'll take a risky transition to anarchy in preference to the nice
> orderly march toward slavery that we're on now.

Slavery? Isn't that overstating it a bit? Oh, by the way (although you might
have thought otherwise when reading my anti-anarchy rantings) I *welcome*
anarchy. I see chaos as a challenge, a job opportunity if you will. It's the
other people that have a problem...

> What if we buy off the politicians? Tell them: "You deserve to be
> taken out and shot, but that's a lot of trouble, so instead we're going
> to give you all the gold you can carry, and a one-way ticket to any
> other continent."

Hmm, what continent would that be? And guess who its new rulers would
be? Besides, we *will* buy them out, in a way, like the Russian people did
with their politicians (only, those stayed of course).

> > They may not really like it, but looking through history that appears to be
> > the way things sooner or later turn out.
> And one could equally well say, looking through history, that sooner or
> later people get richer and more free. Every cycle has a top and a
> bottom. All we can hope for, I suppose, is to make the top come sooner
> and last longer.

We don't have much time, so better make this a quick one. And watch out
for those nukes!

> Around here, I often see stickers on shop windows saying "protected by
> XYZ Security" - some private firm which, when it hears an alarm, sends a
> couple of goons. And it's not the same firm whose sticker is on the
> shop next door. It helps if such firms are friendly with each other,
> but they obviously needn't have all the business in town.

There is a major difference between present-day security firms and PPAs,
since the former work within the framework that's maintained by the
state, and the latter *are* the state. The main reason why you can have
competing security firms working in relative harmony on the same turf
is because they would get busted by Big Brother if they tried to "take"
a region by force, and kicked out the competition. With BB gone, it's
a whole new ballgame. It's not unlikely that criminal organizations, no
longer able to profit from illegal drug trade after the state's demise,
would be among the first PPAs. A couple of gangs, or devisions of the
same gang, could devide a city and treat the people in it more like
slaves than as customers.

> Why would they [the military] suddenly become less ethical if they shared the
> business with other firms?

Because the military as we know it would be gone in anarcho-capitalism (who's
going to pay for a huge standing army that offers no direct protection), and the
new PPA enforcers would generally be of a different breed than the patriotic
young men in the regular army. I'm not saying that *all* PPAs would have to
turn bad, but I do think that large areas (especially in regions where democracy
either never existed or doesn't have a strong tradition) would be lost to gangs
of thugs that don't even bother to keep up the appearance of "company".

This means that most 3rd world countries, the eastern block, arabic countries
and some regions of western countries would (re)lapse into totalitarianism. Some
of these new nation states or bands of thugs would probably get big enough,
and crazy enough, to be a threat to the areas controlled by bonafide PPAs.
The most logical reaction by the PPAs would be to consolidate their area
before it falls to religious fundamentalism or whatever, meaning that they
would start to behave like a real state, complete with their own turf and
probably taxes etc.

> > Greater size usually means greater stability. To give an example, streetgangs
> > fight all the time, while big governments only fight sporadically, and since the
> > advent of nukes the major ones even don't fight at all.
> How silly of the Afghans not to recognize the advantages of size and
> stability.

Well, the Afghans are an extremely silly people, aren't they. And ironically,
they support my case a lot better than yours: when the centralist communists
ruled the region life was, in the cities at least, a lot better than it is now.
As soon as the regime fell the bands of thugs that fought it turned on eachother
and on the population, and after some very destructive fighting the meanest
of them all, the gang of religious psychos known as Taliban (or something like
that) has established a regime that makes the communists look *really* good...
If *this* is the shape of things to come, I'd rather be centralized. [Or maybe not,
I like to live on the edge ;-) ]

Oh, by the way: the communist regime was in fact quite stable, and held out much
longer than anyone had expected after the Russians left and cut all aid to the
The savages (or "freedom fighters" if you will) on the other hand remained quite
well-funded by all kinds of other states, and still had a hard time taking Kabul.
I guess the somewhat more civilized cityfolk were more affraid of them then they
were of their own rulers...and they were right.

> > Also, their conscience (that of the regular soldier) is stopping
> > them from turning on their own people.
> Do people lose their conscience when they work in the private sector?

Some certainly do, and often it's a different kind of people that is attracted
to PPA work. I would expect a greater number of "brown shirts" (bullies
that are only tough enough to terrorize unarmed or badly armed people) in the
PPA business, while the army is more about patriotism, courage and honor.
(at least they *try* to keep up this image).

> A few years ago, Marines at Twentynine Palms (don't ask me why "marines"
> have a base in the Mojave Desert) were given a notorious questionnaire
> about their willingness to fire on Americans to enforce some chickenshit
> law. About one in three (iirc) said yes. They're the ones who will be
> chosen as "reliable" when the shit hits the fan.

If it hits the fan so hard that these folks are really required, civilization has
probably gone down the drain anyway. Besides, if someone is "tough"
(or scared) enough to answer "yes" to such a question, this doesn't
automatically mean that he will really do it.

> A few months ago, a boy about 17 was herding goats one evening on the
> Rio Grande (border with Mexico), and shot at something. We'll never
> know why he fired (rabbit? coyote?), because four Marines sneaking about
> - looking for drug smugglers - assumed he was firing at them, stalked
> him for twenty minutes (during which he apparently was oblivious to
> them) and killed him.

I don't know what really went down there, of course, but people have always
been somewhat more trigger happy when the target is of a different ethnic
background, and of course assholes can be found in any organization.
The same guys could just as well 've been working for a local PPA. If a
client complaints about mexicans in his neighborhood the PPA people
will probably shoot them just as easy as any Marine would.

> > In my system you could add to that mutual surveillance (the people
> > spy back, and, for what it's worth, they have guns).
> And what do they use their guns for? Clearly not to discipline corrupt
> politicians; that would be anarchy!

The *threat* of anarchy should be enough to keep the politicians in check.
In most cases, neither the government nor the people really want things
to get out of control, especially in a wealthy state. So they'll both compromise
a bit for their own benefit.

> > In a more advanced stage of automation the key to avoid tirrany
> > is spreading control over the enforcer robots over rivalizing
> > institutions (that are unlike PPs part of the same system, more
> > like different immune systems in one body than seperate bodies).
> Could you tell us more about how these rival institutions are not like
> private protection agencies?

PPAs are not under the same command, the rival institutions *are*. The
head(s) of state is/are like a referee in a football match. Also, these
institutions aren't generally into contract-based personal security services,
but rather take care of more general threats and provide the basic
framework of stability in which private security companies can operate
(and can focus on their job instead of "playing state").

> Something like it is common in "primitive" societies; indeed the
> definition of "primitive society" seems to be "stateless society".

Yes, makes you think, doesn't it? Maybe it just doesn't work for more
advanced societies (or at least it seems that centralization plays
a crucial role in the development of modern nations).

> Iceland relied entirely on private enforcement for centuries, and was
> generally peaceful. (The sagas, which concentrate on violence, tell of
> years going by between events in the bitterest feuds.)

But will it work for a technologically advanced society? I'd hate to see
a return to hunter-gatherer communities or something like that...

> Now, every peasant can afford a weapon that would make short work of a
> medieval knight, and weapons that can kill tanks and helicopters are
> within the reach (fiscal if not legal) of most of us. If the world
> continues to bow down to central authorities, it's partly out of habit.

Well, old habits die hard...

> Where the central authorities are relatively benign, they will probably
> last longer; where they are recognized openly as tyrants and thieves,
> they will soon be gone, as already in Northern Somaliland.

And have things actually gotten better since then?

> > Apparently the system is doing fine even without hew laws.
> > I sure don't see any coup d'etats in the USA...
> Then you haven't heard about how the politicians have taken to wiping
> their backsides with the Bill of Rights? We don't need coups d'etat, we
> have tyranny coming in the front door in the name of "national security"
> and "protecting our children" and "preventing terrorism" and all that
> baloney.

Agreed, most of that is pure crap, but at least you can still openly say so
without risking jail or worse ;-) Needless to say, I would get rid of unnecessary
bureaucracy if I could, few people hate it more than myself.

> (Last week I was required to show my state-issued portrait before using
> an air ticket. What in the name of little green apples is this supposed
> to accomplish?)

I guess they were looking for terrorists then...or maybe even worse: potheads!

> > And yes, a system of checks and balances could reduce any such risk
> > even further (in fact, that's pretty much what you have with all your
> > special branches, secret services, police forces etc.)
> > It seems to work OK.
> Except for its victims.

There are several things to say to that: first, the number of "real" victims is
relatively limited, and would probably be a lot higher in a world without
a stable central government. Also, many of the casualties are due to the
unholy war on victimless "crime". There is no such thing in my proposed
plan; do what you like as long as you don't damage others without their
consent and all that. Probably the most casualties are due to war. I
would always seek to prevent war, and if this isn't possible use robot
weapons and small groups of professional soldiers. No-one should be forced
to risk death for his country (and machines make better soldiers anyway).