Re: Hanson antiproliferation method?

Eric Watt Forste (
Wed, 20 Aug 1997 16:20:48 -0700

Nicholas Bostrom writes:
> We will of course never have an "ideal" world government, but we
> should be willing to pay a high prise in terms of inefficiency if
> that will reduce the risk of total annihilation.

Sure, but it seems to me that most serious outbreaks of military
disorderliness nowadays are civil wars, not international wars. I
can't think of any reasons to believe that a world government would
be a more effective means of reducing the risk of total annihilation
from civil wars than the current setup, or an even more decentralized

> What are your grounds for thinking that a reformed, democratic
> United Nations would provoke and escalate mote disputes than it
> would settle?

Because, for instance, the reformed democratic government that I
endure, the federal government of the United States of America and
its wholly-owned subsidiaries, provokes and escalates more disputes
than it settles. One could mention the police execution of the
Black Panther leadership in Chicago a couple decades ago, or the
mess in Waco, Texas a few years ago. And I notice this seems to
be true of governments in general. I wouldn't expect an empowered
United Nations to be very different in this respect.

> Many wars seem to originate in differing interpretations of some
> legal or historical circumstance. I have often thought, oh, if
> there only were an impartial arbiter to which the rivalling nations
> could submit their cases, and a responsible international force
> that could implement the judgements.

What makes you think that a reformed, democratic United Nations
would be impartial? (Or that their international force would be
responsible, though I find this far easier to imagine than an
impartial United Nations. The current United Nations is
extremely partial.)

> The only realistic candidates in the foreseeable future are either
> the UN or a coalition led by the USA. I think it is dubious that
> most people would accept the USA as an international Dad in the
> long run.

I think any increase in the influence that the US federal government
has over world affairs would be disastrous. It has far too much
busybody meddling influence as it is. I find both of your "realistic
candidates" quite frightening.

> I would suggest a reformed UN in which the USA and the
> other powers had an influence that were in some proportion to their
> real power.

What the heck is "real power" and how do you propose to measure
it? (I hope you're not going to say "in watts". ;)

> This would presumably also lead to an inefficient
> bureaucracy that wastes a few billion dollars per year, but so
> what?

I agree with you that this wouldn't be so bad if there were
some counterbalancing benefit to be obtained. But I don't see
any counterbalancing benefit.

Eric Watt Forste ++ ++ expectation foils perception -pcd