Re: Ethics and Politics

Anton Sherwood (
Mon, 15 Sep 1997 18:50:44 -0700

Arjen Kamphuis writes--
: I do, however know some stuff about recent history and this taught me
: that it is impossible to predict (in advance that is) what the practical
: consequences of any new social order will be. Various experiments have
: been done during this century, all of them ended in disaster or are still
: running without achieving their planned goals so far (Cuba, N-Korea).

And what the disastrous experiments have in common is that they all
concentrated power in the name of a national goal, suppressing the
individual goals of the people, thereby reducing the redundancy and
resilience of the system. From this surely we can learn something.

: I'm not saying Libertarianism could not yield fine results, I'm saying
: we just don't (can't!) know for sure because it has not been tried yet.

Hasn't it? We can certainly point to countries that were *more*
libertarian than others at the same time, and compare.

In some ways, the autocracies of two centuries ago would look like
libertarianism run amok compared with most of today's states.
Americans revolted then against "intolerable" taxes that we today
would barely notice.

: It would be intersting to see what happens, only will there be
: an emergency brake? What if there's something we missed?

Bad metaphor. The state's response to anything unexpected is to
put the emergency brake on society (while society has very little
power to brake the state). The brake discourages finding new
solutions to problems - it's hard to steer with the brake on.

Libertarianism offers not a brake, but a parachute: the ability
of individuals to abandon a bad plan, and make a thousand new ones--
of which only one needs to work. It's sloppy and non-deterministic,
but it seems to work better than the alternative.

: There was a bug like that in communism... it killed 100,000,000
: humans (conservative estimate). Please de-bug before running!

Communism killed millions because it held, as an article of dogma,
that if your goal is virtuous it doesn't matter how many people get
hurt or killed on the road to reaching it.

For the sake of the achievement of a specific political goal,
it is possible to sacrifice half mankind.
---Mao Tse-Tung, November 1957

Libertarianism, on the contrary, holds that NO goal justifies aggression.

Anton Sherwood *\\* +1 415 267 0685 *\\*