The Future of Law and the Death of Altruism (was Re: European ... ]

The Baileys (
Sun, 15 Nov 1998 07:08:50 -0500

>Hi all,
>the following was cited as a "fuck you jack - I've got mine" attitude:
>>< We should immediatley eliminate any
>>government spending in education and reduce taxes - possibly selling
>>off all government education related resources and refunding the money
>>to tax payers. >

In the United States, the biggest three federal outlays are social security, defense, and interest on the national debt.

Social security is paid to all senior citizens who've held jobs for the requisite amount of time. Amercian workers are currently being taxed at payroll tax rates higher than is necessary to fund the programs current needs in an effort to accumulate funds for the "baby boom" generation. In theory, the trust fund has hundreds of billions of dollars sitting in its coffers waiting for these citizens to retire. In reality, the trust fund is only a collection of IOUs from the federal government. All the funds that should inure to the trust fund are instead bartered away for spending on other programs and most notably tax cuts for the wealthy.(^1) Even now, the purported "federal surplus" is nothing more than an accounting fiction. The federal government, by direction of Congress, includes the social security funding surplus in determining its deficit or surplus number each year. Ironically, corporations are not allowed to include any aspect of surplus from funding their own pension plans in their earnings figures. If they did, they would be hanged by the SEC. What is not good for the goose, is evidently quite alright for the gander. (^1) 90% tax cuts embodied in the 1997 "taxpayer relief" act benefited the top 20% of the U.S. population, 70% to the top 5%.

>It might be that this person is saying:
>"let's stop taxing factory workers to pay for rich people's education."

Since most wealthy people send their children to private schools that receive no federal funding, this statement would be largely in error.

>It might be someone saying
>"let's stop having an elitist medical system in which the state hands out
>million-dollar lifetime salaries to a select group of individuals,
>legally prohibiting competition."

Federa taxation has no bearing on this issue.

>It might be someone who believes in meritocracy and believes that state
>rationing of education promotes less access, not more.

Problem with this approach is how are you going to identify merit? Test every single kid? How will you design the test? How will the test account for different cultural backgrounds? How will children who do not test well be properly evaluated by such a system? What would the cost be of such a program? What are all the kids going to do if they are no in school? What happens to the millions of teachers that no longer have jobs? Who will compensate for the lost income and payroll taxes? What about the substantial industries that gird themselves within a large school population? Meritocracy is the pipedream of people who simply see a better place for the billions spent on education, that place being their pocket. Once last question, how will be get the chance to better themselves if they are only tested in the context of their current position? Is the raw aptitude of a child that significant that we could decide their path 5 years of age and on?

>I think that an objective review of comments on this list would reveal
>that self-interest is at once higher and lower than in any other group in

Ironically, every view voiced on the list generally champions itself as the one with the general interest of all people at its core. Additionally, every view is viewed by its adherents as the most capable method to maximizing the overall "good" experienced by society.

>Higher because we believe we are the Captains of our souls. Lower because
>we have a vision of the future which we will gladly work toward. The
>critical thing is that we are not willing to enslave others to reach our
>goal: taxation is slavery.

Altruism could be the biggest death in the next century. Cooperation, which was historically required by societies to prosper, may become unnecessary in a new age of individual self-reliance. High technology might be the slayer. Taxation is no slavery in and of itself. Mandatory compliance to the laws of a ruling body can be viewed as slavery but that is the price of altruism. We've needed cooperation among ourselves for thousands of years. Governments are simply devices to develop and enforce laws which in turn preserve the Cooperative. As long as we must cooperate, we'll need governments to mediate our individuality.

But the futures we describe on this list could be of scenarios where altruism and cooperation are no longer necessary, at least for survival. You might benefit from the creativity of another but interaction is not required. But won't laws still be necessary? Laws governing the rights and rules of uploading, the forbidden software for nanobots, etc.? Central governments may become outmoded as enforcers of law, but law may be with us for a long time to come.

Doug Bailey