Re: The Extropian Principles

Oliver Seiler (
Sat, 27 Jul 1996 09:34:38 -0700 (PDT)

On Sat, 27 Jul 1996, Ben Goertzel wrote:

> My belief is that while current government structures are in many
> ways too restrictive, libertarianism would ALSO lead to an overly
> restrictive system. Free markets don't seem to stay "free" -- they
> seem to drift into attractors consisting of MONOPOLIES or
> OLIGOPOLIES. Look at the software market, which is a free market,
> but is dominated by MicroSoft to everyone's detriment.

I look at this being a by-product of monetary system. Money originally
was what I'd call an "enabling technology". It filled a purpose,
namely enabling a freer flow of products and services. It has had a
down-side effect, namely that most things are now done for the sake of
making money. This is not particularly an efficient way to go about
doing things, and I would argue results in a lot of wasted time,
effort, and money. Problems may get solved, but if the solution was
such a good idea, why couldn't it have been achieved without money as

I've been doing some writing recently on planned economies. The Soviet
Union was a good example of a planned economy gone wrong. Is a planned
economy workable at all? I'm not entirely convinced it isn't. I think
the major problem with the Soviet economy was that the control was too
fine grained. It's too complicated to try to design a system where
every aspect of the flow of money is controlled. The patterns are too
complex, there are too many interactions, and the act of controlling
those flows changes the flows themselves.

The economic system "in the West" could have been designed, but only
at a high level:

* Assume that a system of trade currently exists (e.g., barter)

* Create a token (physical) which represents some amount of work or

* Have people accept the token as valid (this is the hard part

* People can put a value (based in tokens) on any product or
service they produce.

>From here, I would claim you could predict monopolies, slave labour,
misers, paid employment (as opposed to entrepreneurs), investment,
etc. It wouldn't predict interest per se, though if you got as far as
banks, you might come up with it.

In my "ideal planned economy", I would have several goals:

* guaranteed food and shelter (some how -- guaranteed doesn't
necessarily mean that some benevolent government is
involved. Extended families, as opposed to the more recent idea of
the nuclear family, promote this sort of "social safety net")

* community-level money systems which augment a more socialist (in the
true sense of the word) system. The exchange of goods for services,
services for services, and goods for goods (i.e., barter) is very

I think it's fairly obvious that the attitudes of people living in
such a system would be different from these we see today. The main
point I make with this is that the economy we have today has
essentially zero planning associated with it. As a society, we have no
common goals which drive us to do anything. And given the scale of the
economy we share, I don't think that's possible. Generating small
micro-economies where people involved have common goals may be an
"evolutionary stable strategy" (using Dawkins terms) to eventually
replace the existing economy. Communes, cooperatives, small
communities of people with common goals. I would suggest that the main
point is that if you want to achieve something, you need to plan for
achieving those goals, that it won't happen spontaneously *because* of
the complexity involved. In the existing economy we already have
examples of this happening, in the form of corporations, which act as
a micro-economy where the people involved work towards a common goal
(this doesn't say anything of whether those people really care for
what they are producing, and the "common goal" is more often than not
to make money -- try saying something else and get investment!)

Over and out


/ Oliver Seiler \/ Need a problem solved? Erisian has the answers! \
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