Re: The Extropian Principles

Geoff Busker (
Sat, 27 Jul 1996 13:57:45 -0600 (CST)

On Sat, 27 Jul 1996, Oliver Seiler wrote:

> > OLIGOPOLIES. Look at the software market, which is a free market,
> > but is dominated by MicroSoft to everyone's detriment.

I agree that monopolies and oligopolies are not desirable in many cases,
but I would argue that oligopolies (based on merit, not unfair business
practices) can sometimes be helpful. For instance, it would not be
desirable for software developers to have to write software which
runs on and supports 50 different operating systems in order to get
enough customers to make a profit. Settling on a small number of
operating systems made by only a few companies (or a single company in
this case) reduces the amount of overhead required to get software out
the door.

> 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
> motivation?

Agreed. The overhead of a money based system isn't desirable.
Unfortunately is seems that this is a necessary tradeoff in order to get
the flexibility which money provides.

> 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
> product
> * Have people accept the token as valid (this is the hard part
> initially)
> * 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")

By "Extended families" do you mean the local community or do you simply
mean blood-relatives that aren't as closely related as those in a nuclear
family? If it's the latter, how do you "plan" for an economy which
encourages blood-relatives to be more willing to share food and shelter
than they are now.

> * 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
> efficient

Barter? It may be efficient in the sense that the handling of money is
avoided, but this means that I would have to produce something which is
wanted or needed by everyone which I want or need anything from. In many
fields, specialization is becoming more and more important because of
the complexity involved in many tasks. It would difficult to imagine
how a brain surgeon would be able to trade his/her skills in order to
buy toothbrushes, lawn mowers, and kitchen appliences. Would this brain
surgeon have to operate on the CEO of Sony in order to get a CD player?

> 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

It's true that there are many people (including me) who consider their
career (or future career) to be a reward in and of itself. It's also
true that many organizations are able to foster a feeling of pride for
the things that the organization produces and/or does. However, there's
a rather large number of people out there who perform their work simply
for the "individual goal" of getting money so that they can enhance other
areas of their lives. It seems that these people wouldn't be working for
a common goal.

Getting rid of the rather large overhead of a money-based economy is
certainly a good goal, but it's important to make sure that the
flexibility of money isn't given up in the process. It's important that
everyone be able to provide goods and services which can be traded for
ANY other good or service. Money is the intermediary which currently
allows us to do this.

If I have misinterpreted your plan for a socialist economy please correct
me. I just don't see how the flexibility of money can be achieved without
some form of intermediary which has no intrinsic value.

Geoff Busker   < >