Re: individualism

Eric Watt Forste (
Tue, 30 Jul 1996 23:18:01 -0700

At 10:30 PM 7/30/96, Ben Goertzel wrote:
>Freedom is an important value. But there are other important values
>too, such as compassion, and -- yes -- growth (progress? extropy?)....
>In shaping a society we humans try to balance out these different values.
>Increasing our share of one often seems to decrease our share of another.
>That's what makes it difficult. Libertarianism seems to result from
>exalting freedom over all other values.

Libertarianism, as something fairly well-defined and understood, is a
political ideology, not a system of morality. I'm one libertarian (among
many) who strongly values compassion.

>But even if one DOES exalt
>freedom over all other values, it is not clear that eliminating government
>would result in increased freedom anyway -- the state is obviously only
>one kind of coercive power, and it serves, among other positive and
>negative functions, to keep a hold on other coercive powers.

But the debate is not really about some broad abstract generality such as
"eliminating government". The debate is really about legalizing pot, doing
away with preposterous subsidies, ending barriers to peaceful job-seeking
immigrants, minimizing tax rates, and other specific policy proposals. In
each specific policy proposal, there is little question that the policy
move recommended by libertarians would bring about a net reduction in the
operation of coercion in society. On those specific policy issues in which
the possible net reduction in coercion is uncertain or hazy, libertarians
do not take strong policy stands. That's part of what "libertarian" means.

>An interesting point, to me, is that when we move to a TRANS-HUMAN
>society, the balance between these different values will be different.
>I think the basic values will NOT change -- freedom, growth and compassion,
>for example, are fairly universal things, not tied to our carbon bodies in
>any essential way (I think). But the parameters governing the balance
>of parameters against each other will change.

This is not really new. The balance of the various parameters of value
already differs from person to person, and from culture to culture.

>Everything we know about politics now -- libertarianism, Democrats,
>Republicans, communists, socialists, etc. -- is implicitly conditioned
>on human biology and 2-D earth life. Each of these sociopolitical systems
>represents a certain balance among important values, emphasizing some
>and de-emphasizing others. But the way the balances work out is going
>to change when we leave our bodies behind! \

The whole idea behind libertarian political ideology is that different
people have different balances among the various values they hold, and in
many cases hold entirely different values, and that they should each be
allowed the freedom to use their own bodies and property in the pursuit of
those values. The whole idea behind the libertarian political ideology is
that the element of force not be used to impose a common morality on all,
that it should be used only to enforce the minimum morality needed for
people with widely diverse value systems to coexist peacefully.

So your trying to make out that libertarianism is somehow opposed to some
alternate value system misses the point. The only value systems that
libertarianism opposes are the ones which seek to impose themselves on
unwilling participants by force.

If you can point out a clear case of nongovernmental coercion in society,
the libertarian minarchists (at least) will heartily endorse the use of
government to minimize that coercion. But you've got to make a clear case
that the coercion is going on in the first place before you can invoke a
libertarian government to step in and stop it.

Eric Watt Forste <>