Re: Death of Leisure? (was Re: Trans-extropian principles)

Ben Goertzel (
Wed, 31 Jul 1996 15:42:23 +0800

Eric says,

>The only value systems that libertarianism opposes are the ones which
>seek to impose themselves on unwilling participants by force.

Ok, ok, ok. I guess these issues have been beat into the ground by
other people in the past, already. E.g., I would argue that I should
be allowed to drop acid if I want to. But someone else might say:
No, that is an imposition on me, because the acid might make you go
crazy and hurt me ... so your freedom to take acid acts against my
freedom to walk around unmolested.... And you have to take into account
all the different effects that each person's act has on everyone else.

I think about this stuff all the time, living in Australia and paying
the 42% national income tax here. I miss the extra cash i would have
if the taxes were closer to the US level. On the other hand, I also
like the low crime, national health care, and general absence of
squalor in city streets which results from having a really thorough
public sector (unlike the US social welfare system, which is half-assed
however you look at it; it's lousy socialism and lousy capitalism).
IN the US I had more "freedom" as to what to do with my dollars --
on the other hand, because of everyone having this extra "freedom,"
I lost other freedoms -- e.g. the freedom to walk ANYWHERE, anywhere I
want, without fearing for my life. I can do this in Australia, and the
reason I can is that there are high taxes which support the poor, who
thus do not try to "earn" their livings by stealing my money....

There is an interesting psychology here too. Humans will choose to
pay a high tax rate, but would NEVER choose to donate a high percentage
of their income to anything besides themselves. Well, almost never.
This is the same principle as the Christmas club or pension fund,
I guess -- we make decisions IN ADVANCE which then constrain our
of-the-moment impulses later on. So we vote for high taxes and then
grumble about them. Funny organisms, we are, caught between
intelligent large-scale planning and momentary gratification.

Thing is, if we all download and live in some giant hard drive (or
whatever technology comes next), issues of resource allocation will
not go away. We'll still have the same disputes of individualism
versus collectivism -- of narrow (Libertarian-style) interpretations
of freedom versus interpretations that take into account the whole
web of social interactions.

That is why it would be very nice to have a compassionate, intelligent
scheme for allocating resources in place BEFORE we move into
cyberspace. Unfortunately this seems unlikely to occur! Instead
cyberspace will be colonized, most likely, by the capitalist "democracies"
we all know and love. Welcome to Microsoft (TM) Reality!!!

ben g