Re: Strategic Intolerance

Eric Watt Forste (
Tue, 1 Oct 1996 00:16:04 -0700 (PDT)

On 1 Oct 1996, Reilly Jones wrote:
> This is not a superficial preference. It is not clear which is more of a direct
> approach. Servility-and-authoritarian violence is a coupled dynamic system,
> like knower-and-known, interpretation-and-map, intention-and-action.

A good point. Nonetheless, I find myself far more intolerant of people who
issue no-knock warrants to armed SWAT teams than I do of the lazy, sloppy,
shiftless, foul-mouthed, anti-authoritarian "follower" pot-smokers they
are sent to bust.

> Since toleration of entropy is ruination,

I am uncomfortable with the broad sweep of your generalization. I would
say that toleration of nonconsensual violence and expropriation is
ruination. I think that in this case if one wishes to be accurate one must
be specific. What I like about extropy is that it presents a positive
ideal, something to work toward. If I want a negative ideal to be opposed,
there is a long rich liberal tradition of staunch opposition to the use of
force and fraud which can be traced continuously back to the Whigs in the
English Civil War and further. This tradition, which most of the people I
know have been steeped in from birth, is also closely associated with a
tradition of toleration of new ideas and even new values. The name of this
tradition has been stolen and perverted by constructivist-rationalist
politicians of the socialist variety, but we've renamed the tradition and
we're moving on.

> Fighting the servile society is like a pre-emptive strike,

We are long past the time for pre-emptive strikes, Reilly. As our
political opponents like to keep pointing out, the libertarian utopia has
never been achieved: yet. There is plenty of active evil in the world that
wants direct opposition, and I would feel that I was wasting my time if I
tried to combat it by morally reforming my neighbors. I find that I can be
far more effective finding and collaborating with those who are in no
great need of moral improvement. I have yet to find any shortage of such

I am not much interested in changing other people's values, except to the
extent that they endorse the use of violent means in some attempt to
change mine. I figure that if I try to push a whole bag of values on them,
and not just the cardinal but subtle point of noninitiation of force, I'm
only going to be triggering every memetic immune system within a hundred
yards. Ordinarily, I don't argue on behalf of toleration, and in fact,
I've put in some cautionary words (favoring what is usually referred to as
"critical thinking") on the transhuman list a few months ago when the
paeans to toleration were getting a little thick. But when I see you
eagerly whipping up an orgy of rigidity, intolerance, internal censorship
of thought, and various other things which are Not To My Taste, I'm going
to speak against it.

> Many thinkers have noted the coupling of servility and authoritarian violence.

I get a funny feeling participating in this discussion. Is there anyone on
this list who could reasonably be accused of being servile? Thought not.
Why are we discussing this? Reilly, if you want to crush the servility
meme, you are preaching to the choir here. I'm with Hagbard Celine: "Non
serviam, baby."

> Here lies real trouble with governmental minimalism. The only way that minimal
> government can work, is when individuals govern themselves. But individuals
> cannot govern themselves without learning to obey themselves, that is, to place
> their animal desires for vacant freedom under the sovereignty of their rational
> mind which understands the nature of the limitations external reality places on
> us.
> And individuals can never learn to obey themselves - that is, develop
> self-control - unless they have learned to obey someone above them.

I vigorously disagree. People learn to govern themselves by being expected
to govern themselves, preferably by their parents, from earliest
childhood. A minimal government which offers nothing in the way of
religious or moral guidance to the people it governs is crucial for the
development of a society in which the expectation of self-governance is
routine. The most disturbing recent cultural trend I can think of is that
the American people are widely expecting to receive moral guidance in
their lives from such scum as Bill Dole and Bob Clinton.

Interestingly, I think this is the first point in my conversations with
you in which Nietzsche takes your side of the question and not mine.
Though it is hard to tell for sure.

> this point now, when 40% of GDP goes to government. For the ideal of minimum
> government to work, you must have maximum self-government, and this you can only
> have with legitimate hierarchical levels of authority.

We disagree about the sorts of cultural conditions that produce
self-governing individuals. I say people who are consistently expected to
govern themselves learn how to do so and usually do a pretty good job.
People who are consistently expected to submit to authority can never
learn how to govern themselves except through luck and canniness. Or they
let themselves be governed by a moral code which has been drummed into
their head from birth, a code which will probably require changes with
the times, which the non-self-governing person with the robot policeman
in his or her head will not know how to do.

For me, self-government means self-government, not government by one of
my subroutines (which might or might not be labeled "superego"). It's a
skill, and a difficult one which I do not pretend to have mastered.
Working on this skill seems difficult enough to me that this task alone
might be enough to make eternal life meaningful for and delightful to me.
Fortunately, plenty of other tasks call as well.

> But that was thirty years ago. For the last five years, the operating principle
> of the public schools has been that no one will be more educated than the least
> educated.

This is one reason why I'm more concerned about getting the government out
of the education business than I am about changing the lifestyles of my
hippie neighbors.

> Molnar goes on to explain: "Authority does not become irrational by the fact
> that *will* is one of its essential components, nor does it become tyrannical by
> the fact that it is an articulator and preserver of inequality. If a society,
> with its rich articulation, is reduced to an undifferentiated mass, it is not
> authority it will face, but the most oppressive despotism. Those who exercise
> authority must, therefore, have the courage and the will to lift - and keep -
> society above the temptations of the anthill." And those who don't exercise
> authority, must be individually intolerant of authoritarian violence. They also
> can go a long way towards preventing authoritarian violence from arising, by
> being intolerant of servility - of the wave-bobbers - calling them to turn
> towards extropy, and setting a living example of the fruits of such a turn.

This might be all well and good in other times, Reilly. I generally agree
with what you say and quote here. But we are not talking about "preventing
authoritarian violence from arising". The world is full of authoritarian
violence, and the last really big wave of it only ended some fifty years
ago. Currently, more than 50% of the product of the US economy is being
poured down a rathole. You know what a tiny sliver of that money, left to
be spent consensually by individuals to further their own values, could do
for life-extension and space-industrialization research. This is violence
on a grand scale. This is not a game of preventive measures.

So, um, Harry Browne in '96. ;)

Eric Watt Forste <>