Moving Beyond Government "Solutions"

David Musick (
Wed, 9 Oct 96 08:09:06 UT

About an hour ago, I was having a fairly heated argument with some people I
know, about gun control and whether it's best to respect people's freedom to
defend themselves using deadly weapons or whether it's best to attempt to
forcefully disarm everyone and allow no guns to exist. I won't go into the
details of the argument, because that's not what I want to talk about. After
the argument, I went into my room, sat down, closed my eyes and began
reviewing everything, processing the event over and over, looking for the
basic assumptions that people were making, which were revealed by what they
brought up in the argument.

I realized (with some amazement that I'd never noticed it before) that people
were assuming that the way to solve social problems is by making some kind of
law. That was such a basic assumption, that the issue was about what kind of
laws we should make, rather than whether we could solve the problems better by
trying solutions which didn't require government and laws at all. We just
assumed that the problem (of gun violence) should be handled by the
government. It was an automatic assumption, which nobody questioned.

Now I realize how widespread this assumption is. People automatically assume
that the way to stop people from doing things which are wrong (criminal
activity) is to outlaw the activity. It's generally not even questioned;
people just assume that we have to outlaw those activities which are wrong.
It's such a basic assumption; "of course those things should be against the
law," and people think that not making criminal activity against the law is
saying that it's okay to do. But the real point is not whether we make
criminal activity illegal by making laws against it, but whether we actually
succeed in reducing or eliminating violent and other coercive activities,
whether they're officially declared "against the law" or not.

I don't see how having a group of legislators declare that murder and robbery
are officially illegal will actually reduce these activities. It's just a
statement they're making. Now if other people decide to enforce that
statement, that may make a difference in the frequency of these activities.
But won't people defend themselves from criminals, even if the legislators
hadn't declared that what the criminals were doing was officially "against the
law"? If it wasn't illegal for someone to murder or rob you, would you just
sit back and let them do it?

This is such a basic assumption, that we need laws, and I'm questioning it.
I'm not necessarily saying that we don't need laws -- I'm not denying the
assumption; I simply questioning it. I'm not convinced that we really need
laws for people to work and live together peacefully. I'm not convinced that
we don't need laws either, but I'm questioning that very basic assumption
which most people make without really thinking about it.

So, let's imagine a world with no human laws at all, a world where people
never consider making laws to solve their problems. Imagine these people are
very similar to us; they have the same social problems we do; they have
violent people murdering, raping, robbing and doing all kinds of destructive
things, just like we do, but they simply would never try to solve their
problems by making laws. What kind of strategies could they use to solve
their problems, without resorting to making laws?

The people don't WANT to be robbed or raped or murdered or abused in any way,
any more than we do. So, they're very eager to find some effective solutions
to their problems. How can they protect themselves? Simply declaring that
certain activities are forbidden seems pretty ineffective to these people, so
they dismiss the idea very quickly. They are each very aware of the
particular activities that are intolerable to them personally, and they each
wish to avoid encountering people who engage in these activities. But the
question is, how can they do this?

This question is facing us also. For all of our history, we have had
criminals and other social problems. Humans have attempted various solutions
to these problems, with varying degrees of success. Often they created
governments in an attempt to solve social problems, and often these very
governments became corrupted and powerful and became much worse of a problem
than anything they were created to solve. Most people seem to unquestioningly
assume that laws and government will solve our problems, but the evidence
indicates strongly that that approach does not work. The problems have not
been solved at all.

It seems to be a basic feature of most humans that they will develop an
irrational faith in something and keep sticking with it in spite of all
evidence against it. They have so much faith that governments will actually
work, that they will actually solve our problems, even though they never have
before, and they are not doing so now. But people want to believe so badly
that somehow it will work this time, and they keep trying and failing, over
and over.

I think it's time to step back and look at the situation again and re-evaluate
our approaches. What we've been doing, clearly isn't working. It would be
insane to keep trying the same failed approach.

As Extropians, we are interested in creating a better future. We are
interested in finding solutions to our problems. Death is a problem for us,
and we're working on solving it. Having limited resources and abilities is a
problem, in our opinions, and we are working on overcoming all of our
limitations. People committing violence upon each other is also a problem we
are concerned with, and I think it is very important that we find some real,
effective solutions to this problem. Government, as we know it, isn't
working. The problems remain, seemingly undiminished. We need to find
solutions that work, for a change. We need to seriously question the
irrational faith in government solutions.

I don't know exactly what solutions would be effective in eliminating violent
and other coercive activities, but I do know that what people are doing now
doesn't seem to be effective at all. Violence and all other forms of coercion
are highly Entropic activities, and eliminating these sorts of activities is a
high priority for most, if not all, Extropians.

I encourage more discussion in this forum about possible solutions to the
problems of violence and other coercive activity. How can we practically and
effectively eliminate these types of activities? This is a very difficult and
complex problem; humans have been pondering it for millennia. But we have
many advantages our ancestors did not. First of all, we have their mistakes
to review. We have more people with intelligent minds working on the problem.
We have much greater knowledge. We can communicate our possible solutions to
each other quickly and easily.

I am optimistic that we will eventually overcome the problems of violence and
other coercive activities, just as I am optimistic that we will eventually
overcome the problem of death. But we must share our ideas with each other
and build on each other's ideas. We need to think seriously about these
problems and discuss our thoughts with each other.

- David Musick

"It's time to move beyond mere *separation* of Church and State. Now that
we've got the two worst tyrants in history separated from each other, no
longer conspiring together, let's eliminate them both, once and for all!" -