Suresh Naidu's arguments

Eric Watt Forste (
Sat, 19 Oct 1996 14:47:29 -0700 (PDT)

Suresh, I understand your concern for the plight of people less fortunate
than yourself, but I think there are a couple of important points you are

The first is that even though human population has been and continues to
grow rapidly, the average person on Earth today is far wealthier and has
a far greater range of available choices than the average person on Earth
500 years ago. And people today, even the poorest people in the world,
have even greater advantages over people of 1000 years ago, 2000 years
ago, and so on. You might want to think about what causal processes are
responsible for this change.

The second is that you are essentially deciding for yourself how resources
ought to be allocated among various people, and arguing (implicitly, I'll
admit) that the allocation that you favor should be imposed by force.
People sometimes accuse extropians of being arrogant, but it has been my
experience that extropians usually do not display the kind of arrogance
that I am pointing out here.

I think it is very important that each individual should aspire to decide
for emself what to believe and what to value. But the desires and beliefs
of a single individual are practically worthless as a guide to how all the
resources in the world should be allocated, and I cannot help but view
people who think otherwise as potential dictators and long-term threats.
Bill Gates and Lee Iacocca, two people you singled out for criticism, each
control a teeny tiny sliver of the world economy. To compare the wealth of
these wealthy men to the wealth of the poorest people and seek to inspire
envy of it misses the point that individuals at both ends of the wealth
spectrum control only tiny pieces of the global economy. In the long run
it is good ideas, effectively communicated, that shape history, not the
quicksilver flow of money, which merely serves as a communications medium
about who wants what where and when.

My own limited studies of history have convinced me that people in
positions of political power have done far more damage to the world than
people in positions of economic power, and I don't understand how the
changes you are proposing could be carried out without entrusting
responsibility for the allocation of resources to politically powerful
(but presumably benevolent) individuals. Politically powerful individuals
have even less incentive to be sensitive to the desires of the less
powerful than wealthy individuals do. I'd be much more interested in the
programs you are outlining if you could explain to me how they might be
carried into practice by some means *other* than mandates and
prohibitions issued by committees of politically powerful individuals and
enforced at gunpoint. Because in these sorts of things, choice of the
right means is just as important to me as choice of the right ends. As
Ursula LeGuin quipped in THE DISPOSSESSED, the means are the end.