Re: Suresh Naidu's arguments

Suresh Naidu (
Sat, 19 Oct 1996 21:01:29 -0400 (EDT)

On Sat, 19 Oct 1996, Eric Watt Forste wrote:

> 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
> overlooking.
> 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.

True, but the change has not been equitable. The choices available to the
top strata have increased far more than the choices available to the
poor. There are more advantages thanks to technology, but as this is
market driven, the advantages are generally only availible to those who
can afford it. Some trickle down left-overs may make it to the bottom,
but that's it.

> 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'm sorry if I come across as arrogant. I'm not deciding for myself. This
has been tried before, in spain, before it was bombed into oblivion by
Franco and Hitler. This is not my theory. It has been proposed by
numerous people more able than I. If capitalism continues as the majority
of extropians hope it does, the polarization of rich and poor will become
so blatant that Marx will be right.

> 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.

I agree, but wealth is an indication of power nowadays. For true change,
we're going to need to hear the opinions of everyone, not just the upper
tier committing intellectual incest. I would love to hear the ideas of a
rural Indonesian farmer, but it's not going to happen so long as there is
such a big power imbalance. As for the two people I singled out, a
statistic I heard was that 358 people controlled 45% of the worlds wealth.

> 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,

Political power has always gone hand in hand with economic power. It's
impossible to divest the two. Even in the hallowed anarcho-capitalism,
the wealth will come to accumulate in the hands of a few, so nothing will
be accomplished without their permission. Pretty much a government,
without the title.

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.

Grassroots movement. No implementation from the elites, like traditional
Marxist ideals. As power becomes more and more centralized, people are
going to want change, but this will conflict with the interests of the
power-holders, be they political or corporate. People still have some
sort of power to affect their world without breaking out the shotguns. We
need to act before even this is taken away from us. No mandate from the
politician will ever advocate getting rid of the politician, unless the
people yell loud enough. I'm hoping this happens before any violence
becomes a threat.

With boycott power and tax revolt, we can still change the machine before
it consumes us.

Suresh Naidu