Re: The Property Protocol

Damien Broderick (
Sun, 10 Nov 1996 13:04:06 +1000

At 12:06 PM 11/9/96 -0500, Suresh wrote in response to John Clark's:

>> Terrific! The consumers can vote for higher quality, lower prices and less
>> pollution. The workers can vote for higher wages, more time off, and better
>> health care. It's paradise, everybody's happy.
>Please, do you really have that kind of disrespect for people. I'm sure
>people, when given the information, can make reasonable decisions based on
>circumstance. When people understand the problems, they will solve them.

This strikes me as the key to the debate, and to others I've read on this
list. Various posters have denounced measures grounded in tenets of
mutuality by gesturing to the horrid consequences: you build your house,
say, and all the other lazy bastards take it from you, announcing that their
need is as great as yours and since their numbers are greater than yours
they win the moral right of use.

I've never grasped why anyone thinks people are likely to behave this way as
a rule. Yes, small embittered cohorts that have been excluded from the
benefits of an industrial culture - let us say out of a history of bigoted
racism - surely do wave guns and menace their neighbors, destroy their
brains with intoxicants that numb their despair, lose the habits of
sociality (but not necessarily of honor and respect, in a narrow sense based
on balance of immediate terror).

I find it interesting that this construction of others as malevolent, lazy,
stupid (or rat-cunning) tends to be more wide-spread in societies where
extremes of capitalism *or* state socialism have taken hold. In many
European countries, and Canada and Australia, where a shifting blend of
these approaches operates, there is less street violence, far less
polarisation of rich and poor and hence of envy and fear (although that is
changing, and I exclude the usual brutal marginalisation of indigenes in the
latter two nations).

In general, I expect people to help each other unless there is an
overwhelming motive for not doing so. Unlike most people on the net, I'm a
complete klutz with computers - and would not be here, were it not for
various people who simply chose to be generous and help me out. In return,
but not with any strict accounting being recorded, I do what I can to help
other people in areas that pertain to my skills.
As a science fiction writer, all my adult life I've been part of a global
(if Anglo-centric) community of people called sf fans whose entire
weltanschaaung is based on what amounts to potlatching. As less and less
jobs remain in a rapidly approaching (AI- and nano-modified) future, this
seems to me the pattern for decent human relationships. We might not always
be able to love each other, but we certainly won't get far if we assume that
everyone else is out to scam our hard-won goodies.

>While government today hoards it's knowledge and says "we know what's
>best", a democratic system depends on everybody having access to the
>information. I don't think the consumers will vote for cheaper products if
>they realize that the workers can't afford to feed themselves as a

Having registered my own pious plea, above, I now have to say that Suresh's
hope is empirically doubtful. In my country, most consumers have achieved a
much more pleasant standard of living by importing huge amounts of very
cheap consumables from the sweatshops of south Asia, thereby effectively
wiping out the small industries that used to produce clothing, light
electrical goods, etc. In the long run, of course, nanofacturing will do
this on a mammoth scale - but with any luck the goodies flowing from the
cornucopia machine will be *so* cheap that everyone will gain by their
existence. Right now, the inner city industrial suburb where I live is full
of empty factories, and 30 percent of the kids who once would have had a
fairly nasty life working in them are cooling their heels at home all day
long, on the dole but chafing for a meaningful life. But the consumers (at
least 50 percent of them, since voting is compulsory and therefore universal
in Australia) keep voting in the pollies who ordain the `level playing
field' doctrines responsible for the ruin of their neighbors.

Damien Broderick