Re: [sl4] Re: Property rights

From: Stuart Armstrong (
Date: Wed Jul 09 2008 - 09:42:33 MDT

> England from 1215 to 1700 is the real case to study! Just how
> did the practices and institutions (that were so gleefully grabbed
> and held on to by the American colonies by year 1730) ever
> develop *in spite of the power of the "Great King"*? It
> was unprecedented.

No, not unprecedented. It was the stability and endurance of these
practices that was unprecedented.

Though I suspect that had germany been an island, something similar
might have developped there; possibly in arab spain as well, had it

> It's fascinating to think what would happen if everyone woke up with
> a minimal IQ of 140 tomorrow morning. Would libertarianism and
> minarchy and so on make more sense to them? Would they be quicker to see
> what was in everyone's common interest? I doubt it,
> because how do you go from the status quo to there? Yet I do think
> that within 30 years, we would make great, great progress in the world
> towards self rule.

It's interesting to dig a little into this, because it reveals an idea
that pops up often on this list. The idea runs along the lines of "a
lot of smart people are libertarians, so if more people were smart,
then more people would be libertarian". Sometimes the argument extends
as far as "after a singularity, eveyone will be smart, so everyone
will be libertarian".

There are lots of reasons that smart people are libertarian (a big one
is the fact that a libertarian society would benefit smart people a
lot more than stupid people). It does not mean that libertarianism is
automatically a smart idea. It has some aspects that are
unquestionably smart (mostly in economics, and individual autonomy)
but there are many cases throughout history when libertarian ideas
were unquestionally stupid and harmful (dysentery and other disease
control, the Irish famine, market crashes (the tulip market in Holland
and the south sea bubble chief among them), laissez-faire educational
policies in underdeveloped countries, etc...)

So what sort of problem scream out emphatically for a non-libertarian
solution? They tend to be problems that have all the following
1) The problem is sizeable
2) The solution is pretty evident
3) The solution requires the cooperation of many different individuals
working seemlesly together
4) A small amount of defections can ruin the solution
5) The solution is not an equilibrium of individual self-interested actions

There is also a non-necessary six: 6) Individuals do not have access
to reliable information

Why do we assume that such problems will become rarer when everyone
becomes smarter?
In previous posts, I've focused on violence issues, because war is an
easy example of the above; but there are many others, and there will
be many more in future.

I suspect a post-singularity civilisation will be more libertarian in
a lot of ways, but also less libertarian in a lot of other ways (some
of which we can't imagine today; there may come a time when there is a
strong governmental prohibition on certain types of abstract
mathematical thinking :-)


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