Re: [sl4] Re: Property rights

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Thu Jul 10 2008 - 09:08:53 MDT

Stuart writes

> [Lee wrote]
>> 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.
> ...
> 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.

You're right: it does not automatically mean that libertarianism is
a "smart idea". What is means is that a lot of what I'm calling "self-rule",
closely related to libertarianism, is being held back by sheer economic
ignorance. Most people, even most people with economic degrees
pumped out to uncaring students who need a college degree, simply
don't understand how the free market works or what price signals are.
They *still* believe that central control is superior, though were they
to pick up *any* economics text book of the last decade they'd find
out that this is simply wrong.

But, yes, we must keep my observation there distinct from the notion
that many people simply (and will always) *prefer* a certain amount
of what some of us might deride as "nanny government". But that
all depends on the individual. I'm towards the "free" and "self-responsibility"
end of the spectrum, but not nearly so far as are many. Given our
Western culture at its present level, there seem to me to be many
aspects of self-rule that we're simply not ready for. So far as I can
see, we need government run centers of disease control, government
oversight of financial markets, government roads and infrastructure
and on and on.

But I cannot refute the arguments of those who point out that all these
things could be supplied by freedom, by free activities of free people,
and by markets and price signals. I just think that Joe six-pack
could not at present either comprehend these possibilities, nor
react appropriately were they made available to him. Now if his
level of education and his IQ were higher, *some* of that would
change. But only some. Many people just simply like communal
living and communal responsibility.

> 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 unquestionably 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...)

I agree with your generality, but not with your specifics. "Dysentery" is
not a libertarian idea, and as libertarian idealists point out, proper
medical prevention *could* be arranged by a free people who were
both smart enough, well educated enough, and farsighted enough. I
only say that right now we don't have quite enough people like that,
although we have, say in Europe, about twenty times per capita the
number of people who *could* do it than we have in the Zaire.

The Irish famine was to a great extent produced by *government*.
Had the free market, where those who produce goods get to keep
them and trade them freely both internally and externally, it would
never have happened. The "tulip market"? Well, yes, people who
who like to gamble and have the freedom to do so sometimes lose
their shirts. So what? Take their freedoms away? What about a
government oversight committee today that would keep you from
playing the stock market because you might do something stupid?
You surely don't want that too.

And laissez-faire educational systems work fine in most Western,
advanced nations, and most countries are ready for them. But
not impoverished third world countries who are hundreds if not
thousands of years behind culturally. They're not even ready for
rudimentary democracy.

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

Basically, I agree. But for each *particular* question, unlike
your generalities, the question could be asked, "are we ready
yet to do it ourselves, or do we still need rulers for that?".

> 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?

I wager that if you give concrete examples, we can see that at some
level of education and some level of knowledge and familiarity with
liberty's potential, free solutions can and do exist. But there will be
others, e.g. group or national defense, that perhaps don't exist, or
don't given any kind of humans that currently exist on Earth.

So what are the implications of all this for either AI domination
scenarios, human self-modification and enhancement, and other
trends and possibilities we foresee?


> 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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