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Transhumanist Ideas for Reforming Political Processes and Improving Government Accountability – Presentation by Gennady Stolyarov II

Transhumanist Ideas for Reforming Political Processes and Improving Government Accountability – Presentation by Gennady Stolyarov II

Gennady Stolyarov II


On February 13, 2019, Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party, spoke to the Young Americans for Liberty Chapter at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) in a wide-ranging discussion on the intersection of technology and politics and the types of reforms that could pave the way to the new technological era of major progress and radical abundance. Watch Mr. Stolyarov’s presentation on YouTube here.

Mr. Stolyarov discussed policy positions from the U.S. Transhumanist Party Platform, such as support for ranked-preference voting, greatly lowered ballot-access thresholds, simultaneous nationwide primaries, shorter campaign seasons, AI-assisted redistricting, germaneness rules for legislation, minimum consideration timeframes for amendments, and the general desirable shift in the balance away from special-interest lobbies and toward intelligent laypersons.

See Mr. Stolyarov’s presentation slides here.

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside. Apply here in less than a minute.

Watch Mr. Stolyarov’s interview of Ray Kurzweil at RAAD Fest 2018.

Watch the presentation by Gennady Stolyarov II at RAAD Fest 2018, entitled, “The U.S. Transhumanist Party: Four Years of Advocating for the Future”.

 

Private Cities: A Path to Liberty – Article by Titus Gebel

Private Cities: A Path to Liberty – Article by Titus Gebel

The New Renaissance Hat
Titus Gebel
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Given Voluntary Cooperation, Everything Is Possible

Let us analyze the market for governance: states exist, at least in part, because there is demand for them. A functioning state offers a stable framework of law and order, which enables the coexistence and interaction of a large number of people. This is so attractive that most people are willing to accept significant limitations on their personal freedom in exchange. Probably even most North Koreans would prefer staying in their country compared to living free but alone as a Robinson Crusoe on a remote island. Humans are social animals.

However, if you could offer the services of a state and also avoid its disadvantages, you would have created a better product. But after decades of political activity, I have come to the conclusion that real liberty, in the sense of voluntariness and self-determination, can’t be achieved by tinkering with existing states through the democratic process. There is simply not enough demand for these values at the moment.

However, someone could offer this as a niche product for interested parties. It might be possible for private companies to provide all of the necessary services that government normally monopolizes. I want to start such a company.

Private Cities

All that we know from the free market could be applied to what I call the “market of living together”: voluntary exchange (including the right to reject any offer), competition between products, and the resulting diversity of the product range. A “government services provider” could offer a specific model of living together within a defined territory and only the ones who like the offer settle there. Such offers have to be attractive — otherwise there will be no customers.

This is the idea of a private city: a voluntary, for-profit, private enterprise that offers protection for life, liberty, and property in a given territory — better, cheaper, and freer than existing state models. Residence would depend on a predefined contractual relationship between residents and the operator. In case there is a conflict about the interpretation of the contract, there will be independent arbitration.

Private cities are not meant as a retreat for the rich. Run properly, they would develop along the lines of Hong Kong, offering opportunities to rich and poor alike. New residents who are willing to work but without means could negotiate a deferral of their payment obligations, and employers seeking a workforce could take over their contractual payment obligations.

The incentive for the operator of a private city would be profit: offering an attractive product at the right price. This would likely include public goods, such as a clean environment, police, and fire protection, as well as some infrastructure and social rules. But the operator’s main service is to ensure that the free order is not disturbed and that residents’ life and property are secure.

In practice, the operator can only guarantee this if he or she can control who is coming (prevention) and is entitled to throw out disrupters (reaction). For everything beyond this framework, there are private entrepreneurs, insurance, and civil society groups. Of course, all activity ends where the rights of others are infringed. Other than that, the proper corrective is competition and demand.

Order and Exit

Will the threat of competition bring sufficient protection to the residents? Consider this: the Principality of Monaco is a constitutional monarchy. It concedes zero political participation rights for residents without Monegasque citizenship — some 80 percent of the population, including myself. Nevertheless, there are far more applicants for residency than the small housing market of this tiny place (two square kilometers) may take.

Why is this so? Three reasons: there are no direct taxes in Monaco for individuals; it is extremely secure; and the government leaves you alone. If Monaco changed this, people would just move away to other jurisdictions. Thus, despite the prince’s formal position of great power, competition with other jurisdictions — not separation of powers, not a constitution, and not voting — ensures the residents’ freedom.

Accordingly, there is also no need for parliaments. Rather, such representative bodies are a constant danger to liberty, since special interest groups inevitably hijack and mutate them into self-service stores for the political class. Unfortunately, the rule of law does not provide adequate protection against this tendency in contemporary Western societies. If laws or constitutions are standing in the way, they will be quickly modified or interpreted in a politically convenient way.

Competition has been proven as the only effective method in human history for limitation of power. In a private city, contract and arbitration are efficient tools in favor of the residents. But ultimately, it is competition and the possibility of a speedy exit that guarantee that the operator remains a service provider and does not become a dictator.

A private city is not a utopian, constructivist idea. Instead, it is simply a known business model applied to another sector, the market of living together. In essence, the operator is a mere service provider, establishing and maintaining the framework within which the society can develop, open-ended, with no predefined goal.

The only permanent requirement in favor of freedom and self-determination is the contract with the operator. Only this contract can create mandatory obligations. For example, residents can agree on establishing a council. But even if 99 percent of the residents support the idea and voluntarily submit to the council’s decisions, this body has no right to impose their ideas on the remaining 1 percent. And this is the crucial point, which failed regularly in past and present systems: a reliable guarantee of individual liberty.

Where to Begin

In order to start this project, autonomy from existing sovereignties must be secured. It need not entail complete territorial independence, but it must include the right to regulate the city’s internal affairs. The establishment of a private city therefore requires first an agreement with an existing state. The parent state grants the operator the right to establish a private city and to set its own rules within a defined territory, ideally with access to the sea and formerly unincorporated.

Existing states can be sold on this concept when they can expect to reap benefits from it. The quasi-city states of Hong Kong, Singapore, and Monaco have a cordon of densely populated and affluent areas adjacent to their borders. These areas are part of the parent states and their residents pay taxes to the mother country. Now, if such structures are formed around a previously underdeveloped or unpopulated area, this is a gain for the parent state. Negotiating with a government to surrender partial sovereignty is certainly no easy task, but it is in my view more promising than attempts to “change the system from within.”

Private cities are much more than just a nice idea for a few people on the margins. They have the potential to subject existing states to creative destruction. If private cities are developed across the world, they will put states under considerable pressure to change their systems towards more freedom, or else they may lose subjects and revenue.

It is precisely this positive effect of competition that has been lacking in the state market to date. Not all private cities need conform to my own ideal rules. Specialized cities offering social security or catering to specific religious or ideological concerns are conceivable. Within this framework, even socialists would be free to try to prove that their system done properly really does work. But this time one thing is different: others do not have to suffer from this (or any other) social experiment. The superstructure of voluntary association allows many different systems to flourish. Given voluntary participation, everything is possible.

This simple rule has the potential to disarm and transform even a totalitarian ideology into just one product among many. I firmly believe that private cities or similar autonomous regions, such as charter cities or LEAP-zones, are inevitable. People of all social and economic groups will not forever agree to be looted, bullied, and patronized by the political class, without ever having a meaningful choice. Private cities are a peaceful, voluntary alternative that can transform our societies without revolution or violence — or even majority consensus. My guess: we will see the first private city within the next ten years. I hope to see you there.

Titus Gebel is a German entrepreneur with a PhD in law. He previously founded Deutsche Rohstoff AG, among others, and now lives with his family in Monaco.

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

Government by Contract – Article by Kyrel Zantonavitch

Government by Contract – Article by Kyrel Zantonavitch

The New Renaissance Hat
Kyrel Zantonavitch
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Government should be by contract only. The citizen and the state should come to a mutual, official, legal agreement. All adults, upon turning 18 or 21 or so, should sign a formal, written, binding, social compact in which they agree to abide by the constitution and the laws of a given country in exchange for government services. This means in exchange for the defense of their liberty and the protection of their rights.

This essentially means the systematic, careful, full-time safeguarding of their person and property by professionally trained and armed government agents or civil servants. The would-be citizen or resident should freely agree to pay a certain fee – say 3% per year of his local income or .5% per year of his local net worth – in trade for expert police and military defense, plus court and jail services, plus the government administration thereof.

In theory the contractee of the state might be commanded to surrender some of his rights — such as serving one year of military duty, or a lifetime of no slander or defamation in speech, or being subjected to subpoena coercion at any time. But the potential citizen or resident is always perfectly free to quit, or to refuse to join, such a slightly despotic state.

It’s understood that at any time, for any reason, the citizen is free to immediately, unilaterally cancel his contractual agreement by giving brief, official, public or written notice. Thus he renounces his citizenship — and consequent legal obedience and political loyalty — to his former country and government. It’s also understood that the government can strip him of his citizenship or political rights — also by providing official, public notification slightly in advance — for major violations of the constitution or law.

In both cases the person involved can either join another government or become a temporarily or permanently stateless person. But no fines, jail terms, or other civil penalties are allowed due to his “treason,” especially not any property or wealth confiscation. If the former citizen owns land, and so chooses, he can theoretically become a one-man country. Or the previously-signed government contract may require him to sell his land for a fair price and then leave.

Because the former citizen or resident is no longer bound under political contract to some social group, and thus is no longer paying his service fees or “taxes”, the old government will now stay off his private real estate, and will no longer necessarily protect his person or property from criminals and invaders, i.e. from any attackers or rights-violators. He must defend himself.

Moreover the newly independent person can no longer visit his former country without government permission, such as a visa of some kind. When such a person does visit he must temporarily subject himself to the local laws of the foreign government, and perhaps also pay some sort of visitor’s fee.

Government by contract ensures that any given state is fully legitimate and proper in that it clearly and openly enjoys 100% of the consent of the governed, from its voluntary members. Convicted criminals may dispute this, but they freely chose to become citizens or residents prior to conviction. Their arrest, trial, and punishment should be entirely open, and a matter of public record, as well as completely based upon the principles of justice and individual rights, and a product of laws that the convicted criminal previously freely agreed to.

Any given government should follow the legitimate and proper course of attaining a formal, serious, contractual assent from the totality of its adult citizenry, and all free, sovereign individuals therein. A government not founded on the consent of the governed is a type of criminal syndicate or imposed tyranny which desperately needs to be avoided.

Kyrel Zantonavitch is the founder of The Liberal Institute  (http://www.liberalinstitute.com/) and author of Pure Liberal Fire: Brief Essays on the New, General, and Perfected Philosophy of Western Liberalism.

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.

Mandatory Vaccinations Can Be Compatible with Liberty – Article by Randal John Meyer

Mandatory Vaccinations Can Be Compatible with Liberty – Article by Randal John Meyer

The New Renaissance HatRandal John Meyer
July 7, 2015
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We can take comfort that modern science can handle infectious diseases. Questionable studies such as reports linking vaccinations to autism have been debunked. Despite the empirically demonstrable efficacy of vaccines, some people have decided to forego vaccinations for themselves or for children under their custody. Accordingly, libertarians have been forced to examine their own tenets to evaluate whether compulsory vaccinations are compatible with the principles of individual freedom.

I believe they are.

A major pitfall for libertarians examining this question is the consideration of whether mandatory vaccinations are too paternalistic. But because vaccinations prevent harm to others with incidental paternalistic effects, I argue that they are justified. Because certain deadly diseases are communicable from human-to-human contact, transmission can be prevented by using medically safe vaccines.

Vaccines do not always and in every case protect individuals who receive them. Bacteria and viruses can mutate, preventing vaccines from conquering them. And, over time, a particular vaccine can become less effective. But when given to a large enough population and updated periodically to counter mutations, vaccines act like a computer firewall, protecting the entire population. And if a significant enough portion of the population chooses not to be vaccinated, then the whole population becomes more susceptible to an outbreak. Immunization of a critical proportion of the population in this manner is called “herd immunity.” Though it may seem paradoxical, it becomes important to ensure that the vast majority of people get immunized to prevent harm.

Libertarian philosophy holds that it is justifiable to prevent unauthorized harm of one individual against another. Accordingly, even libertarians who have adopted principles such as the nonaggression axiom or the harm principle can see that vaccination is a means of preventing harm. Moreover, even libertarians who follow a strict Rothbardian nonaggression principle consider the prospect of aggression to be indistinguishable from actual aggression. And this is reasonable: preventing imminent harm is as good as stopping present harm.

University of Arizona professor Joel Feinberg has argued that “it is always a good reason in support of legislation that it would probably be effective in preventing (eliminating or reducing) harm to persons other than the actor and there is probably no other means that is equally effective at no greater cost to other values.”

John Stuart Mill famously notes in On Liberty that “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”

The questions of whether the nonimmunized members of a population pose a risk to others — as well as the effectiveness of vaccinations in preventing that harm — turn on facts. To address such questions, let’s take a look at the disease that has lead to most of this recent controversy: measles.

If one imagines a community with an immunity rate of 96–99 percent for measles due to vaccination (and most states fall below this rate), it is statistically unlikely that there will be an outbreak of measles in this population due to herd immunity. When only 95 percent of the population is vaccinated, an outbreak is possible. When the percentage vaccinated falls below 90 percent, the rate of infection per 10,000 children more than doubles. If the rate falls low enough, we can expect pandemics. “Before mass vaccination was introduced, measles used to follow a cyclic pattern, with [epidemics occurring each] period of about 2 years in Europe and North America,” according to research by V.A.A. Jansen and N. Stollenwerk.

From 1840 through 1990, measles killed nearly 200 million people globally. But from 2000 through 2012, measles deaths decreased by 78 percent after the UN sponsored immunization. During this period, 68 percent of the populations of member countries were immunized to herd immunity levels. In the United States, the vaccination rate among infants was 91 percent, considerably below the 96–99 percent needed for herd immunity to be maintained. In fact, in some enclaves, such as the Orange County school district, the immunization rate dropped to 50–60 percent among kindergarteners. This failure to vaccinate, at least in part due to the existence of the state philosophical exemption from vaccination, allowed the measles outbreak to occur in 2015 in more than a dozen states.

No individual has the right to expose other individuals to that risk.

Alternatively, there is parallel argument from the libertarian principles regarding common defense. According to David Boaz in his updated book, The Libertarian Mind, “most libertarians” believe that “governments should exist … [to provide] national defense against external threats.” The entire human race is at war with microbes, such as viruses, and has undergone massive assaults. Examples include the bubonic plague, smallpox, and polio. Each day, an individual’s immune system destroys numerous potential pathogens. Liberty-restraint principles allow for collectivization of defense efforts against equally deadly foes: our immune systems are not alone in this. Vaccines are instruments of that ongoing war.

People should not be compelled to be vaccinated for noncommunicable diseases, of course, but we don’t want any of these serious pathogens to reemerge. Measles, mumps, rubella, and pertussis cases are all on the rise in the United States. Polio has returned in more than 10 countries; the World Health Organization believes it constitutes a global health emergency. Childhood vaccines save nearly $40 billion in direct and indirect costs, in addition to numerous lives.

It is important to note, as well, that compulsory vaccination can accomplish herd immunity by means short of forced procedures. On one level, the civil law could be used to hold nonvaccinated adults and the parents of nonvaccinated children financially liable with punitive damages for their role in any public health emergency. Exclusion from various types of public space or activities could be justified, yet enforcement would be difficult, if not impossible, particularly in urban areas. On a more restrictive level, the state could use the criminal law to impose fines on parents or declare that such action constitutes child neglect. Regardless, more extreme measures for noncompliant adults would only be appropriate if more restrictive means could not achieve herd immunity thresholds.

Thus, it can be argued that vaccination policy approaching infringement on individual and parental choice does not pose an issue per se with mainstream libertarian thought, given the narrowness of the means of vaccination (how little it imposes on the recipient’s liberty) and the degree of relatively certain harm to others that is thereby prevented.

The harm of nonvaccination for serious communicable diseases poses a significant enough risk for others to become infected that it justifies such small impositions on personal liberty. A policy of voluntary vaccination, or the granting of philosophical exceptions to the general vaccination requirement, causes much more potential harm than requiring people to get a vaccination does.

Randal John Meyer is a Research Fellow at Brooklyn Law School. Randal was born in Rochester, New York. He has a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School, where he was an articles editor on the Brooklyn Law Review, and he has a B.A. in General Philosophy and in Philosophy, Politics, and Law from SUNY Binghamton. He has been cited for his published work on constitutional law, terrorism, and civil liberties, which has appeared in the Brooklyn Law Review, New York Journal of Law and Liberty Blog, and Brooklyn Law Review Practicum.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

Commonly Misunderstood Concepts: Health Care (2009) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Commonly Misunderstood Concepts: Health Care (2009) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
Originally Published October 12, 2009
as Part of Issue CCXI of The Rational Argumentator
Republished July 24, 2014
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Note from the Author: This essay was originally published as part of Issue CCXI of The Rational Argumentator on October 12, 2009, using the Yahoo! Voices publishing platform. Because of the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices, the essay is now being made directly available on The Rational Argumentator.
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 24, 2014
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It is an odd society indeed where such a seemingly simple idea as health care is so severely misunderstood. Health care, as the constituents of the term suggest, is simply caring for one’s health, where health – of course – is the physical integrity and unobstructed functioning of one’s body. A healthy person is one whose body is not breaking down, one who is not in constant pain, one who is going to live for a long time unless some unforeseen external peril – such as an accident or an assault – violates the integrity of one’s body from without.

In a society where there exists advanced scientific medical knowledge, it is possible to benefit one’s health by consulting with certain individuals who specialize in aspects of this knowledge. These individuals are also useful in detecting diseases or other malfunctions that are not obvious to the intelligent layman, and they also do a commendable job in researching cures for diseases that have hitherto been without remedy. Most doctors are to be praised for the excellent work they do, and I am confident that any doctor worthy of his M.D. degree would strongly concur with the fundamental understanding of health care that I posit here.

Most people will recognize that doctors play an important and sometimes necessary role in the provision of health care. What many people today fail to recognize, however, is that doctors are never a sufficient part of genuinely effective health care. Doctors can indeed often detect signs of illness and recommend remedies, but to expect a doctor to perform all of your health care for you is just like expecting a teacher to perform all of your education for you. Doctors and teachers can both help and can even at times make the difference between success and failure, but without your participation and your vigilance, failure is inevitable.

What are other crucial components of health care? They are not esoteric, and they do not require specialized knowledge. They include eating in moderation, exercising regularly, avoiding harmful substances, practicing at most monogamy, keeping one’s surroundings clean, and avoiding risks to life and limb as much as possible. There are also numerous over-the-counter medications and first aid practices, that, if used intelligently, can enable individuals to recover from many minor and even some major perils. These habits are not just little frills added on to the body of health care; they are that body, and without them, one will be quite dead quite soon – but not before racking up absurd amounts of medical expenses. I will note that in the 20th century, human life expectancy in the West surged from the mid-to-late forties to the late seventies. Although medical advances were phenomenal during that time, the vast majority of the increase can be attributed to improvements in overall cleanliness of infrastructure and healthier habits. With the advent of sanitation, regular dental hygiene, automatic washers and dryers, and efficient household cleaning supplies, a lot of infectious diseases that formerly wiped out millions were kept at bay – mostly not by doctors, but by ordinary laypersons living their lives in a superior manner to that of their ancestors. New technologies motivated new behaviors, and these everyday behaviors are our first and so far our best line of defense against disease and decay.

Of course, some people who lead their lives in the most health-conscious manner possible can still be afflicted by catastrophic diseases for reasons that are none of their fault. As far as medical science is aware, many cancers do not appear to be caused by any active human behavior; indeed, some are an unfortunate product of poor genes. And, of course, there is the ultimate killer – senescence – which afflicts all humans, given the current level of medical technology. It is imperative that these perils be eradicated as soon as possible, and the best doctors, scientists, and media advocates are needed to enable a victory over what can justly be called the greatest threats to humans everywhere. I will add that it is a matter of justice that a person who suffers from a disease which he did not cause receive prompt, efficacious, and affordable care. But the vital question – and the question many people today neglect to consider – is how this just state of affairs can possibly come about.

Reality only works in certain ways, in accord with immutable natural laws. Wishing for a good outcome will not make it so, and even acting toward that outcome will only work if the right actions are undertaken. Any reasonable, moral person will agree that it is preferable for all reasonable, moral people to be healthy rather than not. What many people fail to recognize is that any process of improvement takes time, and that surrogate measures that attempt to bring about the improvement instantaneously are not only illusory but can also be severely counterproductive.

As a case in point, I bring forth the oft-encountered contemporary confusion of health care with health insurance. Too many people today believe that it is not taking care of oneself and visiting doctors when necessary that constitutes good health care, but rather the presence ofhealth insurance, which – at least in theory – promises to pay for some of the medical attention one receives from doctors. These individuals see statistics stating that millions do not have health insurance, and they mistakenly assume that these individuals do not have adequate health care. But it is entirely possible for a person to have healthy habits and – especially if this person is young – to not require extensive or expensive medical attention. It is also possible for a person to be sufficiently wealthy to afford to pay for the doctors he wishes to visit. Moreover, it is possible for a person to rely on the charity of doctors in providing any medically necessary attention – as was the case for centuries before health insurance came about, when most doctors would treat all patients but would charge them differential rates based on their ability to pay. In effect, with these traditional doctors, the rich voluntarily subsidized the poor on a largely free market, in a manner beyond the wildest dreams of the advocates of socialized medicine today.

Of course, the presence of health insurance cannot avert the need to seek the attentions of doctors. Indeed, a well-known concept in insurance, moral hazard, suggests that in some cases, an insured individual may actually be more likely to fall victim to a peril than an uninsured individual, because the insured individual is shielded from some of the financial consequences of the loss. Insurance can make life easier for some people in some cases, and it can also be a good safeguard for catastrophes, but it is neither necessary nor sufficient for proper health care. Indeed, the manner in which health insurance has developed in the United States is one of the contributing factors to the astronomically increasing prices of specialized medical care. Health insurance in the U. S. is not provided on a largely free market like most forms of property insurance. Instead, it is mostly tied to one’s employment by virtue of the market-distorting tax breaks that employers receive for providing health insurance. One does not need to worry about what happens with one’s car insurance if one loses a job, but losing one’s job can severely damage one in the realm of health insurance.

Since employers began to receive favorable treatment from the federal government for providing health insurance in the 1940s, the health insurance snowball has continued to embroil more people in a crisis of increasing proportions. The people who got the subsidized insurance had an incentive to spend more money than they usually would on doctors – often an outcome of hypochondria rather than of a reasonable concern for health. As demand for medical services rose, so did the cost, and so the people who did not have insurance – especially the elderly and unemployed – found it more difficult to afford even basic services. The federal government’s solution? Medicare and Medicaid, which put the elderly and unemployed in the same position to spend more freely that the previously insured had. This, of course, further increased the demand for and price of specialized medical services. With the recent vast expansion of Medicare under the Bush administration, it is no surprise that prices have further skyrocketed.

Now, because so many people have subsidized health insurance, it has become extremely difficult to afford medical care for catastrophic situations without it. This is not a necessary component of health care in a quasi-advanced society; it is a creation of bad policies that incrementally expanded the scope of the present crisis. An even worse policy is on the horizon; it is not socialized healthcare yet, but in some respects it may even be worse. The Obama administration and its supporters in Congress threaten to require everyone to purchase health insurance and to eliminate the aspect that makes it insurance – selection and pricing on the basis of the risks posed by the insureds. Forcing people to purchase health insurance and prohibiting discrimination on the basis of pre-existing conditions are the same as making the healthy subsidize the ill and charging everyone roughly the same general rates. With this kind of incentive system in place, it is only logical to assume that many people who otherwise would have lived spectacularly would begin to demand medically unnecessary attention simply to be net beneficiaries of the system where everyone ostensibly subsidizes everyone else. This cannot continue indefinitely, as resources are finite, and the inevitable recourse by the government will be the rationing of medical services – a political selection of who lives and who dies. This scenario – so common in many countries in the West today, including Britain and Canada – is the opposite of genuine health care. Indeed, denying care to an individual who could afford it and placing that individual on a waiting list on which he dies is nothing short of murder.

Only a massive shift in public opinion and government policy can extricate us from the entanglement of health care with health insurance and return us to the direct relationship between patients and doctors, as well as the optimal amount of motivation for each individual to care for his own health. Until then, stay healthy and try to make sure that you do not need the care that gets rationed – if you can.

Read other articles in The Rational Argumentator’s Issue CCXI.

History of the Minoan Civilization of Ancient Crete (2002) – Essay by G. Stolyarov II

History of the Minoan Civilization of Ancient Crete (2002) – Essay by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 20, 2014
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Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2002 and published in four parts on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007.  The essay earned over 32,200 page views on Associated Content/Yahoo! Voices, and I seek to preserve it as a valuable resource for readers, subsequent to the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices. Therefore, this essay is being published directly on The Rational Argumentator for the first time.  ***
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~ G. Stolyarov II, July 20, 2014
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The Minoan civilization of ancient Crete has long fascinated historians and students of history. As early as about 4000 years ago, the Minoans already had a thriving culture with major commercial, esthetic, and technological accomplishments, unparalleled virtually anywhere else in the world of their time. Some have even speculated that the Greek legend of the ultra-advanced ancient city of Atlantis was based on knowledge, passed down through the ages, of the accomplishments of Minoan Crete.

This essay will examine key aspects of Minoan life and culture. We begin by looking at this civilization’s emergence and the kind of geographical environment in which it came to be. We then continue the examination of the Minoan civilization of ancient Crete by discussing the Minoan economy and government – both of which were remarkably advanced for their time and allowed the Minoans a then unparalleled degree of liberty and prosperity. We proceed to discuss this culture’s religious, esthetic, and technological aspects, the athletic activities common in Minoan Crete, and the manner in which this remarkable ancient civilization met its end.

Beginnings of the Minoan Culture

The site of Knossos, the capital of ancient Crete, possessed discernible human influences from as early as 7000 BC. The beginning of intense development can be detected at about 3000 BC.

The Minoans originated in Asia Minor and spoke a language not related to the Indo-European group. The interpretation of their scripts and any manner of their phonetics are lost to us, although Myceneans and later Greeks may have borrowed certain Minoan aspects of speech.

Centralization of government was gradually instituted with the construction of the first Palace in Knossos at about 2000 BC.

When population reached levels exceeding the available food supplies, migrations to neighboring islands were required to extend the accessible arable territory. Need of a navy also arose for purposes of transportation as well as commerce with other Mediterranean cultures for the acquisition of food and other raw goods.

Geography of Crete

Crete, a large island in the Mediterranean, lies halfway between Asia Minor and Greece, granting it a central spot in numerous ancient trade routes on the sea.

During the earliest days of its development, Crete was free from invasions, since no civilization had yet developed a sufficiently massive and functional navy to mount an expedition. This permitted relatively calm development, where resources could be employed for technological advancement and the arts rather than frequent warfare, subsistence, and repairs. The Minoans as a result created few defensive structures and no standing army, since the necessity for these was not present.

Crete possesses a temperate climate and highly productive soil. Large families were common, as demonstrated by houses of four to six rooms for even the poorest dwellers within the realm. Evidently, the frequent agricultural surpluses resulted in rapid population growth and hence the need for expansion and trade.

Economy

The primary vehicles of the Minoan economy were mercantile ships also equipped with armaments. They conducted journeys to mainland Greece, Asia Minor, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Palestine. From there they imported basic resources such as additional food to maintain a constantly increasing population.

Minoans exported refined goods, such as jewelry, wine, oil, and artwork, for Crete was home to numerous skilled craftsmen and specialists.

Present hypotheses concerning the identity of numerous Minoan documents hint at a purpose of recording commercial transactions. It is known that accuracy and calculation were valued in conducting economic deals.

Trade was centralized and commissioned by the King, whose extensive network of bureaucrats would implement detailed designs and analyze the results. Because of Crete’s small size and relatively small population, it was possible for the monarch to govern the country in a similar way to the management of a modern corporation. Nevertheless, the government did not neglect the people, and there is evidence of even the lower classes enjoying imported goods. The distribution may not have been even, yet the differences between wealth and poverty were substantially smaller than in any other contemporary culture.

Government

Crete was ruled by a monarch from the central palace of Knossos. The first ruler (and the only one whose name is known) was the legendary King Minos, described by later Greeks as being the son of Zeus and appointed by the chief deity to reign over the island.

The monarchy, however, was far from a totalitarian regime. Historian Richard Hooker describes the role of the King as a “chief entrepreneur or CEO” rather than a dictator. Numerous administrative decisions were shared by a priesthood (which was mainly female) and an immense network of bureaucrats and scribes. This semi-meritocracy was one of the most civil regimes of its time, remarkable for its lack of rigid caste structures and barriers to individual socioeconomic advancement.

Evidence suggests that the people of Crete were permitted a large degree of liberty, and no gender inequalities existed. Cretans are anomalous in that respect, having avoided the negative impacts of late Neolithic societies upon women and the poor. Perhaps this is due to the fact that their relative tranquility placed a smaller need on a strong military and a subservient workforce. Thus patriarchy and a rule of warlords never developed.

Religion

The Minoans had a matriarchal religion in which no male gods were detectable.

Cretan religion orients itself around animals, and numerous deities seem to possess a central emphasis on them. For example, “The Huntress” represents human attempts for mastery over other creatures, while “The Mountain Mother”, a diametric opposite, attempts to preserve a natural setting for animals. A popular household goddess was portrayed as entangled in snakes throughout her organism. Other goddesses possessed exteriors of birds, most notably doves.

The Minoans worshipped trees, rocks, and springs in a semi-Animist manner.

Evil figures in Minoan religion are represented as human demons with the limbs of lions and other carnivores.

Art, Architecture, and Technology

The most renowned of the palaces in Knossos was the four-story Labyrinth, the chief palace of the King in existence from 2000 to 1350 BC. Its extraordinary abundance of rooms served as a basis for legends of foreigners, such as mainland Greeks, who perceived it as a maze in which it would be humanly impossible to remember one’s way. In reality, however, it was not the crude dwelling of the Minotaur that myths describe it to be. It possessed numerous places of worship, workshops, lavish banquet halls, and a grand courtyard in the center, surrounded by four sections. This palace was destroyed and rebuilt numerous times, in 1700 BC, and later by an earthquake in 1600 BC. The eruption of the Santorini volcano in 1450 BC was its greatest catastrophe, although it was restored once more by conquering Greeks. However, it fell into neglect and disrepair as Crete lost its political value around 1380 BC. This monumental work is thought to have been designed by the legendary architect and scientist Daidalus, the father of Icarus.

Minoan art seems to have been separated from mundane tasks and duties and oriented toward a purely aesthetic purpose. Numerous wall murals in palatial complexes within Knossos illustrate scenes from the animal world and everyday life, common in depiction but detached from practicality. The objects portrayed were often trivial and superficial, and there is no moral or political aim discernible in the works. Art was instead developed “for art’s sake”.

Minoan cities possessed plumbing and sanitation systems reaching into the confines of every home. The exact means by which they realized this was, unfortunately, lost following their decline and not recovered until 17th century Europeans had again attained this skill.

Sports

The renowned sport of ancient Crete, open to both genders and subjecting all to the same standards, was bull leaping. This was a dangerous pastime, but harmless and humane to the athlete and the animal if performed with skill. A bull would be released to charge toward the jumper. Once it was in sufficient proximity, the performer would attach his hands to the bull’s horns and vault onto the creature’s back. Another common objective was to somersault from such a position to a state of standing on a spot of land directly behind the bull.

Boxing was also a favorite activity, as portrayed in numerous wall murals. The precise regulations are unknown, but this is perhaps a source of inspiration for later Greeks, who adapted the sport to the Olympic Games.

Fate of the Civilization

The Minoans’ isolation from foreign threats caused them to maintain feeble frontiers, and gradually mainland powers such as Mycenae developed, with the fleet and army to overcome them.

The task of conquest was perhaps lightened for the Myceneans by the explosion of the Santorini volcano, four or five times more massive than the cataclysmic eruption of Krakatoa in 1888. This, along with a similar catastrophe on a nearby island from the volcano Thera, inflicted devastating blows upon Crete’s population and economy, crippling it and rendering it susceptible to invasion.

Under Achaean occupation, Knossos gradually withered away into an insignificant village, the cultural level of the Myceneans being too primitive to maintain the complexities of the civilization which they had conquered.

Nevertheless, evidence suggests that Cretan script was somewhat adopted by the occupants. Elements of Linear A, the original (and yet un-decoded) alphabet of the Minoans, have been spotted in Linear B, the early writing of the Myceneans.

Myths maintained a memory of this civilization in such fascinating works as the tale of Theseus and his struggle against the Minotaur for over 3000 years. Only between 1900 and 1931, during the extensive excavations conducted by archaeologist Arthur Evans, did details begin to surface about the true identity of this culture. Archaeologists and historians discovered a humane and prosperous society that existed during a relatively savage time, a society that provided many of the early foundations of Western civilization.

Sources

“Knossos.” http://www.culture.gr/2/21/211/21123a/e211wa03.html

Hooker, Richard. “The Palace Civilizations of the Aegean.” http://richard-hooker.com/sites/worldcultures/MINOA/MINOANS.HTM

Iraklion Museum. “City of Knossos: The Palace of King Minos.” http://www.dilos.com/region/crete/kn_01.html.

Why I Do Not Adhere to Anarcho-Capitalism (2009) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Why I Do Not Adhere to Anarcho-Capitalism (2009) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
Originally Published August 9, 2009,
as Part of Issue CCII of The Rational Argumentator
Republished July 2, 2014
******************************
Note from the Author: This essay was originally published as part of Issue CII of The Rational Argumentator on August 9, 2009, using the Yahoo! Voices publishing platform. Because of the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices, the essay is now being made directly available on The Rational Argumentator. The arguments in it continue to be relevant to discussions regarding minarchism and anarcho-capitalism, and therefore it is fitting for this publication to provide these arguments a fresh presence.
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 2, 2014
***

As one of the many libertarians who loves individual freedom and free markets but nevertheless perceives an important role for government, I have been challenged numerous times on my stance. The best way to describe my position is that I am a minarchist in theory; I happen to agree with Thomas Jefferson that “that government is best which governs least,” and yet I recognize that an active government is necessary for combating force and fraud and for ensuring that the natural rights of individuals are not transgressed upon by other private parties. In practice, I am an incrementalist – a strong supporter of evolutionary change rather than revolutionary change of any sort. I believe that real-world political reform is a delicate process, and that the sequence of transitions matters just as much as the abstract desirability of any given transition. We want to implement the right changes, but we also need to implement them in the right order – just as a doctor who wishes to cure a patient using theoretically sound procedures cannot just apply the procedures in an arbitrary sequence and hope to succeed.

Following Murray Rothbard (who, unlike me, was a noted anarcho-capitalist), I believe that liberty is the most desirable political end, but it is not necessarily the most desirable end of all. The length, prosperity, and security of every individual’s life are to me much more important – and I see liberty as the surest means of attaining those ends to the greatest extent. However, it is possible for those ends to also be partially and tolerably well attained – at least in the short term – in an environment that lacks complete liberty. This is why I developed a rough system that “measures” degrees of government oppression using a mixture of cardinal and ordinal approaches. Irrespective of the particular criteria of comparison, any reasonable thinker will agree that some governments today are much more tolerable than others – and a few are quite innocuous and even outright beneficent, especially when we consider governments over smaller jurisdictions, such as states and localities, and particular agencies of those governments which do not employ coercion to any substantial extent. Metaphysically, I agree with Ayn Rand that there is an objective reality, where A = A – i.e., every particular thing is what it is and not what one’s mental model of it happens to be. Thus, I believe in judging every particular instance of government or governance not just as “government or governance in general” but rather as precisely what it is specifically – which means that a government is nothing more than the sum of the people who compose it and their actions, which need to be judged on their own merits or lack thereof. I am therefore open to the possibility that some governments may be able to solve some problems without infringing on natural rights at all. I am equally open, of course, to the possibility that those problems may be solved on the free market without government participation.

Here, I will present a basic outline of my objections to anarcho-capitalism as it is typically presented today. Anarcho-capitalism can be defined as the position that government is unnecessary altogether and that market-based services can provide all of the essential functions of government recognized by the minarchist as legitimate – including police protection, protection from foreign invaders, enforcement of contracts, and adjudication of disputes.

My Foremost Political Goal

I define a state of complete liberty as the absence of the initiation of violence or coercive dishonesty by any individual against any other individual. By “violence” I mean the physical disruption of either the integrity of an individual’s body or that of the material things which that individual owns. The term “coercive dishonesty” encompasses fraud, breach of contract, bad-faith dealings, and failure to fully disclose information that would affect the decision of a party in a business transaction. By “initiating” violence or coercive dishonesty I mean being the first party to inflict such acts on another, without having had such acts inflicted on oneself by that other and without defending some other innocent party against those acts inflicted by that other. I do not consider retaliatory force – provided that it is a proportional response to the initiated force and does not harm innocent parties – to be illegitimate or undesirable.

Thus, I believe that the state of the world which minimizes violence and coercive dishonesty as much as possible is the most desirable state. To be sure, both many governments and many private parties throughout history have engaged in these heinous acts – and I am not defending any entities that have. My position does not embrace governments as they currently are, but as they can be and ought to be. Anarcho-capitalists may object to my position by arguing that few, if any, governments in history have subscribed to minarchist principles and initiated no violence or coercive dishonesty. To this, I will reply by quoting John Lennon: “You may call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” Few, if any, societies in history have been viably anarcho-capitalist, either. Neither my position nor the anarcho-capitalists’ has any existing real-world incarnation. The question before us, then, is which of these positions would result in less overall violence and coercive dishonesty if implemented in practice?

Objection 1: Lack of an Ultimate Arbiter

Anarcho-capitalists posit that dispute resolution – be it of the character of police action or judicial proceedings – can occur among entirely private entities on the free market without any government involvement at all. For sake of conciseness, I will call the entities that engage in this manner of dispute resolution DRAs – or dispute resolution agencies.

It is true that many forms of dispute resolution can occur without government participation and do occur in this manner today – within families and business arrangements subject to private arbitration. If a private dispute is resolved satisfactorily by the relevant private parties themselves, then there is no need for recourse to government. However, there also exist instances – all too many today, as evidenced by the overwhelmed American judicial system – where private parties cannot reconcile their differences solely through private means. Anarcho-capitalists’ typical response to this is that in a wholly free market (as they define it, that is, with no government altogether) ex ante arrangements would exist whereby, if DRA X and DRA Y – representing two different and opposing parties in a dispute – could not reach a mutually satisfactory decision, the power of decision would be delegated to a third DRA – Z. This is conceivable, but it is by no means guaranteed that such an arrangement would occur in all cases. Thus, under anarcho-capitalism, there is nothing theoretically preventing there being no ultimate resolution to a dispute – ever – from the standpoint of legitimacy, in which case there would be no recourse left but to the principle of “might makes right.” If a dispute cannot be resolved peacefully, then it will devolve into violence – which is the least desirable of all outcomes. Anarcho-capitalism lacks an ultimate arbiter that would step in irrespective of prior contractual arrangements or lack thereof in order to quell the initiation of violence if it were to occur.

It is conceivable that a government could leave most dispute resolution to the private market – unless the market has demonstrated its failure to achieve lasting, peaceable resolution. In that case, the government, as the ultimate arbiter, would need to intervene and offer a resolution, either through a decision of its courts or through the interposition of armed agents whose presence would prevent violence from erupting. It is important to remind my readers that my foremost objective is the prevention of violence breaking out. If two private DRAs were about to begin a miniature war – and they happened not to have contractual procedures in place for preventing it beforehand – then it is desirable for a third agency with greater powers than a mere private entity to decisively put an end to such coercive and damaging behavior.

Objection 2: Lack of Legitimate Enforcement against Violent Non-Parties to Contracts

The way an anarcho-capitalist society would work – according to most of its advocates – is that all members would bind themselves by contracts in their mutual interactions, and the contracts would stipulate consequences for non-compliance. This raises an interesting issue: What if a person within the society refused to bind himself by any contracts whatsoever and simply raided, stole, and murdered as he saw fit? If there is no law other than what individuals choose to bind themselves by, then what legitimate recourse do other non-coercive members of the society have against this initiator of violence? Moreover, if this person were to team up with a host of others who similarly chose not to bind themselves by any contracts that prohibit initiation of force, could not a formidable criminal gang form and terrorize – if not overwhelm – the peaceful portions of the anarcho-capitalist society? Of course, somebody in the anarcho-capitalist society could always simply kill or detain the aggressors in practice, without regard for whether the aggressors broke a contract or not. However, such an act would not be legitimate in an anarcho-capitalist society. Illegitimate acts can and do occur – both with and without governments – but what counts as an illegitimate act matters. Under a government, murder can and does happen, but murder is considered illegitimate. Under anarcho-capitalism, murder by non-parties to any contracts is not illegitimate, but punishing by force a person who commits such a murder is illegitimate. A system where legitimacy fails to apply to actions with obvious morality and desirability is a troubling system indeed.

Objection 3: The Oxymoron and the Danger of Markets in Force

A market arrangement is an arrangement based on voluntary participation of all parties – an arrangement where trading is substituted for compulsion. On a free market for a typical good or service – such as an item of food or a construction job, for instance – no individual is required to buy and no individual is required to sell, except on terms mutually favorable and explicitly agreed upon. However, the term “market” no longer applies in this sense when any element of compulsion is introduced. When a “market service” involves wielding weapons and enacting violence against individuals who do not wish to have this violence inflicted upon them, it ceases to be a “market service” and becomes something quite different. This does not necessarily make such a service illegitimate, of course – as the potential for retaliatory force is a necessary component in minimizing the initiation of force. However, this difference does invalidate the application of typical principles of analyzing markets to such “services.” There can be no market-based analysis of a service that does not entirely rely on voluntary consent from all parties involved.

One of the glaring dangers of a “market service” specializing in the use of force is that such a service could simply use the force it “produces” to extort or steal other people’s wealth instead of earning it in voluntary trades. Without an external authority to enforce a prohibition on this behavior, there is no guarantee that such behavior would not occur. A free-market DRA would not always do this, of course, but there are conceivable scenarios where every incentive would favor such behavior. Only when there are substantial disincentives to the use of force from other armed parties on a free market or when the DRA administrator is particularly humane, benevolent, and enlightened could a DRA be reasonably expected not to violate individual rights. There are two ways for such incentives to arise without reliance on anyone’s personal virtues. Either 1) there could exist a “balance of power” among the DRAs such that each of them is afraid of transgressing against clients of the other or 2) there could exist an authority external to the DRAs that would always protect the parties unjustly aggressed upon, irrespective of the power differential between the aggressors and the targets of aggression. I favor solution 2), because it is not as contingent on a particular balance of power being in place.

Moreover, many anarcho-capitalists claim that one of the problems with government is that it has a monopoly on the use of force and that, as a monopoly, it necessarily offers a lower quality and lower quantity of its product at higher prices. I urge the reader to recall, however, that we are not here discussing a monopoly on otherwise entirely voluntary transactions. It is useful to ask the question whether it is desirable to have force offered in “higher quality,” higher quantities, and a lower price. I, for one, would prefer it to be more expensive to kill a person rather than less – and for the methods of killing to be both of lower quality (i.e., less reliable at killing) and available in lower quantities. Perhaps a monopoly on force has the potential to minimize the use of force compared to “competition” in force. This, I believe, is an empirical question – but even the question itself challenges many anarcho-capitalists’ assertions that governments are necessarily bad because they are monopolies on the use of force.

Objection 4: Each Person a Judge in His Own Case

This objection to anarcho-capitalism comes from none other than one of history’s first libertarians – John Locke. Locke believed that a government is necessary to resolve disputes and decide on punishments, because no individual is qualified to be an impartial judge in his own case. Virtually all of us, when we feel wronged, have a tendency to exaggerate the magnitude of the injury we have suffered and to demand a punishment that is likely to be disproportionate to the offense. On the other hand, when a person has wronged somebody else, he has an incentive to maintain his innocence or to argue that his act was not as grievous as was truly the case. A third party, not itself a victim or a perpetrator of the wrongful act, is needed to ascertain both the facts of the case and the apportionment of guilt and punishment. Sometimes, such a third party could indeed be a private arbiter. However, it is entirely possible for two private DRAs to each be vested – either emotionally, financially, or both – in the interests of their particular clients in a manner that would detract from objectivity in reaching a decision. In that case, I believe that an indispensable role exists for government to provide the desirable impartial arbitration.

Objection 5: Over-Emphasis on Names, Under-Emphasis on Reality

My concern with anarcho-capitalism is it substitutes consideration of the names of political arrangements for the reality of those arrangements – i.e., the physical actions performed by physical people in the physical world. Whether a function is called a “market” function or a “government” function is not as important as the physical movements involved in carrying out that function. If the physical movements involved do not cause disruption of body or property (as in violence) and do not involve the formation of chemical reactions corresponding to false impressions of reality in the brains of parties to a transaction (as in coercive dishonesty), then the action is legitimate from the standpoint of natural law. On the other hand, if the physical movements of individuals correspond to acts of violence or coercive dishonesty, then these actions are illegitimate – irrespective of whether the individuals call themselves (or are called by others) government officials, free-market DRAs, or private gangsters.

Anarcho-capitalists might respond here by noting that, in the 20th century, governments have killed more people than possibly all private crime in human history. This is true – but it does not undermine the case for any government whatsoever. The killing was done by some governments – such as the governments of Nazi Germany, the USSR, and Maoist China – but not others, such as many of the governments of American cities, towns, and villages. Moreover, even in the governments that perpetrated the killings, only some of the officials were responsible for either ordering the killings, promoting them as desirable, or carrying them out. Millions of government employees have never committed a single coercive action (and yes, that even includes their mode of earning a living – as quite a few government positions are not tax-financed). It does not seem fair to lump a peaceful bureaucrat doing research or mediating consumer complaints at his desk with an NKVD officer massacring villagers in the Ukraine. Both are “government” functionaries, but they could not be farther apart in terms of what they do, and the atrocities of the latter do not de-legitimize the former. The anarcho-capitalist characterization of all government as violent, coercive, and unnecessary is a poor substitute for a thorough consideration of reality. Moreover, it is a violation of the principle of methodological individualism, which evaluates the actions of each person as an individual person, and not primarily as a member of a collective. Collectives do not act or think; only individual people do – although the incentives people face depend on the institutional structure to which those people are subject.

Objection 6: No Practical Application

To date, I have not found a single viable proposal for the attainment of anarcho-capitalism in the real world. Anarcho-capitalists have tended to spend most of their time on either 1) describing what an ideal anarcho-capitalist society would be like or 2) discussing why government, in its various manifestations, is undesirable. At the same time, some anarcho-capitalists have disdained and even actively discouraged participation in “the system” as it currently is, because that would grant “implicit recognition” to existing power structures. During the 2008 Republican Primaries, for instance, many anarcho-capitalists (though, of course, not all of them; I do not mean to offer a blanket characterization) endeavored to actively dissuade people from supporting the Ron Paul movement, arguing that attempting to reform the U.S. government from within would grant legitimacy to the structures of the U.S. government. These anarchists were preoccupied with formal structures over the substantive functions of the government – which could be better or worse than they are today. Moreover, these anti-Ron-Paul anarcho-capitalists undermined a movement that had the potential to eliminate many of the abuses of the U. S. federal government against its subjects’ liberties.

I happen to believe that political theory is more than a mind game; it has relevance to the real world, and it ought to have real-world implications for how we act in our own lives. It is not enough to simply state that one would like the world to be a certain way. Rather, a specific, technical, and quite involved series of steps is necessary to transition from the status quo to any state considered desirable. To simply contemplate the end outcome without any idea of how to attain it or even approach it is to divorce one’s political thinking from reality. We find ourselves today with a highly imperfect political system – one that involves numerous violations of individual liberties and also jeopardizes the economic prosperity and technological progress of the Western world. To solve today’s political problems, we cannot but participate in government in some way for the purposes of reforming it or at least protecting ourselves. To reject government altogether instead of endeavoring to improve it is to hide from the real, pressing problems of our time.

Perhaps the anarcho-capitalist ideal will be realizable in some distant future time, once human beings have progressed morally and technologically to such an extent that the initiation of force is no longer lucrative to anybody. I even suggested that this would happen in my short story, “The Fate of War.” In that enlightened time, violence would altogether not be within the realm of human consideration, and a viable anarcho-capitalism would be the natural corollary to that state of affairs.

Meanwhile, however, we are alive today – and if we do not have that which we consider good within our lifetimes, we shall not have it at all. If it is liberty we want – and the anarcho-capitalists have not come up with a viable way to have it without government – then we must have liberty with government. This endeavor will require working through government as well as through private channels; it will require not rejecting the existing system, but modifying it incrementally to move it toward more liberty and less violence. At the same time, a revolution against government is the least desirable course of action, because it would devastate our current levels of prosperity, health, and stability. Individuals who are wealthy, productive, and in control of their lives will come, over time, to civilly demand increasing amounts of independence from centralized control. On the other hand, individuals whose livelihoods have been ruined and whose prospects for upward mobility have been thwarted by an unstable macroeconomic and political climate – which inevitably accompanies revolutions – are easy prey for demagogues and would-be tyrants. Advocates of freedom must be patient, civil, and cautious. While challenging abuses of government authority as such abuses occur, freedom-loving people ought never to do anything that would undermine the standard of living or the safety and comfort of people in the Western world.

Transhumanism and Minarchism Are Compatible: A Response to The Sliceman – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Transhumanism and Minarchism Are Compatible: A Response to The Sliceman – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
April 27, 2014
******************************

This essay is part of a debate with The Sliceman on whether transhumanism and minarchism are compatible. For prior installments of the conversation, see the following essays:

– “Why I Do Not Adhere to Anarcho-Capitalism” by G. Stolyarov II

– “In Response to G. Stolyarov II and his Transhumanist Minarchism” by The Sliceman

I appreciate that The Sliceman has taken the time to post his thoughts on the question of the compatibility of transhumanism and minarchism, and I thank him for his good words regarding my work. If, as he writes, we agree on 90% of the issues, “with the lone exceptions being minarchy and monogamy”, then we have plenty of common ground that could also be used to reach some points of agreement on the question of transhumanist minarchism.

My aim in this discussion will not be to discredit or refute anarcho-capitalism; instead, I will strive to show that transhumanist minarchism is a fully reasonable and logically consistent position. Empirically, transhumanist anarcho-capitalism also clearly has articulate adherents and holds out promise for the incremental improvement of the human condition. The Sliceman writes of my views, “Your stance is that, [anarcho-capitalism] would be better than normal statism, but not as good as minarchism.” This is correct, meaning that I would see transhumanist anarcho-capitalism as an improvement over the status quo both politically and technologically. However, transhumanist minarchism would be superior still, because it would contain a method for resolving tensions and disputes that would have escalated into violence under transhumanist anarcho-capitalism.

The Sliceman writes in response to my statement that anarcho-capitalism has no practical application in today’s world that “yes, there has never been a practical application of Anarcho-Capitalism replacing a state but there has never been an economic powerhouse minarchy that didn’t evolve into totalitarianism either. We are BOTH in the realm of theory here, my friend.”

In an important way, I agree. I wrote in “Why I Do Not Adhere to Anarcho-Capitalism” that “Neither my position nor the anarcho-capitalists’ has any existing real-world incarnation. The question before us, then, is which of these positions would result in less overall violence and coercive dishonesty if implemented in practice?” However, in another important way, I disagree with the argument that an empirical refutation of minarchism can be offered by observing formerly freer societies that have devolved into totalitarian or near-totalitarian ones. The Sliceman is correct that the United States has undertaken this trajectory over the past 238 years, while in the meantime facilitating considerable prosperity and economic growth through political structures that were freer than most. However, at no point in history was the United States minarchistic – not even by a long shot. The U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights were closer to the libertarian ideal than the governance structures of 18th-century Europe, to be sure, so they constituted steps in the right direction for their time. But the very language of these documents – including the “Commerce Clause”, the “General Welfare Clause”, and the “Necessary and Proper Clause” – opened the floodgates for extensive centralized intervention as these clauses were interpreted to have increasingly expansive and open-ended meanings. The devolution of the United States to the near-totalitarianism it exhibits today is not the result of minarchism, but israther due to the infusion of non-minarchistic elements into the US political structure at its founding. (The recognition of slavery certainly did not help, either; it paved the way for the bloody Civil War, which led to the first round of attempted totalitarianism by central governments under Abraham Lincoln in the Union and Jefferson Davis in the Confederacy.) I also note that the non-minarchistic nature of the early United States can be clearly seen in such travesties against liberty as the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 (which effectively forbade criticism of the government) and even Thomas Jefferson’s Embargo Act of 1807 (which effectively forbade all overseas trade) – neither of which would be conceivable even in today’s United States.

So the historical trajectory of the United States is no more an argument against minarchism than the brutal infighting and miserable standards of living in Somalia today are an argument against anarchism. The argument presented by The Sliceman that bureaucracies tend to try to grab more power for themselves may be true, but, if so, its only implication is that non-minarchistic elements of a government will tend to expand over time, changing the proportions of an initial mix of coercive and non-coercive government functions to be more heavily dominated by the coercive functions over time. However, if a minarchist government lacks the coercive functions (which involve non-retaliatory use of force) to begin with, and both the constitution and public opinion provide strong barriers to the emergence of such coercive functions, then the trajectory toward totalitarianism need not occur.

The Sliceman writes, “In fact, I believe minarchy to be much more theoretical than anarchy. Anarchy can be seen all over the world every day in the form of capitalism and voluntary association and order. Minarchy is almost never seen in all of history.” Both minarchy and anarchy are similarly theoretical, in my view, because, just as there has never been a completely minarchist government in history, there has never been a complete anarcho-capitalism in any society. Because every person encounters some dose of coercion in going about his or her daily life, that coercion necessarily shapes individual incentives and the kinds of markets and goods and services that arise in the society where the coercion exists. It is true, for instance, that unregulated black markets arise virtually everywhere that a government attempts to prohibit a good or service, but the content, environment, and limitations of those black markets are very much determined by the fact that the prohibition exists in the first place, as well as the extent and manner of the prohibition’s enforcement. Just as a true minarchism could only exist if a government did not have any legitimate power to initiate force, so a true anarcho-capitalism could only exist if there were no need to develop workarounds for the limitations imposed by a centralized authority.

This leads me to the conclusion that what matters more is the incremental direction of political change that one advocates – rather than one’s desired theoretical destination. For instance, abolishing NSA surveillance of the general population, dismantling the TSA, repealing the income tax, withdrawing all overseas US troops, halting the War on Drugs, and ending the requirement that the FDA approve all medicines prior to their availability for purchase by the general public, would all be measures favored by both minarchists and anarcho-capitalists. Their implementation would greatly increase the liberty enjoyed by people in practice, and such measures would also dramatically accelerate the rates of technological progress and economic growth. Whether the changes could be best accomplished by working within or outside the political system is an empirical question, and various strategies can be, at their core, compatible with both minarchism and anarcho-capitalism.

The Sliceman writes: “how dare you consider yourself a transhumanist, yet scoff at that which hasnt been tried yet[?] The automobile has not yet been created, but that is no reason to think the future is a faster horse. If history has taught us anything, it’s that someone’s lack of imagination does not deter future technological advancement in the areas of industry, economy, religion, or government.”

My argument regarding the lack of practical application for anarcho-capitalism does not hinge on the fact that it has not been tried yet in its full form. In fact, I would encourage some group of people to try it – perhaps on a seastead, a small island, or a space colony. The results of such an experiment would provide valuable empirical evidence and fuel for further thought and work in political philosophy. As I have previously stated, my preferred political system of minarchism also has not been tried in its consistent form, so my preference for it does not stem from any aversion for the new and untried.

Rather, when I say that anarcho-capitalism has no practical application today, my exact meaning is that I have yet to see a viable proposal for bringing it about through a transition from the status quo. Unlike minarchism, for whose attainment a sequence of political reforms can be articulated, many strains of anarcho-capitalism reject working within the political system, period, so it is unclear how exactly the transformation from a militaristic welfare state to an anarcho-capitalist society is envisioned to occur. As I wrote in “Why I Do Not Adhere to Anarcho-Capitalism”, “I happen to believe that political theory is more than a mind game; it has relevance to the real world, and it ought to have real-world implications for how we act in our own lives. It is not enough to simply state that one would like the world to be a certain way. Rather, a specific, technical, and quite involved series of steps is necessary to transition from the status quo to any state considered desirable. To simply contemplate the end outcome without any idea of how to attain it or even approach it is to divorce one’s political thinking from reality.” It also appears to me that, when an anarcho-capitalist does propose ways of working “outside the system” – including seasteading, cryptocurrencies, informal markets, and digital communities – these ways are also perfectly compatible with minarchism. They involve the use of technological innovation, jurisdictional competition, and civil society to motivate a reduction of political power from without. Yet, unfortunately, too many anarcho-capitalists let the perfect (in their minds) be the enemy of the good, and they reject or resist any attempts at bringing about incremental change (even outside of politics proper), for fear that those attempts are somehow intertwined with and corrupted by the existing political or social order. I do support the practical efforts of anarcho-capitalists to achieve their vision in peaceful ways. However, if and when they do this, they do not engage in any activities that are exclusively anarcho-capitalist or that would require adherence to anarcho-capitalism to pursue. A minarchist could undertake those same actions just as effectively.

I note that the lack of a concrete proposal to achieve anarcho-capitalism is quite different from what one observes with transhumanist projects and aspirations. Virtually every transhumanist vision, from indefinite life extension to various incarnations of the technological Singularity, has an associated detailed sequential plan for attaining it or view of the unfolding events that would bring it about. Consider, as examples of this, Aubrey de Grey’s SENS roadmap to reversing all the types of age-related damage, or Ray Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns, forecasting the continued exponential growth of emerging technologies. I certainly see the amount of centralized control in a society as capable of having a powerful impact on the rate at which these transhumanist aspirations can be realized; the more centralized control, the slower the rate. However, neither minarchism nor anarcho-capitalism would impose coercive restrictions on transhumanist projects, and so both are, in theory, quite compatible with transhumanism. Minarchism has the added advantage that it more readily embraces incremental political reforms that could help make an existing society more free, even if any given reform will not completely achieve the libertarian ideal. Minarchist activism could therefore be one effective way to increase the rate of technological progress in the near-to-intermediate term, paving the way for massive prosperity in the long term, which would increasingly consign the “social service” role of many welfare states to irrelevance.

The Sliceman writes, “Libertarian Tranhumanism and Minarchism is an extremely rare match. The creed of Transhumanism is to use historical patterns and trends to predict the future. I’m sure this study greatly contributed to your [belief] and support for indefinite life extension. The creed of Libertarianism is to increase liberty, freedom, and the protection of private property by decreasing the institutionalized initiation of the use of force that is the state.”

I disagree with the proposition that libertarian transhumanism and minarchism are a rare match. It is important to keep in mind that, among libertarians today, anarcho-capitalism is still a significant minority position. Transhumanism attracts significant interest from both libertarians and non-libertarians alike, but its affinity with libertarianism is stronger, so a larger proportion of libertarians are transhumanists as compared to non-libertarians. I have seen no evidence to suggest that anarchist libertarians are more inclined toward transhumanism than minarchist libertarians. While I have done no polling on this question (and some empirical research would certainly be extremely interesting here), a more plausible hypothesis is that transhumanism attracts libertarians independently of their views on the question of minarchy versus anarchy. So if X% of libertarians are anarchists, and (100-X)% are minarchists, and Y% of libertarians are attracted to transhumanism, then it would appear that, as long as X% < 50%, then X%*Y% would be less than (100-X)%*Y%, so there would be more minarchist transhumanists than anarcho-capitalist transhumanists. Again, this is only a hypothesis at present, and conducting a scientific poll of libertarian transhumanists would enable a more in-depth exploration of this question.

The Sliceman continues by describing an “exponential curve of liberty” that has unfolded throughout history, as greater technological advancement, especially in communication technology, has increased individual sovereignty. I agree with this general characterization. In fact, it fits with Steven Pinker’s immensely well-researched look in The Better Angels of Our Nature into the decline in rates of human violence over time, as technology, culture, and political liberty have tended to progress. However, Pinker is certainly no anarchist. He points out that hunter-gatherer “stateless” societies experienced per capita rates of violence and murder greatly exceeding those of the most despotic governments or those that were manifested during the two World Wars of the 20th century. Pinker’s view is that even despotic government is preferable to tribalism or lawlessness, while constitutional or limited government is greatly preferable to despotic government in reducing the rates of violence (which are at their lowest point now as compared to any prior era) and maximizing the scope of individual liberty. I have read the entirety of The Better Angels of Our Nature, and it appears that the evidence Pinker presents suggests that technology, commerce, and culture – rather than political structures – offer the greatest contributions to the reduction of violence, perhaps because political structures are very much conditioned by the technological, economic, and cultural environments in which they arise.

The Sliceman writes, “The question here is what kind of liberty this technology will lead us to. Your answer seems to be that the exponential change in liberty will come to a stop at minarchy and we will just stay there, where my answer is that the exponential change will continue and the only logical conclusion is that we will approach 100% liberty with only [a] few tiny fractions of a percent of violence being accounted for by the fact that we are still, in fact, animals, and animals are violent.”

Supposing that exponential increases in liberty through technological progress can be achieved, this is not per se a sufficient argument that all government would disappear. For instance, exponential advances have been made to store data in ever-smaller volumes of physical space. This does not, however, suggest that we will ever arrive at a point where no physical space at all will be required for the storage of data. At most, we could perhaps keep reducing the space required without any lower limit, but we would only asymptotically approach zero space without ever getting there. The same reasoning could apply to government. Indeed, I see in accelerating technological progress our best prospect for minarchism. As advancing technology raises the prevailing levels of prosperity, fewer people will find themselves in need of government services to rectify any perceived deficiencies in their lives. The more the role of the redistributive welfare state dwindles away, the more governments would be relegated to their theoretically justified roles under minarchism – the resolution of disputes and protection against the initiation of force. It is quite feasible that additional private mechanisms for dispute resolution would emerge, and people would become generally more comfortable and less likely to want to engage in violence in the first place – both of which phenomena would reduce the frequency with which the government would resolve disputes in practice or interject its retaliatory force. If many humans receive augmentations to their minds, increasing both their intelligence and their moral sense, then the result will be an even further-reduced inclination to initiate force. But would this trend ever result in the elimination of government altogether? I doubt it – for the simple reason that the ability to have an ultimate arbiter of disputes or an entity that can interject itself to prevent violence would be too valuable for a future society to do away with altogether. 99.9999% of future transhumans may be entirely peaceful and capable of dealing with one another solely through market arrangements. But suppose there is even one person who rejects all transhumanist paths for humankind and who seeks, in some way, to use violence to wage war on the transhumanist society. Maintaining some very minimal government to deter this person would be wise. Furthermore, if the situation improves to the point where no such person exists, then the mechanisms of a minimal government might well lie dormant for a time – but there would be no reason to abolish them. It would be better to keep them available, just in case a future threat of violence arises, and all market-based methods for preventing it fail. After all, what would happen if some barbarous militaristic alien species discovers the transhumanist Earth and simply launches an invasion, with no questions asked?

The Sliceman writes, “You don’t need an ultimate arbiter when you are running your contracts through the Bitcoin Blockchain or its future replacement. You don’t need an ultimate arbiter when everything on Earth is constantly being recorded and a murderer (whose act can be proven 10 ways from Sunday through constant voluntary surveillance i.e.: Google glass, dashcams, and their future equivalents) can be given a voluntary unanimous Yelp review of ‘exile’.” In some cases, technologies such as the blockchain or universal sousveillance might actually generate more of a need for an ultimate arbiter. It is true that those technologies can facilitate more transparency and discovery of facts, but, in some cases, they are just as open to exploitation for nefarious motives. For technologies based on the blockchain, this is evidenced by the many thefts that have occurred from third-party Bitcoin services or the dishonesty and consequent failure of Mt. Gox. For sousveillance, there is an extremely fine but important line between monitoring that can help deter or prevent crime and monitoring that can infringe on individual privacy and deter innocent behaviors that could only occur in private. When such conflict areas arise (as is inevitable with transformative new technologies), it would be nice to have an impartial arbiter that could resolve conflicting legitimate interests and help overcome the “growing pains” of technological change. Of course, today’s archaic and cumbersome legal system is not the answer to this challenge, but a highly streamlined, extremely knowledgeable, and technologically sophisticated minarchist court might be.

The Sliceman writes that “Technology does not stop at minarchy.” I respond that, ultimately, no single form of government can be seen as the final form, upon which there cannot be any improvement. I do not rule out the existence of true anarcho-capitalism at some future time, somewhere. In “Why I Do Not Adhere to Anarcho-Capitalism”, I wrote that “Perhaps the anarcho-capitalist ideal will be realizable in some distant future time, once human beings have progressed morally and technologically to such an extent that the initiation of force is no longer lucrative to anybody.” I would have no quarrel with transhumanists who attempt to implement anarcho-capitalism through emerging technologies – but, at the same time, minarchism appears to be a far more proximate prospect, and, in the next several decades at least, the very same concrete methods that any anarcho-capitalist would effectively pursue, could also be used to pursue minarchism (since societies would be moved in the direction of both ideals by the application of such methods). Perhaps one implication of my argument is that, for the time being, it does not really matter whether one is a minarchist or an anarcho-capitalist, as long as one supports pro-liberty incremental changes. Another implication, however, is that minarchism and transhumanism are fully compatible, at least for the foreseeable future.

SpaceX, Neil deGrasse Tyson, & Private vs. Government Technological Breakthroughs – Video by G. Stolyarov II

SpaceX, Neil deGrasse Tyson, & Private vs. Government Technological Breakthroughs – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Mr. Stolyarov celebrates the May 22, 2012, launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule and responds to Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s claims that private enterprise cannot make the biggest breakthroughs in science and exploration. On the contrary, Mr. Stolyarov identifies historical examples of just such privately driven breakthroughs and explains why private enterprise is more suited than a political structure for making radical improvements to human life.

References

Launch of SpaceX Falcon 9 – Video from NASA
Beautiful picture of SpaceX Falcon 9 flight
– “Neil deGrasse Tyson: Bringing Commercial Space Fantasies Back to Earth” – Video
– “SpaceX rocket on its way to outer space” – Marcia Dunn – The Associated Press – May 22, 2012
– “SpaceX rocket launch hailed as ‘a new era in space exploration‘” – W. J. Hennigan – Los Angeles Times – May 22, 2012
– “Neil deGrasse Tyson” – Wikipedia
– “SpaceX” – Wikipedia

Thoughts on James Sterba’s “Liberty and Welfare” – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Thoughts on James Sterba’s “Liberty and Welfare” – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
April 14, 2012
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In “Liberty and Welfare” (2007), James P. Sterba of the University of Notre Dame makes an argument that a libertarian society, grounded in the principle of classical enlightened egoism, would be consistent with a government-organized system of welfare, or redistribution of wealth from wealthier to poorer members of the society. There are some areas where I am in agreement with Sterba’s premises, and some areas of difference.

Sterba’s argument, essentially, is that enlightened self-interest renders it legitimate for a person to take the property of another in certain “conflict situations” – cases where doing so would save that person’s life (or not doing so would endanger that person’s life).  I acknowledge that there may be cases where it is legitimate to violate the property right of another in order to save one’s life – but only to the extent actually necessary to save one’s life and only if proper compensation is made afterward. For instance, suppose Person X is ejected from a burning airplane onto the vast estate of Person Y, a wealthy landowner with plenty of fruit orchards. Person Y is an absentee landowner, and is not able to give permission, and it would take Person X several days on foot to leave Person Y’s land. In my view, Person X can legitimately eat some of Person Y’s fruit so as to survive his journey. However, the proper course of action after Person X has returned to his normal life would be for him to contact Person Y and ask whether Person Y desires to be compensated for the fruit that was taken. There is, at that point, a likelihood that Person Y would be generous and overlook the incident, recognizing Person X’s need to survive. But, if this does not happen, Person X could offer Person Y a reasonable payment for the fruit. It is unlikely that Person Y would, for instance, turn down a payment that is several times the fruit’s market value.

As the loss of life is irreversible, while loss of many kinds of property can be undone through adequate compensation, in true emergency situations, it may be justified for someone else’s property to be put to use in truly saving an individual’s life. But this can only be carried out if confined to true emergencies, if done with minimal interference, and if adequate reparations are made afterward.

That being said, what I am referring to are true emergency situations – which are, by definition, acute events that subside after the cause of the emergency has passed. An ongoing situation where one person or a group of people appropriate the belongings of others without the consent of those others is not a justifiable position within a truly free society. Sterba’s paper borders on implying that there exists some group right for “the poor” to expropriate “the rich” without regard for the circumstances of specific individuals having either of these designations or for whether individuals called “the poor” could, in fact, manage to survive without such expropriation. If there is a way not to take another’s property without his consent and to still preserve human life, then that is the course of action that should be pursued.

Ultimately, Sterba’s argument leads to the support of some manner of redistributionist welfare system. Such a system may indeed be justified in an unfree or semi-free society, where artificial political privileges result in a non-meritocratic distribution of wealth – and where, for instance, inefficient and customer-unfriendly firms can achieve market dominance or incompetent individuals can come to control vast resources. The overall level of wealth in such societies is lower compared to a libertarian society, and there may be many “worthy poor” in such societies, who are poor for none of their fault and despite earnest efforts at improving their position. Indeed, the United States at present, with its massive levels of involuntary unemployment resulting from an economic bubble inflated by the Federal Reserve, could be considered to exist in such conditions. Thinkers such as Sheldon Richman have argued that, in such situations, welfare systems can be seen as secondary or “band-aid” interventions to mask or mitigate some of the harmful effects of the primary interventions (e.g., corporate subsidies, barriers to entry into markets, and laws that limit innovation and progress). While the secondary interventions bring their own unintended negative consequences, a national government that only practiced the primary interventions (which benefit and enrich a favored and politically connected elite) would be much worse in its effects. The only aspects of the secondary interventions that might be justified are those aspects that would undo some of the harms of the primary interventions and more closely approximate a meritocratic, individualistic, market-driven outcome.

I contrast “band-aid” welfare measures in a mixed economy – which could be justified – with redistribution of wealth by a government in an otherwise libertarian society – which would not be justified. Such redistribution of wealth would infringe on the justly earned property of numerous individuals, simply because they belong to some arbitrarily designated category (e.g., “the rich” – as defined by some artificial threshold). In a libertarian society, occasional emergencies might arise whereby one or a few people might legitimately avail themselves of the property of another, but only if they compensate the owner fairly afterward. But, by definition, such emergency treatment cannot apply across the board and as a systematic, ongoing matter. Furthermore, unlike the emergency treatment I described, a welfare system by definition redistributes wealth from some people to others, and does not compensate the people whose wealth has been redistributed. In a fully libertarian society, where all wealth is acquired based on the principles of merit and consent, such redistribution would be unjustified and harmful. It would, further, be unnecessary, as practically all people would be massively more prosperous than the majority of people are in today’s Western societies.