Re: poly: A civilization in transition + Exhortation+enhancements

From: Robin Hanson <>
Date: Thu Feb 26 1998 - 10:46:28 PST

Brin writes:
>Jeff Cooper of SAIC contends that states have traditionally relied on five
>(1) legitimate use of violence,
>(2) promulgation of views through propaganda,
>(3) establishing a firm currency and setting exchange rates,
>(4) access to cutting edge technology, and
>(5) expertise and credibility.

"Traditionally" maybe, but this seems far from a description of the
perceived main strengths and functions of governments today.

>The chief questions we face are:
> (a) whether we really want category number (1) -- the legitimate
>use of coercion or violence, to be "deregulated" or "privatized;" ...
>Here's a metaphor. Human societies have always had two ways of getting
>things done. The 'left' hand is that of unified effort, acting as a
>coordinated tribe-group-nation -- the 'consensus approach I mentioned
>earlier. The other is the 'right' hand of creating market rules that
>incentive an uncontrolled network of self-interest behavior so that
>problems go away. Economists like Robin know that both hands are needed.
>Alas, socialists tried to amputate the right hand. Radical
>anarcho-libertarians want to chop off the left.

Hmm.. David Friedman and myself both consider ourselves economists *and*
anarcho-libertarians. Yes of course we need institutions which are capable
of unified coordinated fast action, but the question is how much individual
choice is consistent with the existence of such institutions.

As you note, most of the current functions of governemt seem
to have little to do with any substantial needs for coordination or fast
action (this includes most law). Some current functions do seem more
plausible cases, but as we learn how to substitute more and more
decentralized solutions, we may learn enough to tackle most of those cases
as well.

Of course governments are also innovating, but private innovation seems
to have more momentum at the moment, and it's sure more fun for me to focus
my invention activities there.

>describes how, while researching a range of Internet experiences for an
>article, he felt liberated by portraying various personae online, including
>playing the role of a 13 year old girl. "On the Net, you can work your
>personality like a novelist imagining a character. The only caveat is that,
>like the novelist, you must be consistent in your lies if you want to be
>taken seriously...the longer you talk to people lying about their
>identities, the greater the chances that you will cross them up in their
>lies: while electronic transvestitism is admittedly easier than its
>real-life counterpart, it still takes effort, motivation, and skill to put
>up a convincing false front for any length of time.... To make the most of
>my new identity I had to do what other fly-by-nights and pathological liars
>do -- I had to escape from the limited audience of those who were getting
>to know me all too well."

A nice quote.

Robin Hanson
RWJF Health Policy Scholar, Sch. of Public Health 510-643-1884
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 FAX: 510-643-8614
Received on Thu Feb 26 18:51:10 1998

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