[ExI] Human Experimenting

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Fri May 22 14:43:38 UTC 2009

Stathis writes

> 2009/5/22 Lee Corbin <lcorbin at rawbw.com>:
>> Are many libertarians
>> today ready to allow someone to knowingly and with full
>> consent sign himself into slavery? My opinion: we're
>> not ready for that yet; but someday, yes. In other
>> words, IMO no libertarian group, no matter how select
>> and on how small an island, should go ahead with something
>> like that, at least for a generation or two.

I should explain what underlies my caution here.
My general claim is that societies become "ready"
for certain society-wide behaviors just when they've
reached a certain level. E.g., preaching democracy
in Hammerabi's time would have been foolish.

Even in an ideal case, a libertarian society might
need a generation or two at least to evolve their
own mores and understandings to the point that
slavery (of the kind described above) could be

> As a general principle, are libertarians opposed to a group making
> decisions binding on its members?

Certainly not. The whole point of libertarian,
or more precisely, individualist orientation of
society is to get as far away from "group think"
as possible. Evolutionarily, there are *some*
exceptions; it's probably going to turn out
that group defense is the only possible ESS
vis-a-vis other groups.

> Selling oneself is a good example of
> this. A person desperate for money might
 > freely ("freely"?) enter into a contract
> with another party allowing that he will
 > be tortured for the rest of his life.

I can only imagine this coming to pass
if the individual has taken a calculated
gamble over something and lost. But maybe
this is a lack of imagination on my part.

> Should such contracts be banned as morally
> wrong, or not?

They ought to be banned for the foreseeable
future (though, since you asked me, I ought
to add "foreseeable by me"). But even this
might fall under the suggestion I have above:

Okay, so the small group of the world's most
dedicated and advanced individuals/libertarians
plants a colony on Mars, where they expect soon
to have a few other remote groups as company.
They set up some rules. (1) if the group is
attacked, they'll do collectively whatever
is necessary to repel the invasion, including
conscription (levée en masse) (2) no one may
bargain himself into perpetual torture (3)
no one may submit to slavery,... (etc., for
how ever many rules seem appropriate).

(They would easily allow human experimenting
---the subject line of this thread---so long
as the above provisos are in place first.)

But then over time, they *may* be able to
societally evolve, I'm saying, so that all
these limitations can be repealed. (The old
libertarian classic "David's Sling" illustrated
how even group defense via conscription may
become unnecessary.)


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