[ExI] Religions and silliness

Jebadiah Moore jebdm at jebdm.net
Tue Aug 17 06:23:45 UTC 2010

2010/8/16 samantha <sjatkins at mac.com>

> Drugs grow on trees?  Since when is mere need a license to take from
> others?  Yes, drugs are overpriced.   But are you sure you want to live in a
> world where whatever you produce by your own effort at non-zero cost can be
> demanded whenever anyone anywhere needs it without compensation?    Think
> about it.

The point was that an alien civilization might not think it's weird of us.
 Even if it's not desirable for us to live in such a world (I'm still
undecided), it might be for aliens.  Imagine that they have evolved to be
perfect communists (seems feasible; social insects are part-way there) with
a strong sense of compassion.  Then, since they live in an advanced society,
they will hold the rational belief that no matter what anyone takes from
them they'll still have whatever they need.  Because they're compassionate,
they'd be perfectly willing to give shit away even if it cost them to make

To answer your original question:

Imagine that you live in a world where there are enough people and resources
to cover everyones' needs, plus basic comforts, as long as everyone between,
say, 20 and 60 works a modest amount--say, 10 or 20 hours a week.  People
can generally work in their chosen profession, especially people with
skills.  Furthermore, there are enough resources that, if people are willing
to work a bit extra, they can earn more, have an even more comfortable
lifestyle, etc.  Some extra resources are devoted
towards incentivizing people to sign up for the least favorable jobs.

This is the idea behind socialism.  We really do have the resources to
provide for everyones' basic needs with moderate ease.  Perhaps it won't be
done at maximum efficiency, but most people don't care so long as there
aren't millions of people dying yearly from easily preventable causes, plus
the millions of people (some potentially geniuses) stuck in crappy
situations because they have to work extremely hard just to scrape by.

To counter your idea of people "taking from you": first off, by many
peoples' sense of morality it'd be pretty evil to deny medicine out of your
cabinet to a dying person (especially a child) if you didn't absolutely need
it yourself.  Secondly, these aren't cases of people stealing from other
peoples' homes; it'd be more like people "stealing" crates of medicine from
a big company for a dying village.  There is an argument that perhaps you're
doing more damage by reducing the company owners' livelihood, but most
likely the owners are much more well off than the people doing the stealing.
 You could then say that the companies, by virtue of their capital show
their aptitude at creating wealth more efficiently, so perhaps they could do
more good by not getting stolen from, then increasing their capital
super-linearly and then giving the medicine out at a later date.  But in
practice, companies often don't have that great of a growth rate, and they
don't end up giving out the medicine (or enough), and certainly they might
not be able to achieve and sustain a rate of growth which would allow them
to distribute enough medicine later in order to make up for the lost lives
early on.

If your only objection to redistribution of wealth is "OH NOEZ STEALING",
then you're just greedy, or at least that you and I (as well as much of the
giant poor population) hold conflicting values.  There are other more
legitimate arguments to make, though.  One is that it inevitably leads to
corruption (possibly, but capitalist systems seem to be the same).

One is that it is inefficient due to a lack/reduction of price signals,
which I think I agree with, but as I mentioned above, I'm pretty sure you
could build a system that despite inefficiency might be at
least efficient enough to cover everyones' basic needs plus some.
 (Participatory economics or AI-based organization or some other such scheme
might do the trick.)

Another is that development would stagnate due to reduced economic incentive
to stagnate, but do you really think that all the geeks out there would
cease to invent stuff just because they couldn't make as much profit for it?
 Hell, half the stuff invented out there already comes from people who have
no real profit incentive to invent it or not.  I agree that there could
easily be some slowdown in the sorts of things that are big and tedious but
useful, but I'm sure that the stuff would still get though up, and then you
could let engineer types build it instead of doing manual labor.  Plus, if
you organize the thing properly (think technostructure, c.f. Galbraith) you
could probably even speed up development by providing long-term research
ability in riskier ventures than capitalism would generally be willing to
pay for.

As for reduced incentives--make it a mixed system, providing extra-basic
needs to everyone, basic comforts to everyone who performed to standards,
then provide extra cash or perhaps social incentives (hell, even "points")
to people who perform well.  Allow for job mobility.  Make sure that you
can't become manager of a factory by appointment from a Communist party
official.  That sort of thing.  Really, the costs of basics needs for
everyone wouldn't be making much of a dent compared to, for instance,
military spending, so you could make this thing happen without really
changing the system up very much.

Still, I'm on the fence.  Perhaps there really isn't a way to do socialism
with humans that turns out better than capitalism.  I blame my doubt on my
middle class white Texan Christian upbringing (the source of the instinct
instilled in me, which regularly rears its head contrary to my logic and
causes me annoying levels of dissonance, but which proves to me that people
really can overcome their gut values and beliefs, in my case by merely
having a stronger belief in logic and science).

Jebadiah Moore
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