[ExI] libertarian (asteroid) defense

Dan dan_ust at yahoo.com
Mon Feb 28 23:19:53 UTC 2011

One minor point: given that people tend to look toward government for these 
kinds of things, I don't know if it's the best test to look at what people are 
doing know to assess what they'd do were there no government. (I wouldn't say 
it's not the worst test -- as I do believe people would generally do many of the 
same things they do now sans government. It's just that what will happen absent 
government depends not just on what governments actually do or prohibit, but 
also on expectations.)

And one could also make the case that, were there no government and this were a 
basically libertarian world, there'd be more wealth to devote to things like 
highly unlikely risks. Of course, this is accepting that free societies (and a 
basically free world) would be more productive. This does not mean, of course, 
that free people would necessarily devote any extra wealth, accepting the 
argument, to asteroid defense.

Finally, a case could be made that the cost of spaceflight would be lower 
without government subsidies in the space market so that the costs of asteroidal 
defense would be lower. Again, accepting this as so doesn't mean people would 
say, "Oh, the cost is much lower, so let's invest in it." Maybe they wouldn't.



From: Damien Sullivan <phoenix at ugcs.caltech.edu>
To: ExI chat list <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org>
Sent: Mon, February 28, 2011 4:39:34 PM
Subject: [ExI] libertarian (asteroid) defense

On Sun, Feb 27, 2011 at 10:29:42PM -0700, Kelly Anderson wrote:

> > I recently ran into an extreme case of this:
> > http://volokh.com/2011/02/15/asteroid-defense-and-libertarianism/

> If private insurance companies sold asteroid insurance, which they
> should, then there would be a significant desire to avoid payout. That

Why should they?  Can they make money off of it?  Why aren't they
selling asteroid insurance right now?  Who would buy end of the world
insurance -- who would make or receive payments?

Unsubsidized insurers go for little disasters that happen a lot and are
spread out in a statistically averagable manner.  They avoid things that
strike lots of people at once, like floods, earthquakes, and fission
plant accidents.

> would lead to the spending of money to avoid the disaster in the first
> place. Of all potential mega disasters we could face, asteroid hits
> are the most easily preventable... (compared to such things as super
> volcanos, subduction earthquakes and tsunamis and the like, where we

Actually I imagine volcanoes might pretty tameable.  Drill down and
release gases/magma in a controlled manner, rather than letting them
blow all at once.  Though the BP oil spill highlights the safety
concerns of drilling into a pressure chamber.  Would want to practice on
the small volcanoes first.

Alternately, being able to trigger a volcano or earthquake at a specific
time would be helpful, rather than having them strike at once.

> Additionally, in a libertarian society, someone might set up a non
> profit organization to search for and disable near earth objects. If
> everyone in America donated 25 cents to such an organization, it would
> be funded well over current funding levels.

Someone might?  Why don't they do so now?  Why would everyone donating
25 cents be more likely then than it is now?

In a libertarian society, you get to specify less government, that's
all.  You don't get to specify magically more altruistic people than we
have now.  And anything not actively banned by government is perfectly
doable today, so if people aren't doing it now, that bodes ill for doing
it in libertarian world.

-xx- Damien X-) 
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