[ExI] Libertarianism

Rafal Smigrodzki rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com
Tue Mar 17 02:00:44 UTC 2020

On Sat, Jan 18, 2020 at 3:57 PM Dan TheBookMan via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

> Personal autonomy, yes, but not obedience to others or a right to rule
> over others. If there's a duty to obey someone, that would mean the
> obedient don't have personal autonomy, no? The right to rule is the flip
> side of this.
> You seem to conflate being ruled by someone else with respecting their
> autonomy. That's simply not the case in the ordinary meaning of being ruled
> or of obeying. (No one is someone's obedient servant merely because they
> don't rob, assault, or kill that person. No one is someone's ruler because
> that other person doesn't rob, assault, or kill them. If you disagree, then
> your world must abound in rulers and servants in a way that the terms make
> no distinctions over anyone save for folks living apart from everyone
> else.) In fact, an attack on someone's person or life is someone else
> really attempting to rule over them. It's treating them as if they're not
> autonomous -- not an end in themselves. And the right to stop them extends
> only so far as preserving autonomy. That doesn't put one into relationship
> as their ruler -- as the right ends when they're stopped (and maybe, in
> some cases, restitution* or further harm prevention+).
### Talking about rights and duties is really sliding on the surface of
social reality. There are deeper structures and ideas that generate the
notions of rights and duties. I find it much more productive and
enlightening to understand where my social instincts come from, and where
existing social structures come from, rather than treating the instincts
and structures as independently valid moral considerations.

Symmetry is an important aspect of many control solutions in complex
systems. Throughout biology and technology symmetric structures abound.
Symmetry goes by a few different names in different contexts - for example,
balance, as in the balance between opposing muscle groups in a limb. In the
social realm we speak about "reciprocity", that special kind of symmetry
applied to interactions between agents attempting to survive in the
presence of similar competing agents. In many such interactions the most
efficient control solution is symmetric with regard to the amount of
influence that such agents are allowed to exert over each other. If you
combine symmetry of influence with minimization of influence you get
the notion of personal autonomy.

It is important not to reify autonomy as an independent moral
consideration. Not all combinations of agents, their desires and their
surrounding reality allow efficient symmetric control solutions. Very often
the asymmetry between agents favors asymmetric control solutions, i.e.
disregard for autonomy. Humans and dogs are not symmetric, so the control
solution between man and dog involves a leash. The asymmetry between an
honest builder and a thief favors depriving the thief of his autonomy as a
condition of economic efficiency.

Some people tend to get hung up on the notions of rights, duties, autonomy,
lawfulness, respectability, fairness, private property, community - all of
these are intermediate ideas that simplify and summarize thinking about the
more fundamental notions in the social realm, such as desires, symmetry, or
efficiency. If the fundamental considerations dictate some modifications of
the intermediate levels, then that should happen.

When attacked, there is no need to limit your response to demanding
restitution - it's fine to exact punishment much greater than the harm the
befalls you, and it's perfectly libertarian, the way I see it.

That's why I prefer to think about libertarianism as the desire to live
without the desire to control others ("Live and let live") + the scientific
method (recognition of the fundamental mechanisms of reality). The precise
rights, duties and instrumental values (such as autonomy) that are derived
from the above fundamentals differ for various situations - most of the
time libertarian thought leads to e.g. limiting government solutions and
respect for autonomy but sometimes just the opposite. It really depends,
and first-principles thinking must be flexibly combined with detailed
knowledge of the problems at hand.

And of course there are those people who greatly desire to control others,
that's just how they roll and that's how you tell they are not libertarians.

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