[ExI] libertarian (asteroid) defense

Kelly Anderson kellycoinguy at gmail.com
Tue Mar 1 02:11:48 UTC 2011

On Mon, Feb 28, 2011 at 2:39 PM, Damien Sullivan
<phoenix at ugcs.caltech.edu> wrote:
> On Sun, Feb 27, 2011 at 10:29:42PM -0700, Kelly Anderson wrote:
> Why should they?  Can they make money off of it?  Why aren't they
> selling asteroid insurance right now?

I understand Lloyd's of London will sell insurance on practically
anything. I think I'll try to get some asteroid strike insurance, and
see what it costs.

> Who would buy end of the world
> insurance -- who would make or receive payments?

An asteroid strike might indeed be the end of the world. However, a
small strike would be insurable, and might, depending upon it's size
do less damage than a tornado or a hurricane.

> 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.

I'm sure they like to insure that sort of thing. Isn't AIG the
insurance company for all the insurance companies? I thought that was
why they were too big to fail... or something like that.

> 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.

I don't think there are any "small" volcanoes. How about practicing on
one that isn't near large groups of people? Really though, I don't
think there is any serious proposal for this. I have heard of the idea
of setting off earthquakes with atomic bombs... maybe it was Superman
III? :-)

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

Agreed, but it is much less practical than steering an asteroid. We
have the technology to do that today, given a ten year or more lead
time. If we discovered an asteroid with our name on it in two or three
months or less, I'm afraid we would be toast.

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

Rich people are forced through the tax code to give up 30-70% of their
earnings (depending upon where they live) and don't have as much money
to devote to this sort of thing under today's tax policy. The
assumption that most libertarians make is that with less taxation,
there would be more donation. If that is a false assumption, then
that's where libertarians go off of the tracks.

> 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.

If someone is altruistic enough to give up 10% of their net income to
charity, that shouldn't change before or after huge taxes. That would
mean if you made $100,000, you could give $10,000 to charity. With a
50% tax rate, it is reduced to $5,000.

As the government ceases to take care of things that really need to be
taken care of, charities will pop up to meet those needs. In fact,
that is how things used to work in the United States. Orphanages were
supported by donors at one point, now they are supported by the
government (albeit in the modified form of foster care) and nobody
with money would even consider donating money to support a US
orphanage today because they "already gave at the office". If the idea
is that it's the government's job to pay for asteroid protection, then
nobody would consider donating. If, on the other hand, it was not the
government's job, then the Red Cross could launch a campaign to raise
money to find rogue asteroids, and I think people would donate.


More information about the extropy-chat mailing list