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@ESR's blog

The following are responses to this comment of mine; my responses to them are added. --Woozle 22:02, 20 September 2010 (UTC)

kiba's objections

Geeks are not using their skill set to design centralized government but rather decentralize functions of the economy and government. Soon, there may be no printing press because paper money is seen as easily manipulated by single entities.

I'd argue that it's always better to have a tool (especially one which is designed to empower individuals in non-destructive ways) than not to have it.

Are you implying that the changes going on now in society and government are all part of some larger plan by which geeks are generally crafting a better tomorrow? I can agree that geeks are crafting a better, less-centralized tomorrow -- but:

(a) I think it would be better to have some idea of what to expect to happen as geek-initiated changes cause society (and government) to evolve, so you can tell if it's going wrong, and
(b) better yet would be to design a better system of government
(1) that is compatible with those changes and
(2) that will be sufficiently developed that we can start using it as the old system starts choking and coughing up its own blood (which I'd say is already happening).

A lot of what's happening now in government is pretty wrong (are we agreed on that?). If it's part of a plan, I want details -- why it's necessary to have this phase of increasing government secrecy, reduced rights in certain areas, constant warfare, and growing disparity between the richest and poorest members of society (just for starters), and when will it start to get better?

If it's not part of a plan, then something needs to be done.

I don't see the case for just sitting back and letting things evolve, which is what you seem to be advocating.


I'm not sure what you mean by "economic calculation".

TMR's objections

Anybody who thinks they are smart enough to design the system has lost the battle already.

This implies that you believe a good system cannot be designed. The US founding fathers and I disagree with you.

It is an information problem. No matter how smart you are your decisions and your design are only as good as your information.

Yes, that is certainly a key consideration. Optimizing the distribution of information so that information which has been vetted by rational processes (e.g. peer review) moves faster than non-vetted information (rumors, slander, speculation, etc.) is in fact a key element in my design -- though probably one which could use further development. This will naturally occur with usage.

You wanted emergent design -- there's an opportunity for it right there, and there's plenty more; I've tried not to engrave anything in stone, and instead leave the system every opportunity to decide its own tweaks and improvements.

If you think it sucks, then either suggest an alternative or get out of the kitchen.

The design must be emergent. It must rely on dispersed decision making close to the information. It must allow for imperfect decisions and human failings.

I know what you mean by "emergent", but again that seems to imply that it's not possible to deliberately design such a system. That's basically an investigation-stopper -- "there are some things that are simply beyond us, so stop trying." Also, can you give an example of an emergent system of government that was any good? From what I understand of history, they tend towards the feudal, which I should think would be unacceptable.

Morgan Greywolf's objections

(reformatted for clarity)

Woozle said: <

When you say "marketplace" and use the term "design," you're no longer talking about free markets. You're talking about, at best, regulated markets, and, at worst, command-and-control markets. (Some might argue those are the same thing.)

This is getting at what really ticks me off about "hard" libertarianism: the idea that you can have a totally unregulated market. No, you can't. There have to be some rules to the game (even if that's just "enforcement of private contracts and ownership of property"), or it's not a marketplace anymore.

If there are rules, then someone has to enforce them -- not necessarily a central authority, but you have to have some inherently stable system in place to do it, or else the system naturally tends to seek the globally-stable state -- which involves a small number of players controlling the overwhelming majority of resources. There might still be something resembling a market remaining, but I don't think it would be what any of us would want to happen.

Centralized government is the most obvious inherently stable system which still allows free markets to exist in some substantial form. My suggestion is that we can improve on this -- create something decentralized (or at least much less centralized; I don't yet know how much decentralization is practical) that is also stable. Being decentralized, it will be less vulnerable to single-point failure, abuse of power, and all that.


The participants -- the users, aka voters or consumers or however your mental model prefers to label them.

Of course, that immediately implies something other than a free market.

How so? You think accountability is a bad idea?

Software control is still control.

And is that bad? I think you're using two different meanings of "control", here. Do you really want a totally uncontrolled marketplace?

I'll be candid: I think free markets are great, and have created the best parts of the civilization we live in now -- but free-market advocates are living in a dream world if they think that just taking away all government regulation will magically allow markets to make everything ok. I realize that's probably a straw-man of what you're saying, but I don't know how else to interpret it.

Do you acknowledge the need for some kind of regulatory body, or not? I'm not arguing for a top-down approach, but a de-centralized one. I am arguing that there has to be a system of some kind, because anarchy isn't a stable condition, and it collapses quickly into something very unhappy and the opposite of free.

Also, one question I'd like to ask pure-free-market advocates: how does a free market care for those who are, for whatever reason, unfit to work? (If the answer is "let them die", then you lose -- but I'm hoping you have a real answer.)

--Woozle 22:02, 20 September 2010 (UTC)