THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 536, September 13, 2009
"Spirits crushed so badly that the victims
have no way of knowing they've been crushed."
Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise
We live in Nation-States and want to live in a Libertarian society, so, the title question, "How do we get there from here?"
If we could get enough people to want the same society that we do, we could dismantle some of the Nation-States in the world and then vote with our feet if we lived elsewhere. Getting the initial critical mass seems to be the problem since most of the world appears unable to think outside of the status quo.
Inside the U.S.A. there are two proposals currently being considered.
The first of these is the Libertarian Party. The other is The Free State Project.
One stated aim of the Libertarian Party is to gain government by building an electoral base and winning elections. Many, perhaps most of the Party's members are gradualists or "Pragmatists" prepared to compromise to get power and move towards Libertarian society in small graduated steps. (The other aims are education and publicity.)
The problem with this approach is simple. Ambitious people are attracted to power for it's own sake. If the Libertarian Party ever gets substantial support there will be a general increase in its membership who are there less for the platform and more for their own benefit in personal terms. This would make the Party come to resemble the current incumbents. Over time the ideology would probably devolve into mere lip-service.
The Free State Project proposes that like-minded people of Libertarian inclinations move house to live near each other geographically in local political districts. At present the areas chosen are the states of New Hampshire in the East and Wyoming in the West. Again, part of the stated goal is to effect local political agendas.
The creation of intentional communities in close proximity with Libertarian principles offer advantages to the Libertarians who can relocate, but the idea has limited appeal to people who are already fixed where they want to be near their jobs or their relatives or on their own property. On the plus side, if the Federal government ever collapses, the various states will be free to go it alone and if Libertarian ideas are strongly entrenched in a few places those places may serve as nuclei for later expansion.
Of these two proposals, I feel that The Free State Projects offer the incremental advantages. Even if they never get a critical mass of voters in either state, the Libertarians may be able to influence local school districts, develop businesses with each other and form a minor voting block that occasionally holds the balance of power on some issues. If their views regarding victimless crime can be transferred to the local law enforcement system as well, then local society might be better there than elsewhere.
The idea that you might succeed in turning an entire state Libertarian in character and rolling back Statism is so improbable a possibility as to approach a zero chance. Consider, if it even looks possible to the current parties, then the Republicans and Democrats will join forces in opposition and appeal to the Federal government to intervene on grounds of civil rights, affirmative action, RICO, national security or some other excuse. You can expect the Feds to use all means and all agencies to press their case against changes to their status quo.
Both these prospects are long term if they are to succeed at all.
What else can we do that might speed things up or offer alternative routes to Libertarian society?
SEK3 offered agorism as a way to build an economic base for libertarians while denying resources to the State. The downside here is the fact that the State agencies have a lot of incentive to chase down people who follow this path, and the risks may exceed the rewards. L. Neil Schulman's book 'Alongside Night' gives a positive view of this path, but getting a Revolutionary Agorist Cadre going and keeping it secure while making it pay its own way would be a struggle.
Perhaps we can use technology to make the difference.
Cell organization, encrypted communications, internet advertising and anonymous servers together with mail-drops and private delivery services are needed. A banking and financial system based on precious metals instead of fiat currency (and based off-shore where confiscation is more difficult) is slowly being assembled and developed. The more of us that use these, the better they will tend to become.
Over and above this, we need to develop new technologies that leverage our capacity to resist the State's encroachment on our lives and property.
I think we need to develop an open-source Artificial Intelligence system useable by individuals. If we can get this we can make an end-run around the Statists. I use the following analogy. The State's Agencies are slow, big bureaucratic empires resembling the larger dinosaurs. Small brains separated by distance from where the work is done and therefore difficult to manoeuvre. Corporations come next down the scale. They can move a bit quicker but tend to support the State in return for its protection and various incentives. They are like smaller, more active dinosaurs in a variety of sizes. Smaller, private companies have to be quick, aware, responsive and active to survive in a climate that is geared (by the State) to assist the corporations. In my analogy, they fulfil the function of mammals among the dinosaurs, and have to be careful as well as aware or they get stepped on. Individual operations can be the quickest and most responsive to changes in conditions, and if they are going to last any distance they need to be inconspicuous or hard to copy as well.
If AI is implemented in State agencies, it will be resisted by the personnel that it will displace and will also require trained operators and changed procedures and new bureaucratic hierarchies. The potential for efficiency gains and the elimination of middle management jobs will produce tensions within these organizations that will tend to delay implementation. The need in government circles for a standard form of AI from an approved vendor may be a boon to the rest of us. If State agencies use Microsoft AI for instance, and we all use AI.Linux then we may have a smarter, nimbler, more effective product.
Corporate AI will have much in common with the Nation-State government agencies who are it's customers and 'peers'. Other corporations also have the same requirements. They will adapt to the technology to differing extents depending on how much advantage they will get over their competition.
For small companies it will often depend on price and ease of use because they don't have large IT departments. It may follow the same progression that computers did from mainframes to PCs.
Individuals will be at a disadvantage if they are late to getting AI but there may be another pathway that turns things around. Video games are one of the 'killer applications' that drive PC development and they already use crude AI to help make game-play more interesting. We can hope that improvements in this area continue to the point where a useful stand-alone AI running on multi-core game machines can be adopted by the general public before it spreads through the business world.
Individuals with effective AI can maximise their financial mobility by watching the markets full time. Agorists with AI can keep ahead of government and its agents, to deny it resources from taxation or confiscation. One way to do this is by moving money electronically before accounts can be frozen. Other methods use foreign companies and bank accounts around the world to deliver financial defence in depth. AI programs of sufficient sophistication can manage these flows of information and money on the fly.
AI handles security alerts, communications, scanning, accounting, investment, legal oversight, customer contacts and makes it possible for a single individual or small business to organise their affairs as effectively as a corporation with several specialist departments.
AI shortens product development cycles, enabling small companies to produce bespoke technology ahead of corporate R & D. Some of the big corporations will fragment into many smaller units to compete. Those that don't will be selling bulk commodities, bulk services or they will go out of business, unable to remain viable.
AI is also an enabling technology that makes other technologies easier to bring about.
If this results in the development of nano-technology and small-scale home fabrication, they will take power away from large corporate concerns and weaken the grip of the State on the economy. When households can make most of their own stuff and only need to buy or trade for designs and bulk raw materials, possibly some power supply, food and personal services, then the States income from taxes on goods and services will be reduced from current levels. Recycling systems and progressive development of improvements will make households more self-sufficient over time.
The Nation-State cannot survive in its present form if Agorists get hold of AI, home fabrication and nano-technology to any extent, because the State will find its income falling away as the technology spreads.
Attempts to delay, limit and control the spread of these technologies by the State can be expected once the bureaucracy and politicians realise that their incomes are under threat. Bans, scare campaigns, requirements for licences, government inspectors, controls, point of manufacture fees and taxes, registration and confiscation should be anticipated. If the Agorists can get a head start, the State and its agents will never catch up.
What use is gun control if every basement workshop has the capacity to produce a working firearm any time a home hobbyist activates the requisite program?
If the AI is of a self-aware type it must be imbued with ethics in general and the Zero Aggression Principle in particular, or it becomes a danger to society and humanity. It would also deserve and require its own sovereign autonomy or we can't justify our own. For these reasons I'd be happy with AI that wasn't self-aware.
Instead of developing self-aware AI that can get smarter than us and possibly make us obsolete, we ought to look into amplifying our own intelligence as cyborgs. The State would be rendered obsolete by such advances or it could change, if it attempted to adopt them, into a fragmented set of specialised bureaus (from bureaucracy).
I have argued previously (TLE 407, 25th Feb 2007) that social advances require a certain amount and style of enabling technology to become commonplace. I have yet to change my mind, as you'll see if you compare this piece to the prior one. I would be happy to receive dissenting views with accompanying arguments if you disagree with me. I'll change my views if I get a convincing reason.
So while the State attempts to develop new technologies to watch us and keep track of us, let us not forget that we can also devise technologies based on these advances that assist us to maintain or even extend the little freedoms we currently have. If we do this, we ought to be in practice for a future with all the freedom and liberty we can manage.