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Wife-beating and slavery were once acceptable: How will the future judge us? (post-gazette.com)
87 points by edw519 on Oct 4, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 203 comments



Terribly!

Here's some for starters:

- our total misunderstanding of, and gross inflation of, risk, leading amongst countless other things to the total demise of intergenerational friendship and or knowledge transfer for fear of mostly figmented "predators"

- our laughable superstitions about supernatural gods and demons which still manage to dominate our politics

- our inability to use rationality, statistics and outcomes-based thinking to make decisions, instead resorting to emotion and worst case thinking, to disastrous effect

- our idiotic ostrich-like "war on some drugs"

- our barbaric indifference to the suffering of others

- our continuing inability to distinguish between race and culture

Actually, typing that I realise how many of them are really due to the inability to estimate risk.


If these problems are rooted in our innate inability to estimate risk, then are they really likely to disappear in the future?


We'll have computers which will increasingly replace humans in risk estimation. People will just do what the computer tells them to do.


We already have expert systems that can estimate some categories of risk very well. People don't trust them anyway. Personally, I think the problem isn't accuracy, it's accountability. You can't fire or sue a piece of software that makes a wrong estimate.


You think it's innate?


This reminds me of http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html

It's easy to pick stuff that a portion of society agrees with you on, like ending drug prohibition, gay marriage, abortion, or immigration. Even more controversial stuff like ending meat-eating or religion will get nods from a few people. I'm not going to mention anything really crazy, since I'll get downvoted as a nut if I do.

I don't blame most people for having the same beliefs as everyone around them, and I think the future will feel similarly. But while future societies may not judge us harshly, I think they'll contain things we would judge them for. This is because we don't have the future's technology, so certain decisions are already made for us. Most of us don't even think of them as decisions. For example, we can't easily increase a person's intelligence. If we could, we would have debates on how best to use this technology and whatnot. Then, maybe one day it would be considered a form of abuse to not increase your child's intelligence through drugs or brain implants.


That essay is amazing, but I think it only covers part of the spectrum.

Knowing who your parents are is less important today than a couple hundred years ago. It doesn't cripple you socially as it once did. Knowing what material your water pipes are made of has become much more important, now that we're aware of the crippling effects of lead. The present world is greatly influenced by the manipulation of amounts of mass and energy too small to see. We've come to accept this situation without surprise, and we tend to think about emergent information content and not mechanics or chemistry.

To a typical Victorian all of that wouldn't be heresy so much as fantastic nonsense.


> I'm not going to mention anything really crazy, since I'll get downvoted as a nut if I do.

You mean like democracy?

Edit: Yup, there's the "downvoted as a nut" - I think voting on what your fellow man can do with his life might be seen as barbaric in the future. Maybe not, but the idea that 51% of people voting in the USA can enforce their will on all 300 million citizens is pretty scary to me...


Maybe not, but the idea that 51% of people voting in the USA can enforce their will on all 300 million citizens is pretty scary to me…

Luckily that's not quite how it works - we're not a direct democracy. But, even when a majority of representatives attempts to exert their will on us citizens, the scope of their will is limited to the powers explicitly granted them by the constitution and they, within those powers, are further restricted from infringing on our natural and enumerated rights.

Certainly, a reasonable argument can be made that the legislature does push the limits with regards to their powers, particularly with respect to the commerce clause, and we do more arguing in defense of our individual rights than I think should be necessary, but all-in-all we're not doing too bad. In any case, we've so far only needed to use our first three boxes [1] in the defense of liberty. I wouldn't consider it a failure until we find need for the fourth.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_boxes_of_liberty


>Luckily that's not quite how it works

Luckily? Democracy (direct democracy being a specific kind of democracy) has it's own issues as Thomas Jefferson pointed out (51% holding 49% ransom) but the problem with anything else is that it is not direct. In the US you can vote someone in for their stance on some hot button issue and when they get in office they can do the exact opposite. What do you do then? "Hold them accountable" by voting them out. But they've already done the damage.

Contrast this with Switzerland. The reason Switzerland isn't in the EU is because the citizens don't want to be and will not vote themselves into it.

>but all-in-all we're not doing too bad.

Really? Your phone can now be tapped and a warrant requested after the authorities have found something they think is incriminating, if you are suspected of being a terrorist you forfeit your rights, nearly all of the new candidates from one political party are openly on the payroll of one company [1]. What exactly would have to happen for you to say "well, it's not working so well at the moment"?

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/04/opinion/04krugman.html


> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_boxes_of_liberty

Interesting link, thanks for that.

My view on governance has evolved as I've gotten older - these days I don't believe in one best form of government, and I think people should generally live under the government that they wish to.

Thus, I prefer to see rights reserved to the smallest groups of people practical to make a decision. I'd prefer a lot more decisionmaking to happen at local levels and state levels in the USA, which gives people more options for where they want to live and the kind of government they wish to live under.

Large scale, broad legislation almost always winds up with devil's bargains that don't quite suit anyone really well, special interests working in coalitions... it's bad stuff, in my opinion. Of course, everyone agrees with this for policies they'd like to see happen at a local level, and disagrees for policies they think everyone should follow. Drug control - local or national? Well, people who want decriminalization would prefer it locally decided, which makes it effectively almost legal. People against think it needs to be nationally decided to be effective. Labor laws? Pro-labor people want it national, people against want it locally decided. I'd prefer almost everything is locally decided, but of course, most people will argue that their favorite policies really have to happen on a national level that everyone must follow.


My view on governance has evolved as I've gotten older - these days I don't believe in one best form of government, and I think people should generally live under the government that they wish to.

Truly, and this too is at the heart of our form of democracy - that our inalienable rights trump any government's power, and that we as a free people have the right to choose the government that best serves us. As our founders made clear when declaring our independence, it is a self-evident truth "that whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."

That we continue to have, as a people, the natural right and ability as protected by the second amendment to abolish our government when we see fit, is (to me) evidence that our founders chose well. That is not to say, of course, that their choice of government will always be the right one for us.

I'd prefer a lot more decisionmaking to happen at local levels and state levels in the USA, which gives people more options for where they want to live and the kind of government they wish to live under.

I agree, and this is the reason for my comment on abuse of the commerce clause. The states, and their localities as they see fit, have complete control over their governance except where contradicted by federal treaty and law in pursuance of the constitution. Unfortunately, through the commerce clause the federal legislature, with precious few rebuttals from SCOTUS, has long managed to interfere in purely intrastate concerns.

Large scale, broad legislation almost always winds up with devil's bargains that don't quite suit anyone really well, special interests working in coalitions...

Yes, agreed. The constitution makes it clear where authority really lies - but short of SCOTUS revisiting their commerce clause rulings, we'll have to effect this change on the soap box and at the ballot box, by finding, supporting and electing national representatives who want to govern us the least.


Good thing it's not an actual possibility then, since changing the US constitution would require a two-thirds majority (so to speak - technically it could be a much lower fraction of the population, but for practical purposes it's true enough).

Mind you, short of re-instituting slavery very few laws arise to the level of specifying the whole course of anyone's life. Democracy is a flawed system, to be sure - as any member of an unpopular minority can confirm. But we have yet to identify any reliably better alternative, and may never do so. After all, if there were sufficient agreement on how to identify good and wise candidates to be benign dictators, there'd be no need of their services.


As pointed out by others, the US isn't a democracy and never has been. Having said that, I don't think the problem would be being a democracy but rather consisting of 300 million citizens. I personally think that's far too big of a scale to have a reasonable government.


Consider the school system. I won't go into how bad it is because I bet a lot of readers here already understand that. What's terrifying is not how bad it is but how institutionalized it is. What little political will, what little realization there is that this system is fundamentally broken, becomes drowned in a sea of hopeless politics.

I think future generations will view our schools as archaic and somewhat barbaric, kind of like how things like corporal punishment and child labor are viewed today. Actually, teaching a child a trade is probably less harmful to his character than sending him to the average public school.


> Actually, teaching a child a trade is probably less harmful to his character than sending him to the average public school.

This is not a new idea. It's called apprenticeship and was once widespread in e.g. Europe. Why it's less common now is largely a combination of changes in the economy (fewer stable, skilled trades) and society (teenagers being less willing to accept the obligations of being an apprentice).


Spending time in among adults and performing real work would have a great positive effect on kids.

It seems obvious why teenage culture is petty, cruel, and obsessed with fashion and status; the inmates, trapped in an artificial world and forced to do fake-work, turn on each other.


Also child labor laws, which are not a change in the economy per se.


When I listen to WAMU (the NPR station in DC) I hear some school coverage nearly every day. They have special school reporters, and school segments. I realize that these (mostly affluent and White) people just LOVE school. They think it's the most important thing in the world. There is no acceptable opinion (in the political sense) other than increasing spending and treatment through schooling. Some schools here are penalized by their local governments for failing to outspend their own budgets year-over-year.

It really seems kind of hopelessly entrenched.


I would think that future generations would probably see "having a school system" as the part that is ridiculously quaint.

Of course, that's assuming the evolution has taken them to a better place in this regard. It's quite possible that future generations will be too stupid to think about us much at all.


Yeah, drugging kids to keep teacher-to-student ratios affordably low; I think there's a thing the future will judge harshly.


Possibly the future will judge us by the irreparable damage done to the environment and our ecosystem and for all the species that we allowed to die out that they'll never get a chance to see, let alone conserve.

Possibly they will remember us as the ones that killed off the oceans but in that case there might not be anybody there to remember us at all.

Hopefully they'll remember us as the generation that got off their asses and decided to do something, that stopped the damage and the wars before it was too late and that was the first to expand beyond the Earth to avoid having all our eggs in that one basket.

I'm bullish on the future, now let's make it happen somehow.


We are the last generation (or one of the last) that doesn't understand our own brains.

We have electricity, light bulbs and flickering TV and computers screens but we don't understand our sleep cycle and the circadian rhythm. We are a sleep-deprived civilization.[1]

Our scientists already know how learning works (semantic encoding and repetition are the key), but we still cram kids in Austro-Hungarian like classrooms.[2]

We are the last generation to waste drinking water. Water is already today a precious resource. In the future this will be even more pronounced.

Great article, got me thinking.

If you're interested, I recommend

[1] The Promise of Sleep: http://www.amazon.com/Promise-Sleep-Medicine-Connection-Happ...

[2] Brain Rules: http://www.amazon.com/Brain-Rules-Principles-Surviving-Thriv...


The surface of the earth is 70% water. I refuse to believe that future generations wont figure out a cost effect way of turning this into drinking water on the required scales.


This deserves another Paul Graham essay reference: "What You Can't Say". Graham details how each period of history has something different that we look back at and think of as horrible. He also uncovers some patterns between them.

Some excerpts:

"In our own time, different societies have wildly varying ideas of what’s ok and what isn’t. So you can try diffing other cultures’ ideas against ours as well. / In one culture x is ok, and in another it’s considered shocking. My hypothesis is that the side that’s shocked is most likely to be the mistaken one."

"To launch a taboo, a group has to be posed halfway between weakness and power. A confident group doesn’t need taboos to protect it. It’s not considered improper to make disparaging remarks about Americans, or the English. And yet a group has to be powerful enough to enforce a taboo."

"Whatever the reason, there seems a clear correlation between intelligence and willingness to consider shocking ideas. This isn’t just because smart people actively work to find holes in conventional thinking. Conventions also have less hold over them to start with. You can see that in the way they dress."

http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html


I believe in the future it will seem ridiculous that people from many countries are prevented from traveling to some other richer countries, while the people from the rich countries can freely move about as they please.


There seems to be a common belief, even among the educated, that the security of nations is somehow completely unrelated to the security of the individual.

In reality, one is the macro; the other, micro. They are solutions to the exact same problem at a different scale.

The same way that you lock your door, we collectively close a border. The same way that we call the cops on the drug house, we bomb << entity >> .

So, to re-phrase your future view a little: If you foresee us being able to dispel the notion of door locks in favour of trusting our fellow humans completely, you can imagine your border free world.

I am a little more pessimistic, to be honest.


Then why doesn't New York ever need to bomb Pensylvania? If the border of these two areas can be open, then so could other borders.

Likewise, there are places where you don't have to lock your doors.


I can't agree with this enough.

Granted the comparison of countries with drug houses is a little simplistic. :)


How about"The same way that we call the cops on the guy we think is running a drug house, we bomb << entity >>. :-)

It's complex enough to make the point, but I certainly do appreciate that it isn't that straightforward in the real world.


Even at the local level, this is problematic - it's depressingly easy to find reports of incorrectly targeted police action. In such a case, the security-first approach (of both the police and the homeowner) has resulted in wrongful arrests and death not withstanding everyone acting in good faith.

Correspondingly, enforcing internal or external security with absolutist certitude virtually guarantees a serious error sooner or later.


You are missing my point.


The problem with this analogy is that while it's reasonable to think of oneself as the sole authority over one's own home, that concept does not scale in any meaningful way to the size of a country, unless the governing power is vested in a monarchy.

A great many political theses are advanced from all over the political spectrum in the format of 'You wouldn't tolerate X - so why does the government? We the people demand an end to X!' However, 'we the people', when taken as a whole, have a demonstrable tendency to disagree amongst ourselves, and almost never act in concert. There are all sorts of thing which we should find surprising or unacceptable within our own homes but whose existence we accept or at least tolerate within our county, state, or country because either a majority of our neighbors hold views which differ from ours or because constitutional or legislative power takes precedence over our own preferences.

A better analogy might be to consider the country as something similar to an apartment building or even a small town.You can exert a degree of security insofar as it serves the common good, but an absolutist approach of the kind you describe rapidly becomes self-defeating and unsustainable over the longer term. I might add that absolutism in this context refers to the idea of abolishing borders as much as to the idea of sealing them. After all, we have controls in between the borders of US states with limited powers to enforce prohibitions or requirements unique to that state, from carrying certain produce to wearing a motorcycle helmet, and these are not considered especially onerous.

Rather than abolition of borders, I see a trend away from a presumption of exclusion as the default and towards a policy of neutral vigilance - in other words, personal migration will come to be seen in the same light as other trade flows, subject to inspection and monitoring but requiring specific grounds for interference.

So, suppose you have a business importing silk from China, and the hacky part is that it's woven in conformity with 6502 assembler code or something. It comes into the US in a cargo container, and we all accept that DHS/CBP want to assure themselves that it doesn't include radioactive materials, smallpox, or marauding silkworm colonies. That done, we expect them to be indifferent to the question of whether 8-bit silken handkerchief designs will affect the US economy in positive or negative fashion - that's for the market to discover, not the customs inspectors, as long as there's no ongoing trade dispute between China and the US justifying their exclusion in accordance with treaty.

We already have such a policy in place for visiting tourists and businesspersons from other developed countries, and which is mostly reciprocal - you can grab your passport and fly to Japan on a whim for up to 90 days, and vice versa. Within both the US and the EU, the benefits of allowing migration between the individual member states seems to considerably outweigh the various costs; economics suggests that rational policymaking on international migration will go the same way sooner or later.

Of course, this isn't foolproof and the downside of such a policy is that criminals can exploit such openness to further their wicked ends. But insofar the number of such people/incidents is low - not least because more people appreciate the freedoms of the open model, and have a stake in its preservation - that risk is tolerable.


The problem with this analogy is that while it's reasonable to think of oneself as the sole authority over one's own home, that concept does not scale in any meaningful way to the size of a country, unless the governing power is vested in a monarchy.

What are you talking about? The recognized governments of the world are the sole powers of the areas of land they control, in the same manner that I might be recognized as being the master of my domain; in fact more so!

In essence: enough other people agree that they are, so they are. I think you're reading too far into the analogy to assert that democratic governments as entities in and of themselves don't fit.

That done, we expect them to be indifferent to the question of whether 8-bit silken handkerchief designs will affect the US economy in positive or negative fashion - that's for the market to discover, not the customs inspectors, as long as there's no ongoing trade dispute between China and the US justifying their exclusion in accordance with treaty.

I'm not sure what part of the planet you live on where this happens. When and if we actually do establish it with trade, we can start worrying about immigration.


What are you talking about? The recognized governments of the world are the sole powers of the areas of land they control, in the same manner that I might be recognized as being the master of my domain; in fact more so!

The difference is that while it's relatively easy for you to make a decision and then act upon it, in a democratic country it's quite rare for the population to be so unified that the government of the day engages in completely unilateral actions. Not only is the government constrained by disagreements among the governed which affect its capacity for unitary policymaking, it's also usually constrained by constitutional matters which may prevent it from acting in certain ways despite the clear wishes of a legitimate majority.

That's why I suggested that scaling up the behavior of a householder to the size of a country is going to give you a monarchy of some kind. North Korea is governed by someone who seems to believe that the nation's security is best served by sealing off the whole country from its neighbors, but I rather doubt you want to live there.

When and if we actually do establish it with trade

Well this is quite close to what we have now. If you or I decide to start importing stuff from China, the customs people don't give two hoots about which particular things are imported in most cases. Nobody, for example, is going to call you up and say 'we halted your furniture shipment because we don't like tables with built-in drawers, what the economy needs right now is a greater supply of chairs.'


The difference is that while it's relatively easy for you to make a decision and then act upon it, in a democratic country it's quite rare for the population to be so unified that the government of the day engages in completely unilateral actions

Did you miss the whole "Let's go on a desert adventure and finish what dad started" that happened a few years back?

Well this is quite close to what we have now.

No offense, but if you actually think this you are completely ignorant of world affairs in general, but specifically international trade. Things to Google: Softwood Lumber, Corn Industry subsidies, Farm subsidies, OPEC.

I could go on...


Get a sense of proportion. You are treating edge cases as the norm.


They are the norm. Free Trade accommodations are specifically negotiated and are in fact the real edge cases in the world of trade at the movement. Even when they do exist, there are often disputes.

Give me one example of an import/export international trade experience that has not been subject to protectionist measures of some nature and perhaps I can explore your point some more.


That's a pet peeve of mine and it really gets me every time I'm confronted with it.

The sooner the world will have no borders the better.


> The sooner the world will have no borders the better.

I think you should really think that over. A world with no borders is a world with one government.

Currently, if your government becomes something you can't tolerate, you can usually move to another country, or at least dream of moving. With a single, world government, your only option is revolution, which I believe is rapidly becoming almost impossible and certainly would be against the might and resources of a world government.

Are you really willing to resign your children, grandchildren, and humanity in general to some unknown world government of the future? Are you really so trusting?

Even if you don't believe that under such a system, human rights would erode at an alarming rate, you should at least shun it for the very reason that there is no diversity that will save you in case of unforeseen events. You want the world to be a field of wheat, all of a single strain. You would never advocate such a plan with actual wheat, since you know that diversity is a form of insurance.


Why should I trust or distrust a world government more or less than the current ones?

What is the last time in living memory that people in a developed country revolted against their rulers?

Poland? That was more of a strike, and that weapon will always be available.


When something is possible, it is often not necessary. That it's possible that I may strike you in the nose if you're rude enough is generally enough to keep you from being rude enough to cause me to need to strike you. That revolution is possible is generally enough for governments not to trample too heavily on their population. In both cases, the actual act is not carried out, just the possibility of it is enough.

But I agree that the gulf between civilian and government might is fearfully large already, which makes moving to another country a much better option. Of course, your world won't have that option.


But you're back to the point of the OP - for all the people that want to exercise the option (e.g. some residents of China, North Korea or Iran) moving to another country isn't an option, so having separate countries isn't helping them anyway.

Also, since the EU has borders with free movement (and doesn't even check on internal borders), which meets the grandparent's goal of being able to easily move countries, you are wrong to say this inevitably means forming a single world government.

(Edited for appalling grammar)


How old is the EU? Already, after only a few years, the erosion of sovereignty of the individual countries is well along. I think it proves the point more than refutes it.


About 50. Nations have chosen to delegate some parts of their running certainly - more so than the US states in some areas, less so in most others.

Any answer to the first point? This debate is immaterial since in countries that people actually want to leave: a. their own government won't let them leave and b. our governments won't let them come.

The question I suppose is, can we find a way to reduce our borders without creating a world government, since that is clearly a bad thing? I believe we can, will and should.


Why should I trust or distrust a world government more or less than the current ones?

It's not about trust, but about choice. It's like with any product. Lots of choice plus little vendor lock-in tends to lead to better products. No or little choice plus strong vendor lock-in leads to worse products.

If you combine lots of countries/governments with more open borders, then people can shop around for a government they like.

What is the last time in living memory that people in a developed country revolted against their rulers?

Each time someone gets tired of the government in their current country and decides to move because of it, that is a revolt against their rulers.

The point is there is no need for me to overthrow my government as long as I'm free to move. Violent revolt is simply not necessary if borders are open. If you really don't like the government you have, pick a different one. There are plenty to chose from around the world, and it's a lot cheaper and easier than staging a violent revolution.


A world with no borders is a world with one government.

Or a world with no government. Saying many governments is better than one government is like saying more slave masters is better than one, since some of them might be more lenient.


A world with no government lasts exactly as long as it takes for some charismatic guy to round up some armed men and set up a new government. Out of 300-500 million people in the 13th century we had Genghis Khan--how many Genghis Khans are we going to find out of 7 billion people?

Humanity's had two steady states--hunting and gathering, and governments. It's an interesting question how authority functioned in hunter-gatherer tribes prior to the invention of civilization and government, but since then, government has been the only steady state. It's even more of a steady state than hunting and gathering, because the hunter-gatherers kept realizing they were better warriors than the grain-fed populations of a civilization, so they conquered neighboring civilizations and set up their own government.


This belief, while widely held is utterly unproven. Things are vastly different now than they were in Genghis Khan's time. Further, in Africa hunter/gatherer was doing pretty well for the most part until the imperialists interfered.

The issues before were poor education and slow communication. If your neighbor country decided to conquer you, by the time you were mobilized to defend yourself you had already lost.

Education has gotten vastly better over time. We didn't switch away from Monarchy because the monarchy decided to give up their power. The people became too educated to be controlled in this manner.

Communication is also practically instant now. If a Genghis Khan began conquering a government-less world with our current level of technology, by the time he finished conquering the first neighbor he would already be surrounded by everyone else.

I'm not saying Anarchy could work, but rather that we don't know yet. It's never been properly tried. Of course you would expect this. Governments don't want it to be tried because if it did somehow manage to work they would lose their power.


Further, in Africa hunter/gatherer was doing pretty well for the most part until the imperialists interfered.

Hunter/gatherer did well for the vast majority of human history, all around the world. But imperialists did interfere. You can't handwave that away.

Communication is also practically instant now. If a Genghis Khan began conquering a government-less world with our current level of technology, by the time he finished conquering the first neighbor he would already be surrounded by everyone else.

Why would he be surrounded by anyone? People don't voluntarily protect each other unless they identify as part of the same group, whether tribal or national. How many Americans actually cared about the Syrian invasion and occupation of Lebanon? How many knew? And you expect people under anarchy to voluntarily mobilize for the sake of strangers around the world?

Also, it's not entirely clear that our current level of technology and communication would continue to function without government; they likely require a free market system[1], and free markets require consistent property rights and a functioning legal system, both available to all people. None of this can be provided without a government.

Things are vastly different now than they were in Genghis Khan's time. Governments are even more entrenched, and it's not clear that it's even possible for major parts of the world to function without them. Empirically, I'd rather go with what's been proven to work and improve on it.

[1] At minimum; you could maintain a communication infrastructure with a more centralized economic system, but that would be even less anarchic.


First off, I would just point out that a tremendous amount of literature has been written about Anarchistic theory. Probably a lot more than we have time left in our lives to completely read. You can't just handwave the system away with "yea, but there are bad people!". This has obviously been covered at length. What the theory lacks is real world large scale testing which will obviously be extremely difficult to do.

>You can't handwave that away.

Which is why I didn't. I gave the reasons I believe people were susceptible to it and gave reasons that those problems may no longer apply.

>And you expect people under anarchy to voluntarily mobilize for the sake of strangers around the world?

I'm not expecting anything. I'm considering the possibility that if we switched to a government-less world (which would mean drastic changes, no government implies a great deal of other changes) that if someone tried to rise up and take it away from us people might mobilize to stop it.

Your Syrian/Lebanon examples don't strictly apply because those are other countries. Invade the US and see how passive people are. In a government-less world there is no more "country". Potentially people would form other kinds of groups and not care about people outside of their group, but if they are ignorant enough to do that then they wont be intelligent enough to have an Anarchist system at all, Genghis Khan or no.

>Also, it's not entirely clear that our current level of technology and communication would continue to function without government

Open source and various open source systems seem to work well enough. It's not clear or proven but to do that someone would have to actually try it and see.

>they likely require a free market system

No, this is one of those drastic changes I was talking about. You can't have any kind of bartering system what so ever or it just devolves right back into the current system. Ancap is a nonsense theory like US-Libertarianism is for largely the same reasons.

I do believe though, that the system isn't viable even with our current technology because I think that the constraint of having no barter system means there can be no work that has to be done that no one wants to do. This means we would have to have robots doing all that kind of work.

>None of this can be provided without a government.

Not true. If you're really interested, have a look at some Anarchist writing and see what they actually have to say about these issues. It's not some kind of cursed literature that will damn you for reading, it's just an idea that may even be wrong.

>Governments are even more entrenched, and it's not clear that it's even possible for major parts of the world to function without them.

Big parts of the world do function without them today. You don't have to buy into the system, I'm not convinced myself (and I have no confidence that it will be tried on a large enough scale on my lifetime anyway) but the effort put into it deserves more than the simple brush off that you give it.

>Empirically, I'd rather go with what's been proven to work and improve on it.

I wouldn't frame the system we have today as "proven to work" but rather "managed not to utterly fail outright". If you're a programmer you should be able to appreciate this difference.

The issue with this mindset is that at some point the government system becomes a drag on progress. The government is always a drag to some extent but they usually provide a net gain due to the services they provide (e.g. justice system). When and if we reach the point that we could provide most or all of these services in a more efficient form than they do (e.g. email today vs. US Postal service or telegram service) all that remains is the drag. I think we're already seeing signs of this (e.g. government attempts to prop up the obsolete media distribution model).


First off, I would just point out that a tremendous amount of literature has been written about Anarchistic theory. Probably a lot more than we have time left in our lives to completely read. You can't just handwave the system away with "yea, but there are bad people!". This has obviously been covered at length.

If you're going to refer me to the existing literature, please at least make a specific reference. There's been just as much (if not more) philosophy written about why a government is necessary.

What the theory lacks is real world large scale testing which will obviously be extremely difficult to do.

Somalia's been trying it out for years. The results don't look promising.

Your Syrian/Lebanon examples don't strictly apply because those are other countries. Invade the US and see how passive people are.

If you invaded the US, I think Syrians would be quite passive about it indeed.

In a government-less world there is no more "country". Potentially people would form other kinds of groups and not care about people outside of their group, but if they are ignorant enough to do that then they wont be intelligent enough to have an Anarchist system at all, Genghis Khan or no.

People have always formed groups and not cared about people outside of their group. That's how humans work. If anarchism doesn't expect humans to work that way, then anarchism is a bad system for humans.

You're assuming I'm dismissing anarchism without considering the arguments for it or anything. Actually, I'm dismissing it after a lot of consideration, partially about anarchism and partially about idealistic, theoretical political philosophies in general.


>If you're going to refer me to the existing literature, please at least make a specific reference.

This should be a good starting point.

http://anarchism.pageabode.com/afaq/index.html

>Somalia's been trying it out for years. The results don't look promising

http://c4ss.org/content/1201

>If you invaded the US, I think Syrians would be quite passive about it indeed.

The point is that, yes people tend to only care about their group but there are different levels of group. For example, when the Russians had their "communist" revolution practically the whole world cared because they were terrified it would happen in their country as well (and in some cases like Spain, it did).

>People have always formed groups and not cared about people outside of their group.

As just shown, while this may be technically true group size changes depending on the level of threat up to and including "group human".

>That's how humans work.

Now you're moving toward a more interesting argument. We see how humans behave but how much of that is because of our nature and how much is because of the environment we grow up in? There's tons of interesting research about this question (one starting point: http://www.charleswarner.us/articles/competit.htm).

>You're assuming I'm dismissing anarchism without considering the arguments for it or anything. Actually, I'm dismissing it after a lot of consideration, partially about anarchism and partially about idealistic, theoretical political philosophies in general.

I'm assuming you dismiss it after working it out in your own head without consulting the existing body of knowledge on the subject, and it sounds like you just confirmed that my assumption was completely correct.

AFAIU, this site isn't about circle-jerking, it's about intelligent conversation. In that spirit, if I see someone making uneducated off hand "me too" comments like "anarchism can't work, it's human nature!" I'm going to challenge it, even if I'm not convinced myself. Circle-jerking isn't learning, it's not a way forward.


http://c4ss.org/content/1201*

My argument is that in the absence of a strong government, various warlords and the like will attempt to seize power for themselves. So thank you for supporting it.

Again, if you want to get into an intellectual wanking session about how nice it would be if we lived in a world where absolutely no one attempted to use violence or seize power over other people, I'll kindly provide Somalia as empirical evidence that we live in a very different world and turn my attentions to the question of how a society of actual human beings* can function, and hopefully can function better than it currently does.

Now you're moving toward a more interesting argument. We see how humans behave but how much of that is because of our nature and how much is because of the environment we grow up in?

Yes, and? How exactly do we get those environments? Co-recursively, of course--the environment influences human behavior and human behavior influences the environment. In general that's the kind of system that, hopefully, reaches a steady state at some point. Empirically we've observed two--primitivism and governed civilization. Anarchic civilization doesn't seem to be an option. (I'm actually fairly open to considerations of primitivism, which is likely as anarchic as humans can get.)

I'm assuming you dismiss it after working it out in your own head without consulting the existing body of knowledge on the subject, and it sounds like you just confirmed that my assumption was completely correct.

On the contrary--I'm considering the actual knowledge fairly thoroughly. I'm also considering as much of the theory as I can (and I'm more familiar with it than you realize), but most of that theory is fundamentally useless as it lacks any empirical knowledge at all.

It's the height of arrogance to confuse any political theory with knowledge. Anarchist theory has certain assumptions of how an anarchic civilization would function, and if you're talking to fellow anarchists you can both take that answer as a given and operate from that basis, but that doesn't mean a damned thing, because it's not knowledge, it's a shared assumption based on non-empirical reasoning which fundamentally does not and cannot provide a rationally convincing answer at all.

And that is ultimately the fundamental flaw of anarchism--we live in a world with plenty of societies that function fairly well, with plenty of empirical evidence of how different social structures work out in practice, and yet anarchists want to throw all of that away in favor of a completely untested system just because of some ideological opposition to government and private property.


>My argument is that in the absence of a strong government, various warlords and the like will attempt to seize power for themselves.

Actually it was outside governments imposing themselves on a populous. Yes, to get Anarchism this would have to be dealt with and so far they have not had much success.

>Again, if you want to get into an intellectual wanking session about how nice it would be if we lived in a world where absolutely no one attempted to use violence or seize power over other people

There will always be people who want to try this. My claim is that if most of the countries of the world were Anarchist then someone threatening that would be met the same way threatening democracy is met today.

>Anarchic civilization doesn't seem to be an option.

There are existing Anarchic systems, e.g. http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2009/12/06/...

>as it lacks any empirical knowledge at all

Much of the literature is about real world events. The actual problem with it is that it's on small scales. The largest examples probably being Spain and part of Russia during their revolution. In the case of Spain literally everyone joined together to stop the Anarchists. We don't have large scale empirical knowledge because people in positions of power don't want us to.

For me this is the strongest argument that there is something to the idea. If it were a fatally flawed idea the smart thing to do would be to let some high profile country try it and watch them fail. Then the book would be pretty well closed on the matter.

>Anarchist theory has certain assumptions of how an anarchic civilization would function, and if you're talking to fellow anarchists you can both take that answer as a given and operate from that basis, but that doesn't mean a damned thing, because it's not knowledge, it's a shared assumption based on non-empirical reasoning which fundamentally does not and cannot provide a rationally convincing answer at all.

Actually it's a large part Philosophy and a large part of real world occurrences. The thing really missing, as I've said is the scale.

>and yet anarchists want to throw all of that away in favor of a completely untested system just because of some ideological opposition to government and private property

How well you think the system works depends on who you are. People who's homes are being destroyed in Afghanistan probably don't think too much of it. People starving to death while we in the west throw away tons of food every day probably don't think much of it.

Further it is false that Anarchists want to throw everything away. Every proposal I've seen used some form of democracy, for example.

Lastly, the bases of the idea is a moral one. Why does anyone have the right to be over anyone else. Given the levels of corruption in government around the world, this strikes me as a valid question.


My claim is that if most of the countries of the world were Anarchist then someone threatening that would be met the same way threatening democracy is met today.

Democracy is continually threatened all over the world and no one does much about it without some sort of explicit self-interest.

* There are existing Anarchic systems, e.g. http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2009/12/06/...

I would classify that as primitivism, despite the presence of agriculture. It's certainly not a satisfying answer to your claim that we can have anarchism and still hold onto computers and the internet.

The actual problem with it is that it's on small scales. The largest examples probably being Spain and part of Russia during their revolution. In the case of Spain literally everyone joined together to stop the Anarchists. We don't have large scale empirical knowledge because people in positions of power don't want us to.

For me this is the strongest argument that there is something to the idea. If it were a fatally flawed idea the smart thing to do would be to let some high profile country try it and watch them fail. Then the book would be pretty well closed on the matter.

If the entire rest of the world was operating as a cartel, yes, the smart thing to do would be to let anarchism fail by itself. As it stands, setting up an anarchic society--especially in the middle of a revolution or civil war--just means there's tons of competing factions, each of which is better served by taking the anarchic territory for itself rather than letting it fall to a rival. At least unless the anarchic territory is more difficult to conquer than it is worth.

Lastly, the bases of the idea is a moral one. Why does anyone have the right to be over anyone else. Given the levels of corruption in government around the world, this strikes me as a valid question.

I used to have moral problems with this too, but ultimately it doesn't matter--I'd rather limit myself to making small changes on the real world we have to generate better results.


>Democracy is continually threatened all over the world

Not really. Maybe democracy of one place, but when the Russian revolution happened democracies everywhere were afraid it would happen to them so they responded to Russia. That's what I'm talking about.

>I would classify that as primitivism, despite the presence of agriculture.

Perhaps, but the point is that it's conceptually possible to have relatively large groups of people without government.

Personally I consider primitivism a non-idea because of the simple fact that primitivism can't support the amount of people we have today. If we forgo agriculture it is estimated the world can support about 500 million people. Who's going to select the 6.5 billion that have to die?

>I used to have moral problems with this too, but ultimately it doesn't matter--I'd rather limit myself to making small changes on the real world we have to generate better results.

I've done the same. I just entertain the idea that we don't have the best possible system and to get the best system may mean starting over at some point.


but when the Russian revolution happened democracies everywhere were afraid it would happen to them so they responded to Russia

Democracies fought to preserve the Russian Tsar because they thought his overthrow was a threat to democracy? No. They fought communism because they thought communism was a threat to their regimes in specific, just as other monarchies fought the French Revolutionary Wars because they thought the French Revolution was a threat to their regimes in specific. The commonality is that there are regimes of elites fighting to preserve their own power. Anarchy doesn't have that by definition.

I just entertain the idea that we don't have the best possible system and to get the best system may mean starting over at some point.

You don't get to start over unless people get hungry and desperate. And I think we have a system that can sustainably keep people out of hunger and desperation. If I'm wrong, maybe the anarchists will get another shot.


>They fought communism because they thought communism was a threat to their regimes in specific

Yes. And if we ever have full Anarchy and if it turns out to be as good as some people think I believe people will fight just as aggressively to preserve it as they have to preserve previous systems that weren't even all that great (sometimes downright awful).

>And I think we have a system that can sustainably keep people out of hunger and desperation

Some, but there are a lot of people that are both hungry and desperate. Further "starting over" isn't strictly necessary. A smaller Anarchist system could be created within the confines of larger existing systems and this has been done to some extent with varying levels of success.


There is some contradiction in this thread, on the one hand the whole world population is deemed to be incapable of rising up against a 'bad' world government and on the other all it takes is one charismatic guy to round up 'some armed men'.


I don't think you'd end up with a single world government. I think you'd end up with thousands of smaller conquerers carving out territory for themselves, and a gradual process where empires grow, break apart, join together, etc.. You know, basically the entire history of the world over again, except with nuclear weapons.


While I too would like to see the borders opened up a bit, there does have to be some control. If you just let everyone do whatever they want you end up with London: an endless massive sprawl that produces and consumes the majority of resources in England. It would have been much better to control the flow of immigration a bit better and have more big cities than one insanely large one and wouldn't make most of the country look like free loaders on financial topology charts.


Are you proposing that the US should open the floodgates to whoever wants to come over here? I'm not anti-immigration by any means, but letting everyone in all at once seems like a clearly bad idea.


But it's not clear. What would go wrong?

You can move about very freely in the US. If you live in Florida, you can quit your job and move to Alaska today. No notice, no paperwork at all. You just go live there. And this system works fine in practice.

But if you decide to stop along the way and live in Canada, well suddenly it's an international incident. You have to apply in advance -- pay fees and fill out forms. They will physically examine your body. Committees you never meet will look into the most private details of your life and evaluate whether you are worthy to move to Canada. It will take a long time and you might be denied.

Why is it dangerous to let people cross imaginary lines? People don't suddenly become vile and dangerous at 49° N.


> People don't suddenly become vile and dangerous at 49° N.

A fair number of people north of that line think that about a lot of the people immediately south of that line... I'm speaking somewhat facetiously as a Canadian, but the degree of anti-US sentiment can sometimes be irrationally and absurdly high. For all that it is still much easier for skilled immigrants to get into Canada than the US.


Post globalization the ratio of poor to rich countries will be such that people will only understand your argument on the intellectual level.


It's a great idea, it will quickly eliminate most entitlement programs as people start to worry about "immigrants" receiving benefits.


As someone who is rather attached to the idea of entitlement programs, I fear you're right. However the amount of good that could be done by more open borders is likely to be much greater than the good done social programs, so this looks like a place I'll have to just grin and bear it.


"Good fences make good neighbors." What's true at the local level is also true at a national level.


It may also be possible that the future will hold us responsible for something that we are very proud of today. I recently re-read "The Lord of the Rings" and was surprised at the racist / eugenic undertones, which unfortunately date the book to some degree. One person's chief virtue is that he's of unadulterated blood, some nation is declining because of mixing of the races etc. Unbelievable as it may seem today, people once held racism and segregation as noble ideals. What will our time be known as - the age of political correctness, maybe?


Tolkien explicitly denied that anything in the Lord of the Rings was intended to be directly allegorical. As I recall, the books don't talk about mixing races in the sense of subdivisions of humanity; they talk about things like mixing men and orcs, so it's not really the same as miscegenation.

edit: Apparently I didn't recall well enough. Oh well.


Yes they do. Aragorn is of the purest race of Westernesse, and his special abilities are in good part based on this. The subjects of prince Imrahil are sadly mixed in race, although the prince himself is of rather pure breed, etc. It's not about this being an allegory for England or whatever, it's about the general world view and the things that are considered noble and admirable.


And don't forget the barbaric men from the South and their backward ways.


Which reminds me that some of the comments in the book are made through the eyes of the characters. Of course enemy foreigners would seem "orcish" to a hobbit, because for him orc means evil and enemy means evil (and for the most part he would be right).


Tolkien isn't racist though in the Aryan sense, for sure - he hated Hitler an thought Jews were the same as everyone else, if not better. In the lore, Aragorn's bloodline was blessed by the Gods, pretty much - like hercules' bloodline. It's not just that he was the right kind of white.


Not exactly. He's pretty clear that dilution of blood happens, and that some races of Men are better then others.

This being said, I don't think it's a bad thing. It may not be a particularly good one, but it's fantasy. You're not supposed to kill orcs, if you really want to be PC. They're highly intelligent and emotional creatures - who happen to have their own seemingly foreign culture.


Well, we still have monarchies and much of the wealth even in modern countries is concentrated in the hands of the heirs of the aristocracy, robber barons and various lineages tracing back to pirates, warlords or other coercive thieves.

Book? Cannot get too upset about that.


It's interesting how cultures differ on some of these.

I was speaking to a friend who works in China. He says he often discusses with the locals their appalling treatment of animals, which can be genuinely shocking to Westerners. He says this is usually met by a swift rebuke "How on earth can you criticize us for our treatment of animals when your culture treats your elderly relatives - your own family! - so horrifically, shipping them off to be ignored in a home for the rest of their lives?". It's a fair point - people in glass houses...


Ehh... it's a point, but IMHO not a good one. I'm Chinese and have heard a lot of this viewpoint from my "own kind" (I don't actually identify culturally as Chinese, but whatever).

"We're faultless because you've got faults" is a shitty argument no matter which way it's offered. Or more accurately "we're not going to engage in intellectual discussion about this issue until you yourself are perfect in every way". It's dumb and pointless, and is really just defensive nationalistic kneejerking.

Another common argument I hear from the Chinese is the "you had our turn, so we get to have ours". It's very common when it comes to environmental issues - the basic logic is that America was able to burn fossil fuel in a completely unrestrained way for decades, so why shouldn't China get the same opportunity?


I don't think the argument is that they are not faultless. It's that they see the Western faults (treating their elderly relatives so poorly) as so much worse than their faults in a related area (treating animals poorly). It's a valid observation - that our complaining of the poor treatment of sentient animals is rather undermined by our poor treatment of a much more closer to home sentient animal.


> when your culture treats your elderly relatives - your own family! - so horrifically, shipping them off to be ignored in a home for the rest of their lives?"

Have they considered that perhaps it's the American individualism manifested by the elderly, and not by the young, which causes this? My grandmother just moved out of my dad's house because she wasn't ready to give up her freedom. My wife's grandparents still live by themselves in their mid-to-late 80s and fire every caretaker my wife's family hires for them. My own mother and my wife's parents have assured us that they will never be moving in with us (or into a home, for that matter).


Automobiles. I think the future will be horrified that people transported themselves around in two-ton machines that polluted the air and fatally crashed into things (and each other) a lot, especially when both before and after the invention of automobiles we had safer and cleaner options, and especially when a lot of people spend hours a day sitting in their cars in stop-and-go traffic.

I have an SUV myself, and the freedom and joy and romance of driving appeals to me as much as anyone, but at some point, if energy is expensive enough, all of that will be forgotten, and it'll turn into a horror story.


As medical technology progresses, it seems obvious that abortion will eventually be seen as barbaric. A hundred years ago, a baby born prematurely would die, but now babies live when born at 7 months, 6 months? earlier? Laws in the US have begun to reflect this. The only logical limit is conception.

At some point, it will no longer be an issue of religion or freedom of the mother, just like wife-beating must have been the "right if a man."


Conversely, contraception technology may progress to the point that accidental pregnancy itself becomes a quaint impossibility, sidestepping the moral issues altogether.


Not entirely. People change their mind.

So the question will be (and mainly already is): when is too late to change your mind?


I treat the abortion issue as a sorites paradox. You can't draw a line where human life begins, and if we are really serious about respecting it, then we shouldn't try to.


The only logical limit is conception.

If you accept conception as a logical limit, then you'll have to explain the relevant moral distinction between a human embryo and a fish embryo, besides that one can eventually become a person, given the right external conditions (an ovum can too).

I propose sentience as a logical limit, acquired I suspect late in pregnancy.


> The only logical limit is conception.

The future will see zygotes as people? Hopefully that particular future won't be uniformly distributed around the planet...


I don't know, but do you have a suggestion for another limit?


Since it's such a loaded subject, I'd want to consult the philosophy literature on the subject. I don't think I'd make a good choice without giving it a lot of thought.

With my bets hedged this way, my feeling is that the mere potentiality of the future existence of a person is not enough to condemn the abortion of undifferentiated clumps of cells.


What are we doing today that our descendants might condemn tomorrow?

Over 1M deaths due to US-led invasion of Iraq:

http://www.projectcensored.org/top-stories/articles/1-over-o...

https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Casualties_of...


That number is ten times higher than many (I think most) other estimates. Is there a reason you prefer their methodology?


I think the future will judge this as a time of great confusion. Scarcity, the fundament of our economy, is becoming obsolete. Danger, the most powerful of human instincts, is largely irrelevant. Our technology gives us so much power that most decisions we make are no longer "can we?" but "should we?". We are more isolated than ever, and our nascent internet social models are rarely enough to sustain more than superficial relationships.

This is not true everywhere, but in most of the western world it is. Social change lags behind technological. The information age has done wonderful things, but I think we will be remembered as the first people to deal with the end of "natural" in any meaningful sense, and of a time spent struggling to find a replacement that is built, not handed to us by circumstance.


Since no one mentioned it yet: The lack of right to die if you are incurably ill is shameful

A few countries and states already have euthanasia laws in place (Switzerland, the Netherlands) but in most other places you are still forced to die a painful and long drawn out death that is hard on the relatives too.


Meat consumption - Vegetarianism.

"Slave" Labour - there are still 26 million slaves in the world.

Some prison systems, notably the U.S.


"Slave" Labour - there are still 26 million slaves in the world.

Not just those 26 million, but there are far more if you count people who engage in temporary forced labor [1]. Many countries temporarily enslave their citizens, including Cuba, Denmark, Finland, Iran, North Korea and Israel.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conscription#Countries_with_and...

Some prominent US politicians have proposed the US should bring back the practice (we used to do this):

http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/dc/2010/07/rangel-still-run...

http://www.prisonplanet.com/obama-website-scrubs-mandatory-c...

[1] This differs from slavery, in the sense that these people cannot be bought/sold and the duration is limited.


Being compelled to do something isn't slavery if you're being compelled to perform your social duty. That's the point of government--you have a negative duty to not do certain things (kill other members of your society or steal things from them), but historically most cultures have also recognized a positive duty to do certain things (pay taxes, defend your society against its enemies). It's an unpopular argument now, and I don't necessarily buy it, but it's still around--implicitly, at least, in every country's naturalization system, where new citizens explicitly accept the responsibilities of citizenship.

(In practice, of course, conscription has regularly been used to raise armies for offensive wars against imaginary threats. That's a betrayal of the government's duty to its people. In practice, this makes conscription a very dangerous tool to leave available. However, a degenerate case does not prove the general case--in terms of moral principles, just because it is immoral to use conscription to attack an innocent neighbor does not mean it is immoral to use conscription to defend against an aggressive enemy.)


It differs from slavery, in the sense that these people are still legally people.

That's not some trivial fucking difference.


Suppose the US passed a law in 1850 saying that slaves are legally people, but no other changes were made (i.e., the legal person slaves were still forced to perform labor for their masters). Would that also be a non-trivial difference?

Being defined as a legal person is nice, but it doesn't change the fact that you are forced (under threat of violence) to work for someone else against your will.


http://www.ted.com/talks/kevin_bales_how_to_combat_modern_sl...

I dare you to watch that talk and not cry.


I'm very surprised that nobody has mentioned the domination of modern banking over our present society.

Most of the major nations of the world currently pay a fee to private banks for the privilege of circulating their own currency. Our current debt-backed money system is unstable and serves to exacerbate and deepen the gap between the rich and poor and lodges an enormous amount of power in the hands of a few men.

I believe that should humanity ever squirm out from under the thumb of 'big banking' we will view the stranglehold it has had on us for the past few hundred years as a great systemic evil to which we collectively averted our gaze for a long long time.


Slavery is still acceptable, as long as it's out-of-sight and out-of-mind. Or do you expect Dell to have ensured fair wages and working conditions for every person involved in the resource extraction and manufacture of the machine on the desk in front of me?


Dell offers an opportunity to these employees which, while lousy by Western standards, is better, in their judgment, than the alternatives available to them. That's why they have voluntarily accepted the position. Dell has made their lives better, not worse.

Slaves didn't agree to be slaves.


Alimony too.


I have always thought abortion an act of barbarism against which both the past and the future would revolt. Babies are killed for convenience and profit; it'd be over the top for comic book villains, and yet it is real.

It won't survive another generation, and will be seen as one of the darkest black spots in our history.


I find this unlikely, sorry. I won't go deep into the pro-abortion arguments right now because I am unlikely to change your mind.

What is more likely is birth control will become better and more reliable (including hormonal bc for men), drastically decreasing the need for abortion.


>I have always thought abortion an act of barbarism against which both the past and the future would revolt

Given that the use of abortifacients is well documented for the entire duration of recorded history, this seems unlikely.


Really! That goes strongly against what I think I know about mores and history. Do you happen to have details or documentation for that claim?


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_abortion is as good a place to start as any.


> Given that the use of abortifacients is well documented for the entire duration of recorded history, this seems unlikely.

From your link, it appears abortion has been controversial for the entire duration of recorded history. It would be accurate to say that some past societies would view current abortion practices as barbaric, but perhaps not all past societies.


>From your link, it appears abortion has been controversial for the entire duration of recorded history

Hmm, okay, but I was thinking in terms of a comparison with our current feelings. It's still controversial now, but it wouldn't really be accurate to say that 'our society' views the practice as barbaric - though of course many individuals do, and doubtless always have and will.

I don't believe that we are any more likely to choose abortion now than at any other point in history. The option is a lot easier now, so the numbers presumably work out higher, but it's more than just a societal phase that makes it seem appealing (for want of a better word) to a lot of people.


Thank you for that.

I'll admit I didn't really have ancient China or Greece in mind when I referred to the past -- I was thinking more along the lines of the past couple hundred years in the West. You know, that same group of folks that we criticize and feel so morally superior to on account of slavery. I mean, slavery among the Aztecs or the ancient Romans was bad, but somehow we gloss over that. It's just a part of who they were, something they did in moral ignorance. By contrast, we feel that 18th century Americans and Europeans should have known better.

We criticize that group for slavery, but I think they would criticize us for our practice of abortion. The history on that page seems to match my intuition on that; abortion was illegal (for heaven's sake--it was a capital crime in the UK!) and disgraceful, though certainly practiced. I stand by my assertion that the past would be apalled at us. Rightly so, I think.

Looking toward the future, I find the diversity of recent law in many countries interesting. But one pattern I particularly find interesting -- and perhaps I pick it out because it matches my expectation -- is the proliferation of age limits. Legal abortion before eight weeks, ten weeks, twelve, fourteen, even twenty-four, depending on the country; illegal thereafter with exeptions for emergencies. The younger the life in the womb, the more I think reasonable people can disagree on its status. During the first trimester, when 20-40% of pregnancies fail anyway despite our best efforts, when the shape of the body is alien and the activity of the mind couldn't even be called sleep, the degree of tragedy in abortion is debatable. By the third trimester, when the thresholds of viability and ability to react and interact and play and feel joy and pain have all been passed, anyone who thinks it isn't a baby isn't paying attention.

Slavery throughout history has not been a uniform phenomenon. Sometimes it looked a lot like employment does now; sometimes it involved human sacrifice. Even in the antebellum south, the experience was diverse; post-emancipation, there were slaves who loved their masters as family and stayed close and took their names, others who hated them with bitter and justifiable fire. But we remember and criticize the cruelty -- the worst incarnation of slavery. That is what we remember, that is the thing about which we say, "How could they have let that continue for so long?"

So it will be with us. As science advances and viability retreats younger and younger and we discover invisible threads of humanity in younger and younger lives, the window of reasonable disagreement will shrink. Maybe to 20 weeks, maybe to 12, maybe to 8; I don't know. We won't be remembered for our prompt six week abortions--that might always remain a religious question. But the bloody affairs at seven and a half months on tenuous reasoning?

Barbaric. I think future generations will ask, aghast, how we could possibly have allowed that.


For their own good: locking children up in schools; telling them what to learn; coercing them in the name of health and education; punishing children at home.

These things won't happen eventually. Yet future generations will take education, health and morality more seriously than we do.


> punishing children at home

We shouldn't punish children? Even for things they clearly understand are wrong?


It sounds crazy, doesn't it? Of course, the idea of not punishing one's wife after she had done something which she understood to be wrong, once upon a time, also sounded crazy.

This applies to all moral progress. Any prediction about morality that doesn't shock at least some people is unlikely to be both true and important.


I can, in sci-fi sense, imagine a world where we wouldn't need to discipline children, but it would take some pretty fundamental changes in our understanding of parenting techniques and probably involve some technology that doesn't exist today. That puts it pretty far away from "stop beating your wife" which just required you to... stop beating your wife. Are you thinking disciplining children instead would be a simple shift from today?

Also, would some acts, like murder, still be punishable? Or are you imagining a shift so deep that no one would need to be punished.


I believe in gradual change. Ending the extrajudicial punishment of children is not such a big step, because it entails only a small extension of human status (having already incorporated women, slaves, foreigners, etc.)

I doubt that judicial punishment of strangers is going to end anytime soon, but note how different that is to punishing a family member.

However, now you mention it, there is an interesting similarity. Why does punishment happen? Not for the reasons most people think. For instance, it doesn't (and can't) transmit moral knowledge from the punisher to the punished. Neither does it reliably cause obedience.

In reality, society punishes criminals in order to prevent greater suffering in the form of larger scale rioting and madness.

Similarly, parents punish children to prevent themselves from going mad. But if knowledge spread of how to be a better and happier parent then this sort of punishment would end.

Such knowledge may already exist in basic form:

http://www.takingchildrenseriously.com/introductory_articles...


Personally, my bet would be that the extreme amount of effort we put in to promoting diversity in educational institutes and the work place will be something people eventually can't imagine being necessary.

Hopefully.

Edit: I guess I wasn't explicit enough as people took this the wrong way.. What I meant is that diversity will "just happen." I of course realize that it is a very important thing and that our efforts certainly are a good thing.


You're right that the pressure to actively promote diversity will fade as diversity increases, however I don't really see this as something we'll look back on and say "what were we thinking?"


The kind of diversity being fostered today (at least in education) is really nothing more than racism.

The diversity system today consists of giving preference to those with dark skin, while handicapping asians. But how much diversity are we really getting, when the only criteria is race?

If we were really interested in getting a diverse mixture, we'd be seeking all kinds of dimensions:

  * city people / country people; 
  * protestant / catholic / jewish / muslim / buddhist / hindu / agnostic / atheist; 
  * rich / poor; 
  * lovers of the visual arts / bookworms
  * introverts / extroverts
  * organized / chaotic
  * vegans / carnivores
And so on. As far as I can determine, the race-based diversity really aids nothing, but does serve to preserve enmity between the protected and handicapped races. If we want diversity, we need to look deeper than the skin.


Seriously .. WTF? (You don't believe that diversity will be seen as something that's worthwhile, and you're hoping for this conclusion?)

Or, perhaps I've misread what you're trying to say?


Apologies for downvoting you, I did so based on your original post of just "Seriously .. WTF?". I don't see his post as being WTF-worthy even though I disagree with it, nor do I condone any such posts since they add nothing of value to the discussion.

I interpreted his/her post as not against diversity, but against "diversification" programs like affirmative action as opposed to letting social entropy run its course. I agree with the sentiment somewhat but I don't think it meets the criteria for looking back and asking "what was society thinking?".


That's okay. I saw the post had been downvoted as this led me to assume that the post was promoting a desire for less diversity .. although after re-reading I realised that might not be the case. My mistake.


I believe what he was saying that he hopes it won't be needed in the future. That is he hopes that we will have diversity by default. That doesn't sound like such a bad thing :)


I was trying to think of things the future can look down on us for, but I can only come up with:

* Polluting the environment.

* Allowing people to day of easily curable diseases.

Seems like thinking outside of our own times is really hard.


* Gay marriage (lack of)

* Drug prohibition

...always immediately jump out at me; I'm sure there are many, many others.


Interestingly, the article didn't mention the first, and barely touched the second.

Their hypothesis on when something is surely to be condemned in the future requires universal lack of moral defensibility. Right now, the detractors on both of these issues are still claiming they are speaking from morality, so the article didn't list them.

That said, I agree with you. The article, however, implies that these issues are not yet inevitably going to be looked down on in the future. (whew, run on sentence much?)


Factory farming


Do you really think humanity isn't doing anything else wrong?


I honestly think we are doing a lot of wrong things. I argue they are hard to see for us since this is what is 'normal' for us right now.


I agree. It's difficult to judge what will be, without hindsight.

I suppose even the most controversial 'serious' issues, aren't unanimously agreed upon as a problem by all .. the way we view history will probably vary widely from the course that we assume we're travelling along.


On a smaller scale, I believe the future will judge us on our software. ie, bank websites with security holes in them the size of trucks. Software is still so young and has a long ways to go. The future might be amazed at how often we literally put our lives, finances, privacy, etc in the hands of really poorly written software.


Yeah, I'll buy this, too. Our software will be like the rounded rocks used in the Stone Age; people will see it in museums and wonder how people could have been so naive.


If the software even still runs...


What makes us think that future generations won't be disgusted by our wife-beating and slavery?


How would the past judge us?


They would look at the vast regions of the world that are peaceful, and think we are foolish for being so trustful of our neighbours.

"Why is Washington not afraid of New York raising an army and marching on the capital?", they would say. Until the last couple centuries, that's something you'd have to be afraid of. Yet, that's something that people today would think is preposterous.

I'm an optimist. I happen to think this is a trend that will continue.


Fantastically smart, alarmingly unwise.


They'd wonder why we're repeating so many of their mistakes.


Greed. Which arguably is the reason the other ills (except hatin on old people) listed in the article exist. But, honestly, believing humans will evolve beyond greed in the future is far-fetched.


I'd like to turn that on its head. I'd like to see an end to the demagoguery of greed.

In my perfect world, people understand that when someone makes money, it's because he's providing something of value to society. And the more money he makes, the more value he's delivering. The way to encourage people to work hardest for society is through the incentive of potential riches.

The only sin begotten by greed is the use of force and its little brother, fraud. So long people openly enter into agreements that they both believe to be beneficial to themselves, it's no one else's business.


... when someone makes money, it's because he's providing something of value to society. And the more money he makes, the more value he's delivering.

I agree that people should receive reward in proportion to the value they create, but I don't believe that people who make more money are always delivering more value. The main problem with that idea is the difficulty in determining how much value a single individual actually generates.

There are plenty of terrible CEOs who destroy the value of the companies they manage, yet still receive huge salaries and bonus packages, and there are plenty of great teachers/engineers/others lower on the totem pole who earn a relative pittance. Is this because of the value they've created, or due to the CEO's direct proximity to value creation, an ability to convince others of their importance, and a relatively small supply side? I'd say looking at the ridiculous increases in the CEO-worker earning gap over the last few decades it has been warped by factors other than deservedness.

It may be true that there is a correlation between value created and income, but I think there are too many other factors at play to say that it is a general rule.


I don't believe that people who make more money are always delivering more value.

Then why are people giving them money? What makes you think that you (or some regulator or something) could do a better job of evaluating their worth.

There are plenty of terrible CEOs who destroy the value of the companies they manage, yet still receive huge salaries and bonus packages

I think this is a case of the normal human inability to assess the risk of rare, significant events (and hence our overreaction to terrorist attacks, child abduction, etc.). While the kind of thing you cite certainly happens from time to time, I submit that it's much rarer than many people seem to perceive -- the very fact that they make big news is evidence of how unusual it is. The hiring of a CEO is a very significant decision that is attended with a certain amount of risk. On one hand it's important to be able to attract the best talent available, but on the other hand the calculated risk may crap out.

Eliminating the risk of losses due to contract buyouts is (obviously, at least to me) not the solution. I know that I'm not capable of doing the job that my company's CEO does; I don't know anyone who is. Even if I were technically capable, I don't think I could handle the responsibility she shoulders, keeping us all profitably employed. I think she earns everything she gets.

I'd say looking at the ridiculous increases in the CEO-worker earning gap over the last few decades it has been warped by factors other than deservedness. ... there are plenty of great teachers/engineers/others lower on the totem pole who earn a relative pittance

I think that much of that can be attributed to the fact that the market is not free to assign value as appropriate. For one thing, we have protectionism preserving low-skill jobs. While the value of an excellent CEO really is increasing, the value of a low-skill assembly worker is not. But tariffs (caused in part by the demagoguery of greed, I might add) prevent us from getting rid of those jobs, which would eventually lead to greater availability of high-skill jobs.

In the specific case of teachers, the mismatch of contribution to compensation is explicitly their own fault. The rules that their unions demand we adhere to disallow us from compensating better those with greater value. The same is true of other unions (which tends to correspond to those lower on your totem pole).


Then why are people giving them money? What makes you think that you (or some regulator or something) could do a better job of evaluating their worth.

First off, I don't believe that we should impose a different system for valuing people's salaries, and I didn't mean to imply that if I did. I just think that there are obvious flaws in the current system. I wish I had an answer that would fix all the issues, but, of course, it's not that simple.

Essentially, my impression is that you believe that the market which determines people's salaries is entirely rational, and I disagree. As in most (all?) marketplaces, it's not really about the value, it's about the perceived value. Some people (and they are not evenly distributed across all career paths) are better than others at convincing people they are worth a lot, so they get paid more. This is partly due to proximity to the money making process, which is one of the reasons that salespeople are paid so much (it's easier for them to make an argument based on "look how much money I've made you!").

In addition, people don't value CEOs (or anyone else for that matter) in a vacuum. They look at what other CEOs are being paid and are primed to base their valuation accordingly. If their pay was truly based on value-delivered, this wouldn't be the case.

I wholeheartedly agree with you that government involvement via tariffs and salary management is generally a bad thing. It only makes a messy situation messier. But that doesn't mean the free market is perfect, and examining and understanding its weaknesses can only benefit us.


I think he's missing world poverty. Whilst noone really supports it, it's entirely morally reprehensible that we don't do more as a society to eradicate poverty around the world.


These are things that should change, however future generations will only judge us on the ones that progressive politicians are able to legislate away. The rest will be just as normal for future generations.

The good money is on environmental change. There are already tax incentives and other programs for that. How society treats both the young (education) and old (retirement and end of life decisions) will never change.


I doubt how we treat the young and the elderly will stop changing. Just look at child labor laws and social security, medicade/care in the US for one example of radical change.


The major changes you mention are from 40+ years ago. Social security is only played with when there is a funding problem on the horizon. I don't see what is changing for the better.


Well sure, but you seem to be scoping your statement down to recent events, in America, and only positive change. Before you were addressing any type of change in society as a whole, in the future. I was merely pointing out the vagaries of such over arching statements.

If we are to consider society as a whole, over time, i think things are moving in a positive direction for the liberties of children and the elderly. It's hard to predict what may or may not change in American legislation in the future, but I doubt it will be "nothing".


Except slavery was not legislated away by progressive politicians. Unless you are using "progressive" in an unusual way.


If "progressive" is a relative term generally taken to mean "gradually advancing in extent" or "favoring or promoting reform". It seems perfectly reasonable to call the extension of freedom to black people a progressive political action for the 1860s. This is in contrast with a "conservative" action of resisting change.

Lincoln was a Republican who favored a policy that was progressive in its time. Progressive Republicans are now an extremely endangered species.


The future will condemn our coercive parenting and our irrational, exclusive relationships (marriages).

If you think that sounds crazy, that means they are at least candidates for things people take for granted that are bad (unlike, say, the environmentalism in the post which is an issue we're all aware of).

If interested, you can find arguments here: http://fallibleideas.com/


That we were a culture that had it within our power to stop aging and age-related death, and chose to bury our heads in the sand and suffer and die instead. Ignorant suicidal barbarians, they'll call us.

http://www.fightaging.org/archives/2008/09/the-scientific-de...


We don't blame the past for not discovering penicillin until the 19th-20th Century (there is debate on the exact date). The future won't blame us for not discovering {as-yet-undiscovered amazing thing} yet, either.


I (and many others) blame close-mindedness for holding back Scientific Progress and the fruits of the Enlightenment. Would Penicillin have been discovered earlier if people hadn't been so keen to label as 'heresy' what was just new, potentially valid hypotheses about the universe?


I can agree in part. We must hold people accountable for their beliefs, actions, and attitudes across time and place. On the other hand, I do not think that we should underestimate the degree to which serendipity influences the scientific endeavor.


Many of these amazing things are around in embryonic form, but few people choose to invest any money or time in them. The future can certainly blame us for that.


...implying that we'll discover a moral necessity to provide health care to others. This is of a category with the OP's comments about the elderly.

Pretty much all the other comments I've seen reference negative liberty, meaning that it regards our freedom from something, e.g., freedom from censorship.

However, you're talking about positive liberty, which is a fundamentally different thing: it posits that society owes us something.

The arguments for negative liberty are generally easier to make because they only force people to leave you alone.

The argument for positive liberty are much more difficult, because they force an obligation upon everyone. This suffers from slippery-slope problems, and clearly breaks down at the margins. Since healthcare (to take your example) requires the expenditure of resources, we must first determine to what level we are obligated (which is completely arbitrary, as far as I can see). And when resources are limited, it requires that we forsake that moral obligation (in other words, it may place us into a situation for which all possible actions are immoral).


It all comes down to phrasing doesn't it? Maybe the future will phrase the problem differently than we do.

* Freedom from being beaten by one's husband vs the right to feel secure in one's own home.

* Freedom from slavery vs the right to live and work according to your own dictates.

* Freedom from censorship vs the right to say whatever you want.

* Freedom from bankruptcy or death when illness strikes vs the right to realistically affordable health care.

This will sound snarkier than I intend, but there was a time when some Southern farmers thought that freedom for black people was a problem "at the margins" as it required increased expenditure to maintain their farms. It caused a breakdown in the entire economic model of the South- how does that impact the moral calculus as we look back?


It all comes down to phrasing doesn't it?

No, the two cases are fundamentally different.

On the one hand we guarantee each person the right to voice his own beliefs, peaceably assemble, and worship (or not) as his conscience dictates. This empowers each person, but is completely neutral for others: I can listen or ignore the speech of others as I like.

On the other hand are the positive liberties such as healthcare. These do much more than allow a person to do as they will without hurting others. Quite the opposite: they explicitly place a responsibility on me to provide for the care of others.

In the case of negative liberties such as free speech, I can go off in the woods to type out my magnum opus, and be well within moral grounds. But in the presence of positive liberties, my choice to distance myself is morally wrong, as I'd be shirking my duty to help provide.

Your comparison to slavery in the American south simply doesn't work. In their case, the abolition of slavery damaged the plantation owners, but that was a morally just outcome. But in the current case, what happens when the budget for healthcare is exhausted? At some point there must come an instance where we say "we just don't have the resources to heal you".

Also, because the resources to provide healthcare are necessarily finite, someone must draw a line determining how much healthcare is due each person. I'm not comfortable with a moral code where right and wrong is determined by an arbitrary line (which is what is going to happen: if the bill exceeds $X per quality-adjusted year of life, then it will be denied). I note that this doesn't in itself mean that it ought not to be done, but it makes the argument from morality much more difficult. I'm not comfortable with a moral code


>No, the two cases are fundamentally different

You are going to have to explain why you think that; I can't understand where that conclusion could come from.

I'm assuming that by 'fundamentally different' you mean something which is naturally a positive liberty in your view, represented (presumably disingenuously in your opinion) as a negative liberty. I don't see how this distinction can be made however.

The right to be free from slavery is framed as a negative liberty, and is considered morally just by reasonable people, but as you point out, it comes to the detriment of a certain segment of the population. This shows that you aren't distinguishing according to whether some individual is harmed by the granting of rights to another - so what is the point at which you consider some other negative liberty to be fundamentally different?

In fact, I believe that argument against socialised healthcare has clear parallels with argument for slavery.

In both cases, one set of people are conspiring to reduce the quality of life for another in order to take home more money for themselves.

In both cases there exists a privileged class who, mostly by accident of birth, lives in relative luxury supported by the exploitation of a disenfranchised underclass.

Those who feel that it is unfair to 'place a responsibility ... to provide for the care of others' are profiting immeasurably from a delicate and complex economic and social system, which provides a framework for the systematic exploitation of those to whom the privileged believe they owe no debt.


I'm assuming that by 'fundamentally different' you mean something which is naturally a positive liberty in your view, represented (presumably disingenuously in your opinion) as a negative liberty. I don't see how this distinction can be made however.

No, you're not getting the difference between positive and negative -- possibly I'm doing a poor job of explaining. Let me try one more time, and include a reference for further explanation.

A negative liberty is enjoyed when I'm free of external limitations. I am allowed to do whatever I am able. The Bill of Rights is full of this stuff: free speech, freedom from seizure of property; etc.

A positive liberty is enjoyed when someone empowers me to be able to do something. The health care debate hinges on the idea that society (by way of the gov't) must give healthcare to all who need it. You'll note here the critical element of an external agent providing the positive liberty.

If I'm alone on a desert island, I have infinite negative liberty. However, positive liberties are quite impossible since there's no agent to enable me.

For further discussion, see this Wikipedia article: https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Liberty

Individualist and classical liberal conceptions of liberty relate to the freedom of the individual from outside compulsion or coercion and this is defined as negative liberty. Social liberal conceptions of liberty relate freedom to social structure and agency and this is defined as positive liberty.

The slavery example is not a counter-argument. The fact that someone who had been using you unjustly is now forced to mend his ways does not force us to look at something as a positive liberty -- else everything would be. Two centuries ago there were a lot of people doing something very evil. Damaging their livelihood by recognizing their victim's rights was only the transient consequence of righting the wrong, and is of no significance today. I have no obligation placed on me by the recognition that all my fellow humans own their own bodies. That is the crucial distinction.

The fact that an external agent -- the other people in society -- must provide your positive liberty creates the odd condition in the healthcare question. Abstractly, I'm entitled to some healthcare, but the amount to which I'm entitled is fundamentally variable because the resources available to provide it are variable. One can imagine that I'm in the middle of a cancer treatment that I'd been "entitled to" when the stock market crashes and gov't tax revenue falls dramatically. With less money in the budget, the thresholds for what care can be provided must be shifted, and now I'm told that I'm no longer entitled to that expensive treatment. I have trouble accepting a moral code in which the difference between right and wrong (what we are morally obligated to provide to someone, in this case) can change with the business cycle and even with fashion.

As an aside, the question of slavery is an extreme example here, but there is a conjunction. In the presence of positive liberty, the person claiming the liberty is indirectly claiming ownership of me (in a small degree). They assert that I must work in order to earn the resources that will enable their liberty (that is, I must pay into a fund so that they can get healthcare). In this way, positive liberties are directly destrictive of negative liberties.


Thank you for clarifying. I disagree with your conclusion, but I believe I now understand why you hold it.

The idea of positive/negative liberties was hard for me to grasp because it seems like a distinction which is of little practical significance in the real world, but I now understand how there is a meaningful difference, even though I contend that it is not an especially useful one.


This is philosophy made relevant; there's no evaluation like self-evaluation.


Rent and interest. Both are giant rivers of money from the poor to the rich that we accept without question.


There are a bunch more to think about:

War? Terrorism? Torture? Are we to believe that for the rest of eternity we will have these 3 things?

Discriminating against gays? abortion (either that we allowed it at all, or that people fought against it, I don't even know which will prevail), income inequality, immigration laws.


This article seams to propose that morality and civility improve linearly forever when in fact it's more like the stock market with frequent crashes and long periods of decline. I am maybe a pessimist but I think that modern society is near the peak of what we can achieve.

I personally think that it's not enough but I am the minority and my fellow citizens will simply vote against people who share my ideals. There is too many people hardwired to be assholes. Maybe if we start tweaking our brains (what could possibly go wrong) we could reach new milestones but otherwise I am not holding my breath.


Agreed. It seems very likely that we are living as Romans did in 340: On the verge of collapse.

Not that this is a bad thing. In many ways, a return to a simpler time and a more virtual connectedness might actually be a huge step forward in the grand scheme of things.


Move to another country. The US has set up a perfect storm of a shockingly awful school system, dumbed down media from every angle, emotion in politics causing people to frame every discussion as "my side = save the US" vs. "their side = destroy it", etc. creating a large group of people who just can't be reasoned with.


While I agree these are all concerns, I am skeptical that this is a modern phenomenon. Were people a generation or two ago really less emotional, or less prone to black-and-white thinking?


I think they were probably the same they just didn't spend as much time thinking (for lack of a better word) about this stuff. It wasn't that long ago that there was only 15 minutes of news a day on the TV. People were thinking about it less because they didn't have the option to plug into political hacks spewing nonsense literally 24/7.


I like to think that we will do away with the tragedy of the commons and actually find the solutions that are best for all of us and not just some of us. (And when I say 'us', I mean that to the widest extent).


I don't think the future is going to "judge" us anymore than we really judge past civilizations. We realize the mistakes they made were usually due to ignorance just as ours are.

The things they'll shake their heads about will probably be things like:

Having country policies decided by popularity contests instead of research and (where possible) science.

Spending most of our waking hours making people we don't even personally know rich instead of finding a way to spend more time enjoying what little life we had.


I'm fairly sure we'll be judged to some extent that we allowed Bush to be president, twice no less, and also that we spent the first decade of the 21st century in war.


The fact that people did bad things at one time doesn't imply that what they did was accepted generally or approved by moral standards of the time. For example, many contemporaries opposed the tactics of the Inquisition (mentioned in the article as the advent of waterboarding).

Using the same logic we could characterize 20th-Century people as accepting mass-murder, because it was practiced by numerous nations on a never-before-seen scale.


Hopefully in the future, people will be more free. They will look back and wonder why it was once acceptable for governments to:

* confiscate huge percentages of a person's work, thus effectively making working people serfs of the government

* conscript people for war

* conduct wars

* require licensing to practice certain occupations

* restrict freedom to trade and tax commerce

* tolerate public unions

* monopolize the education of children

* force working people to provide pensions and healthcare for non-working people

* imprison people for using drugs in their homes


It seems rather more likely that in many of those cases, they will wonder why it was ever acceptable for governments not to do those things.

For millenia, human societies have drifted slowly but surely towards the left, with a constant increase in the quality of life for the entire population.

Your personal brand of Libertarianism - which advocates, at its heart, a return to feudalism - is uniquely peculiar to a current aspect of the US social situation. It has relatively little traction elsewhere, despite the relentless spread of corporatism in the last few decades, and will be seen as incomprehensibly barbaric within probably as few as 100 years.


> human societies have drifted slowly but surely towards the left, with a constant increase in the quality of life for the entire population.

This is like saying that caged mice have a better quality of life than wild mice because they have more free time, a reliable source of food, and no predators: it completely discounts the value of freedom.


>This is like saying that caged mice have a better quality of life than wild mice because they have more free time, a reliable source of food, and no predators: it completely discounts the value of freedom.

You have that backwards. It's the only way to get anything resembling freedom for more than the top 20% of the population.


All of these things are evidence that democracy is not inherently adequate to create a free, just, and sane society. These systemic flaws are within our power to change, and yet we do not; many are in fact fought for tooth and nail by the populace.

Ultimately, cultural values are the root of any particular society, and the institutions of that society will grow to reflect those values. Hence: "Be the change you want to see in the world."


I hope that I'm long dead before the time comes when society is wondering why it was once acceptable to tolerate free association between employees and to not let people starve who aren't working. I at least hope I have enough kids to support me once society has horribly failed in that way.


Violence does not solve social problems. Forcing people to feed unemployed people is violent. A future without forced "charity" does not mean people are left to starve.


>Violence does not solve social problems.

This is a straw man. Violence can help with social problems sometimes, which is why we have policemen.

>Forcing people to feed unemployed people is violent.

Agreed.

>A future without forced "charity" does not mean people are left to starve.

Completely false. In a future _with_ forced charity, there will exist people left to starve because of difficulties in execution, distribution, public will, or a general lack of resources. Leaving this entirely to the discretion of individuals will destroy equality of protection, creating a patchwork (which will likely largely exclude historically discriminated against groups), and will tend to work against economies of scale.


Much of that could apply just as easily to Rome circua 750 BC as it does to the USA.


I wonder if bread and circus won't come back in vogue. As long as consumer goods keep getting cheaper, and the unemployed are content with a standard of living that doesn't put too much of a strain on us, why should we care? Is it really worse to let them watch Two and a Half Men reruns than send them to some "dig a hole then fill it with dirt again" Keynesian job? Or worse, wait for them to commit a crime and then pay to keep them jailed?


Personally, I think the future will be shocked to see that the American Libertarian was every considered a legitimate political stance. I do wish we could create some kind of virtual sand-box where Libertarians could go try out their ideas and see exactly why they wont work.


Jared Diamond works with a similar theme in his book "Collapse" though he goes further and explores issues that might literally bring about an end to our societies.

The take-away from both pieces: we should regularly question our beliefs and values in a larger context - what may seem like a perfectly normal, decent and harmless thing to us may be doing our society irreparable harm in the long run.


The use of violence as an economic and political tool - due to changes in communications, the tide is already turning.


Recorded music. The most bewildering thing about us to our descendants 80 years from now would be that millions of people routinely walked around with headphones, tuned to radio stations, or walked around public spaces, listening to exactly the same music over and over again.


I don't see how this will change. 80 years ago, people were listening to the exact same songs over and over again. They only difference is that their players weren't portable.


Travelling with music is not new, it is just much easier. Today you don't have to be a king to make it happen http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_Music_(Handel)



Compulsory schooling is the top of my list, as any society which values freedom must value the freedom of one's own mind above all.


Hopefully:

* War

* Garbage

* Pollution

* Taking your shoes off in airports :)


> * Taking your shoes off in airports :)

As someone who is not at all fond of flying, hopefully they'll judge the whole idea of tin cans hurtling through the sky, powered by highly flammable chemicals as being a bit primitive.


Looking at current research I would think that in the future plastic cans will hurtle across the sky, powered by more flammable but biodegradable chemicals. ;)

I think airplanes are here to stay for some time. There are few alternatives, one of them high speed rail, which has its own problems.


> ...high speed rail, which has its own problems

Oceans come to mind.


I was actually thinking about the absurdly high cost of high speed tracks (tens of millions per kilometer). But yeah, oceans are somewhat of a problem.


Airplanes are far safer, per mile, than buses or trains (about 10x less likely to die), never mind cars (60x).

Edit: corrected numbers.


Taking your shoes off in airports :)

This comic comes to mind every single time I go through airport security with my laptop. http://xkcd.com/651/


Patents and Copyrights :D for starters.


Technology addiction.


polluters




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