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Why Socialists Don't Believe in Fun (1943) (orwell.ru)
278 points by monort on Sept 10, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 263 comments



Perhaps it used to be the case that people had trouble imagining a utopia, but here's two solid utopias (or near enough) I've encountered in fiction: the entirety of Ian M Bank's "Culture"; and the second chapter of Cory Doctorow's "Walkaway".

Also, there's the perennial example of Burning Man (and related festivals) - here's an example of people creating happiness that has little to do with the removal of scarcities, and plenty to do with the addition of abundance.

To go off @mactintyre's selection: if "nearly all creators of Utopia have resembled the man who has toothache, and therefore thinks happiness consists in not having toothache. They wanted to produce a perfect society by an endless continuation of something that had only been valuable because it was temporary", well, seems to me that's a failure of imagination and experience more than an incapacity in humans or reality.

You could also look to Asimov's "Profession" (http://www.inf.ufpr.br/renato/profession.html) - again, while not exactly a Utopia, it's decently close - and more importantly:

"It won’t do to say to a man, ‘You can create. Do so.’ It is much safer to wait for a man to say, ‘I can create, and I will do so whether you wish it or not.’"

These are the people that, when all scarcity has been eliminated, take that bland contentedness which results and turn into something more.

Not to say the Orwell is wrong - he's on the nose: "Happiness hitherto has been a by-product, and for all we know it may always remain so. The real objective of Socialism is human brotherhood."


Banks's Culture works in particular because Banks mainly wrote about contact (friendly or otherwise) with non-Culture societies. The general thesis still holds: man is not truly content without conflict and challenge. Hard SF provides a way for utopias to not stagnate and become boring: once humans have secured long life, prosperity, and harmony for themselves, they seek adventure in the big wide universe outside their dominion.

This also applies to conceptions of heaven, the best description of which I found in the movie Defending Your Life, in which the worthy deceased ascend to become "citizens of the universe" and tackle bigger, cosmic challenges with their vastly increased intellect.


"The humans of the Culture, having solved all the obvious problems of their shared pasts to be free from hunger, want, disease and the fear of natural disaster and attack, would find it a slightly empty existence only and merely enjoying themselves, and so need the good-works of the Contact section to let them feel vicariously useful."

From A Few Notes on the Culture


> The general thesis still holds: man is not truly content without conflict

This isn't accurate as it applies to the Culture: The vast majority of the Culture does not engage in conflict. It also goes undepicted for the most part; the functioning of that society is hand-waved as a product of the Minds. But, it is also depicted as neither a hedonistic free for all, or a bland, blissful meditation on coexistence.


Also Banks culture is run by omniscient AI's, and not by humans, this removes the problem of human corruption, greed etc. I don't think any post scarcity society can exist that is run by humans.


I mean, we have enough food for everyone now. We are post scarcity right now with regards to food. Yet people starve. Usually due to war and conflict, not corruption, but still.


Yes there is enough food in location A but we would have to transport that food to where it is needed. That costs money, there is spoilage etc. Who pays that cost? Obviously only the people with the money to pay it can pay it. So lets say we make people in the west pay (involuntarily) to ship excess food to other places. If you make it voluntary then nobody would pay it, since it is essentially voluntary now and nobody pays it.

All that would happen is those other places would become dependent on the free food we send them, and certain of their domestic industries would be destroyed as they couldn't compete with the cost of free food being dumped into their economy.

Also here domestically excess food would no longer be produced as if you don't produce any excess you don't have to pay the cost of shipping it, or doing anything with it. Everything would become "just in time" or made immediately 1 to 1 with a specific request. So the post scarcity impression we have now would go away pretty fast.

So I don't think we actually are post scarcity with regards to almost anything currently. Efficiency is very high I would say, so high, and we're so productive that we occasionally end up with wasted resources caused by poorly estimating demand.


You still require humans to exert labor in all those steps. Post scarcity would require virtually no labor for them. We are very far away from that


We are post scarcity for food, clothing, and shelter. In our lifetimes, we could easily move education, entertainment, and some definition of basic medicine into a post-scarce realm.

Unfortunately, before any of that happens, security, police, and military will be going post-scarcity, while those in power are pretty selfish.


You think modern global society is run by humans? Seems to be mostly algorithms already.


If the humans disappeared, how long would the algorithms run?


I think that people need to look at the world around them.

Right now, there are tons of goods that are effectively post scarcity.

The amount of free information and entertainment (available online) is insanely higher than anything that existed even 20 years ago.

The post scarcity Utopia is being created right now, by capitalism.

Post scarcity is something that applies on a per good basis. For example nobody has ever had to pay for the air that they breath, because air isnt a scarce good. And post scarcity is being quickly applied to more and more goods.


> The general thesis still holds: man is not truly content without conflict and challenge.

Well, a reader of fiction is not truly content without conflict and challenge.

But I’m not sure it’s fair to extrapolate from that to a principle about how real societies can operate. After all, fiction always pumps conflict and challenge up to 11 compared to the real world. Pick a popular book or movie at random: what’s the chance that somewhere in its plot, some character tries to murder another character? I’d say pretty high. In real life, the vast majority of people go through their lives without anyone ever trying to kill them, and that’s probably been true for most or all of human history. But that doesn’t make life incurably boring.


> Also, there's the perennial example of Burning Man

Which is a temporary outlet for a select very affluent few Westerners (non-affluent person wouldn't even be able to afford transportation and supplies, not mentioning $500 entrance fee) who drive there for a week (increasingly accompanied by air-conditioned tents and personal chefs), frolic in costumes or negligee, burn stuff down for fun and return to their regular lives. A lot of fun, but I can't see how any sane person can see it as a model for a society.

> The real objective of Socialism is human brotherhood

Somehow in the real socialism it happens in exactly the opposite way (the famous joke is that under capitalism man exploits man, and under socialism it's the other way around). Socialism always produces the nomenklatura (note that I have to use a Russian word for it, because it is so inherent to the largest Socialist experiment in history) and the privilege networks (another Russian word, "blat") which create a complex network of inequality and privileged access to formally "equal" benefits. In a capitalist society, most inequality is monetary - through class, sex and race play its role, ultimately money usually overcomes most of it (especially in a modern society, where things like open racism are frowned upon). In a socialist one, not only money can't do much without privilege, if you are outside the privilege network, the mere attempt to make this money (or otherwise route around the privilege network) would get you imprisoned or executed. Some brotherhood it is.


Proof by example is a logical fallacy.

I know that x, which is a member of group X, has the property P. Therefore, membership in X causes property P.

I can play this game too.

Haiti, Ethiopia, Liberia, India, Honduras and Somalia have market economies, and they are poor. Therefore, market economies make nations poor.

There's really not much to learn from this kind of argument.


If you want another, more benign, example, look at American military bases. You've got base housing, base grocery store, base furniture, base movie theater, base bookstore, base clothing store, base restaurants, base barber shop.

You are issued things like housing.

There's a pecking order based on rank. If ranks are equal, there is an alternative barter economy based on who owes who favors (instead of money).

Although all your needs are provided for (at massive cost to the taxpayer), it isn't a happy way to live.


It seems that the phenomena the parent describes were or are present in all instances of fully implemented socialism to date, not just in the USSR.

Since you edited to add your counter-examples, I’ll edit to point out that socialism is a system that has been deliberately implemented by its instantiators in each case I’m aware of. To compare it to capitalism, but only those capitalist countries that have suffered lawlessness or other calamity, is to compare apples to oranges.


You don't need to speak Russian to understand the nomenklatura. It's a group of privileged people who are appointed to positions of power based on their personal loyalty to the leader or to the party.

Seems like a very familiar concept ripped from today's headlines, certainly not restricted to archaic economic systems.

I usually find that apples and oranges are quite easy to compare.


You seem to have a habit of dramatically changing your comments after you’ve posted them, without noting that you’ve done so. In this case, you originally posted only what now seems to be your final sentence, the one about apples and oranges, then added everything that now precedes it. I have the sense that you are hoping for a political argument.


Not only are you not answering the parents genuine questions, you are trying to distract attention by attempting to be clever. You are not making an argument in good faith. Please stop.


> Therefore, market economies make nations poor.

No, because there's USA, Germany, France, etc. Which has much bigger market economies and not poor. But all major socialist economies has been a disaster (no, China is not a socialist economy and hasn't been for a while, neither is Sweden, Denmark etc.), and socialist societies has been even worse disaster in non-economic sense (see gulags, Pol Pot killing fields, Cultural Revolution, North Korea, etc.).

> Proof by example is a logical fallacy.

Some people call learning from example empirical research and scientific method. Others ignore all the examples and keep claiming the real perpetual motion engine just hasn't been tried yet.


> [Burning Man]

I completely disagree with your impression, but that all is beside my point.

The part of the Burning Man culture I'm pointing to is the one where people go co-create all this shit anyway, when they don't have to, when it doesn't solve any need, when it's not about a contrast with somewhere else.

Not everyone needs a problem to solve to get off their arse and make something amazing, and you can see that multiple times a year around the world if you look at these events.


The point still stands: soldering-iron wielding neo-hippies having an orgy in the desert for a week isn't a model for society. It's more of an indication of boredom in a society blessed with extreme abundance, yet lacking a clear sense of purpose.


It could stand, if it wasn't so woefully off-base. But, as they say, haters gonna hate soooo whatevs dude, spill the haterade all over yourself.


Funnily enough, the second part of your post could serve as a one-line description for Iain Bank's "Culture" ...


I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "socialism". France is a very socialist country (esp. compared to the US of A), yet we are nothing like the USSR. Same goes for many EU countries. Aren't you talking about oligarchies rather than socialist regimes? The fact that some oligarchies were born under the pretense of socialism doesn't mean socialism was the cause.


It is one of the great debates of our generation wether democratic socialism will show plenitude or the road to serfdom. Although I am not as grim as classical libertarians, im not positive those organizations will last.


It is profoundly sad that after all that happened in 20th century it's still a debate. The biggest history's lesson seems to be that nobody ever learns from history.


So far the scandinavian countries have shown success, while still keeping liberty indexes very high. The US is not the free-est country in the world.


> France is a very socialist country (esp. compared to the US of A),

Compared to the USA - yes, compared to the USSR - no. France is largely capitalist economy with a lot of socialist policies. As long as the engine of the capitalist economy (private ownership, private initiative, private capital, substantial competition, etc.) is intact, it can bear a lot of socialist policies without breaking down (even at the cost of some slowdowns and inefficiencies). Once you break that, there's pretty much no chance.

> Aren't you talking about oligarchies rather than socialist regimes?

No, unless you choose to redefine what has been always known as socialism as "oligarchy" and what has been always known as capitalist economy with substantial government intrusions as "socialism". This would make conversation very awkward, as any non-traditional term usage tends to do, but will not change anything of the substance. USSR economy and French economy (and both societies of course) were different in principle, not in degree, and you can not ignore that while staying in the realm of reality and outside of fairy-land economics.

> The fact that some oligarchies were born under the pretense of socialism doesn't mean socialism was the cause.

USSR was one of the largest and most complete and consistent implementations of socialism ever attempted. If they didn't do it right, on your opinion, then nobody could do it right, ever.


If we use social media to make the privilege networks more transparent, maybe we can avoid the Tyranny of Structurelessness results you describe.


But then there's the small matter that social media doesn't actually make anything better...it just makes a bunch of things worse.


Socialism is like capitalism, or democracy: there are a lot of ways to do it. It doesn't necessarily require going money-free.


You are confusing socialism and communism. Communism is where money is gone. Socialism is where money is very well present, but the capital, the means of production and the economic planning is controlled by the state. The workers still can get paid (and some may even have certain freedom in where to work, though that tends to shrink very fast as central planning is not possible if you can't force people to work where you want them for salary that you want to pay them) and still can buy stuff (provided the central planners thought in advance of producing this stuff in enough quantity), but the overall control of the economic processes rests firmly in the hands of the state.


I'm always amazed at how readable and relevant Orwell remains. This essay is a good example.

It would seem that human beings are not able to describe, nor perhaps to imagine, happiness except in terms of contrast. ...

I wonder if this also works in reverse: humans are incapable of describing or imagining unhappiness except in terms of contrast.

This reminds me of a line that goes something like: revolutions happen not because of poverty but through the process of a society becoming poorer.


> revolutions happen not because of poverty but through the process of a society becoming poorer.

I don't think it's the case that most of them start because the society as a whole had become poorer, but because some particular segment has, while others accumulate wealth. It's not really worth having a revolution if there's nothing of value to seize. A lot of revolutions started as tax revolts by the wealthy, in fact -- the french revolution and english civil war come to mind. It was only after central authority collapsed that events outpaced the initial instigators.


> A lot of revolutions started as tax revolts by the wealthy

‘No taxation without representation!’


"This reminds me of a line that goes something like: revolutions happen not because of poverty but through the process of a society becoming poorer."

Which is probably why successful oppressive regimes (the ones that don't look as such) boil their frogs very slowly.


Hmm... I guess I'm not amazed that something written less than 100 years ago seems relevant when Aristophanes is still hilarious.


Almost nothing from 50 years ago is even remembered, let alone still read, let alone as fresh as Orwell. You make the same point by giving him Aristophanes for company.


Yeah, the human condition, and human nature, aren't exactly changing.


A great anti-elitist rant.

Beautiful language: "Nearly all creators of Utopia have resembled the man who has toothache, and therefore thinks happiness consists in not having toothache. They wanted to produce a perfect society by an endless continuation of something that had only been valuable because it was temporary. ... when [Swift] tries to create a superman, [he] leaves one with the impression the very last he can have intended that the stinking Yahoos had in them more possibility of development than the enlightened Houyhnhnms."


At the dances I was one of the most untiring and gayest. One evening a cousin of Sasha [Alexander Berkman], a young boy, took me aside. With a grave face, as if he were about to announce the death of a dear comrade, he whispered to me that it did not behoove an agitator to dance. Certainly not with such reckless abandon, anyway. It was undignified for one who was on the way to become a force in the anarchist movement. My frivolity would only hurt the Cause.

I grew furious at the impudent interference of the boy. I told him to mind his own business, I was tired of having the Cause constantly thrown into my face. I did not believe that a Cause which stood for a beautiful ideal, for anarchism, for release and freedom from conventions and prejudice, should demand the denial of life and joy. I insisted that our Cause could not expect me to become a nun and that the movement should not be turned into a cloister. If it meant that, I did not want it. "I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody's right to beautiful, radiant things."

-- Emma Goldman, Living My Life (1931) http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/goldman/Features/danceswithfemin...


Goldman wasn't the kind of socialist that Orwell is describing.

Orwell was obsessively critical of Authoritarian Socialism - namely big [S] State Socialism as represented by the Soviet Union.

That is in stark contrast with Goldman's Democratic Anarcho-Socialism which shares little relation - philosophically or sentimentally - with the State Socialism that Orwell was writing about.


Orwell was obsessively critical of Authoritarian Socialism - namely big [S] State Socialism as represented by the Soviet Union.

I don't think George Orwell would necessarily be cotton to variations of Authoritarian Socialism implemented in very large corporations.

That is in stark contrast with Goldman's Democratic Anarcho-Socialism which shares little relation - philosophically or sentimentally - with the State Socialism that Orwell was writing about.

I have friends who claim to be "anarcho-" something, who at the same time espouse state socialist politics. Their action in aggregate is often authoritarian, and I don't see how any anarchic politics can prevent the oppressive rule of a majority. As such mechanisms play out in my private life, it seems that anarchy results in less diversity of thought and virulent oppression of minority viewpoints.

EDIT: My corollary -- Oppressive tribalism is just a later stage development of anarchy.


> I have friends who claim to be "anarcho-" something, who at the same time espouse state socialist politics.

I think we have the same friends. I've never met a true anarchist. I've found that when pushed enough, they tend to be authoritarians in disguise, and they are only shout "Down with the system!" as a generalization of "Down with the system I don't like!".


My post was a historical contextualization about the thrust and focus of Orwell's criticism of Socialism, as the parent seemed to be trying to object to the premise with an anecdote from a "socialist" with whimsical predilections. The implicit point there, being that there was a categorical error being made.

I do not claim to say anything about possible or theoretical corollaries that Orwell may or may not have drawn around hierarchical structures more broadly.

To your last point, conflicts around self-organizing groups and spontaneous formation of oppressive hierarchies is an ongoing debate within Anarchistic philosophy itself, so no new ground tread there simply by stating it.

See: Proudhoun, Bakunin, Kropotkin etc...


In that case, you really need to do something about self styled "anarchists" on social media declaring that they can do any evil to fight evil, so long as they use just a little less evil.

From what I can see, thought leadership doesn't reach the "anarchist" on the street, leaving them to wallow in a toxic tribalism which is welcoming of nihilistic violence. Have all the erudite debates you want. Others are presenting a far different face to the public. The fact that the media will then dissemble and cover for such actions and attitudes then makes it all much worse.

Or is it ok to use evil to fight evil, so long as you use a little less?


Well, Anarchism has been pretty successfully demonized, misinterpreted and put into the "evil" bin with every other -ism except for capitalism. Kind of hard to organize when you're whole philosophy is allergic to hierarchical structures. When Noam Chomsky is your most famous public personality it's hard to build a broad and passionate following.

I don't see it getting anything like mainstream traction ever, as it's a lifestyle as much as it is a philosophy. I also don't think it's how people naturally behave. People seem to like to be ruled, so long as they have just enough freedom.


> People seem to like to be ruled, so long as they have just enough freedom.

Look at Hobbes he lived though the chaos of the interregnum and decided that the state was all that mattered.


Well, Anarchism has been pretty successfully demonized, misinterpreted and put into the "evil" bin with every other -ism except for capitalism

Plenty of people demonize capitalism.

Kind of hard to organize when you're whole philosophy is allergic to hierarchical structures.

So you're admitting that it's a losing proposition for getting anything done? The banner of anarchy seems to be good at organizing people into building weapons, collecting fireworks as munitions, and organizing tactics to be able to get away with assault and vandalism. You can see the violence online in videos, and I've personally been to places where those weapons are made and stored.

People seem to like to be ruled, so long as they have just enough freedom.

AFAICT, this is generally how people are put together.


If they are organized they are not Anarchists, right? That's the point.


Also, if they are violent identitarians, then they aren't for justice and equality. People fly false flags all the time. That doesn't make the toxic ones any less toxic or harmful.


That's nonsensical and ahistorical. Anarchism is the opposition to unjust hierarchy, those relationships that put some people over others and prioritizes their needs or whims. The liberal democratic state is one such hierarchical institution but far from the only one. Anarchists seek to replace the governance of people with the administration of things. How we ought to organize society for justice, for liberty, is the fundamental question anarchists seek to answer. That there are so many different tendencies (syndicalists, mutualists, Marxists, etc.) reveals that there are many answers.


I don't think anarchists have really thought through their position or have noticed particular ironies within it.

At its core, it's basically everyone doing themselves. I do my thing, you do your thing, it's all good. Until the thing I want to do interferes with your thing. And yes, we could come to some agreement. But there is going to be a certain segment of asshole that will just decide: Me strong, you weak, and just override you.

And that's what you really get, a rule of the weak by the strong. Unless, of course, we gather enough of us to overwhelm the asshole. But what if, in our group, we have conflicts? Well, we have some rules. Yeah, not everyone will get exactly what they want all the time, but a tiny bit of compromise is still better than having the asshole take your stuff for the fifth time this week.

But that's a winning strategy. And don't think the assholes won't notice. Then they get groups. So the groups escalate further and further. And as you bring in more and more people, there are more and more rules. Eventually, what you will have done is simply to have recreated modern governmental structures. We are living in the endgame of anarchy.

So, I don't think it's so much that "people like to be ruled", as much as "people would rather there be a set of standards people are expected to follow". Someone needs to enforce the social contract.

I don't think anarchism is evil, just naive.


> At its core, it's basically everyone doing themselves.

No, it isn't. Anarchists can cooperate; in fact, rational anarchists will certainly cooperate with each other, to reap the benefits of specialization and trade and comparative advantage.

What anarchists object to is being forced to cooperate when, if left to themselves, they would choose not to.

> there is going to be a certain segment of asshole that will just decide: Me strong, you weak, and just override you.

These people exist whether society is an anarchy or not. The difference is, in an anarchy, they have no way to capture more resources and power by, for example, becoming politicians or regulators or lobbyists or heads of corporations getting government favors. Whereas, in the system we have now...

In other words, anarchists are basically pointing out that trying to "fix" the problem of assholes by having a government is a "cure" that is worse than the disease.

> Someone needs to enforce the social contract.

You enforce the social contract socially: by refusing to deal with people who do not respect it. In an anarchy, everyone has that option; and therefore people who do not respect the social contract quickly find themselves ostracized and powerless.

Whereas, in the system we have now, people can break the social contract with impunity without losing anything, if they can get themselves into certain privileged positions.


But in an anarchistic society there is no mechanism to stop those who collectivize to monopolize the fruits of the commons. Strong-arm thugs can follow a leader to extort as desired the things they wish- ostracism is no response at all to roving pillagers.


> in an anarchistic society there is no mechanism to stop those who collectivize to monopolize the fruits of the commons

Sure there is: citizens with guns. In an anarchy, there is no centralized power, so thugs have no advantage in that respect over armed law-abiding citizens. And thugs have a big disadvantage: they do not cooperate in productive endeavors, so they don't accumulate wealth.

> ostracism is no response at all to roving pillagers.

Sure, but it's not the only available response either. See above.


Note to self, get biggest guns, most people with guns, dominate society, set up theocracy with me as godhead, assemble harem, make sure sure court jesters are committed ideologues who thought reinventing feudalism was smart.

I mean, really? Thugs don’t work together? That’s basically the history of humanity in the absence of a state, it’s what knighthood and aristocracies were. Thugs, working together to the bare chaotic minimum required to keep the peasants in line.

Edit: How are you going to get the guns? Remember we're imagining an anarchy, where you can't get guns by taking over the military (there isn't any) or the government (there isn't any). You would have to either make them yourself (a productive endeavor, which thugs don't do--see below) or trade for them (which means you would have to have something worth trading, which again requires productive endeavor) or steal them (but how are you going to steal them when you don't have any weapons to begin with, but the people who make the weapons by productive endeavors do?).

Unless your anarchist society has the tech to make all existing guns and weapons evaporate then they’ll be for the taking. If not, without a government my buddies and I can get a warehouse full of CNC machines and mill assault rifles until the go out of fashion. With no oversight, no need for secrecy, weapons are easy to make. Hell, I’d be shocked if quite a few people here couldn’t make their own nuclear pile if no one was there to stop them, and work their way back to nuclear weapons. Even barring that, again, many people here on HN have the information in their heads to make napalm, explosives, and a variety of poisons including nerve agents. The reason they don’t is sanity, society, and international controls. Take that away and it would be trivial to gas your annoying neighbors.

Also, haven’t we already established that thugs can work together? See: all of human history. They just need aligned goals for however long it takes to crush dissent, then turn on each other. Even the Middle Ages has craftsmen and smiths, and they were essentially owned by thugs who used them like a resource.

Basically, as I said in response to another poster downthread, you are imagining an anarchy as just like our society, but with government and governmental law enforcement suddenly removed.

Unless you’re just entertaining a fantasy with no basis in reality and our lives, I’m thinking of anarchy at some time in the future, which means guns, bombs, aircraft carriers, ICBM’s already exist and can’t be wished away. If you propose a gradual turnover then you need every government and member of those governments to agree, sat which point you don’t actually need anarchy anymore, because you’ve already united the world. If you can conjure an anarchistic future not base on absolute fantasy, which doesn’t turn out horribly I’d be amazed.


> get biggest guns

How are you going to get the guns? Remember we're imagining an anarchy, where you can't get guns by taking over the military (there isn't any) or the government (there isn't any). You would have to either make them yourself (a productive endeavor, which thugs don't do--see below) or trade for them (which means you would have to have something worth trading, which again requires productive endeavor) or steal them (but how are you going to steal them when you don't have any weapons to begin with, but the people who make the weapons by productive endeavors do?).

> Thugs don’t work together?

They work together at being thugs (though even that tends to be limited). They don't work together in productive endeavors, which is what I said.

Basically, as I said in response to another poster downthread, you are imagining an anarchy as just like our society, but with government and governmental law enforcement suddenly removed. That's how you can imagine, for example, that there are all these guns lying around that you can just take (because previously government and law enforcement was preventing you from taking them, but that's gone now, and since government has largely disarmed citizens, they won't be able to resist you). But that's not what a functioning anarchy, in a society that had evolved to be an anarchy (as our current society has evolved to have governments doing lots and lots of things and micromanaging our lives) would be like.


You have a very naive view of other people.

You're the one basically imagining our society but with government and "governmental law enforcement" suddenly removed. Everyone will just behave because we don't have police, but for some reason we all have laws we all agree on.

But you coincidentally don't remove "laws", because those are important to keep. But we all enforce the laws because of reasons...

Assuming your opponents are weaker, less intelligent, less organized, or less determined is how you end up with your back against the wall then the time comes.

It doesn't take a group of "thugs", just a group of people with the means and motive to do it. And with nothing stopping them, they will.

Government is the enforcement of the social contract on a large scale. At some point, we agree to follow certain rules in order to ensure others also follow those rules.

It's funny, the people who most clamor for anarchy would be the ones most disadvantaged by it.

And yes, certain communes "work", but they work by extension of being a part of a larger entity that does have a government.

And you can talk all you want about "past societies", but unless you skipped half the words being said, those past societies are necessary stepping stones to what we get today. Those Icelandic villages are small-scale governments. The minute someone isn't allowed to do something, you've lost anarchy, you're building to modern government. Absolute freedom is absolute. There is no "anarchy but don't kill anyone".


> You're the one basically imagining our society but with government and "governmental law enforcement" suddenly removed.

I don't know where you're getting that from. I have not only not imagined any such thing, I have explicitly said several times in this overall thread that that's not the way to imagine a functioning anarchy.

If your argument is that "we can't get there from here", I have already agreed, in response to another poster downthread (PeterisP), that this is a valid point. But that is not a criticism of anarchy; it's a criticism of us humans, who have painted ourselves into this corner where we can't trust governments to uphold our rights but can't get rid of them either.


> Those Icelandic villages are small-scale governments.

No, they aren't. They are arrangements of mutual cooperation that are voluntary on the part of all parties. Nobody has the authority to force anyone else to participate. Nobody has the authority to make laws that everyone must obey on pain of punishment. Nobody has the authority to "not allow" someone else to do something.


> You have a very naive view of other people.

You have a very naïve view of government:

> Government is the enforcement of the social contract on a large scale.

Government is supposed to be this, yes. But that's not how it actually works out in practice.


> You have a very naive view of other people. You have a very naïve view of government:

I don’t think he does, he’s just not sold on your alternative based on childlike assumptions such as They work together at being thugs (though even that tends to be limited). They don't work together in productive endeavors, which is what I said. You keep alluding to your perfect vision of anarchy, and when people point out how impossible it is in the world we already live in you either pivot to “government is bad,” or “that’s not what I mean by anarchy.”

So maybe it’s time you lay out in detail how you get from Earth 2018 to pdonis’ anarchy at some point in the future. Remember to avoid magic, changing human nature, and all of the criticisms levied so far. You don’t get to handwave away any parts, you don’t get to assume things like worldwide cooperation or “peace already broke out in the Middle East” and you have to account for all of the world’s tech, armaments, etc.

Convince us.


> I don’t think he does

You don't think "Government is the eoforcement of the social contract on a large scale" is a naïve view of government?

> your alternative based on childlike assumptions

So you think thugs actually do work together in productive endeavors? Isn't not doing that the definition of a "thug"? Thugs might make use of things that others have already produced, but they don't produce anything themselves; if they do, we don't call them thugs.

> maybe it’s time you lay out in detail how you get from Earth 2018 to pdonis’ anarchy at some point in the future

I have already said, in response to several other posters in this overall thread, that it's quite possible that we can't get there from here. But, as I said to those posters, that's a problem with us, not with anarchy.

> Convince us.

I can't convince you if you refuse to even try to imagine what an actual functioning anarchy--a society with no government, no entity with a monopoly on the use of force or the right to make rules that everyone must follow whether they want to or not, but which still is populated by citizens who understand the benefits of social cooperation and are willing to regulate their own behavior to achieve those benefits--would be like. I agree this task of imagination is a very hard one, because all of us have grown up in a society which has evolved for centuries, if not millennia, under the assumption that a society has to have a government, and in which over time governments accrete more and more functions and people come to think of them as having to be done by governments, even if they could be done better by private entities. That's why I have several times referenced David Friedman's The Machinery Of Freedom, which is a serious attempt to undertake this task of imagination in some detail. It's not something that can be done within the scope of a HN comment.


I never said thugs. That was someone else.

I said assholes.

Plus, you have defined "thug" as "people who cannot produce anything themselves" and are holding everyone to that definition even though no one else has agreed that that is an acceptable definition of thug.

Which is kind of funny considering the root of the word thug traces its roots to an order of thieves and assassins in India.

So stop focusing on the word "thug", it's a pointless diversion and doesn't really answer the question: What do you do when a stronger, organized force decides that it wants what you have?

Saying "It won't happen because thugs don't join gangs and we'll have all the guns because only good people make shit" is Platonic ideal of naivety.


> I never said thugs.

I never said you did. The post of mine that you were responding to here was not in response to you; it was in response to GW150914.

> What do you do when a stronger, organized force decides that it wants what you have?

What do you do in this case in our current society? If you think the government is always protecting you from this, you need to think again.


I'm going to respond to all three of your comments here.

Government is that. When you have something that is enforcing a social contract, that is government. Not every government requires a building, elected officials, etc. It is simply the means organizational policies are enforced. And your village is an organization. It has policies. Your system of ostracizing is the mechanism by which you punish citizens who don't follow the rules of anarchy.

So, if someone in one of those villages murdered someone else, nothing would happen? Nothing would stop them? If I want your stuff, I can just take it. Nothing will happen? Or will the entire village exact punishment? How is that any different to what we have?

Your problem is that you don't agree with all of the rules we do have. You want those rules gone. And you think that everyone thinks like you so that if we had "no rules" (aka just the rules you like), we'd all be happy.

And I never said my argument is "we can't get there from here". I never even suggested that in the slightest. Bringing it up again and again is arguing against someone who isn't here. So I don't care what you think about that one way or the other.

My point is that anarchy leads to government. Always. Because there will be rules some people want enforced and they will accept rules they're not thrilled with if it means they get most of the rules they do want.

Also. This is just straight up government. If that's your idea of the ideal anarchy, then your ideal anarchy is government. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icelandic_Commonwealth


> Your problem is that you don't agree with all of the rules we do have

Where did I say that?

At least as far as the major rules (don't murder, don't steal, don't cheat, etc.), I have no problem with those at all. I'm sure we could find disagreements over minor rules (for example, I don't think laws that impose penalties when no harm has been done, such as most traffic laws, should exist), but those aren't what I'm talking about in this discussion. What I'm talking about in this discussion is the fact that governments (a) don't actually uphold the rules that the vast majority of us agree on, and (b) impose lots of other rules that the majority of us don't even want, but get put in place because some special interest group grabs enough attention to get them on politicians' radar, even though the proposed rules don't even fix the "problem" that triggered them in the first place.


> When you have something that is enforcing a social contract, that is government.

Only if the enforcement is coercive. Otherwise the term "government" is meaningless, since every social interaction can be viewed as some kind of "enforcement" of some "social contract". Enforcement by the voluntary choices of other people not to associate with you if you do things they don't like is not government.

> So, if someone in one of those villages murdered someone else, nothing would happen?

Not at all. Instead of concocting straw men, you should go read Friedman's treatment of saga period Iceland.

> I never said my argument is "we can't get there from here".

Fine. Other people have made that kind of argument, so I'll just respond to them on it from now on.


No, coercion is not a requirement for government.

That's another definition you're trying to overload.

Also, what happens if I don't agree with a rule. And then I break it? If there is some sort of punishment, then there is coercion. Fear of punishment is a coercive device.

Then what happens. Tell us that. "Nuh uh" is not a coherent defense. The period of Iceland mentioned in that book was a federation headed by a monarchy. That's a government.


> coercion is not a requirement for government

Then you and I are defining the word "government" differently. What I am arguing against is coercive enforcement of rules. You can call it whatever you want; if you don't want to call it "government", then let's just avoid using that word at all so we at least know what we're talking about.

> what happens if I don't agree with a rule. And then I break it? If there is some sort of punishment, then there is coercion

Then, once again, you are giving different meanings to words than I am. "Coercion" as I am using the term means forcing people to do things they would not voluntarily choose to do. Letting people voluntarily choose to do something, in the full knowledge that they will suffer consequences, and then imposing those consequences, is not coercion.

Also, you use the word "punishment", but I haven't used that word. I have not talked about throwing people in jail. I have only talked about things like refusing to interact with someone. Unless you are going to claim that you have a right to have other people interact with you, no matter how much of an asshole you are, then I don't see how you can call it "coercion" when people refuse to interact with you because you refuse to regulate your behavior in order to facilitate cooperation.

Violent consequences are a more complicated matter, yes, but (as is discussed, for example, in Friedman's book) there is still a key difference between violent consequences from private entities (who have to weigh the possibility that they will in turn be targeted by violent consequences from other private entities) and violent consequences from governments (which do not suffer any consequences in turn, because they are allowed to do things that would be considered crimes, at least on their face, if private entities did them--in fact, this is how Friedman defines a government).


> Then what happens. Tell us that.

As I've already said, that's way too complicated for an HN comment. Which is why I've referred, multiple times now, to a book-length treatment of the subject.


> Unless you’re just entertaining a fantasy with no basis in reality and our lives, I’m thinking of anarchy at some time in the future

See my responses to bena and PeterisP downthread.


If someone comes and robs you in and anarco-* society what remedy do you have. Not doing business with them in the future seems mild. Getting others to ostracize them will basically become a game of who has better social connections or the larger family. If I go and steal back my property am I subject to his retaliation. Can I murder his relative in retaliation.

The reason I ask these questions is we have a lot of evidence of what happens in societies with out 3rd party enforcement and it usually doesn't tend toward individual safety or security.


David Friedman's The Machinery Of Freedom goes into detail about these kinds of scenarios. There is far too much there to summarize here.

The one point I will make is that, when people imagine anarchy, they imagine the society we have now, and then just take away government and all its functions, such as police. Of course what you get when you imagine that is terrible. But it's terrible not because anarchy is terrible, but because our society has evolved for centuries to (a) assume that government will always be there, and (b) gradually put more and more functions on government, even if they would actually be better done privately.

Of course what you get if you take a society like that and just remove government will be bad; but that's not a fair picture of what a society that had evolved for a long time as an anarchy--i.e., in which people understood that there was no government to "fix" all their problems, so they need to come up with workable solutions themselves--would look like. Friedman's book is an attempt to imagine that, in detail.

> we have a lot of evidence of what happens in societies with out 3rd party enforcement

No, we don't. We have a few failed states like Somalia today, but they are few; almost all societies on the planet today have governments.

However, when you start looking back at historical examples, you find much more promising cases. One that Friedman discusses in his book is saga period Iceland, which did quite well for centuries with no government. Other examples are some of the American colonies--Pennsylvania up until the 1750s or so is a good case--which, while they had entities they called governments, used them for nothing except to represent them in negotiations with other colonies and with the British government. These "governments" had no law enforcement powers and no powers of taxation, and people came up with various private means of working together and enforcing what we would call "laws" (but which were not brought into being by legislative fiat, but by contractual agreements between individuals).


> No, we don't. We have a few failed states like Somalia today, but they are few; almost all societies on the planet today have governments.

You wouldn't call all the human societies that existed prior to the modern nation state version of this experiment If the colonies count we have enumerable examples and in all cases at a certain point of density people took it upon themselves to form governments and delegate punishment to an other power. All forms of the anarchist argument ignore the fact that governments grew out of necessity and need. weather for internal control or to protect against an external force. I view human nature as unchaining so I doubt that any theory can hold sway over it.

Pinker has this in his book but its good to reference. Also Fukiama https://www.amazon.com/Origins-Political-Order-Prehuman-Revo...

https://ourworldindata.org/ethnographic-and-archaeological-e...


> All forms of the anarchist argument ignore the fact that governments grew out of necessity and need.

The fact that governments grew out of a need to regulate social cooperation does not mean that governments are the only, or even the best, method of meeting that need. We have learned a lot in the past 10,000 years about the downsides of using governments to fill this need; that experience means we are not in the same position as the people 10,000 years ago who first formed governments. Governments exist today mostly out of inertia; that's how we've always done it. Maybe it's time to re-examine that belief.


I just can't shake the notion that this is based upon Utopian concepts. The cost in terms of lives attempting to implement Utopian visions in the 20th century can be measured in the 10s of millions. Even if we could pay the upfront cost there is zero assurance that it would be stable or that it would produce better outcomes then what we have now.


> I just can't shake the notion that this is based upon Utopian concepts.

So is the idea that governments can solve all problems. And all of the Utopian visions you speak of that cost upwards of 100 million lives in the 20th century were visions of government solving all problems, not of abolishing government.


I don't think governments can solve all problems they can only solve cretin categories of problems.


That doesn't change the substance of what I said. All of those 20th-century Utopian visions that killed so many people were of government solving problems that it can't solve. Even if there are some problems governments can solve (one example David Friedman gives as a possibility in his book is national defense), trying to keep governments limited to just solving those problems has never worked.


Wouldn't you say humanity started out in an anarchistic state? It seems that the "workable solutions" tended towards more and more governing until we ended up where we're at. Sure, there were imperialist powers that forced their wills and ways upon other regions, but those powers were still a product of the same initial government-deficient base state. If we we were to start tabula rasa why wouldn't we end up as we are now? Maybe by crafting stories of how bad things are now as some sort of morality tales/warning (religion?), though that'd require hindsight of humanity as a bureaucratic mess which means we'd have to go through this current state anyway.

I hope I made a bit of sense.


> Wouldn't you say humanity started out in an anarchistic state?

Back when all humans were hunter-gatherers, this was probably true, yes, given what we know.

> It seems that the "workable solutions" tended towards more and more governing until we ended up where we're at.

Only after the invention of agriculture. But the period since that invention (about 10,000 years ago) is somewhere between 10 percent and 1 percent of the time humans have existed. So for most of the time humans have existed, the "workable solution" was (most likely--see above) anarchy.

The invention of agriculture had two key effects: it allowed the human population to grow dramatically, and it caused the population density to grow dramatically since agriculture requires fixed dwellings and more concentration of people into towns and cities. These two changes drastically increased the need for mechanisms to regulate social cooperation, which became what we know as governments.

Since the conditions that created governments in the first place (large human population and high population densities) are still present, we might be stuck with government even with all its downsides. However, advancing technology might open up possibilities that were not there before.

> Sure, there were imperialist powers that forced their wills and ways upon other regions, but those powers were still a product of the same initial government-deficient base state.

No, they weren't. While there were inter-tribal conflicts during humanity's hunter-gatherer period, those were nothing like "imperialist powers that forced their wills and ways upon other regions". Those powers were the product of governments, which were in turn, as above, the product of agriculture and the growth of towns and cities.


Right, but when I say 'base state' I'm referring to the big-bang of humanity. Those world powers that were able to impose their will evolved out of the same 'base state' as those who had that will imposed upon them. That is to say, Western imperialist powers weren't extraterrestrials that came from other worlds to spread capitalism (although it may have seemed that way to the colonized).

I guess ultimately what I'm trying to say is that the anarchist experiment has been run (and, as you say, had been the norm for plenty of time), yet here we are. And if we were to run the experiment again, after a sufficient amount of time, I think here we'd be again.

Though, I'm curious as to how you think advancing technology would navigate around the issues of humans generally coalescing into a government-ruled state.


> Those world powers that were able to impose their will evolved out of the same 'base state' as those who had that will imposed upon them.

They were all humans, yes, and they all evolved ultimately from hunter-gatherers, yes. That doesn't change the fact that the "world powers" were societies that had had governments for centuries, if not millennia, and were only able to be imperialists because they could use the coercive power of those governments to appropriate the resources they needed to be imperialists.

> the anarchist experiment has been run

Starting with hunter-gatherer humans, who then invented agriculture, formed governments to address the issues that arose, and had no idea what they were letting themselves in for.

If we were to run the experiment again, it would be with humans who now have 10,000 years of experience with all of the problems that governments create. That experience puts us in a very different position from the humans who first formed governments. So the experiment would have very different initial conditions, which could produce different results.

> I'm curious as to how you think advancing technology would navigate around the issues of humans generally coalescing into a government-ruled state.

By providing alternate means of regulating social cooperation that do not require coercion. The Internet is, of course, the outstanding example of this; it facilitates all kinds of cooperation among large numbers of people that would have been unthinkable before it existed.

Automation is another example: much of the drudge work of society that had to be done by humans for most of human history can now be done by machines. That reduces the amount of human labor that is needed to provide necessities for everyone, and therefore improves the average bargaining position of people when they engage in voluntary cooperation and trade to obtain the things they need.


So, kinda going back to what I initially said, an ideal anarchistic state would require the hindsight of government gone awry, which means that enforcing government at some point would be a necessary step towards ideal anarchy? I wonder how long the lessons of past mistakes would stick before they start being forgotten and start to be made once more. Maybe something like Roberto Unger's "religion of the future" (which also relies on automation to enable 'deep freedom') would have to spring up to soft-enforce a global set of values that would quell the rise of any oppressive government thinkers. Not sure, just spitballing.


Societies have always competed in there own right. The state is a more effective way to organize groups of people than the chiefdom which is more effective than the tribe.


You enforce the social contract socially: by refusing to deal with people who do not respect it. In an anarchy, everyone has that option; and therefore people who do not respect the social contract quickly find themselves ostracized and powerless.

What if people don't want your particular kind of social contract? What one sees of anarchists on the street in 2018, is that they not only ostracize, they do much worse. They enact power over those they disagree with using vandalism and violence. Over social media, they engage in toxic speculations and lies. As it plays out today, it seems to be a philosophy indistinguishable in its effects from, "Two wrongs make a right, so long as it's for us, the chosen people."


> What if people don't want your particular kind of social contract?

That's what having many different communities, each of which can choose its own particular social contract, is for.

> What one sees of anarchists on the street in 2018, is that they not only ostracize, they do much worse.

I'm not sure I would call such people "anarchists" in the sense that, for example, David Friedman is an "anarchist" (at least in books like The Machinery Of Freedom). If "anarchist" just means somebody who claims they should be able to do whatever they want, then that's not the kind of anarchist I'm talking about. I'm talking about someone who understands that, even in the absence of government, there are still huge benefits to be gained from social cooperation, and that people therefore have strong incentives to regulate their own actions to facilitate social cooperation. The only real difference is that, in the absence of government, all such cooperation is voluntary; nobody can be forced to cooperate with someone else if they don't want to. Which, note carefully, means that just taking someone's stuff without their consent, the vandalism and violence you describe, is not voluntary social cooperation. And citizens of a functioning anarchy will resist it, with force if necessary.

I've already said, in response to other posters, that a functioning anarchy of this sort would be very, very difficult to get to from our current state. But that's not a criticism of anarchy; it's a criticism of our current state, and of us humans for letting ourselves get into this state, where we have all kinds of problems with governments violating our rights but we can't just stop having them because nobody really understands how to do voluntary social cooperation without a government.


It seems to me that this argument essentially relies on everyone being an anarchist. This is not the case for systems we have observed in reality - totalitarian regimes can function even if significant parts of population don't want to be in a totalitarian regime; democracies can function (perhaps poorly, but function) even if significant parts of population don't agree with core principles of democracy; oligarchies have functioned as well without much of the society not acting in an oligarchic manner.

Does the same apply to your vision of anarchy? Is your proposed method of enforcing the social contract stable in the face of adversity (a Nash equilibrium of sorts)? I.e. for a non-anarchist participant, is it really in their own best selfish interest to participate in that enforcement instead of defecting, and not refusing to deal with people who don't respect the anarchist social contract because it's good for them at that point of time? In an anarchy, everyone has that option as well, and if the boycott isn't sufficiently strong (which IMHO requires it to be organized, monitored and enforced to work in any community much larger than Dunbar's number), then people who do not respect that social contract do not find themselves ostracized and powerless; especially since they'll be dealing between themselves if the anarchist community does not. Are there sufficiently strong incentives for people to actually 'keep to the plan' and fully ostracize the others? There will be some misdeeds done by well-loved, respected members of the community against someone that's not liked - will those misdeeds be punished at all? It's not sufficient to try to ostracize them if there's enough critical mass (which is quite small) for them to be somewhat self-sufficient; there certainly will be both individual maniacs and random gangs and extended family clans that will laugh at such ostracism, in which case you need to be able to reliably organize enough violence to physically prevent them from breaking the social contract and getting away with it; and you need to be able to get everyone to agree that this person or group has broken the social contract, instead of you just wanting to remove a competitor.

My core point is probably the following:

1. there would inevitably be certain sub-groups run by decidedly non-anarchistic principles, obtaining strong cohesion by whatever means. Cliques, family units/clans, groups of friends, etc - the concept and benefits of cooperation can't be eliminated.

2. at least some of these groups (or their leaders) would have a way to capture more resources and power by easily taking them from any disorganized groups or disjoint individuals, so either:

3a. the surrounding anarchists would be forced to cooperate in a sufficiently organized manner, to become a larger and more organized group than the local strongman/warlord/whatever, and enforce that social contract on them; and be prepared to do it permanently, as otherwise the threat would re-appear - in which case that organizational structure and its decisionmaking process, whatever it may be, is a de-facto non-anarchistic ruler of that area.

3b. the surrounding anarchists do not manage to cooperate in a way that results in them being the largest/most organized group in the area, in which case, their communities are eventually 'eaten up' by the larger non-anarchistic groups/organizations that force their will on them, and eliminate anarchy in that area.

Can you imagine (and describe) how would an anarchistic community operate sustainably next to a miniature equivalent of North Korea, a plantation using slaves, or a religious cult that's eager to push their rules onto everybody they can? How would many village-sized anarchistic communities cooperate to unify against a common threat that one or two villages can't handle on their own? For a social system to be possible, it has to be somewhat stable, it has to be able to overcome competing systems (both from within and from outside); both dictatorships and democracies have shown themselves to be capable of resisting/suppressing at least a certain size of revolution attempts; if a system can be overthrown or overtaken by a reasonably organized band of men, then it will be overthrown, and if such threats force a system to change, then the system will change and the unchanged system can't exist.

All competing systems have processes to eliminate other systems (i.e. enforce their rule) within their 'zone of control' - if anarchy has no plausible process to enforce 'rule of anarchy' i.e. prevent pockets of democracy or dictatorship or theocracy or whatever from rising, thriving and expanding within its zone of control, that's what will happen and the anarchy will cease.


> It seems to me that this argument essentially relies on everyone being an anarchist.

Yes, this is a fair point, and is probably the main reason anarchic societies have not been more common historically. It also doesn't help that pretty much all humans on the planet have now been conditioned for at least some centuries now, if not longer, that a society has to have a government to function, so they can't even conceive the alternative.


Not just anarchists, but also agree to follow a certain set of rules or laws that will be enforced by no one.

Even the "ideal" he is putting forth isn't really anarchy. Because anarchy means absolute freedom and the minute you don't allow someone something, freedom isn't absolute. And the minute you get two people living as some sort of unit, you have compromise.

Cooperation is good, systems of cooperation are better. Government is a solution to the problem of individual trust. In a completely anarchistic system, I can't trust you and you can't trust me. Either of us are allowed to break our bond at any time. We need an impartial third party to manage our interactions so that if one of us decides to screw the other, that person is appropriately admonished. Something to govern interactions of citizens, if you will. So whatever system you've set up to govern the interactions of your citizens is de facto a government. Even if you don't explicitly call it that.


> anarchy means absolute freedom

No, it doesn't. It means the absence of government. Nobody has absolute freedom; even in the absence of government, everyone has to deal with other people in some ways.

> In a completely anarchistic system, I can't trust you and you can't trust me.

This is simply false. Do you trust your friends? If so, would you stop trusting them if there were no government?

There are plenty of ways for people in the absence of government to build trust relationships with each other.

> We need an impartial third party to manage our interactions so that if one of us decides to screw the other, that person is appropriately admonished.

And you think government, as it actually is instead of as it might be in somebody's idealized model, is such an impartial third party? Surely you jest.


Yes it does. It is the very definition.

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/anarchy

Absolute freedom.

You do understand I'm talking about two strangers. Of course, you can build trust between people over time. But no one comes into a situation with trust. And if we can't start on a basis of trust, then we can't start. Knowing there are repercussions for breaking that trust allows us to treat.

You're the one peddling a libertarian fiction novel as the-one-true-way and not even taking half a second to consider the actual ramifications. Or if "anarchy" is what you actually want. (Hint: it isn't)


> It is the very definition

You can't make reality be the way you want it to be by defining words. Nobody has absolute freedom in reality.

> Knowing there are repercussions for breaking that trust allows us to treat.

There are repercussions for breaking trust whether there is government or not.

If your claim is that governments do better at enabling trust relationships to develop than a society without government (I'll stop saying "anarchy" since you keep quibbling about the definition of that term) would, then please show your work. From where I sit, governments have possibly done better in some respects, but those benefits, on net, are more than outweighed by the ways in which governments allow people in positions of power to abuse trust without paying any price.


No, you can't, so I suggest you stop trying to do that.

I'm using the common, accepted definitions. You're trying to define "thug" to mean "can't engage in productive endeavors" and "government" to include a coercive element. Neither is commonly accepted.

I nobody has absolute freedom in reality, then by your admission, anarchy is impossible and what you want isn't anarchy.

Yeah, if we agree on something and I break that agreement, the repercussion is you don't like me. Whoop de shit. I can fleece you as hard as I want until that point.

Once you envision a body that will recover your property, you have envisioned a type of government. The problem is you have a very narrow definition of "government". You only see it as a bunch of people "in charge" in a central building making laws by fiat (even though that's pretty reductionist, but then again, you are). It's not always that.

Even an ad hoc, informal system of rules and enforcement is a government.


> I'm using the common, accepted definitions

I strongly disagree, but at this point I don't think further argument will help. You and I are simply speaking different languages, and I don't have the time or the inclination to try to learn yours, and I get the idea you feel the same about mine.


> I don't think anarchists have really thought through their position or have noticed particular ironies within it.

Anarchism is an ideology that has been formalized over 150 years ago, with numerous books and treatises on the subject. I'm not an anarchist, and not particularly sympathetic to them, but to claim that "they haven't really thought trough their position" is more than a tad condescending.

BTW, if you want a not-so-dry treatment of how an anarchist society might work, read Le Guin's "The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia". It specifically answers your questions about conflicts. Maybe not the way you like - not even the way some anarchists in the story like - but it's an answer.


We have assholes anyway with organized society and voting, especially in presidential republics. Because asshole psychopaths will do anything in their power to rise and rule over others. Just look at Erdogan. The only solution to that is direct democracy backed up by people bearing arms. Maybe Switzerland is the closest modern equivalent. With anarchism you'd probably end up with factions fighthing amongst each other and then one faction rising over them and assuming control. You just have to look at the history of medieval Japan to see that: civil war, factions fighting amongst each other, then the reunification followed by the peaceful Edo period.


Because asshole psychopaths will do anything in their power to rise and rule over others.

I'd bet good money psychopaths and sociopaths absolutely thrive in anarchies which are engaged in "action" which includes violence.


But there is going to be a certain segment of asshole that will just decide: Me strong, you weak, and just override you.

There is a brand of "anarchist" which is doing just this in 2018.

But that's a winning strategy. And don't think the assholes won't notice. Then they get groups.

The history of scenes, groups, and movements of all kinds tells us that such things are started by idealists, but eventually get suborned by sociopaths. So quite often, the assholes will come over and take over your group as well.

I don't think anarchism is evil, just naive.

What's metaphorical and paved with best intentions?


That's why you need a system designed to tolerate assholes. It's not an easy problem because where there are rules, there are ways to play to the rules.

But I'm not an advocate for anarchy in any fashion. It's a situation where I can respect (some of) their desires, but don't think they've chosen the proper way to achieve those desires.

And I think it's important to clarify that I don't think anarchy is inherently evil when I'm responding to someone who is trying to say that anarchy is generally thought of as "evil". (Which to be honest I don't think it is, I think it is mostly seen as juvenile.)


The characters in Lord of the Flies were just being juvenile.


And fictional.


And remarkably revealing of human nature, as great fiction often does.


To a degree, it's a parable.

But we can also say they weren't exactly anarchists. They've developed a system of government, leaders, factions, etc.


> People seem to like to be ruled, so long as they have just enough freedom.

Bread and circuses.


The socialist getting the most attention in this article is actually William Morris, who tended towards more libertarian ideas of socialism, though not as anti-statist as Goldman. Morris and Orwell were probably fairly close to eachother in terms of how they positioned themselves on the socialist spectrum of their time, both being kind of anarcho-curious state socialists

You're right Orwell had a vendetta against the soviet union and similar 'authoritarian' socialisms, but I think this article reads closer to a good faith self-criticism directed towards his peers rather than a dig at authoritarianism.


Note: I am responding to comments here, haven't read the article yet.

Utopia is not possible because the desires and wants of millions of people (focusing on a country) don't overlap with everyone else's 100%, or sometimes not at all. We also don't live long enough to truly appreciate what we have today, as I'm sure people from hundreds of years ago would think today's society is a utopia: (basically) infinite potable cold and hot water, heat and air conditioning, electricity, sewage removal, relative privacy, trash removal, modern medicine, fast, cheap transportation, a wide variety of fresh food all year round, internet... I could go on.

So maybe utopia is genuine appreciation on a personal level for what one has. You can't do this without contrast, and contrast is best developed from real experiences. Maybe one could spend a couple weeks out in the woods with canned food and a stream for water (and no electronics except a flashlight), and come back with a new found understanding for the amount of convenience and comfort one has in this modern life.


That's pretty close to some schools of Buddhist philosophy.


Here you have a picture of the world as Wells would like to see it or thinks he would like to see it. It is a world whose keynotes are enlightened hedonism and scientific curiosity. All the evils and miseries we now suffer from have vanished. Ignorance, war, poverty, dirt, disease, frustration, hunger, fear, overwork, superstition all vanished...But is there anyone who actually wants to live in a Wellsian Utopia? On the contrary, not to live in a world like that, not to wake up in a hygenic garden suburb infested by naked schoolmarms, has actually become a conscious political motive.

This is a neat summary of the ideological contradiction of the Bay Area and Silicon Valley. Everyone wants edginess with safety, but no one wants the Disnified, safe version of edginess. We want the hard-nosed meritocracy of innovation, technical prowess, and commerce, but we don't want to let our children risk even the failure of losing in sports.

All ‘favourable’ Utopias seem to be alike in postulating perfection while being unable to suggest happiness.

'Favorable' Utopias are like Mary Sue characters or fanfics without real conflict. There is no interest without real risk and real adversity. Even Iain M. Bank's Culture universe has imperfections, conflict, and death, even if there are untold trillions in it living idyllic lives of enlightened hedonism and curiosity.


Humans can't really tell the difference between real and simulated risk.

Online games are incredibly compelling for the people who play them, but they're a lot less risky than taking part in a real war and risking real blood and real body parts.

I don't see why we couldn't sublimate games like economics in the same way. The experience of winning would be almost identical, but simulations wouldn't have to be zero sum in the way that meatspace acquisition games usually are.


Err, I think going much further down that line of reasoning, you will discover something unpleasant: The winning, for some, isn't as important as someone else losing.


Is it really that someone else has to lose? Some people are toxic like that. Others are only that way because they've been antagonized. However, if they are or they aren't, in either case there has to be something at stake.


Which can still happen in a simulated way that minimizes harm but maximizes perceived harm by the inflictor. The gory death of an opponent in an FPS who respawns without incident elsewhere, for instance.


Which can still happen in a simulated way that minimizes harm but maximizes perceived harm by the inflictor.

The old form of this is known as "sports."


Humans can't really tell the difference between real and simulated risk.

Even so, some of us have our kids play baseball-like games where they're not even allowed to strike out.


Or kids playing football with no scores shown. The mind boggles.


The mind boggles. That's a fair comment. Here's the logic: Young children are obsessed with winning and losing. If you coach a game and say it was a draw or that you didn't keep score they will insist that one or the other side lost - even if it is their side.

The problem is that they are not always able to keep some kind of perspective on this obsession unlike most adults. So they may either start playing in a very defensive way, or just always give the ball to the big guy on their team. In general this means that they fail to explore and express themselves and develop skills. In the worst case they just drop out.

So the aim of de-emphasising the winning at a young age is so that you develop winners in the long run. New Zealand, the world champions in rugby, do this. The end product is a ruthless winning machine.

Children are not small adults, mentally or physically and most coaches have to be taught this explicitly (including me)


This is getting off topic, but here we are...

I’ve seen the opposite on several occasions. I saw one kid (not mine) at a “no win” game get taken off the field for putting his hands up in the air celebrating a goal. I asked about this and was told he was “too competitive”. That kid played very differently the rest of the afternoon and I noticed he held back as did his 12yo teammates. Since I was keeping score, I noticed his side lost. Badly.

It will be interesting to see the long term results of this. Hopefully the “no win” logic produces better technique and play style. After all the whole point of good sportsmanship is that others will want to play future games with players.

Having umpired many games it’s often the parents who are the bad sports. I’ve actually banned some parents from even attending for multiple games due to bad behaviour. One parent turned up on my doorstep attempting to berate me and when I later reported the incident they got a reprimand from the principal.


Agree completely about parents. Also I think that was extreme about not celebrating a goal. We did keep score, because the kids keep score in their heads anyway, but at a young age we didn't emphasize it and there were no trophies or medals.


There's a fundamental conflict between conceptual Utopia/Heaven and the law of supply and demand. All literary conceptions of a utopia rely on abundance of some good that is scarce in the author's time. Usually ignoring that its ubiquity makes it tend toward zero value.

Here's my stab at Utopia, but it requires a belief that Knowledge is infinite:

Utopia is a state of unhindered, continual learning at your own chosen pace.


"Utopia is a state of unhindered, continual learning at your own chosen pace."

That's a very specific view of Utopia that I suggest most regular folk would not agree with, moreover, it's a bit odds with metaphysical kind of utopias from antiquity.

Knowledge is ultimately still material, not necessarily enlightening. It's part of the dualist 'trap' that keeps us focused on what's right in front of our noses, 'playing some game' engaged in materiality. To me, bits of knowledge are just bits of lego blocks, tools for helping us describe experience.

Remember in Abrahamic terms were 'cast out of Eden/Heaven' literally for eating from the 'Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil', i.e. the start of dualism and this never ending thirst for knowledge which distracts us from simply 'being'. You see this in eastern philosophies as well with 'attachment' to things, including knowledge.

But I do like your point about supply/demand perhaps (think of it especially in terms of social status, not material things especially) and constantly needing something, in your case, knowledge/learning. Neat thought.


>That's a very specific view of Utopia that I suggest most regular folk would not agree with

The pain of learning and remembering and the zero-sum nature of forgetting make me disagree with it, but you can call all of those "hindrances". If I could swell my processing speed and memory capacity to absurd levels and become one of many god-like intelligences, able of satisfying all of my curiosities with any and all facets of reality with no particularly strenuous effort before, as a last resort, exercising my power to mutate my mind to the point where I put myself in ceaseless ecstasy for its own sake (in these dimensions or the others[0]), that has to qualify as the definition of paradise.

Let's hope we crack the conservation of energy sometime. : p

0: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sublimed


From a classical view, maybe you're wanting more and more intellectual heroin.

The Eastern answer would be to 'let go' then you break the cycle of incarnation and then you 'get it'.

I think high level Abrahamic metaphysics would put 'God' far beyond any kind of acquisition of knowledge, 'states of ecstasy' etc. etc..

Once we crack the law of conservation of energy we'll be up against another boundary :)


> Remember in Abrahamic terms were 'cast out of Eden/Heaven' literally for eating from the 'Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil'

No they weren't. They were expelled to prevent them eating from the tree of life:

"Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever. Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken." (Genesis 3:22-23)


Your reference supports my thesis.

Because they ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Evil, God gave them the boot because they then might eat from the Tree of Life.

So yes, you can get me on a technicality, maybe if the Tree of Life did not exist, maybe they wouldn't have been punted ... but ... it was their 'eating from the tree' that was the action that really got the ball moving on the eviction notice.


>Utopia is a state of unhindered, continual learning at your own chosen pace

Isn't that just your reformulation of the same sort of traditional definition of Utopia? You value relaxed/continual learning which in some way is missing your life, so therefore that is your Utopia. :)


The U.S. founding fathers had another definition which is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is very individualized. Suggests it is relevant to the one as opposed to relevant to the masses. Very anti-elitist on its own merit.


The “pursuit of happiness” is what is being discussed, given that “life” and “liberty” are already guaranteed. The question is, how exactly to pursue happiness.


Basically, keep striving until you are satisfied.

https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_gilbert_asks_why_are_we_happy


One builds their own personal utopia instead of allowing some government entity dictating a recipe for happiness.


Well, individualized to the gentry and those with enough wealth to avoid labor, but certainly not the slave population.


> Utopia is a state of unhindered, continual learning at your own chosen pace.

That's pretty darn close to a solid Christian perspective on heaven, where God himself is the one whose infinite love, creativity, and power bring unending joy to his people -- and knowing more about him (there's infinite content to be taken in) becomes the pursuit that never gets old. He's the only reason heaven won't be dull after 10^x years -- both knowing him personally and enjoying and learning about (via science, etc.) the new things he will do.


> Utopia is a state of unhindered, continual learning at your own chosen pace.

This is similar to an argument Oscar Wilde made in The Soul of Man under Socialism, although he frames it, as you might expect, around art and the artist.

I find it a little surprising that Wilde does not come up in Orwell's essay.

A pretty good summary of Wilde's case here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Soul_of_Man_under_Socialis...


Utopia is sustainable, scalable happiness.


If by 'value' you mean 'monetary value' you may be right. Otherwise, not.


If there's a conflict between sustainable enjoyment and constraints of reality, then maybe utopia / heaven is euphoric mania. Certainly fiction has explored the idea of psychotherapeutic utopia.


Utopia is gratitude now.


It turns out, we are wired up for gratitude.

https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_gilbert_asks_why_are_we_happy


The internet contains information on almost every topic for free. Most people spend their time watching cat videos.


Cat videos, porn, and first person shooters. i.e. our 3 strongest instincts: sex, violence, and nurturing.


It looks like we both independently came to the same conclusion, though I have a “solution” to the finite knowledge problem :)


Cool. The "saagball" theory of infinite happiness is born. The other order of names didn't sound right.


Is it alzheimer’s?


No, although that is an interesting thought: selectively forgetting things so you can relearn them later.


The immortals from the webcomic El Goonish Shive do something like this to avoid insanity, passing only important memories into their new lives. It tends to lead to panic (due to half-remembering important things) or unwanted obligations in their next life.


It would be helpful, if still dealing with a human brain, to forget things in order to remain sane. Simulated brains which have the ability to forget removed end up acting pretty much exactly like schizophrenics brains.


Do you have a source for that?


Sorry for long wait for reply, but I'd 'posted too fast' and couldn't reply yesterday and just got back to it. But yes, here is the study I was referring to: https://www.biologicalpsychiatryjournal.com/article/S0006-32...


This article focuses on a utopia of worldy pleasures, and goes on to explain why such a place would be a pretty boring place to live. But that’s just human nature: we’re never permently satisfied with what we have. The only way that we feel happiness from these things is if we get more of whatever it is, and that’s kind of impossible in a utopia. However, I still think there’s a way to get satisfaction out of a world like this: through learning. Even if we, at some point, discover everything there is to know, I think it’s still possible to find joy, since there people will be born unaware of this knowledge. Perhaps we might even mark a lifetime by the amount of time it takes to learn everything.


I would say through making. Making things gives life purpose, something to struggle against and triumph over. And you also get to learn. Learning for learning's sake doesn't give you the sense of purpose as learning in order to make something great .


Marx and others who elaborated on his work developed the notion of alienation under capital—the notion that capitalism really screws up the specific sort of pleasure you describe. The idea, if I'm not messing it up too badly, is that a worker under capitalism encounters the stuff they make as something alien to them—and in fact something that shapes and brings the worker into being rather than the other way around. I know I experienced this phenomenon all the time staring at code on a screen when I was working in tech.


> And you also get to learn.

I lumped making under the broad umbrella of “learning”.


What does learning mean outside the context of any problem to be solved?

Games are fun, but games almost always involve something that might be useful. But what is useful if everyone already has everything they need?


> What does learning mean outside the context of any problem to be solved?

What did it mean for Darvin to explore evolution theory? What immediate problem was Einstein solving with the relativity theory?


> The only way that we feel happiness from these things is if we get more of whatever it is

Not sure who you mean by "we". This is certainly not the way I experience happiness. And not most of the people I know.


Do you not feel happy when you get something better than what you currently have?


It's a short lived kind of happiness because you quickly adjust to the new norm. This puts you on a treadmill of having to constantly upgrade, which does make advertisers happy.

There might be other forms of longer lasting happiness that don't require needing to continuously upgrade one's life.


Unless we radically alter the way the human brain works, there's no chance to "learn everything." We already know much more than any individual could learn in a lifetime.


Hey, it’s a utopia; maybe we do figure out a way to do this. I’m already heavily suggesting that we’ve figured out a solution to aging. And even if we don’t have this figured out, this necessarily a problem: we could just get pleasure out of relearning things.


"This Christmas Day, thousands of men will be bleeding to death in the Russian snows, or drowning in icy waters, or blowing one another to pieces on swampy islands of the Pacific; homeless children will be scrabbling for food among the wreckage of German cities." - Should be some context for how completely alien the world of the writer is to us now.


It may be alien to us, but there are millions of people for which this describes their reality.


But millions less than there were even a few decades ago. The world is making progress toward peace, health, safety, and a decent standard of living at an extraordinary pace right now.

This is not to say everything is hunky-dory. But it is to say that this is no longer World War II.

edit: Where do you think all the Syrian and Lebanese restaurants in America came from? Refugees from the collapse of the Ottoman empire post-WWI. It was just as bad then as it is now. But it can get better, and I am totally convinced it will.

Every wave of immigration that made America what it is today came from people fleeing poverty and violence. Hardly anyone emigrates away from a safe, comfortable life with family and friends and familiar sights nearby. In the 19th century, 20% of the population of Sweden came to the US to escape famine. Sweden was 90% illiterate, mired in extreme poverty, with a birth rate above 5. Now, it's... Sweden. The most civilized country in the world.

If Sweden can evolve from an impoverished hellhole to being the epitome of modern civilization in a century, why can't the same thing happen to Syria? Or Sudan? Or Myanmar? I think it can, and it will.


>If Sweden can evolve from an impoverished hellhole to being the epitome of modern civilization in a century, why can't the same thing happen to Syria? Or Sudan? Or Myanmar? I think it can, and it will.

Except Sweden one hundred years ago was not an impoverished hellhole. In fact, it was one of the richest (maybe the richest) countries on earth, smack in the middle of the most developed, richest and urbanized part of Europe (the Baltic region) already enjoying a booming economy and 100 years of peace.


Sweden in the 1920s was indeed in a comparatively sweet spot, but so was much of Western world before the Great Depression and WW2 hit. However, by modern standards, Sweden was still quite poor and agrarian: life expectancy for both men and women was under 50 years until the 1890s, and it was the last nation in Europe to experience a major natural famine in 1867-9, with ~15% of the population dying.

http://www.scb.se/en/finding-statistics/statistics-by-subjec...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swedish_famine_of_1867%E2%80%9...


Ok, how about 150 years ago? Poverty is poverty, famine is famine, illiteracy is illiteracy. For the average Swede - not the rich - life was as bad as it is in nations we considered desperately impoverished today. That's the point. There are people living well in Syria today, too. They're just a tiny sliver of elites, while ordinary people suffer.

But back to my original point. Do you think that there are nations that can't or won't be able to modernize? Are there people or places that are just incapable of achieving peace and independence? Because I don't buy that. China has done it. Iran has done it. Syria can do it, too.


I certainly hope Syria will rise again - but I'd say it's a big difference between being well educated, functioning civil society bombed into the stone age - and being poor.

Norway followed a similar path as Sweden - being quite well on its way even before we stole (negotiated for) most of the oil rights in the north sea.

And like most countries after ww2 - while the devestation was great, the rebuild was rather quick. Once there was peace. And one important part of peace, was liberation and independence.


> And like most countries after ww2 - while the devestation was great, the rebuild was rather quick. Once there was peace. And one important part of peace, was liberation and independence.

independence didn't happen for a majority of countries that fought in world war 2 however. Either they got locked behind the iron curtain after being litteraly level to the ground (poland), or had to fight a bloody long war for independance (vietnam, indonesia, most of africa).

your comment is only really relevant for western europe in that sense.


Yes, but... once some degree of peace and independence is achieved, social improvement happens at an astonishing rate. Take Iran. At the time of the Revolution in 1979, it was one of the poorest countries in the world. The birth rate was above 6 (I find birth rate is a very good proxy for economic/social progress). It dropped from above 6 to under 3 in just ten years - a feat that took England 95 years to accomplish. Today, Iran's birthrate is less than Europe. This is a result of (relative) peace and independence.

China is a particularly wild example. Per capita income there has grown about 15,000% since 1952. That's crazy, but it happened.


I was indeed considering adding a caveat that I was comparing to the regions mentioned in the quote - but I suppose even for Germany, independence took quite a while. So thank you for pointing out my hypocrisy :)


I'm not denying things have improved significantly and that we aren't making great progress, but there's still a long, long way to go.


Yeah, gp seem disconcertingly disconnected from the reality of Yemen, Syria or Palestine - just to mention a few places off the top of my head.


Or maybe they have a sense of context.

Despite any media hype, the world is more peaceful than ever, and a fewer % of people are living in poverty than ever.

Maybe they're exceedingly well connected with reality.


My new favorite factoid... the percentage of people living in extreme poverty (less than $2/day) has dropped from 29% to just 9% in the past 20 years alone. The mind boggles. We've made as much progress against extreme poverty in the past 20 years as the past 20,000 years. Two thirds of it, just gone.

Looking at the angry headlines of the day is a very misleading way of understanding the world.


I am disconnected from those realities because for me they are not comparable (to me personally or even in general).

The first is scale. WWII scale was massive and considering that WWII was really just WWI-part2 its really just the continuation of the global struggle for power finally ended in ~1991.

Second is personal closeness. My relatives participated in WWII. My life is shaped by its outcome.

Third is ideological. WWII was a battle of world ideology. Fascism, communism, and liberal democracy.

For the places mentioned they do not have the same affect in my life. If those realities took place on a different planet I would not be the wiser.


True, we're in a more peaceful, normal place of permanent war in the "frontiers" - but the quote listed thousands - not millions.

I'm not sure I see how the soviet collapse and subsequent change of aggressors back to british/us in Afghanistan signified the end of the continuous confrontation between powers - rather than yet another shift.

I'll not go into what harvest one reaps from planting bombs and troops abroad, but at least in Europe we're hardly unaffected.

And while there was ideological propaganda and real differences then - there's religious fundamelism and fascism to go around still...

I'll definitely grant you that we're in a state of low intensity conflict over remote resources - and outsource much suffering - a state that seems stable for now.


Or Venezuela.


"This Christmas Day, hundreds of men will be bleeding to death in the Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan sands, or blowing one another to pieces in the Mexican drug wars; homeless children will be begging in the streets of one of the wealthiest nations in history".

I know that it's not fair to compare the death rates today to that during the height of WWII, but _completely_ alien? That seems extreme to me. There's still plenty of suffering, and while it may not be quite so universal as it was during the 1940s, it's still prevalent enough that the essay should be relevant today.


Essay is still exceedingly relevant, but the "completely alien" part is probably that the men doing the bleeding and dying were from the wealthiest societies on the planet. During WW1 and WW2 there was actually more violent death among the wealthy societies than among the poorest. That is extraordinarily different.


Judging by the list of "Ignorance, war, poverty, dirt, disease, frustration, hunger, fear, overwork, superstition all vanished." it seems many of us are living in a utopia yet we still aren't satisfied.


> Ignorance

Ever present, if you look around.

> war

Always on somewhere on this planet, and always a threat when the relations between yours and other nations become tense.

> dirt, disease, frustration

All ever present, and experienced by everyone to great extent.

> hunger

In the western "utopia", it's usually a job mishap or a big medical bill away.

> fear, overwork

Ever present and experienced by most of us.

> superstition

Displayed by half of the population, if not more.

Even if we happen to live without experiencing most of these for a while, it's only the most ignorant that don't realize how fragile such situation is.


The article details why utopias defined as the absence of pain or the abundance of a scarce resource present a problem in terms of happiness.


I'll wait for the list of places in the world in which there is no fear. Just that part of the list alone covers 100% of the population.


Are you? Do you have no worries in the world?


I think GP's point was that measuring utopianess is difficult because it's all relative (like poverty or torture).

In other words, you can't measure it directly. For example, if you went to the future and noted a person owned a flying car, had infinite food and a huge castle would you be able to measure the poverty level of that person? No - it depends on how much his peers have. If his peers own spaceships and planets, then he is rather poor by comparison.


Many do not. There is a theory of something called the Power Process, which states that for people to be happy, they need goals which require effort, and need to achieve at least some of those goals. The lack of meaningful goals which require effort in the first world may be responsible for much of the depression, suicide, and other issues that plague us today.

I found this Medium post which quotes the relevant parts: https://medium.com/chris-messina/surrogate-activities-the-po...


> There is a theory of something called the Power Process,

This is not a theory in the scientific sense. It's an idea Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, wrote about in his manifesto.


Ok, not sure how that changes the point.


What lack of meaningful goals? I find it very hard to believe that any human being is ever in a position where they find it hard to see meaningful goals to strive for. The lack of ability to achieve any of those goals, however, I could easily see being a problem. You can't really achieve anything that requires concentrated effort if you've got to work 40 hours a week so that you can eat.


Might be the reason why endurance running is on the rise.


If we take each of those issues:

Ignorance - developed countries have never sent so many people to university.

War - Is less common in recent history and the wars we do get involved have fewer casualties. I know people will raise Iraq but you only need to go back as far as Vietnam to find a conflict that was an order of magnitude worse.

Poverty - Absolute poverty is very low in the developed world and decreasing elsewhere.

Dirt - Soap is cheap.

Disease - Smallpox, Malaria, Measles, Rubella, Syphilis, Rabies are all eradicated or falling heavily. Cancer is only so common because we live so long.

Frustration - Liberal values have given freedom to a lot of people that had been oppressed.

Hunger - Food has never been so cheap.

Fear - I live in the UK, there is nowhere in my country that I feel is out of bounds for me.

Overwork - Jonathan Sachs has a really good presentation on this, our hours have been falling for decades. Also technology has freed us from much backbreaking work.


>Ignorance - developed countries have never sent so many people to university.

And yet, ignorance is still a significant problem in society, whether it be today's flavour of bigotry, a continued denial of the dangers of climate change, anti-vaxers, et cetera so on and so forth.

>War Less war is certainly not none, and the consequences of our current wars are hitting as close to home as they have in living memory. Terrorism, both domestic and foreign, are problems for real people.

>Poverty "Absolute" poverty maybe, but that doesn't mean that huge chunks of the western world aren't worrying about money constantly. Effective poverty is a tremendous issue.

Well, I could keep going, but I won't - suffice to say, all of those things are still issues. They may not all be the same, or even as bad in some "absolute" sense, but they're still relevant.


I don’t disagree that it’s getting better, but it’s disingenuous to suggest that there aren’t still problems in the world that should be solved.


> but it’s disingenuous to suggest that there aren’t still problems in the world that should be solved

I don't think anyone's arguing this. I think the argument is that we don't realize how good we have it since Orwell's time. What he described is many people's (especially on HN's) effective reality.


Totally! You just described my life.


Fear is everywhere nowadays, it seems to power capitalism or at least is encouraged by it. I suspect the reason is that actual capitalism (as opposed to the ideal construct) is more based on Social Darwinism and capital accumulation than on trading for the mutual benefit of all market participants.


>>I suspect the reason is that actual capitalism (as opposed to the ideal construct) is more based on Social Darwinism and capital accumulation than on trading for the mutual benefit of all market participants.

The ideal construct of a market economy is not based on "trading for the mutual benefit of all market participants".

As Adam Smith so sagely put it 250 years ago:

>>It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.

The mutual benefit is an emergent outcome, not a conscious intent of any particular participant.

Advocacy of market economics is largely based on a sober outlook on the nature of man, and a pragmatic plan for improving its condition.


> Fear is everywhere nowadays, it seems to power capitalism or at least is encouraged by it.

To the contrary, fear powers the State.

> I suspect the reason is that actual capitalism (as opposed to the ideal construct) is more based on Social Darwinism and capital accumulation than on trading for the mutual benefit of all market participants.

Depends on what you mean by capitalism. Capital accumulation is useless in a market economy if you don't re-invest it (which is a mutually beneficial trade in itself).


He never really gets to the point in the title about not believing in fun

He says reasonably enough

>...not in order to establish some central-heated, air-conditioned, strip-lighted Paradise, but because they want a world in which human beings love one another instead of swindling and murdering one another.

But the fact you don't want an aircon paradise doesn't have to mean no to fun. Why not party / go surfing / whatever seems fun?


Heaven is a place, a place where nothing, nothing ever happens.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bKW7JkHKm8


This site is blocked by openDNS for malware distribution :-/


umatrix tells me the site, orwell.ru, wants to load a script from yandex.ru.

When Orwell wrote the essay he may still have been feeling his combat wounds from the Spanish Civil War, where he took a bullet in the neck from one of Franco's snipers. He also spent some days manning barricades in the streets of Barcelona, futilely resisting a coup within the Republican government, instigated by a Soviet-backed faction.

Something ironic in that, with the page here coming from a .ru TLD.


Seems like a good counterpoint to the silly, loaded argument of "Those Who Walk Away from Omelas", which boils down to "Can you imagine a perfect, happy, society and take that seriously?"

The answer is that few people really can, even among those people who think society can be perfected.


Just an opinion here.

The article says a number of things about the Christian Heaven. But fails to recognize the premise is that people who go there are changed. On the inside. There is peace, on the outside, because there is peace in the heart, on the inside. There is contentment, because it is on the inside. There isn't a lust for power and control over other people's lives. Nor any shortage of resources. And the biggest thing described as great about Heaven is being in God's presence. Not material things or power.

The problem with all other utopias is that they seem to imagine something that people create without a change on the inside. People have tried to create ideal kingdoms for millennia. The problem is that its seeds of destruction are on our insides. It is us that is the problem.


The idea of peace in the heart in Christian Heaven is an idea entirely absent in the New Testament. Peace, in the NT, is always interpersonal--and it's this very thing that causes conceptions of heaven to fail.

To describe it as peaceful, as tranquil is not the point. To describe it as peaceful, where all have been reconciled and relationships have been restored starts to capture an essence of what the purpose is.


> Peace, in the NT, is always interpersonal

Yes. And the NT concept of peace is primarily expressed in reconciliation between God and his people. As Romans 5 puts it, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we stand."


Would it be fair to describe it as a place where nothing ever happens?


Actually, there's a lot of activity, responsibility, and work to be done once heaven arrives. A few thoughts:

In the final state, there will be new heavens and a new earth (i.e. a very physical Earth like we know it now, with mountains, trees, grass, animals) -- a sort of Eden restored, but better, since God's throne and presence will be on the earth, instead of in a separate place (Revelation 22, Isaiah 11). There will be cities to rule, a lot of responsibility and work to do, many "ages to come" in which things will change (scripture references provided on request).

Imagine the grandeur of Tolkien's and Lewis's fantasy novels -- the ages upon ages of interesting history and characters. I honestly don't understand how the narrative will work without any antagonists present, because we presently understand narratives via conflict and resolution. The "they lived happily ever after" seems rather bereft of content, and is kept for the very end of stories. I suspect that's because we have yet to see what the great, true "happily ever after" looks like.

However, the boredom with eternity that Orwell alludes to will not be present, simply because of the person of God. He is full of infinite love, creativity, power, etc... and he will be the delight of all who are there -- that sort of ever-flowing fountain of life and "newness". Indeed, without God himself, everything would get incredibly dull after a while. Jesus says as much in his prayer to the Father in John 17: ".. and this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." The "life" here is love, joy, and peace, not merely length of days.


>> "I honestly don't understand how the narrative will work without any antagonists present, because we presently understand narratives via conflict and resolution. The "they lived happily ever after" seems rather bereft of content, and is kept for the very end of stories."

There are other ways to tell a story. For example, you've probably run into kishōtenketsu without realizing it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kish%C5%8Dtenketsu


To that regard, there's the Serenity prayer that starts with "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, ...", and one such thing certainly is "... seeds of destruction are on our insides. It is us ..."

Yes, there are many human behaviors that hamper creating ideal kingdoms. However, these drives and motivations and everything else related is fundamentally a part of how we're built, part of what we are. An individual can change, but humanity at its core can not, there are some aspects dominated by culture but the major factors (including many of the "seeds of desctruction") are innate to almost all humans or even to almost all mammals. We can imagine many societies that would function great if humans were different; but we aren't. Perhaps we'll be able to design creatures with different minds that lack these defects, using some advanced genetic engineering or cybernetic enhancements or something else - but those creatures would not be entirely humans, homo sapiens, it wouldn't be us, they'd be something different.

Heaven or some other Utopia involving people 'changed on the inside' doesn't work for people. It works for some beings that are not people any more, even if they were once, because their core, their essence, their motivations and feelings has been substantially, fundamentally changed. Heaven is for angels; I'm not one, and I can't be one - if I'd become one, that wouldn't be me anymore.


> The problem with all other utopias is that they seem to imagine something that people create without a change on the inside.

Not at all. So much so that we even have a term for it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Man_(utopian_concept)


That sounds fair, but it seems would argue just as well for the boredom of being eternally in a 'state of peace', no other activities suggested. If this peace is forced upon you, isn't it just a forced eternal torpor?

And you've just shifted the problem of describing what is great about heaven to describing what is great about 'being in God's presence'. And I assume here you'd use words 'blissful', 'undescribable', etc. which are exactly the trouble words Orwell highlights.

I think what's missing here is the real perspective that hapiness is an evolutionary mechanism. All forms of contentment are made to get us to do things, be sucessful animals, reproduce as much as possible, etc. Some forms of displeasure are absolute (e.g. chronic pain), but most forms of hapiness are relative. It wouldn't be useful if hominids were in permanent depression for not having air conditioning in their huts or tasty food every meal. For nature it's ideal if you have a stable baseline that directs you toward achievable goals, and be neither permanently blissful or depressed.

That's not to say that, objectively, we couldn't come up with a pretty good scheme where people are actually healthy, happy and content a lot of the time, and which isn't entirely trivial. I have friends that more or less fit in that description. Some small problems colour their lives but generally they're in a pretty good state, compared to what I can imagine is achievable. Giving tem one bajillion dollars probably wouldn't change that state much, it could even make it a little worse by completely ridding them of problems.

By that I mean to say, there are things we can do to make the world better without getting into an actually miserable eventless existence. Physical pain, in particular chronic pain is an example of a bad state in an absolute sense. Total social isolation is equally bad. You can provide reasonably challenging work, etc. We also have plenty of depressed people with access to extremely favorable living conditions but lacking certain stimuli that makes us happy.

And I think we should strive for that environment. There's a possible conclusion from the essay that either we're going to reach a state of permanent, problem-free torpor from complete lack of resource constraint; or we'll have to force ourselves into a generally harsh lives with a few joys here and there.

I think this doesn't have to be a problem: I believe we can realize a future where everyone is in excellent health, with pretty good access to food and diverse sources of pleasure, entertainment, art, etc., have good social contact, is challenged at work or education, and which it is is fun and worthwhile. It doesn't need to last forever to be excellent. I'd merrily live for 1000 years in this world.

I make no claims about the necessarily political and economic systems to achieve this goal (and those are of no importance comparing to approaching it).


1943 was the same year that Maslow first presented his hierarchy of needs. I believe that it goes much further to explain the requirements for human happiness.


Lest the headline imply otherwise, Orwell was a proponent of democratic socialism: “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it.”


I never liked the formulation that utopia is not worth it because people lack the creativity to imagine what could be done for fun in it. It's like we've never tried but hey here's an explanation as to why you shouldn't want it! It should really not be a surprise that imagination is lacking here because for a lot of people, happiness is just defined as having things other people don't have, because that's simply how we came out to be wired and because we continue to live in a world that follows those principles.

Until those principles have been modified, you have no idea what a utopia is and would look like. This has never, ever, been the case, not in any society you can think of. You might think you live in some super nice societies but you have never escaped those principles.

Utopia isn't about making people not have toothaches or whatever anymore. That's not the point. Utopia is about letting people live in a manner that they would want, not in the manner, currently, prescribed by the law of the powerful and the powerless.

But if you really think that if suddenly your problems being solved, you'd find nothing to do, you are not thinking hard enough, and you are already too wrapped up in the thinking of having things other people don't have. It's a mindset problem of people born into a world working on that principle and it's a hard one to rewrite.


> Utopia is about letting people live in a manner that they would want

One of the lessons I learnt from Huxley's Brave New World is that this phrasing is very ambiguous and the meaning of utopia is more complicated, if the word is indeed meaningful. The people in BNW live in the manner that they desire, but not many would call it a utopia. Sure, those desires themselves are the result of genetic and environmental conditioning, but so are ours!

It seems to me that Huxley is saying that some element of struggle and overcoming of adversity is necessary for human flourishing.


Between Huxley ("Brave New World") and Orwell ("1984"), I think Huxley saw the future more accurately, although Orwell has amazing insights.

I actually thought that "Wall-E" was a good, and particularly accessible, commentary on utopia. Without the need to strive, we might all just turn into human potatoes. I'm not far from that now, which is pretty frightening.


I just want to mention here for those who haven't heard of it: Huxley's "Island" explores the complement to the ideas presented in "Brave New World", i.e. it is an imagining of utopia. I highly recommend it.


Orwell was writing about an authoritarian socialist society devolving into fascism.

Huxley is less clear, but on the whole it looks much closer to a capitalist society.

So one could argue that they represent different future paths - mutually exclusive, but which one is more likely than the other depends on where the wind blows at any given moment. Orwell had the advantage of seeing what Stalinist ideology is like first hand, as a member of POUM in Spain, so that's where his focus was. We live in a world that's dominated by capitalist countries, so Huxley's vision seems more likely to us. But it can all change.


> The people in BNW live in the manner that they desire, but not many would call it a utopia.

That's probably because Huxley implies an overarching force or process that is rather directly controlling the population. Also-- like 1984-- this process is strongly implied to be inescapable.

Those aspects of those books scare the hell out of young people. But if you remove those aspects, I'm not sure many people would find anything wrong with getting high and dancing to algorithmically generated music when they feel the urge.


> some element of struggle and overcoming of adversity is necessary for human flourishing

This sounds like "what doesn't kill me makes me stronger" or "no pain no gain".

I know there needs to be work to make things better, and to come up with solutions that will always incur adaptation, but I don't see how it necessarily involves struggle and difficulty.

Difficulty is not the goal, but we should not stop at difficulty if the result is worth it.


Dystopia's are often a form of Utopia. Thomas More's original Utopia is not necessary a perfect society, but a designed society. I would classify BNW as a Utopia even though it is a cautionary tale.


>Utopia is about letting people live in a manner that they would want, not in the manner, currently, prescribed by the law.

This is so unrealistic. If the manner I want to live is hunting and killing other people for sport, but the only thing restraining me right now is the law (such an inconvenient thing is the law), then most people would say laws are preferable to utopia. Even with laws people do crazy hurtful things, I can't even imagine what things would be like if there were not laws and the threat of punishment.


I've always thought of Utopia being peace insofar as a society that cannot harm an individual, and cannot allow individuals to harm other individuals, which I suppose aligns pretty closely to Orwell's notion of "brotherhood".

Such simple principles would solve the issues of:

* racism

* homophobia

* moral indignation

* xenophobia

* extreme economic disparity, such that those with means are actively holding down or holding back those without

* lack of access to health services

If we solve all of those things, we'll still have problems. We'll still have people disagreeing, people fighting. People struggling. What we might also have, however, is the desire to also work with others, rather than go to our deaths over issues because of such potent underlying bitterness.

The human race is flawed enough as it is. We don't need manifest disagreements spawned by religion or dogma, for instance, to fuel the flames.


moral indignation

What if the vast majority of society wants to harm the individual, saying that, "you can't tolerate the intolerant?" In recent years, that seems to me to be a doublethink way of justifying intolerance in the name of intolerance.

extreme economic disparity, such that those with means are actively holding down or holding back those without

Reality is rarely black and white, 0 or 1. Very often, people using some unfair non-meritocratic means to preserve their position are also creating more wealth. Also, exactly what constitutes "unfair non-meritocratic means" is often up for debate.

The human race is flawed enough as it is. We don't need manifest disagreements spawned by religion or dogma, for instance, to fuel the flames.

Angry adherence to dogma is a kind of human flaw! It seems that almost anyone can convince themselves they're fighting for a good cause, as they are oppressing or even murdering people. The most used emotional-descriptive word used during the Nuremberg rallies was, "Love." If you want to judge intolerance, don't pay attention to the dogma. Note who is hating whom, and who is using violence on whom.


This is a great comment, and I just wanted to add that imagining what a fictional high tech utopia would look like was what inspired Iain M. Banks to write the culture series.

For anyone interested in tech and the far future its a must read.


But even there, there is conflict, unrequited desire, and death. Even among beings we could regard as godlike in comparison to ourselves. Even among super-people who lack for nothing, who can even choose genders, and who can live hundreds of years or many millennia if so chosen.


Absolutely, its a novel and there are around 50 trillion 'baseline' humans not that different from us. Banks himself has said he has focused on writing more about people who are edge cases or less normal in the culture to keep things interesting, and at that scale there will be a lot of people at the tale ends of the distribution.

IMHO the culture novel is as close to a far out tech utopia as you can write without making humanity completely unrecognizable while creating interesting stories that have general scifi appeal. It deliberately breaks tropes such as the machines having more personality than the humans and adds a good dose of British humor.

I see it as inspiration for what our AI & other tech could lead to, a bit of a thought experiment and less as a verbatim ideal.


It should really not be a surprise that imagination is lacking here because for a lot of people, happiness is just defined as having things other people don't have

The psychological research suggests that this is how people are wired up. Just as we're wired up to consume fat and sugar whenever we come across it, we're basically wired up to start marauding our neighbors if they're way richer than we are.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3XYHPAwBzE


Do you have a source aside from Jordan Peterson?


Look up his. He's a widely cited psychological researcher, and regarded as an authority by other researchers. His lectures like this one are based on specific research.


He is quite far outside of the psychological mainstream. Many of the ideas in his books qualify as pseudoscience. He has only become popular because he says what far right individuals want to hear. It is all banal well-trodden ideas dressed up.


For people not aware of Peterson, I want you not to take the parent comment seriously. Peterson is a highly polarizing figure, and people tend to have very strong positive/negative opinions about him.

Thus the parent comment is an example of someone feeling very negatively about him, and not an accurate representation of him or his ideas.


It’s not though. What was stated is pretty well documented: https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Jordan_Peterson


This wiki page is just hater trash that can't be taken seriously.


Peterson advocates an all beef diet. Not a low carb diet, literally only. beef.

Your call whether he's a crank.


I've only heard of him through his twisted ideas on trans people, but I suspected that only scratched the surface.


Yes, JBP does have quite a persuasive song and dance that bedevils his detractors - he is a slippery one! Even so, his research is widely cited as GP stated:

https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=wL1F22UAAAAJ&hl=en

It is an inconvenient fact that scientific and scholarly study does occur whose conclusions will not agree with our deeply-held ideologies. Just take it all in and try not to take any offense when you get rude surprises. If your preconceived notions are any good, they'll survive and you can save the cheap potshots.


> Even so, his research is widely cited as GP stated:

Isn't it funny that you still can't answer the basic original question: where are JBP's sources for his extraordinary claims?

Instead of giving us a song and a dance about ideologies and other nonsense why not just answer the damn question?


I don't know if you and I can see eye-to-eye on the reasons for and the importance of having one's articles cited by the rest of the academic community. Citations of one's work indicates thought leadership in the academic community regardless of how much you personally disagree with those thoughts.

Before I waste my time digging up useful bibliographies and citations that JBP draws from, I'd like to know that you aren't a complete ideologue, haven't already made up your mind, and are willing to have a discussion.

Is suspect you cannot separate the agenda-driven, public showman JBP who draws his material from the legit scientist and natural philosopher, published JBP because you abhor the agenda.


You keep making excuses.

Let's review:

> Just as we're wired up to consume fat and sugar whenever we come across it, we're basically wired up to start marauding our neighbors if they're way richer than we are.

This is an extraordinary claim. JBP is irrelevant. I'd be interested in any citations to any literature that supports this claim.

I suspect you have zero reputable sources which is why you've fixated on JBP and "agenda"s etc.

Historically, massive inequality has been the norm. There's likely never been a landed society that did not exhibit severe inequality. If humans were "wired up" to commit violence in the face of inequality history would be very different. Instead massively unequal societies like Pharaonic Egypt can be stable for thousands of years. Revolts have always been rare and they don't emerge until (1) things get really bad eg biblical revolutions driven by famine and (2) the formation of a counter-elite that organizes the poor eg most modern revolutions, American, French, Russian.

Regardless of whatever nonsense JBP spouts and regardless of his academic work (absolutely none of which, on cursory glance, involve economics or history or politics) I would hope that the historical record is plain to all and "facts" that contravene the historical record are rejected prima facie.

By the way there is a strong link between poverty and violence but I think most researchers accept that this is very much a modern phenomenon.


I've never heard nor read that exact quote from JBP. Can you at least tell me where you got that from so I can get some context?

If you're paraphrasing, please just copy the full quote.


Most here can eat 3 times a day, have fresh water, warm home and go wherever they want. We are living in an utopia.


Interesting that Orwell adopts Eliot as an English writer. He was from Saint Louis and educated at Harvard.


Eliot renounced his American passport and became a British subject. Orwell respected that decision.


My absolute favorite Orwell essay - it cemented my appreciation of him as an essayist and political thinker.


The original 1943 title this was published under was Can Socialists Be Happy? The title used here was used in a later republishing.


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