April 16, 2002


1) That is a compelling argument against the welfare state, not against cloning.

2) Again you make a wonderful argument against the welfare state. I for one look forward to the day when all such things as Social Security and Medicare go bust, based as they are on stolen money.

3) Simple. Eventually the economy collapses and reality reasserts itself unless a sustainable dynamic is achieved. cf. Soviet Union (and the EU in 15-20 years from now).

4) Sounds to me like the perfect impetus to get back in touch with the most beloved of conservative institutions, the Extended Family. The shape of family life has been changing for economic reasons since the Industrial Revolution, who is to say that it will not continue to do so? I am looking after my 81 year old Grandmother here at home. Is that such a terrible thing? I don't think so.

5) With high value high tech super troopers and smart force multiplying weapons... in other words exactly the way the current trend has been pointing for the last 25 years.

6) Perhaps it will lead to finally breaking the heroin-like infatuation western societies have with democracy. Ah yes, such thoughts bring out the Promethean side of me that is usually wrestling with my more evolutionary notions. State at the fire long enough and you will start to see prophetic double helix shapes in the dancing flames.

7) Yes, it is indeed sensible to 'cherry pick', not just in a future transgenic transhuman era but right now. In Extropian times to come, there will be a market place for radical gene pools too :-)

8) Why should you try and stop Great Grandpa? If his altered genes allow him to function, then let him just get on with being Great Grandpa. You seem to fail to see the upside... a non senile genetically engineered 110 year old is not a problem to be managed, he is a walking, talking repository of 110 years of experiences and insights! How is that bad?

9) Again Orrin, I sometimes suspect you are yourself a closet libertarian in need of being 'outed' :-)

I can think of no better scenario for making the adoption of a more libertarian order. The majority must be restrained by facing the fact that democracy is unsustainable unless severely constrained, something well understood in 1776 but which has got a bit fuzzy since. Maybe technology will force people to face that fact yet again.

10) damn, there is no 10, you joker Judd!

-Perry de Havilland
-Apr 15 2002, 06:18 pm


Perry :

It is no surprise that your answers are insightful; I hesitate to tell you how inane the rest of the "libertarians" have been. They are mostly of the "None of this will happen", "If it does we'll deal with it", "You just hate science" variety. But I believe that your answers actually illustrate the scope of the problems that we were trying to raise here.

It is all well and good to say that most of the problems are a function of the democratic welfare state, yet the fact remains : we live in democratic welfare states. These states are already close to buckling under the pressure of aging populations, falling birthrates, sclerotic bureaucracies, too generous government benefits, and confiscatory taxation, but we see little evidence that developed nations are willing to address these problems in any serious way. Has any nation in human history ever had a better opportunity to lower taxes and reduce the scope of government than did the United States in the 1990s? We'd been on a war footing since 1941, spending ridiculous amounts of money on guns and providing absurd amounts of butter to buy off the populace. So then came the peace, and what happened to taxes and spending? Their growth slowed a bit, but they continue to go higher. Like rats on crack, we've become addicted to big government. The system has to crash eventually--the majority can't transfer other people's money to themselves ad infinitum--but there's no sign we're headed to a national Twelve-Step Program any time soon.

We need only look at Japan to see a society that has chosen a fairly comfortable suicide instead of the more uncomfortable challenge of revitalizing the nation. The Japanese seem content to sit idly by as their country deteriorates, its economy in decline, its culture moribund, its people dying off. Most of Europe is not far behind and we in America will get there soon enough. To then take this tottering system and pile on a whole range of new problems, or merely to exacerbate those that already exist, is a recipe for social disruption on a massive scale. It could turn the slow decline into a precipitous collapse. You may welcome this eventuality, and believe that it would provide an opportunity to restore a greater level of freedom in the West. I have less confidence in our fellow citizens. So, I would prefer to see us try to tackle these problems and reform the state before we take the biotech leap.

My real question though is : are the folks who generally advocate this technical revolution prepared to cope with the political revolution? Do they even recognize that they may cause it? And are you confident that at the end of both revolutions we'll be more free? If we are likely to be less free, or at least face a serious risk that such will be the case, don't libertarians in particular have a responsibility to take seriously the probability that the revolution in health care may restrict freedom in and of itself and may well provoke a political revolution that ends in an even greater curtailment of freedom?

Personally, as a conservative, I hate both revolutions (all revolutions) and don't expect to see either lead to greater freedom. In the words of William F. Buckley, Jr., sometimes someone has to stand astride the world and holler, Stop! That's what a ban would do, in my opinion, not stop us permanently, but give us time to figure out where we're headed and what we need to do before we get there. I'd certainly start, as I suspect would you, with devolving most of the responsibilities of the welfare state back to the people, in an orderly fashion, and reconstituting traditional institutions like marriage, family, church, etc. Once we have society back on a healthier and more stable footing, we'll have plenty of time to fiddle with our genes and our brain chemistry. What's the big rush?

Mind you, I understand the attraction of extended or even eternal life, our mortality is the very source of the human dilemma. Eating from the Tree of Knowledge we became Godlike, but deprived of the fruit of the Tree of Life we are painfully human. What man would not wish to heal this breach, to at long last become Gods. But that dream smacks of hubris and it is rooted in an understandable but unhealthy dislike for our own natures. What miserable Gods such creatures as we would make.

I wonder though, as a threshold matter (assuming that our apotheosis is a long way off), if our desire to achieve this dream and our apparent willingness to sacrifice our humanity in pursuit of it can be reconciled with freedom. And if we face a choice between the two, which seems at least a possibility, I wonder why, given that we've surrendered so much freedom to the welfare state in exchange for mere comfort and security, we should believe that democratic Man won't be willing to surrender even more in exchange for a longer duration to that comfort? If we are to be unfree anyway, then perhaps we may as well live eternal lives of sensory stimulation. Perhaps that is the paltry portion of godhood accessible to us. But let's first try restoring freedom and civil society and see if we really want to trade them for an endless narcotic slumber.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 16, 2002 11:44 AM
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