free market services vs monopoly government

Adam Back aba at
Fri Aug 1 03:49:58 PDT 1997

Kent Crispin <kent at> writes:
> On Thu, Jul 31, 1997 at 09:59:37PM +0100, Adam Back wrote:
> > Kent you seem to harbor the belief that government monopoly is a good
> > thing, or at least that government is somehow an unavoidable necessary
> > evil.
> Adam, in all honesty I don't think of it like that at all. 
> "Government" to me is a completely neutral abstract term, like
> "organization", or "society".  

Isn't that a bit humpty dumpty words mean what I say they mean-ish?
Clearly my use of the word government above is intended to mean your
or my government.  If I was in the US I might have used the term USG,
but as I'm not I generalised to governments, meaning existing
governments of countries.  Government has other dictionary meanings.

> Consequently, a statement like "Government is always bad" is ipso
> facto a shallow generalization, and my natural reaction is to point
> out that sometimes government is good.

I'll admit there are situations where a government may make a good
decision, or handle a situation not too badly, or not that
restrictively.  Such situations are quite rare though, aren't they :-)

> Since the poor brainwashed souls on cypherpunks uniformly spout the
> "Government is bad" party line, the result is that comes out looking
> like I think government is good.  But that is an incorrect
> impression.  Government, as a general abstract term, is neither bad
> or good.

All words are neutral as abstract terms, it's only when you consider
the semantics of your intended meaning in using them in given contexts
that they become other than abstract.

Nuclear bomb is an neutral term.

> [Note: While "government" in general is a completely neutral term,
> particular governments may be better or worse in various dimensions,
> of course.  But it is never a black or white thing.  

Didn't say otherwise.  I gave the example of the ex Soviet Union as a
worse, more restrictive government than either US or UK government in
the post you are replying to.

> I don't think of government as a "necessary evil", either.  Rather,
> I think that a government of some kind is an inevitable outgrowth of
> human nature.  I think this for three compelling reasons: first, it is
> obversationally true -- there are essentially no human beings who live
> without a government of some kind; second, because it is in agreement
> with all my observations and knowledge of human nature; and third,
> because it makes sense to me as the rational consequence of the
> existence of force as an interpersonal interaction. 

As a general rule: less government intervention is more efficient than
more.  This is because the free market is better at meeting people's
demands in a tailored fashion than any socialist/communist planned
economy handed down by a few big-wigs.

Are you against privatisation?  Are you against deregulation?

I suppose you'd like to unreform the US telco's and put it back into
one huge monopoly charging monopoly rates?  Clearly US telco's have a
long way to go in terms of having a free competitive arena with FCC
intervention, but surely you aren't denying the improved efficiency
the deregulation you have had has produced.

It's not black or white.  (Where did I read that sentence, hmmm).

In the UK we have a socialist state.  Government provides a huge
social security system.  They have cut back on it a bit in the last 20
years, but it's still a disgrace the way money is wasted.
Nationalised medical care, all out of your tax bill.  No wonder the
tax rate is > 50% effective.  Some scandinavian countries are up in
the 60 and 70% effective tax range.

Would you like some of that in the US?  At least you currently have
mostly privatised medical care.

My point is really that the more market freedom, more deregulation,
less government intervention, less attempts to influence the market
the better off we'll all be.

Do you think it would be a good thing if the government started taxing
Internet usage?

> In fact, of course, the US generates a great deal of wealth for its
> citizens, who are among the best off and most productive of any nation
> on earth.  Of course it could be better, but it could be a whole lot
> worse.  To say that the form of government had nothing to do with that
> *success* is intellectually dishonest -- one can just as easily argue
> that things are good in the US largely *because* we have a relatively
> good government. 

Jeez, just imagine how much better off you could be without all the
government crapola.

> > The success that a country does enjoy is pretty much proportional to
> > the degree of market freedom.  Luckily for us our governments have
> > left a bit of freedom in markets, or we would have food shortages, and
> > rationing.
> Oh, "luckily".  No possibility that there was intelligence involved,
> eh?

Maybe a bit of self-interest :-) Eg if the cancerous growth stifles
too much trade, it might get less tax revenues.  I view Clinton's
recent "hands off" approach to the internet in this light, if he
actually means anything concrete by it.

> [...]
> > Governments tend to grow, and soak up larger tax percentages, and
> > encroach into more aspects of life which were previously a question of
> > free choice, or were previously purely market driven.  The reason for
> > this growth is due to the government as an entity unconciously
> > promoting itself as an organism.  A great huge cancerous growth which
> > has us by the jugular.
> "Governments" is the wrong term here.  A more correct term would be 
> "bureaucracies."   The growth you describe is endemic to any large 
> human organization.  Large corporations go through very similar 
> cycles.  Charities, churches, clubs -- it happens everywhere.  

Governments too.  ie what I said was true for governments so why
contest the fact?  So there are other systems it is true for, so what?
I didn't say there weren't.

> > A good start would be a choice in government, to generate some
> > competition.  So you can buy membership in a protection racket, hire
> > the services of a private security firm, or buy insurance from an
> > insurance group because of its benefits package, or go elsewhere if
> > the offering sucks.  You choose on an individual basis what package
> > best suits you, and you choose the service providers who you consider
> > as the best value for money.
> This is a pure pipe dream, a utopian fantasy for libertarians.  I 
> could say "a good start would be for everyone to love one another" -- 
> it would be just as real.

OK, lets start with deregulation, and privatisation of everything that
it is immediately possible to arrange.  Not so radical is it?

You aren't going to get a purely market based economy with no
government intervention over night, clearly.

> > eg. I can go buy into Uncle Enzo's pizza delivery and protection
> > racket because the protection is 5000% better value for money than the
> > Feds deal.
> How do you get out from Uncle Enzo's protection racket when things go 
> sour, if Uncle Enzo doesn't allow his customers to leave, or even to 
> say anything bad about him?

Sounds remarkably similar to the current situation doesn't it?

Anyway you just buy into Mr Lee's New Hong Kong protection racket, and
Uncle Enzo will respect Mr Lee's fire-power enough to consider it not
worth the effort of picking on small fry like you.

> You are describing pure speculative fantasy, and it is pointless to
> argue the details of your speculation.  All I can do is point out that
> it *is* a speculative fantasy, and challenge you to produce something
> meaningfully concrete.  Show me a real living example of such a
> society in operation.  

It's not black and white.  It's not all or nothing.  We can start with
less government, before it shrivels up to close to zero.

> If such an excellent society existed then surely people would flock
> to it in droves.  Or is it like communism -- we have to have the
> whole world under control before the dictatorship of the proletariat
> withers away, and the glorious new world order flowers?

Cultural and societal change have happened in the past.  I guess
you've read of the feudal systems.  Well society's structure has
changed.  If you lived in feudal systems, you'd be one of the serfs
happy with his lot tithing to the lord of the manor, and to the fat
church, and being left with barely enough to eat.

Clearly presures exist today where people would like to move to
different regimes.  People are real keen to get out of less free
governments into freer ones.  I won't bother with examples, anyone can
come up with those.

See anything wrong with making a currently relatively free government
into an even less restrictive government?

> No, I think that average people have much more sense than you give
> them credit for, and that the egotism of people who are bright
> technically frequently blinds them to their shallow understanding of
> other areas.  I have seen very bright people caught up in all sorts of
> insane ideas.  

Tell me, are the following insane ideas:

	- privatisation
	- deregulation
	- devolution of government power to smaller power bases
	- lower taxes
	- fewer politicians
	- reduced social security system 
	- cancel the war on drugs

> The best example I know is the weapons physicist, a brilliant and
> clever thinker, who is a member of a fundamentalist Christian group.
> He predicted the second coming on a particular day, and announced it
> to the press, with a statement to the effect that he had set off
> bombs at the Nevada test site with less intellectual certainty than
> his prediction.  I'm sure he is now back reading the the Bible and
> other texts, and trying to figure out what went wrong.

That suggests to me that he is slightly cracked, as well as being a
inventive physicist.

> I admire his conviction, his tenacity, but not his grip on reality. 

Yup, cracked.

> > Free choice makes for much more efficiency in terms of economics, and
> > in terms of individuals happiness.
> Sure.  So what.  The issue is what *real* can be done.  Utopian 
> fantasies don't do it.

Work towards the principle that free markets are more efficient than
state monopolies.

> > Here's a reading list for those interested in disbanding government
> > and replacing it with services purchased on the free market:
> [...]
> Hmm.  You base your philosophy on a couple of science fiction novels,
> "The Machinery of Freedom", Adam Smith, and Hayek? Some years ago I
> read Nozick and Rand, because I thought there might be something to
> libertarian philosophy.  I also read parts of "Machinery of Freedom"
> -- a better title, I think, would be "Intellectual Tinkertoys of
> Freedom" -- and something by Boas, and a couple other things that fade
> from my memory.  I conclude that these books are libertarian
> scripture, and function like that physicists bible.  

Adam Smith is a pretty sound pure market economics text.  If you can
refute any of it's claims, which are in the main logical, or
mathematical readily observable truisms, I'd be interested to hear
your arguments.

Hayek just points out the clearly observable trends with Socialism.
If you can't see much of what he was saying back in 1944 replayed
before your eyes in the US, you've got your eyes closed.

Rand is a somewhere between the two, lots of negative things to say
about socialism, and also lots to say about free market.

> Adam, I admire your conviction, I respect your technical expertise a
> lot, but we have a different view of reality.  We will just have to
> differ on that. 

Heh, I said I wouldn't convince you.

[I took the perl rsa usage to a new post]

Have *you* exported RSA today? -->

print pack"C*",split/\D+/,`echo "16iII*o\U@{$/=$z;[(pop,pop,unpack"H*",<>

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