By the author of unsongbook.com

Archipelago and Atomic Communitarianism

I.

In the old days, you had your Culture, and that was that. Your Culture told you lots of stuff about what you were and weren’t allowed to do, and by golly you listened. Your Culture told you to work the job prescribed to you by your caste and gender, to marry who your parents told you to marry or at least someone of the opposite sex, to worship at the proper temples and the proper times, and to talk about proper things as opposed to the blasphemous things said by the tribe over there.

Then we got Liberalism, which said all of that was mostly bunk. Like Wicca, its motto is “Do as you will, so long as it harms none”. Or in more political terms, “Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins” or “If you don’t like gay sex, don’t have any” or “If you don’t like this TV program, don’t watch it” or “What happens in the bedroom between consenting adults is none of your business” or “It neither breaks my arm nor picks my pocket”. Your job isn’t to enforce your conception of virtue upon everyone to build the Virtuous Society, it’s to live your own life the way you want to live it and let other people live their own lives the way they want to live them. This is the much-maligned “atomic individualism,” or maybe just liberalism boiled down to its pure essence.

But atomic individualism wasn’t as great a solution as it sounded. Maybe one of the first cracks was tobacco ads. Even though putting up a billboard saying “SMOKE MARLBORO” neither breaks anyone’s arm nor picks their pocket, it shifts social expectations in such a way that bad effects occur. It’s hard to dismiss that with “Well, it’s people’s own choice to smoke and they should live their lives the way they want” if studies show that more people will want to live their lives in a way that gives them cancer in the presence of the billboard than otherwise.

From there we go into policies like Michael Bloomberg’s ban on giant sodas. While the soda ban itself was probably as much symbolic as anything, it’s hard to argue with the impetus behind it – a culture where everyone gets exposed to the option to buy very very unhealthy food all the time is going to be less healthy than one where there are some regulations in place to make EAT THIS DONUT NOW a less salient option. I mean, I know this is true. A few months ago when I was on a diet I cringed every time one my coworkers brought in a box of free donuts and placed wide-open in the doctors’ lounge; there was no way I wasn’t going to take one (or two, or three). I could ask people to stop, but they probably wouldn’t, and even if they did I’d just encounter the wide-open box of free donuts somewhere else. I’m not proposing that it is ethically wrong to bring in free donuts or that banning them is the correct policy, but I do want to make it clear that stating “it’s your free choice to partake or not” doesn’t eliminate the problem, and that this points to an entire class of serious issues where atomic individualism as construed above is at best an imperfect heuristic.

And I would be remiss talking about the modern turn away from individualism without mentioning social justice. The same people who once deployed individualistic arguments against conservatives: “If you don’t like profanity, don’t use it”, “If you don’t like this offensive TV show, don’t watch it”, “If you don’t like pornography, don’t buy it” – are now concerned about people using ethnic slurs, TV shows without enough minority characters, and pornography that encourages the objectification of women. I’ve objected to some of this on purely empirical grounds, but the least convenient possible world is the one where the purely empirical objections fall flat. If they ever discover proof positive that yeah, pornographication makes women hella objectified, is it acceptable to censor or ban misogynist media on a society-wide level?

And if the answer is yes – and if such media like really, really increases the incidence of rape I’m not sure how it couldn’t be – then what about all those conservative ideas we’ve been neglecting for so long? What if strong, cohesive, religious, demographically uniform communities make people more trusting, generous, and cooperative in a way that also decreases violent crime and other forms of misery? We have lots of evidence that this is true, and although we can doubt each individual study, we owe conservatives the courtesy of imagining the possible world in which they are right, the same as anti-misogyny leftists. Maybe media glorifying criminals or lionizing nonconformists above those who quietly follow cultural norms has the same kind of erosive effects on “values” as misogynist media. Or, at the very least, we ought to have a good philosophy in place so that we have some idea what to do it if does.

II.

A while ago, in Part V of this essay, I praised liberalism as the only peaceful answer to Hobbes’ dilemma of the war of all against all.

Hobbes says that if everyone’s fighting then everyone loses out. Even the winners probably end up worse off than if they had just been able to live in peace. He says that governments are good ways to prevent this kind of conflict. Someone – in his formulation a king – tells everyone else what they’re going to do, and then everyone else does it. No fighting necessary. If someone tries to start a conflict by ignoring the king, the king crushes them like a bug, no prolonged fighting involved.

But this replaces the problem of potential warfare with the problem of potential tyranny. So we’ve mostly shifted from absolute monarchies to other forms of government, which is all nice and well except that governments allow a different kind of war of all against all. Instead of trying to kill their enemies and steal their stuff, people are tempted to ban their enemies and confiscate their stuff. Instead of killing the Protestants, the Catholics simply ban Protestantism. Instead of forming vigilante mobs to stone homosexuals, the straights merely declare homosexuality is punishable by death. It might be better than the alternative – at least everyone knows where they stand and things stay peaceful – but the end result is still a lot of pretty miserable people.

Liberalism is a new form of Hobbesian equilibrium where the government enforces not only a ban on killing and stealing from people you don’t like, but also a ban on tyrannizing them out of existence. This is the famous “freedom of religion” and “freedom of speech” and so on, as well as the “freedom of what happens in the bedroom between consenting adults”. The Catholics don’t try to ban Protestantism, the Protestants don’t try to ban Catholicism, and everyone is happy.

Liberalism only works when it’s clear to everyone on all sides that there’s a certain neutral principle everyone has to stick to. The neutral principle can’t be the Bible, or Atlas Shrugged, or anything that makes it look like one philosophy is allowed to judge the others. Right now that principle is the Principle of Harm: you can do whatever you like unless it harms other people, in which case stop. We seem to have inelegantly tacked on an “also, we can collect taxes and use them for a social safety net and occasional attempts at social progress”, but it seems to be working pretty okay too.

The Strict Principle of Harm says that pretty much the only two things the government can get angry at is literally breaking your leg or picking your pocket – violence or theft. The Loose Principle of Harm says that the government can get angry at complicated indirect harms, things that Weaken The Moral Fabric Of Society. Like putting up tobacco ads. Or having really really big sodas. Or publishing hate speech against minorities. Or eroding trust in the community. Or media that objectifies women.

No one except the most ideologically pure libertarians seems to want to insist on the Strict Principle of Harm. But allowing the Loose Principle Of Harm restores all of the old wars to control other people that liberalism was supposed to prevent. The one person says “Gay marriage will result in homosexuality becoming more accepted, leading to increased rates of STDs! That’s a harm! We must ban gay marriage!” Another says “Allowing people to send their children to non-public schools could lead to kids at religious schools that preach against gay people, causing those children to commit hate crimes when they grow up! That’s a harm! We must ban non-public schools!” And so on, forever.

And I’m talking about non-governmental censorship just as much as government censorship. Even in the most anti-gay communities in the United States, the laws usually allow homosexuality or oppose it only in very weak, easily circumvented ways. The real problem for gays in these communities is the social pressure – whether that means disapproval or risk of violence – that they would likely face for coming out. This too is a violation of liberalism, and it’s one that’s as important or more important than the legal sort.

And right now our way of dealing with these problems is to argue them. “Well, gay people don’t really increase STDs too much.” Or “Home-schooled kids do better than public-schooled kids, so we need to allow them.” The problem is that arguments never terminate. Maybe if you’re incredibly lucky, after years of fighting you can get a couple of people on the other side to admit your side is right, but this is a pretty hard process to trust. The great thing about religious freedom is that it short-circuits the debate of “Which religion is correct, Catholicism or Protestantism?” and allows people to tolerate both Catholics and Protestants even if they are divided about the answer to this object-level question. The great thing about freedom of speech is that it short-circuits the debate of “Which party is correct, the Democrats or Republicans?” and allows people to express both liberal and conservative opinions even if they are divided about the object-level question.

If we force all of our discussions about whether to ban gay marriage or allow home schooling to depend on resolving the dispute about whether they indirectly harm the Fabric of Society in some way, we’re forcing dependence on object-level arguments in a way that historically has been very very bad.

Presumably here the more powerful groups would win out and be able to oppress the less powerful groups. We end up with exactly what liberalism tried to avoid – a society where everyone is the guardian of the virtue of everyone else, and anyone who wants to live their lives in a way different from the community’s consensus is out of luck.

In Part I, I argued that not allowing people to worry about culture and community at all was inadequate, because these things really do matter.

Here I’m saying that if we do allow people to worry about culture and community, we risk the bad old medieval days where all nonconformity gets ruthlessly quashed.

Right now we’re balanced precariously between the two states. There’s a lot of liberalism, and people are generally still allowed to be gay or home-school their children or practice their religion or whatever. But there’s also quite a bit of Enforced Virtue, where kids are forbidden to watch porn and certain kinds of media are censored and in some communities mentioning that you’re an atheist will get you Dirty Looks.

It tends to work okay for most of the population. Better than the alternatives, maybe? But there’s still a lot of the population that’s not free to do things that are very important to them. And there’s also a lot of the population that would like to live in more “virtuous” communities, whether it’s to lose weight faster or avoid STDs or not have to worry about being objectified. Dealing with these two competing issues is a pretty big part of political philosophy and one that most people don’t have any principled solution for.

III.

Imagine a new frontier suddenly opening. Maybe a wizard appears and gives us a map to a new archipelago that geographers had missed for the past few centuries. He doesn’t want to rule the archipelago himself, though he will reluctantly help kickstart the government. He just wants to give directions and a free galleon to anybody who wants one and can muster a group of likeminded friends large enough to start a self-sustaining colony.

And so the equivalent of our paleoconservatives go out and found communities based on virtue, where all sexual deviancy is banned and only wholesome films can be shown and people who burn the flag are thrown out to be eaten by wolves.

And the equivalent of our social justiciars go out and found communities where all movies have to have lots of strong minority characters in them, and all slurs are way beyond the pale, and nobody misgenders anybody.

And the equivalent of our Objectivists go out and found communities based totally on the Strict Principle of Harm where everyone is allowed to do whatever they want and there are no regulations on business and everything is super-capitalist all the time.

And some people who just really want to lose weight go out and found communities where you’re not allowed to place open boxes of donuts in the doctors’ lounge.

Usually the communities are based on a charter, which expresses some founding ideals and asks only the people who agree with those ideals to enter. The charter also specifies a system of government. It could be an absolute monarch, charged with enforcing those ideals upon a population too stupid to know what’s good for them. Or it could be a direct democracy of people who all agree on some basic principles but want to work out for themselves what direction the principles take them.

After a while the wizard decides to formalize and strengthen his system, not to mention work out some of the ethical dilemmas.

First he bans communities from declaring war on each other. That’s an obvious gain. He could just smite warmongers, but he thinks it’s more natural and organic to get all the communities into a united government (UniGov for short). Every community donates a certain amount to a military, and the military’s only job is to quash anyone from any community who tries to invade another.

Next he addresses externalities. For example, if some communities emit a lot of carbon, and that causes global warming which threatens to destroy other communities, UniGov puts a stop to that. If the offending communities refuse to stop emitting carbon, then there’s that military again.

The third thing he does is prevent memetic contamination. If one community wants to avoid all media that objectifies women, then no other community is allowed to broadcast women-objectifying media at it. If a community wants to live an anarcho-primitivist lifestyle, nobody else is allowed to import TVs. Every community decides exactly how much informational contact it wants to have with the rest of the continent, and no one is allowed to force them to have more than that.

But the wizard and UniGov’s most important task is to think of the children.

Imagine you’re conservative Christians, and you’re tired of this secular godless world, so you go off with your conservative Christian friends to found a conservative Christian community. You all pray together and stuff and are really happy. Then you have a daughter. Turns out she’s atheist and lesbian. What now?

Well, it might be that your kid would be much happier at the lesbian separatist community the next island over. The absolute minimum the united government can do is enforce freedom of movement. That is, the second your daughter decides she doesn’t want to be in Christiantopia anymore, she goes to a UniGov embassy nearby and asks for a ticket out, which they give her, free of charge. She gets airlifted to Lesbiantopia the next day. If anyone in Christiantopia tries to prevent her from reaching that embassy, or threatens her family if she leaves, or expresses the slightest amount of coercion to keep her around, UniGov burns their city and salts their field.

But this is not nearly enough to fully solve the child problem. A child who is abused may be too young to know that escape is an option, or may be brainwashed into thinking they are evil, or guilted into believing they are betraying their families to opt out. And although there is no perfect, elegant solution here, the practical solution is that UniGov enforces some pretty strict laws on child-rearing, and every child, no matter what other education they receive, also has to receive a class taught by a UniGov representative in which they learn about the other communities in the Archipelago, receive a basic non-brainwashed view of the world, and are given directions to their nearest UniGov representative who they can give their opt-out request to.

The list of communities they are informed about always starts with the capital, ruled by UniGov itself and considered an inoffensive, neutral option for people who don’t want anywhere in particular. And it always ends with a reminder that if they can gather enough support, UniGov will provide them with a galleon to go out and found their own community in hitherto uninhabited lands.

There’s one more problem UniGov has to deal with: malicious inter-community transfer. Suppose that there is some community which puts extreme effort into educating its children, an education which it supports through heavy taxation. New parents move to this community, reap the benefits, and then when their children grow up they move back to their previous community so they don’t have to pay the taxes to educate anyone else. The communities themselves prevent some of this by immigration restrictions – anyone who’s clearly taking advantage of them isn’t allowed in (except in the capital, which has an official committment to let in anyone who wants). But that still leaves the example of people maliciously leaving a high-tax community once they’ve got theirs. I imagine this is a big deal in Archipelago politics, but that in practice UniGov asks these people, even in their new homes, to pay higher tax rates to subsidize their old community. Or since that could be morally objectionable (imagine the lesbian separatist having to pay taxes to Christiantopia which oppressed her), maybe they pay the excess taxes to UniGov itself, just as a way of disincentivizing malicious movement.

Because there are UniGov taxes, and most people are happy to pay them. In my fantasy, UniGov isn’t an enemy, where the Christians view it as this evil atheist conglomerate trying to steal their kids away from them and the capitalists view it as this evil socialist conglomerate trying to enforce high taxes. The Christians, the capitalists, and everyone else are extraordinarily patriotic about being part of the Archipelago, for its full name is the Archipelago of Civilized Communities, it is the standard-bearer of civilization against the barbaric outside world, and it is precisely the institution that allows them to maintain their distinctiveness in the face of what would otherwise be irresistable pressure to conform. Atheistopia is the enemy of Christiantopia, but only in the same way the Democratic Party is the enemy of the Republican Party – two groups within the same community who may have different ideas but who consider themselves part of the same broader whole, fundamentally allies under a banner of which both are proud.

IV.

Robert Nozick once proposed a similar idea as a libertarian utopia, and it’s easy to see why. UniGov does very very little. Other than the part with children and the part with evening out taxation regimes, it just sits around preventing communities from using force against each other. That makes it very very easy for anyone who wants freedom to start a community that grants them the kind of freedom they want – or, more likely, to just start a community organized on purely libertarian principles. The United Government of Archipelago is the perfect minarchist night watchman state, and any additions you make over that are chosen by your own free will.

But other people could view the same plan as a conservative utopia. Conservativism, when it’s not just Libertarianism Lite, is about building strong cohesive communities of relatively similar people united around common values. Archipelago is obviously built to make this as easy as possible, and it’s hard to imagine that there wouldn’t pop up a bunch of communities built around the idea of Decent Small-Town God-Fearing People where everyone has white picket fences and goes to the same church and nobody has to lock their doors at night (so basically Utah; I feel like this is one of the rare cases where the US’ mostly-in-name-only Archipelagoness really asserts itself). People who didn’t fit in could go to a Community Of People Who Don’t Fit In and would have no need to nor right to complain, and no one would have to deal with Those Durned Bureaucrats In Washington telling them what to do.

But to me, this seems like a liberal utopia, even a leftist utopia, for three reasons.

The first reason is that it extends the basic principle of liberalism – solve differences of opinion by letting everyone do their own thing according to their own values, then celebrate the diversity this produces. I like homosexuality, you don’t, fine, I can be homosexual and you don’t have to, and having both gay and straight people living side by side enriches society. This just takes the whole thing one meta-level up – I want to live in a very sexually liberated community, you want to live in a community where sex is treated purely as a sacred act for the purpose of procreation, fine, I can live in the community I want and you can live in the community you want, and having both sexually-liberated and sexually-pure communities living side by side enriches society. It is pretty much saying that the solution to any perceived problems of liberalism is much more liberalism.

The second reason is quite similar to the conservative reason. A lot of liberals have some pretty strong demands about the sorts of things they want society to do. I was recently talking to Ozy about a group who believe that society billing thin people is fatphobic, and that everyone needs to admit obese people can be just as attractive and date more of them, and that anyone who preferentially dates thinner people is Problematic. They also want people to stop talking about nutrition and exercise publicly. I sympathize with these people, especially having recently read a study showing that obese people are much happier when surrounded by other obese, rather than skinny people. But realistically, their movement will fail, and even philosophically, I’m not sure how to determine if they have the right to demand what they are demanding or what that question means. Their best bet is to found a community on these kinds of principles and only invite people who already share their preferences and aesthetics going in.

The third reason is the reason I specifically draw leftism in here. Liberalism, and to a much greater degree leftism, are marked by the emphasis they place on oppression. They’re particularly marked by an emphasis on oppression being a really hard problem, and one that is structurally inherent to a certain society. They are marked by a moderate amount of despair that this oppression can ever be rooted out.

And I think a pretty strong response to this is making sure everyone is able to say “Hey, you better not oppress us, because if you do, we can pack up and go somewhere else.”

Like if you want to protest that this is unfair, that people shouldn’t be forced to leave their homes because of oppression, fine, fair enough. But given that oppression is going on, and you haven’t been able to fix it, giving people the choice to get away from it seems like a pretty big win. I am reminded of the many Jews who moved from Eastern Europe to America, the many blacks who moved from the southern US to the northern US or Canada, and the many gays who make it out of extremely homophobic areas to friendlier large cities. One could even make a metaphor, I think rightly, to telling battered women that they are allowed to leave their husbands, telling them they’re not forced to stay in a relationship that they consider abusive, and making sure that there are shelters available to receive them.

If any person who feels oppressed can leave whenever they like, to the point of being provided a free plane ticket by the government, how long can oppression go on before the oppressors give up and say “Yeah, guess we need someone to work at these factories now that all our workers have gone to the communally-owned factory down the road, we should probably at least let people unionize or something so they will tolerate us”?

A commenter in the latest Asch thread mentioned an interesting quote by Frederick Douglass:

The American people have always been anxious to know what they shall do with us [black people]. I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us!

It sounds like, if Frederick Douglass had the opportunity to go to some other community, or even found a black ex-slave community, no racists allowed, he probably would have taken it [edit: or not, or had strict conditions]. If the people in slavery during his own time period had had the chance to leave their plantations for that community, I bet they would have taken it too. And if you believe there are still people today whose relationship with society are similar in kind, if not in degree, to that of a plantation slave, you should be pretty enthusiastic about the ability of exit rights and free association to disrupt those oppressive relationships.

V.

We lack Archipelago’s big advantage – a vast frontier of unsettled land.

Which is not to say that people don’t form communes. They do. Some people even have really clever ideas along these lines, like the seasteaders. But the United States isn’t going to become Archipelago any time soon.

There’s another problem too, which I describe in my Anti-Reactionary FAQ. Discussing ‘exit rights’, I say:

Exit rights are a great idea and of course having them is better than not having them. But I have yet to hear Reactionaries who cite them as a panacea explain in detail what exit rights we need beyond those we have already.

The United States allows its citizens to leave the country by buying a relatively cheap passport and go anywhere that will take them in, with the exception of a few arch-enemies like Cuba – and those exceptions are laughably easy to evade. It allows them to hold dual citizenship with various foreign powers. It even allows them to renounce their American citizenship entirely and become sole citizens of any foreign power that will accept them.

Few Americans take advantage of this opportunity in any but the most limited ways. When they do move abroad, it’s usually for business or family reasons, rather than a rational decision to move to a different country with policies more to their liking. There are constant threats by dissatisfied Americans to move to Canada, and one in a thousand even carry through with them, but the general situation seems to be that America has a very large neighbor that speaks the same language, and has an equally developed economy, and has policies that many Americans prefer to their own country’s, and isn’t too hard to move to, and almost no one takes advantage of this opportunity. Nor do I see many people, even among the rich, moving to Singapore or Dubai.

Heck, the US has fifty states. Moving from one to another is as easy as getting in a car, driving there, and renting a room, and although the federal government limits exactly how different their policies can be you better believe that there are very important differences in areas like taxes, business climate, education, crime, gun control, and many more. Yet aside from the fascinating but small-scale Free State Project there’s little politically-motivated interstate movement, nor do states seem to have been motivated to converge on their policies or be less ideologically driven.

What if we held an exit rights party, and nobody came?

Even aside from the international problems of gaining citizenship, dealing with a language barrier, and adapting to a new culture, people are just rooted – property, friends, family, jobs. The end result is that the only people who can leave their countries behind are very poor refugees with nothing to lose, and very rich jet-setters. The former aren’t very attractive customers, and the latter have all their money in tax shelters anyway.

So although the idea of being able to choose your country like a savvy consumer appeals to me, just saying “exit rights!” isn’t going to make it happen, and I haven’t heard any more elaborate plans.

I guess I still feel that way. So although Archipelago is an interesting exercise in political science, a sort of pure case we can compare ourselves to, it doesn’t look like a practical solution for real problems.

On the other hand, I do think it’s worth becoming more Archipelagian on the margin rather than less so, and that there are good ways to do it.

One of the things that started this whole line of thought was an argument on Facebook about a very conservative Christian law school trying to open up in Canada. They had lots of rules like how their students couldn’t have sex before marriage and stuff like that. The Canadian province they were in was trying to deny them accreditation, because conservative Christians are icky. I think the exact arguments being used were that it was homophobic, because the conservative Christians there would probably frown on married gays and therefore gays couldn’t have sex at all. Therefore, the law school shouldn’t be allowed to exist. There were other arguments of about this caliber, but they all seemed to boil down to “conservative Christians are icky”.

This very much annoyed me. Yes, conservative Christians are icky. And they should be allowed to form completely voluntary communities of icky people that enforce icky cultural norms and an insular society promoting ickiness, just like everyone else. If non-conservative-Christians don’t like what they’re doing, they should not go to that law school. Instead they can go to one of the dozens of other law schools that conform to their own philosophies. And if gays want a law school even friendlier to them than the average Canadian law school, they should be allowed to create some law school that only accepts gays and bans homophobes and teaches lots of courses on gay marriage law all the time.

Another person on the Facebook thread complained that this line of arguments leads to being okay with white separatists. And so it does. Fine. I think white separatists have exactly the right position about where the sort of white people who want to be white separatists should be relative to everyone else – separate. I am not sure what you think you are gaining by demanding that white separatists live in communities with a lot of black people in them, but I bet the black people in those communities aren’t thanking you. Why would they want a white separatist as a neighbor? Why should they have to have one?

If people want to go do their own thing in a way that harms no one else, you let them. That’s the Archipelagian way.

(someone will protest that Archipelagian voluntary freedom of association or disassociation could, in cases of enough racial prejudice, lead to segregation, and that segregation didn’t work. Indeed it didn’t. But I feel like a version of segregation in which black people actually had the legally mandated right to get away from white people and remain completely unmolested by them – and where a white-controlled government wasn’t in charge of divvying up resources between white and black communities – would have worked a lot better than the segregation we actually had. The segregation we actually had was one in which white and black communities were separate until white people wanted something from black people, at which case they waltzed in and took it. If communities were actually totally separate, government and everything, by definition it would be impossible for one to oppress the other. The black community might start with less, but that could be solved by some kind of reparations. The Archipelagian way of dealing with this issue would be for white separatists to have separate white communities, black separatists to have separate black communities, integrationists to have integrated communities, resdistributive taxation from wealthier communities going into less wealthy ones, and a strong central government ruthlessly enforcing laws against any community trying to hurt another. I don’t think there’s a single black person in the segregation-era South who wouldn’t have taken that deal, and any black person who thinks the effect of whites on their community today is net negative should be pretty interested as well.)

This is one reason I find people who hate seasteads so distasteful. I mean, here’s what Reuters has to say about seasteading:

Fringe movements, of course, rarely cast themselves as obviously fringe. Racist, anti-civil rights forces cloaked themselves in the benign language of “state’s rights”. Anti-gay religious entities adopted the glossy, positive imagery of “family values”. Similarly, though many Libertarians embrace a pseudo-patriotic apple pie nostalgia, behind this façade is a very un-American, sinister vision.

Sure, most libertarians may not want to do away entirely with the idea of government or, for that matter, government-protected rights and civil liberties. But many do — and ironically vie for political power in a nation they ultimately want to destroy. Even the right-wing pundit Ann Coulter mocked the paradox of Libertarian candidates: “Get rid of government — but first, make me president!” Libertarians sowed the seeds of anti-government discontent, which is on the rise, and now want to harvest that discontent for a very radical, anti-America agenda. The image of libertarians living off-shore in their lawless private nation-states is just a postcard of the future they hope to build on land.

Strangely, the libertarian agenda has largely escaped scrutiny, at least compared to that of social conservatives. The fact that the political class is locked in debate about whether Michele Bachmann or Rick Perry is more socially conservative only creates a veneer of mainstream legitimacy for the likes of Ron Paul, whose libertarianism may be even more extreme and dangerously un-patriotic. With any luck America will recognize anti-government extremism for what it is — before libertarians throw America overboard and render us all castaways.

Keep in mind this is because some people want to go off and do their own thing in the middle of the ocean far away from everyone else without bothering anyone. And the newspapers are trying to whip up a panic about “throwing America overboard”.

So one way we could become more Archipelagian is just trying not to yell at people who are trying to go off and doing their own thing quietly with a group of voluntarily consenting friends.

But I think a better candidate for how to build a more Archipelagian world is to encourage the fracture of society into subcultures.

Like, transsexuals may not be able to go to a transsexual island somewhere and build Transtopia where anyone who misgenders anyone else gets thrown into a volcano. But of the transsexuals I know, a lot of them have lots of transsexual friends, their cissexual friends are all up-to-date on trans issues and don’t do a lot of misgendering, and they have great social networks where they share information about what businesses and doctors are or aren’t trans-friendly. They can take advantage of trigger warnings to make sure they expose themselves to only the sources that fit the values of their community, the information that would get broadcast if it was a normal community that could impose media norms. As Internet interaction starts to replace real-life interaction (and I think for a lot of people the majority of their social life is already on the Internet, and for some the majority of their economic life is as well) it becomes increasingly easy to limit yourself to transsexual-friendly spaces that keep bad people away.

The rationalist community is another good example. If I wanted, I could move to the Bay Area tomorrow and never have more than a tiny amount of contact with non-rationalists again. I could have rationalist roommates, live in a rationalist group house, try to date only other rationalists, try to get a job with a rationalist nonprofit like CFAR or a rationalist company like Quixey, and never have to deal with the benighted and depressing non-rationalist world again. Even without moving to the Bay Area, it’s been pretty easy for me to keep a lot of my social life, both on- and off- line, rationalist-focused, and I don’t regret this at all.

I don’t know if the future will be virtual reality. I expect the post-singularity future will include something like VR, although that might be like describing teleportation as “basically a sort of pack animal”. But how much the immediate pre-singularity world will make use of virtual reality, I don’t know.

But I bet if it doesn’t, it will be because virtual reality has been circumvented by things like social networks, bitcoin, and Mechanical Turk, which make it possible to do most of your interaction through the Internet even though you’re not literally plugged into it.

And that seems to me like a pretty good start in creating an Archipelago. I already hang out with various Finns and Brits and Aussies a lot more closely than I do my next-door neighbors, and if we start using litecoin and someone else starts using dogecoin then I’ll be more economically connected to them too. The degree to which I encounter certain objectifying or unvirtuous or triggering media already depends more on the moderation policies of Less Wrong and Slate Star Codex and who I block from my Facebook feed, than it does any laws about censorship of US media.

At what point are national governments rendered mostly irrelevant compared to the norms and rules of the groups of which we are voluntary members?

I don’t know, but I kind of look forward to finding out. It seems like a great way to start searching for utopia, or at least getting some people away from their metaphorical abusive-husbands.

And the other thing is that I have pretty strong opinions on which communities are better than others. Some communities were founded by toxic people for ganging up with other toxic people to celebrate and magnify their toxicity, and these (surprise, surprise) tend to be toxic. Others were formed by very careful, easily-harmed people trying to exclude everyone who could harm them, and these tend to be pretty safe albeit sometimes overbearing. Other people hit some kind of sweet spot that makes friendly people want to come in and angry people want to stay out, or just do a really good job choosing friends.

But I think the end result is that the closer you come to true freedom of association, the closer you get to a world where everyone is a member of more or less the community they deserve. That would be a pretty unprecedented bit of progress.

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273 Responses to Archipelago and Atomic Communitarianism

  1. Multiheaded says:

    1) This is good.
    2) This is indeed decently leftist.
    3) There would inevitably still be oppression via brainwashing, Stockholm Syndrome and other reality manipulation within communities, but my (complicated, TDT-heavy) objections to Omelas hardly seem to enter here, because [stronger communities + enforced freedom of movement + a baseline alternative for everyone] would probably still be better against “subtle” oppression than [weak communities + no-one else wanting anything to do with you], like in the real world. We literally are walking away from shitty!Omelas here.
    4) You still need to do something about the orthogonal problem of oppressing people with contract law, y’know, society gaming people’s current selves against their future selves and so on. Which is another libertarian/reactionary idea that is tangentially connected and which they would undoubtedly try to implement in their patches.
    5) In practice, the world government would have to be exactly the kind of meddling Cathedral bureaucracy thing that the reactionaries hate, only slightly less so. That is for a good reason, of course, because many patches would be started with the implicit purpouse of exploiting people, especially for “unquanitifiable” labour.
    6) Yes, global resourse distribution, as you partly touched upon in your remark about segregation, is indeed the big huge deal that prevents this from working in a real federation/world. For Moldbug in particular, it never seems to have crossed his mind at all.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      Can you give examples of 4 and 5? I’m not sure I understand.

      I think resource distribution is a smaller deal in practice than one would expect. Hong Kong has few natural resources but good legal framework and does much better than, say, Venezuela with many natural resources but terrible legal framework. I’d be pretty happy with an Archipelago even if it restricted community-formation to areas with few resources. And I also imagine that perhaps communities would be forced to pay a tax (or receive a subsidy) to World Government based on the resources of the land they were granted as a sort of ‘handicap’ principle.

      Actually, hold on. Retcon. World Government operates on geolibertarian principles. There we go.

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      • Multiheaded says:

        4) Young straight woman in reactionary (quasi-)Catholic community watches all the WorldGov documentaries, threatens to leave, parents talk her out of it, she half-heartedly chooses traditional covenant arranged marriage – let’s say, with a different guy than they originally wanted to marry her off to. Ten years on, she realizes that he’s a subtly abusive scumbag with control issues, she should’ve jumped ship after all, but the law says it’d be $10000 and twenty lashes in public. So she sneaks out to the WorldGov embassy in the middle of the night, begs to be let in under some pretense, is airlifted to Dragumve, her community is outraged and demands the twenty lashes and damages of $1M. She starts a twitter hashtag against this shit. Reactionaries complain they’re oppressed. They are, in fact oppressed. What do?

        (I say: sure, oppress the fuck out of them. Hence 5.)

        P.S. The exploitation part? Her domestic, affective and emotional labour, here subject to an… oligopsony.
        •_•)
        ( •_•)>⌐■-■
        (⌐■_■)

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        • Oligopsony says:

          i’ve been waiting for this moment my entire life

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        • Intrism says:

          What’s so bad about exile as a punishment? If I were the world government, I would mandate that, at any stage of the criminal process, for any crime, any person accused or convicted may demand exile, probably involving a guilty plea. I mean, sure, there’s no actual suffering involved, but as far as that community is concerned the person involved may as well be dead.

          (Exile here meaning “You may not reenter or communicate with this community, and probably a handful of others that it has treaties with, in any way. Except, possibly, if your former community chooses to let you take your punishment in order to reenter, which they are not required to do.”)

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        • Multiheaded says:

          What’s so bad about exile as a punishment?

          Oligopsony raises an objection below, but here we’re talking about the reactionaries’ beloved contract law in particular. They don’t want punishment as such, they want to oppress people who would defect from their unequal, coercive contracts with heavy costs and disincentives – and people want to “oppress” the reactionaries with providing this kind of getaway from costs and disincentives. And the reactionaries want the (sometimes intangible) products of the resulting exploitation, like a live-in maid/sex slave.

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        • Intrism says:

          I’m not sure that this can be fixed without doing away with exit rights altogether.

          I mean, the existence of exit rights (plus intellectual exit rights) is necessarily going to piss people off. Probably a lot of people, actually. But it’s one of the core tenets of Archipelago, so those people can go shove it.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          But it’s one of the core tenets of Archipelago, so those people can go shove it.

          Absolutely, but then Scott should clearly delineate this huge disagreement between them and himself.

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        • lmm says:

          @Intristm Any crime including murder? Or something like “only federal law may impose punishments without giving the defendant the option of exile”?

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        • MugaSofer says:

          Ah, good – I was about to comment on this point.

          I agree this needs closer examination/explanation; it definitely seems like there’s a potential issue, where it’s impossible to enforce laws and contracts because people can just skip town whenever they like.

          BTW, excellent CSI sunglasses … thingy. (Punglasses?)

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        • peterdjones says:

          Historically, exit, in the form of exile has been considered sever punishment.

          It is worth taking into account the presence or absence of a right to entry .. without one, exile can amount to a death sentence.

          You also need to consider the vast majority of people who don’t hang around on LW/SSC, who tend .to have close ties they don’t want to sever.

          Oh, the dangers of using one word to mean multiple things..

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    • James says:

      If I understand Moldbug correctly, it resource distribution doesn’t really have an equitable solution, because the very idea of “equitable solution” would depend on the ideology of those who own the resources. Those who would control resources control them by their power and their power alone, everything else is not really relavent.

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  2. Doug S. says:

    Reminds me of Snow Crash

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    • Nornagest says:

      It reminds me more of The Diamond Age.

      Which I recently reread, and was struck by how closely it prefigured some of the neoreactionary ideas that I’ve been exposed to in the decade-or-so since I last read it. Like, nearly word-for-word in some areas. I’m not sure the influence is causal, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was.

      Not that, closely-if-protestingly connected to the rationalist community as I am, I’m in a position to complain too strenuously about spec-fic influence in politics…

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  3. James says:

    “two groups within the same community who may have different ideas but who consider themselves part of the same broader whole, fundamentally allies under a banner of which both are proud”

    Seems very pie-in-the-sky, to be honest. There was this whole part in the Bible where secular civilizations were metaphorically compared to crumbling statues and horrifying animals. And then the whole “world is eternally flawed”.

    And practically, haven’t you just recreated absolute monarchy? The central government has absolute sovereignty over its’ provinces, divine sovereignty, even.

    “Liberalism only works when it’s clear to everyone on all sides that there’s a certain neutral principle everyone has to stick to.”

    The word “neutral” should probably be replaced with “higher” principle, as in, it only works when it is clear to everyone that the most holy value is tolerance. This is not a common feature of many human belief systems, and was usually imposed through revolution or imperialism.

    Also of note, this isn’t really Moldbug’s “patchwork” society. From what I understand his world is one of many small nations who interact with each other on an individual basis, each state having complete sovereignty, with most organized into a corporate structure. You have the many different cultural ghettos under control of a World Sovereign which happens to be liberal, and forces its religious understanding of the world on all its subjects.

    A final question: what happens if your World Sovereign is wrong about something? Single points of failure, and all that?

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      First of all, I don’t see why you think this is monarchical. Why not a Senate with one representative from each community? Why not something exactly like the old Articles of Confederation in the US?

      I agree that World Government can become tyrannical, but this seems less likely than any other government becoming tyrannical, because a lot of opportunities to say “for your own good” have been removed. I also imagine it would have a pretty strong equivalent of the US Bill of Rights. I understand the US managed to circumvent its constitution pretty completely, and I can’t guarantee World Government wouldn’t as well, but it seems like it is strictly safer than a normal nation-state.

      If what you’re saying is that it might be safest to have a couple dozen World-Government level entities around as backup in case one of them turns tyrannical, I guess I agree.

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      • James says:

        “Omi Oitherion, the absolute ruler of Dragumve, says – Here, we’re doing things my way. But those of you with different ideas, go forth and settle the world, and I won’t stop you. In fact, I’ll protect you. Go found city-states based on your philosophies.”

        That’s what I was basing the monarchical designation on. I suppose the better option would be “imperial”, assuming Oitherion doesn’t live forever and the government undergoes some sort of revolution.

        The Moldbugian response to Senate proposal with one representative from each community would just say you’re dissolving the sovereignty down so that the government is less functional, especially if the number of distinct communities increases over time. The distinctness of the communities is also problematic, especially with the idea of non-geographical communities, and especially if the job a deciding which new communities get representatives. The main historical idea I’m thinking of here is states being added to the US just before our civil war. Could you have the fortitude to let people establish absolutely morally repugnant societies next to you, and then give them political power (which necessarily comes from diluting yours), and your tax dollars?

        As for the Articles of Confederation, the key reason why they failed as I understand it was a lack of federal power. Set up this way, you couldn’t properly enforce the power of your central city state.

        And for a central point of failure, I actually wasn’t worried so much about tyranny so much as I was worried about say, failing to respond to a plague properly? And I strongly doubt there is any major limit on the human desire to dominate others for their own good, lol.

        The idea of several competing World Government entities does sound interesting, but it could be everything from a Concert of Europe to a Cold War.

        Also also also, I suppose I should mention this thread is my first time commenting here, though I have read stuff here for some time. Hello!

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        • Scott Alexander says:

          Omi was a monarch because I was the game master and needed an in-character explanation for absolute power. I tried to let the in-game Senate make all the real decisions. I don’t anticipate absolute power in a real-world version.

          I have way too many commenters named James (plus one James James). Maybe add a last name or initial (but not G, James G is already taken, maybe he’s gone but in any case his jersey has definitely been retired).

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      • Hainish says:

        “Why not a Senate with one representative from each community?”

        Do you think this would require the central government to conduct a census (to prevent gaming of the system to maximize representation), or do you think technology would be advanced enough to be able to tell how many people are living where? (Or, neither of the above?)

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  4. Daniel Speyer says:

    [I]t might be well to ascertain the number of free colored people who will be likely to need the assistance of government to help them out of this country to Liberia, or elsewhere, beyond the limits of these United States—since this course might save any embarrassment which would result from an appropriation more than commensurate to the numbers who might be disposed to leave this, our own country, for one we know not of. We are of the opinion that the free colored people generally mean to live in America, and not in Africa. … We do not mean to go to Liberia. Our minds are made up to live here if we can, or die here if we must

    –Frederick Douglass Rejects an offer of Blacktopia in 1849

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  5. Anonymous says:

    So, what happens when some regions have a lot less taxes/regulations than other regions, and get more investment, and become a lot richer?

    In practice, what happens is that leftists fight for more centralization and less tax competition. Look at the EU, the US, and seasteading. The problem with seasteading is that American companies could just move there and not have to pay American taxes any more. In the EU, governments fight to have centralized regulation and taxation accross every country to prevent other countries from attracting investment by being more capitalist.

    This is why libertarians are almost universally pro-states rights and pro-secession–if you decentralized and had more competition between states, states would tend to become more libertarian (economically) to attract wealth and investment.

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    • Andy says:

      The problem with seasteading is that American companies could just move there and not have to pay American taxes any more.

      No, the problem with seasteading is that it’s technically very difficult and resource-intensive and no libertarian wants to shell out that much money on pure speculation.
      I’d love to see a seastead develop, if they can solve the technical issues and actually build and launch it. Mostly, admittedly, it’s because I loathe libertarianism and I think a seastead would collapse between the necessity for regulation to protect its own artificial environment and the libertarian philosophy, and I’d like to see it happen so I can point and go “Ha Ha.” And then charge for lifeboat services. Though a socialist sea-kibbutz would probably work much better.
      American companies can already move overseas to avoid taxation, and many do. They still sell their products and do a fair bit of development in the United States – Silicon Valley is hardly secessionist, and even the 6-State movement to break California up into pieces hardly got any traction at all, because even with regulation California is a pretty okay place to do business.

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      • Scott Alexander says:

        I’d love to see a seastead develop, if they can solve the technical issues and actually build and launch it. Mostly, admittedly, it’s because I loathe libertarianism and I think a seastead would collapse between the necessity for regulation to protect its own artificial environment and the libertarian philosophy, and I’d like to see it happen so I can point and go “Ha Ha.” And then charge for lifeboat services.

        Are you sure you’re not a libertarian? Because I think that was the most beautiful and perfect libertarian paragraph I have ever seen.

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        • Andy says:

          Are you sure you’re not a libertarian? Because I think that was the most beautiful and perfect libertarian paragraph I have ever seen.

          I’d only charge for lifeboat services because I feel that it would be poetic justice. The fee, of course, is calculated based upon responsibility for suffering produced by the libertarian seastead’s collapse. A janitor who tried to keep doing zir job would get lifeboated for free, but a capitalist who spewed crack-cocaine fumes everywhere and drove everyone insane would be charged all their assets.
          I am more an empiricist who wants to experiment on people, and doesn’t have a good laboratory outside of video games. If a libertarian seastead manages to function well and be a good neighbor rather than collapse in anarchy a la Bioshock I will tilt my head to one side, go “Oh, that’s a surprise,” and be happy for them.

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    • peterdjones says:

      What happens is that

      1 the workers in Sweatshopland get a share of the profits and use them to move somewhere less sweatshoppy…

      Or

      2. The workers don’t get a share in the profits, up until the point where they rise up against those who do…

      Or

      3. The workers in Sweatshopland can demand more and more for their labour, acquiring political clout in the process…(it’s not like anywhere would want to move there)

      All these process are well attested. There are entirely organic reasons for moves to left. It’s not imposed by a Dark God.

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  6. Andy says:

    It sounds like, if Frederick Douglass had the opportunity to go to some other community, or even found a black ex-slave community, no racists allowed, he probably would have taken it.

    The sad thing is, this pretty much happened. It was called Liberia, and its history wasn’t pretty. Freed slaves landed and pretty much started making the local tribes into slaves.
    But it sounds like you’re talking more as if the Liberians had been sent to Mars, with no Martians to oppress as the Liberians had been oppressed. Or with a Fnargl (your Omi) to rain great fire and devastation on those who sinned against other communities.
    And that leads me to your VR option. I feel like the biggest problem with the fragmentation of society online isn’t the fragmentation – it’s controlling the ways communities bleed into each other. 4chan would be a great sewer of the Internet, except it keeps leaking into the rest of the Internet, and raiding other communities. So maybe people would have to establish a primary citizenship – like your citizenship would maybe be with LessWrong, or Slate Star Codex, if SSC has enough readership to qualify for community status, and you can travel freely between those and Libertarian and Reactionary communities that allow rationalists in, but not into a super-Christian Quiverfull community that thinks rationalists are icky.
    Though logistically this is probably difficult.

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  7. Andy says:

    Also, your maps are frigging gorgeous. As a professional-cartographer-in-training, I am soooo jealous.
    What software do you use? I’ve had a great deal of trouble building worlds in ESRI ArcGIS because it’s very difficult to build random or semi-random topography – the software’s set up around taking data from the real world.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      Finally, someone willing to talk about the important things!

      I use NBOS Fractal Mapper. It can generate random-looking land masses, or you can trace polygons that it then converts (not too well) to random-looking land masses. After I’ve got that I import it into Photoshop and do the rest of the work. The Cartographers Guild has all the tutorials you will ever need and then some.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    WorldGov hardly seems minarchist when it has a total monopoly on military force and education, a universal surveillance system, and can dictate communications environmental immigration and tax policies to it’s vassal states. Sure it’s not quite as bad as the USG is today, but we’re hardly a gold standard in small government.

    It seems like the two bigest interventionist functions could be solved using technologically, one which currently exists and the other which (hopefully) isn’t too far off. Nuclear warheads on ICBMs are very nearly the ultimate deterrent to war, and while there is a degree of risk to relying on MAD it is certainly better than relying on the good will of a giant transnational mercenary force. At the same time, genetic engineering will eliminate the risk of people trapped in “oppressive” societies; we already know that quite a bit of our political intuitions and aesthetics have a genetic basis, so giving parents control of their children’s genomes means they’ll end up with very similar values and thus no reason to feel oppressed.

    But generally, I think that this is the kind of arrangement which can’t realistically be expected to occur on Earth. If we can get out into the solar system and build a privately owned Bishop Ring or three then that’s a different story, but as long as we’re on the same planet there’s no good way to stop progressives from trying to force themselves on the rest of us.

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    • Multiheaded says:

      WorldGov hardly seems minarchist when it has a total monopoly on military force and education, a universal surveillance system, and can dictate communications environmental immigration and tax policies to it’s vassal states. Sure it’s not quite as bad as the USG is today, but we’re hardly a gold standard in small government.

      See, Scott? Exactly what I was pointing to in point 5 above!

      At the same time, genetic engineering will eliminate the risk of people trapped in “oppressive” societies; we already know that quite a bit of our political intuitions and aesthetics have a genetic basis, so giving parents control of their children’s genomes means they’ll end up with very similar values and thus no reason to feel oppressed.

      I do rather suspect, as do many of my fellow leftists, that many of you fine gentlemen do want your subjects to have the capacity for negative experiences from your rule; isn’t it more fun to dominate humans rather than house elves?

      (Three do’s. Damnit. This is some kind of mimetic purple prose thing with me.)

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      • Anonymous says:

        I’d worry less about the repetition in your diction and more about the repetition in your tone. The generic insults don’t quite sting the same way the 7,000th time you use them.

        But just for the record; hierarchy, in the pre-modern sense anyway, isn’t about domination but about transcendence. Accepting a purpose which has fits you is healthier, for the individual and for civilization, than trying to force yourself into a role you aren’t suited for as modern people habitually do. I think the best articulation of that would be Krishna’s in the Bhagavad Gita; heavily paraphrased, “it’s better to do your own duty poorly than to do someone else’s duty perfectly.” Whatever varna/estate you’re called to, you can obtain a sense of dignity and meaning from following that path; that’s already much more than modernity offers anyone.

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        • Andy says:

          I think the best articulation of that would be Krishna’s in the Bhagavad Gita; heavily paraphrased, “it’s better to do your own duty poorly than to do someone else’s duty perfectly.”

          And who decides that such a person is called to one position or another? What if the genetic engineering or environmental factors screw up and someone is born with a ditch-digger-caste tattoo and the mind of an astrophysicist or a novelist? Who decides who gets to be a ditch-digger and who gets to be a king?
          Here, I endorse Multiheaded’s comment, not just for its conclusion, but its tone. I’m not sure how you did it, but somehow you went from libertarianism to an authoritarian caste system in the space of two paragraphs, and you managed to use the favorite justification of authoritarians everywhere: “It’s for your own good! We know what’s good for you better than you do!”

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        • Carinthium says:

          There can be conflicts, however. For example, one of my uni friends hates hard work and was constantly complaining about exams (his parents pressured him into uni), but he could comprehend legal studies on a Melbourne University level in about half the time other students could.

          This guy would never be happy being a lawyer, but given his skill at it others would call it his natural role.

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        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          What if the genetic engineering or environmental factors screw up and someone is born with a ditch-digger-caste tattoo and the mind of an astrophysicist or a novelist?

          At the very least, communities have an economic incentive not to waste a e.g. a potential civil engineer as a ditch-digger.

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      • Konkvistador says:

        ” isn’t it more fun to dominate humans rather than house elves?”

        1. House Elves are great, I don’t see problems with creating them, besides any that sit in the uncanny valley and are too similar to humans.
        2. I suspect yes that dominating humans is fun for humans. We construct elaborate rationalizations here. I said humans not right wing people because I very much suspect the left gets off on dominating traditional oriented humans, hurting and humiliating them. Indeed I suspect this is a important reason the leftward march *never* ends, new oppressors to torment must be continuously discovered as old opressors are extinguished. I have seen little in revealed preferences to indicate the contrary.

        My sadism is always better than yours eh?

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        • Steve says:

          > I very much suspect the left gets off on dominating traditional oriented humans, hurting and humiliating them. Indeed I suspect this is a important reason the leftward march *never* ends, new oppressors to torment must be continuously discovered as old opressors are extinguished.

          I agree with your conclusion, but I disagree with your evidence. Oppression still exists; leftist methods are more effective at driving endorsements-of-inequality and such things underground, than at extinguishing them.

          The fact that the human drive to dominate the Other can be harnessed for marginally leftist ends is more a coincidence enabling leftism to happen at all, rather than the sole motivating force behind it.

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    • Andy says:

      WorldGov hardly seems minarchist when it has a total monopoly on military force and education, a universal surveillance system, and can dictate communications environmental immigration and tax policies to it’s vassal states. Sure it’s not quite as bad as the USG is today, but we’re hardly a gold standard in small government.

      Yes, because sometimes you have to dictate policies in order to not have externalities or cultural conflict or many problems afflicting our contemporary archipelago.
      Also, I feel that Scott isn’t trying for this for the sake of small government, he’s trying to create the objectively best state for everyone, not just those who work well in industrial libertarianism. Because frankly, even if I liked hot sauce I would not want a hot sauce factory to open down the street with no regulations, spewing chili fumes everywhere. And the social contract (in this case, “Thou shalt not affect thy neighbor’s community” requires WorldGov to perform enforcement of environmental and communications laws, and at least the minimum education of “There are places outside your community, go to this place to find out more and to escape if you really really really don’t like it here.”

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yeah, the genetic engineering element pushes it into dystopia for me.

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      • Anonymous says:

        You’re a transhumanist right? Assuming modifying people to improve them is licit, where’s the cutoff between an acceptable personality change and an unacceptable one? Or if it’s illicit, then would the same apply to analog genetic engineering, where being a generally social right-thinking person nets you a higher reproductive fitness and promotes the same traits in the long term?

        Unless this is a consent thing, in which case how is this any worse than the current state of affairs where our genetic political leanings / values are still assigned without consent but have a semi-random element?

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        • Andy says:

          I’m pretty sure with

          At the same time, genetic engineering will eliminate the risk of people trapped in “oppressive” societies; we already know that quite a bit of our political intuitions and aesthetics have a genetic basis, so giving parents control of their children’s genomes means they’ll end up with very similar values and thus no reason to feel oppressed.

          You pretty much reinvented Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Is that your utopia?

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        • ozymandias says:

          The difference is that (a) humans are historically really bad at selectively breeding animals in a non-horrific fashion (see: pedigree dogs, dairy cows) and this would probably also be true of genetic engineering (b) diversity of values is important because it’s resilient– if the Vast Formless Things suddenly start rewarding people who care primarily about the loyalty foundation, then there will be people who care primarily about the loyalty foundation under a semirandom model but not if you are genetically engineering away loyalty (c) it is generally wise not to meddle in extremely complicated systems you don’t fully understand and where every action has a bunch of weird knockon effects. This is why market economies work better than command economies.

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        • People are quite good at selective breeding if the incentives aren’t too simple– consider a large number of working breeds.

          The challenge is to have civilization where the goal isn’t just to maximize money or fulfill a fantasy.

          Now I’m trying to imagine what eugenics would look like if people were trying to choose for descendants who could do well in complex niches.

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        • MugaSofer says:

          Andy, Brave New World is a utopia gone wrong. It’s deliberately *almost* good – because it’s based on other utopias of the time that were presented as, well, utopian.

          With that said, I’m not sure this actually is Brave New World – they had gene-engineered castes, sure, but they weren’t engineered to hold political values IIRC. They were just brainwashed and drugged – and even then, it didn’t completely work.

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      • Andy says:

        It reminds me of the Mesan Alignment in David Weber’s Honorverse – in his history, they started off as very Randian and individualist, and then turn into a full-on caste system while trying to “liberate” the rest of the galaxy.

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      • Konkvistador says:

        Genetic engineering makes this a dystopia for you? Interesting. Don’t look but the Amish and even Mormons that have been cited as a good example very much are evolving before our eyes a different package of personality traits.

        http://isteve.blogspot.com/2014/03/cochran-harpending-paper-on-amish.html

        http://jaymans.wordpress.com/2013/08/14/maps-of-the-american-nations/

        Evolution good, genetic engineering bad? Interesting reversal of trasnhumanist norms. Or does the hypercentralized government not just control education but breeding policy as well?

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      • zaogao says:

        Let’s assume we are in a different world where people with Down’s syndrome were never naturally conceived. If we figured out that adding a chromosome would create someone with this syndrome, should we do it to increase diversity?

        I am sure in our own world we will figure out many mutations that will create disabled but living humans. Should we do this? I appreciate and agree with arguments about the value of diversity, so why not create more varieties?

        Unless you believe we are at a maximum value for “diversity score”, we should have either more or less people with intellectual disabilities. I agree with Ozy’s (c) that this is complicated, but doing nothing is still a choice and is implicitly asserting the belief that we are at a maximum.

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        • Earnest_Peer says:

          Isn’t the evo-reason diversity is good that fewer disabilities happen? Like I’m pretty sure that’s one of the main reasons given.

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    • MugaSofer says:

      At the same time, genetic engineering will eliminate the risk of people trapped in “oppressive” societies; we already know that quite a bit of our political intuitions and aesthetics have a genetic basis, so giving parents control of their children’s genomes means they’ll end up with very similar values and thus no reason to feel oppressed.

      Um … if political opinions are so heavily genetic as to eliminate political dissent …

      … why do parents need to engineer it in the first place?

      Surely the parent’s opinions were determined the same way? If this was tenable, why would the children disagree with their parents in the first place?

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      • TGGP says:

        You are not a clone of either parent. Politics is heavily influenced by genetics, but it does not appear to be 100%. Also, if there are age effects on politics, it will still look highly “heritable”, even if you have to reach your parents’ age to match their politics.

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  9. Meredith L. Patterson says:

    I need to look at the actual numbers on this, but it sure seems like a lot of the engineers I know in the US are considering finding employment in Europe. That’s what I’ve done (originally I married a resident; long story). The mobility within a set of states with more-or-less national identities (e.g., more in the case of Switzerland, less in the case of Belgium, France is somewhere in the middle, Germany and Sweden closer to Switzerland, &c), which themselves have fairly strong regional identities, sometimes cooperating (Germany) sometimes not (Belgium), in ways that have some pretty interesting network effects, is an attractor.

    Certainly in the US there are regional identities, but I wonder if they cross over less because Europe is smaller. I lived in the urban and suburban South (Houston and environs), small-town Midwest (Iowa City), and the Bay Area before moving to Belgium, and I’m a linguist, so I paid a fair bit of attention to that sort of thing. In Belgium there are three official languages (effectively Dutch, French, and German) for ten provinces (and one capital region, a la the District of Columbia). Within the five Flemish (Dutch)-speaking provinces, there are four principal dialects, and some people get weirdly butthurt about pronunciation — I had a guy from Ghent insist that I use the English pronunciation of his name, and after discussing it with some friends from Leuven, where I picked up Flemish, we figured out it was probably because of my Leuvenaar accent.

    Keep in mind this is in a country the size of Maryland, with roughly the population of the greater New York City area. Don’t get me started on what little I’ve learned about Germany so far. (One of my partners is German. There is a lot to learn.)

    I decided to stay in Belgium after my husband died because I realised I’d put down roots here, part of that through the hackerspace I’d become part of. (Three cities’ hackerspaces dropped what they were doing the day they found out, and four days later had moved the contents of our Leuven flat to a new flat in Brussels. This is what solidarity looks like.) The culture here has a lot of alien parts, most of them having to do with language, but it also feels comfortable. Brussels is weird and derpy in ways that are fairly compatible with my own weirdness and derpiness, but as I like to tell people, we’re really good at beer, chocolate, waffles, and not having a government.

    Man, now I feel like I’m advertising for the tourist board or something. But basically, this has been my experience of what you’re talking about, bringing places to subcultures and subcultures to places, with a lot of virtual interaction gluing it all together.

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    • nydwracu says:

      Certainly in the US there are regional identities, but I wonder if they cross over less because Europe is smaller.

      America is larger, sure, but its regional identities are less formalized, generally without set names, and often considered a bad thing to signal. (Am I the only American here with a usually-suppressed regional accent? I like the idea of amplifying regional identities, but I can’t even control the accent thing.) Maybe that’s also relevant.

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      • Meredith L. Patterson says:

        Heck, you’re not even the only American in this conversation with a usually-suppressed regional accent; mine typically only comes out when I’m on the phone with my dad, who retained his Oklahoma accent. (My mother is a schoolteacher and has suppressed her native Texan accent all her life.)

        I think age has something to do with both the lower coherence of regional identity (which is how I read “less formalised” in your remark) and the perception of badness in signalling in the US. If you’re West Flemish, the people you identify with linguistically and culturally have been “those hicks that people from Amsterdam can’t even understand” since before the US was even a country. You’ve heard all the jokes before, and you have your own to come back with, because those jokes have been around in one form or another for a couple hundred years now. But at the same time, the formalisation almost seems to make the effects less serious. People may joke about a Limburger’s sing-songy accent, but it’s unlikely to affect their job prospects except in very specific domains (e.g., regional newscasting). But proximity definitely also plays a role. When regional cultures don’t encounter one another very often, as seems to be the case in the US, stereotypes are really all we have to fall back on. (The students in the sociolinguistics class I TAed in Iowa were easily able to pinpoint my home state, despite the phonetics of my accent when I lecture being very close to theirs, because I used the word “y’all”.) Unfortunately this means that negative stereotypes get the chance to take hold due to the lack of opportunities to obtain evidence that — har! — NAXALT.

        That said, signaling a non-European social identity can be a dangerous thing in some parts of Europe these days; as, I imagine, can signaling a European identity in some parts of some major European cities, including Brussels, although the neighbourhood I live in seems to be fairly diverse and appears to consist mostly of people raising families and otherwise quietly going about their business.

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  10. Me says:

    First of all, hear hear. Something like this does seem to be the ultimate ideal of many different systems of morality, and I, for one, wholeheartedly support it.

    There are still a few nits that need to be picked at, so in the interest of refining the idea further, I wish to bring to your attention the problem of jurisdiction.

    I am a citizen of Bureaucratopia, a city-state with a mind-bogglingly complicated system of laws and regulations. And they are strict about it, too. One day, I forget to fill out form ARQ999234 in triplicate, and in Bureaucratopia this is a crime punishable by the death penalty. As the police rase towards my house, I calmly stroll out the door, and walk to the local embassy of the World Government, and get my free ticket to the city-state of Anarchtopia, where they don’t really care what forms you fill out at all.

    If the police try to stop me, well, they are violating my exit rights and the World Government will crush them. Thus I get away with the perfect crime.

    But on the other hand, you couldn’t have it otherwise, and still keep the same system. In Inquestiontopia, heresy is a crime, with a rather broad definition of heresy. One moment you are walking down the street, not expecting the Inquisition (nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!), and the next you’ve been arrested, and are to be tortured into confessing that you’re a witch.

    I wouldn’t want the World Government to be fine with that, and agree to let the Inquisition hold me prisoner (denying me my exit rights.)

    It almost seems that this problem is irreconcilable. This is really worrying, as otherwise this system really does seem like a panacea to all political problems anywhere. (Almost. Despite everything, there will always be a temptation to expand the role of the World Government. After all, humans are far from perfect, and this is a well known failure mode of humans.)

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think that’s less of a problem than what Multi brings up with contract law above.

      It just means that number one, the worst punishment a community can offer for any crime is exile.

      And number two, the worst punishment a community can offer for any crime is exile to a community willing to take people who committed that crime.

      Like, if you’re convicted of sodomy in Conservativetopia, then they are still happy to let you into Gaytopia, and Gaytopia is probably a pretty nice place.

      If you’re convicted of murder in Conservativetopia, likely Gaytopia won’t have you. Most other places won’t have you either. Dragumve has to have you, but they will accept you and then give you a trial and then put you in prison, because they’re Boring Default Society, they don’t like murder any more than our society does, and they are totally allowed to try you for crimes you committed somewhere else.

      Criminaltopia may have you, but living in Criminaltopia is probably quite a bit of a punishment in itself. And if the Criminaltopians actually somehow manage to scrape together a functional pleasant society out of the criminals they accept, I for one would be happy to let them.

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      • Oligopsony says:

        Criminaltopia may have you, but living in Criminaltopia is probably quite a bit of a punishment in itself. And if the Criminaltopians actually somehow manage to scrape together a functional pleasant society out of the criminals they accept, I for one would be happy to let them.

        What if the Criminaltopians are Jerk Conservatopians – they don’t think murder in general is great, they just think murder of gays and infidels and such is okay? This is an extreme example but seems extensible to other lesser cases – nullifying other societies’ laws by providing an asylum for them.

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        • Watercressed says:

          One response might be to create an assassination branch in your own government that goes and enforces the death penalty in other states, and then returns unpunished.

          This does not seem like a very pleasant equilibrium.

          e: this very narrowly escapes the charge of preventing exit: if you commit $capital_crime, your choices are stay here and die or leave and be hunted down. Since death isn’t conditional on exit, it’s not a disincentive.

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        • Intrism says:

          Oh, wow, that’s a distinctly irritating exploit. Worse is that the natural response, in this system, is for societies to refuse entry to people from the offending community, which basically just gives them what they wanted by preventing their citizens from exercising their exit rights.

          One possible workaround for that would be to allow communities to force an accused criminal to face trial in Dragumve before permitting them to use their exit rights. So, if you’re attempting to use exit rights to perform a hit-and-run on someone in another society, you can get slapped down under Dragumve law, but if you’re fleeing Conservatopia for some offense that doesn’t violate the Strict Principle of Harm you’re fine.

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        • Andy says:

          One response might be to create an assassination branch in your own government that goes and enforces the death penalty in other states, and then returns unpunished.

          Thus the central government going “NO NO NO.” and slapping down the government with as much force and devastation as necessary, for the crime of causing harm in other topias beyond your own border.
          I think Scott’s got an interesting parallel here between this and the Parable of Fnargl.

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        • Intrism says:

          Oh, good point. No need for a systematic fix to this problem if you can just have Omi Oitherion figure it out and then pitch a fit.

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        • Watercressed says:

          Thus the central government going “NO NO NO.” and slapping down the government with as much force and devastation as necessary, for the crime of causing harm in other topias beyond your own border.

          A topia’s government training and sending assassins to other topias can be outlawed, but the real problem is still what Oligopsony mentioned: people can nullify laws by providing a haven.

          The operatives don’t have to be in the employ of the government; the government just has to tolerate them. In fact, they don’t have to be in the parent topia at all, they can just go over to criminaltopia, which does not punish people for crimes elsewhere. Once they do that, the parent government can say “we have no ability to police them”, and they’ll be right.

          In order to stop this, the central government must force the smaller governments to punish people for some crimes. This isn’t limited to murder either: I can attempt to steal resources from a topia and bring them back to my home, and this isn’t stopped without the central government stepping in and punishing people for theft.

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        • Crimson Wool says:

          Yeah. Imagine that I’m a young, unmarried Evangelicaltopian. My whole life the state-provided education system, my peers, everybody, has said that human life begins at conception, and that abortion is morally equivalent to murder. Sure, the central government education program says otherwise, but like I’m going to believe their nonsense.

          So, like a lot of young, unmarried men, I’m more willing to take risks and whatnot, so I head over to Libfemtopia, where guns are illegal and abortions aren’t. I go up to an abortion doctor and brutally stab her to death. Libfemtopia exiles me, but I don’t give a shit because I only “emigrated” to stop a serial killer. I come back to Evangelicaltopia, and they all but hold parades in my honor. I become rich, famous, and sexy. I might even win elections.

          Certainly, Evangelicaltopia has some role in my creation, and my deeds, but are they legally culpable? What did they do, specifically, that they have to stop?

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        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          If there is no way to hold Evangelicaltopia accountable, then Libfemtopia will have to start profiling potential immigrants and denying young, single males from hostile communities entrance. In fact, that sounds like a general filter every community would implement after a while.

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        • The thing is, some young single men from hostile topias would actually be good recruits– consider a homosexual young man from GetSexRight who’d like to move to ConsentIsEnough.

          Perhaps extended quarantine is a good enough solution.

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      • Deiseach says:

        Criminaltopia may have you, but living in Criminaltopia is probably quite a bit of a punishment in itself. And if the Criminaltopians actually somehow manage to scrape together a functional pleasant society out of the criminals they accept, I for one would be happy to let them.

        Australia. Set up fairly much as a penal colony and dumping ground for the undesirables (criminal and otherwise) of the British Isles. Deeply unpleasant place to be transported to; deliberately made so by the government to be A Horrid Lesson and discourage people from being criminals, or rebels, or just poor and sick and fell on hard times.

        On the other hand, chock-full of natural resources that same government wanted to exploit, so colonists very much wanted. How to reconcile the problem of “who wants to go to that hell-hole” with “come here and become rich, rich, rich”?

        Well, somehow they managed it, to the point where the government of my own green little island is actively shoving its citizens onto airplanes encouraging the young and those who can’t get jobs over here to go to Australia.

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      • Anonymous says:

        > It just means that number one, the worst punishment a community can offer for any crime is exile.

        This really narrows down the range of potential punishments that a government can perform. Each punishment gets the sentence “Or, alternatively, leave.” tacked onto the end. Which, admittedly, is kind of the point of this system.

        But it means that if you murder someone, it becomes “Spend the rest of your life in prison. Or, alternatively, leave.” which is in fact probably a good punishment for murder.

        But if you put up a sign advertising for cigarettes, your punishment might be “Spend 5 years in prison. Or, alternatively, leave.” which honestly is much the same.

        Yes, if I get a parking ticket, the punishment might be “Pay a $100 fine. Or, alternatively, leave.” which is qualitatively different, as in this case the first punishment is something that people would oftentimes accept.

        But for anything more, all punishments more or less blur together. Perhaps you accept this as a necessary evil inherent in the system, and perhaps you are right, but it is an issue that needs to be considered in evaluating the system, nevertheless.

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        • kappa says:

          Why is it an evil at all?

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        • Anonymous says:

          Evil? Not at all!

          The point is that this massively restricts what local governments can and can’t do, which partially negates the whole idea behind the concept of this form of meta-government. (i.e “You can go ans set up whatever society you want, but it has to set up it’s criminal system in this particular way.” I mean, fine, but the point of the whole thought experiment was allowing people to set up whatever societies they want.)

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        • Creutzer says:

          Well, you get worse punishment for crimes that are crimes everywhere. Like, presumably, murder. Also, the people who would be inclined to commit the more culture-specific crimes are kind of intended (by the whole setup, not by their parent society) to leave anyway. So this outcome doesn’t seem all that bad.

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      • peterdjones says:

        Australia was criminaltopia…?

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        • Andy says:

          Given that case, of a Criminaltopia developing to the pint where it did not want to be criminaltopia anymore, the WorldGov might have to create a new Criminaltopia each time a Criminaltopia decided it didn’t get any more criminals and got organized enough to tell the WorldGov so.

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        • peterdjones says:

          Worldgov is going to have to have create all sorts of places. If Patchwork really is utopia, they won’t be able to rely on the usual processes of war and destruction to clear space, other…

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  11. Anonymous says:

    How do you solve the class of problems where applying Think Of the Children involves intervening before they reach the age of maturity because of physically irreversible things? Combating deep brainwashing is just *one* case of such problems.

    For example, what if there is an archipelago that wants to inbreed, or genetically engineer sociopaths, or live primitively without iodine supplements, or perform trepanation, or perform clitoral/penile circumcision, and the Big Central Power happens to find it morally objectionable?

    And how far does this extend? The adult versions of the children can’t go back and reverse losses due to insufficient education during critical periods anymore than they can reverse trepanation. There are still meta-lines to be drawn.

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  12. Daniel Speyer says:

    I’ll admit, I went deliberately looking for ways this could fail, but…

    There are only a handful of islands that do industrial scale genetic engineering. Amishtopia flat-out forbids it. So does Aquinastopia (the teleos of green fluorescent protein is jellyfish mating, not tagging successful transfections). Conservetopia can’t hold on to enough scientists. MomAndPopStoreTopia disincentives economies of scale too much…

    But this is ok, because type I diabetics on these islands can buy humulin from the handful of islands that do make it. Even Amishtopia permits that.

    Biotechnologists understand the mutual advantage in sharing knowledge, and start publishing journals across islands and hosting conferences. Along with technology they start discussing ethics. Eventually they start to reach consensus, partly because regardless of culture, you need a certain mindset to work effectively on biotech and partly because these people respect eachother and conformity comes into play.

    The biotech league publishes a list of SNPs that it is abusive to give children. Sickle cell anemea tops the list. All parents, they declare, have an obligation to check if they’re heterozygous carriers and use artificial insemination or equivalent if they both are. Fairly quickly, the islands of the league make this law and provide resources so it can be followed everywhere.

    But many people on other islands don’t agree. They continue to conceive Sickle-cell children.

    Eventually, with much debate, the biotech league/cartel announces a new policy. The price of humulin is increased 1000x to islands that don’t make this law, with appropriate contract-based precautions against reselling. Type I diabetics who can’t afford that are welcome to emigrate.

    A few entrepreneurs in Libertariantopia try to create a company specifically to serve this market, but they can’t hire the needed people because they’re already working for Drugs Inc at higher salaries (economies of scale combined with no regulation — of course there’s one big company, and its CEO cares about children and follows the cartel) and they have a very hard time getting any supplies or information from the biotech community at large. Ultimately, the project folds.

    Can the believers in natural conception hold out against this sort of pressure? Does the world government step in?

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think it’s unlikely that this would come to pass that the entrepreneurs in Libertopia would be able to gather a couple of scientists together. I also think it’s unlikely that a civilization this fractured would end up with One Big Drug Company, especially since there are likely to be a lot of communities with philosophies against corporate megaconsolidation.

      And I also think that World Government could justifiably force the cartel to give insulin to children not old enough to decide for themselves whether to live in a society.

      And I also think that a lot of communities would be sufficiently enraged by that as to take retaliatory actions against the branches of the biotech conglomerate in their own community.

      And also, I’m not sure what’s preventing that from happening here. If the drug company with the patent on insulin decided not to sell to anyone who opposed gay marriage, would there be laws telling them they couldn’t? I’m not sure. I do know it never seems to have come up.

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      • Daniel Speyer says:

        I based this on the general habit of industrial countries cutting out 3rd world countries that try to protect unions or do similar things. Granted, that case is more complicated, and includes an implicit threat of military force, but this simplification seem to work.

        Libertopia would have only one drug company, because there’d be no reason for two to not merge. CapitalismWithReasonableOversighttopia would have several, but it would have a government willing to sign the Eliminate Genetic Child Abuse Worldwide treaty. If there’s a LibertarianismExceptForAntitrusttopia, that would make this a lot more difficult, but what are the odds of that getting critical mass?

        As the population approaches infinity, this case goes away. But the population doesn’t approach infinity.

        As for foreign children, sure, they can receive cheap humulin. The pressure’s still on with the adults.

        As for retaliation, what form will it take? Violence is out. Retaliatory trade barriers only matter if they have something that isn’t easily gotten elsewhere. And if they do have something, we’ve kind of re-invented war.

        What keeps Eli Lilly & co from doing this now? They’re publicly traded and American, so they’d probably be in violation of fiduciary duty laws, and the US government wouldn’t be shy about passing a special law to shut them down. But it does happen on the international scale.

        Edit: Actually, smaller versions of this may be happening privately. Larry Correia claims scifi authors with politics outside of the mainstream, in any direction, needed to keep quiet about it or never publish again until Baen came along. I haven’t investigated this, but he should know.

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    • Deiseach says:

      Given that the effects of diabetes are quite serious, even if given insulin to keep the immediate effects under control (e.g. diabetic retinopathy, nerve damage, risk of amputation and so on), why wouldn’t your cartel impose the same restrictions on parents who carry the genes for Type I diabetes as they do for sickle-cell anaemia?

      You could argue that they make more money out of selling humulin so they don’t consider it economically an incentive to discourage parents from having diabetic children, but then that completely undercuts your “Think of the Children” CEO of the One Big Drug Company.

      If he’s perfectly happy for children to be born with Type I diabetes, who may later become blind or need amputation of a lower limb due to the associated circulatory problems, why then would he be so tearful about sickle-cell anaemia children – unless it wasn’t profitable enough for his company to sell the drugs/vaccines for treating the condition as against the humulin to diabetics. Or indeed, given that sickle cell anaemia allegedly provides some benefit against malaria, that it’s more worth his while to sell anti-malaria drugs.

      In short, if you’re enforcing a “Think of the Children” policy, you have to make the supply of humulin to Type 1 diabetics contingent on them not having any children who suffer from Type 1 diabetes – and there are debates, such as those in the Deaf community, about whether exactly that kind of social engineering is a form of selective ethnic cleansing – instead of including the disabled in society, including whatever accommodations are needed to permit them to live fully flourishing lives, we prefer to get rid of them.

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  13. Deiseach says:

    “What happens in the bedroom between consenting adults is none of your business”

    The problem with this is that, once the adults stop consenting for whatever reason, often they run to the law courts and make it everyone else’s business. “He/She cheated on me with that tramp and I want to take him/her for every cent he/she has got!”

    Yes, adultery laws are no longer enforced. Yes, no-fault divorce is permitted. But that still doesn’t stop the problem of human vindictiveness or human emotional pain. My own inclination in these cases is that (a) if it’s genuinely nobody’s business what you do with the person you love, that includes what you and the person you love do when you break up. It’s not the job of the courts to assuage your hurt feelings or ‘make it be fair’ OR (b) if you’re asking the courts to enforce a contract and punish the person who broke the terms, just as if this was a business deal that went sour, then you are going to have to put up with a certain amount of social interference in “what two/whatever number of consenting adults” do either in the bedroom or out of it.

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  14. anon says:

    Schelling’s Micromotives and Macrobehaviors, an amazing book I need to finish sometime, describes many problems that emerge from voluntary group associations. It works only with basic sorts of preferences, essentially. More complicated preferences, like ones where you want to be surrounded by two types of people in a certain proportion, can lead to people intentionally choosing outcomes that make everyone worse off. Maybe the government could regulate this somehow. But knowing people’s preferences that well would be tricky.

    I agree with those who think you underestimate the power of brainwashing.

    I also think that you fiat away one of the most difficult parts of this system. You assert that everyone under the system will accept the system and not want to influence anyone else and be okay with paying taxes, all because they’re patriotic. But I think that this circumstance is unlikely.

    How does the world government function? Who ensures its impartiality and objectivity, and how robust are these safeguards? I feel like this is an inverse-Homunculus fallacy, almost. You explain away the problems of government by imagining a bigger government, just as people explain away the problem of consciousness by imagining a smaller consciousness.

    There are additional problems with externalities. First, it would be very difficult for the world government to measure and offset them. Second, what one person perceives as a negative externality might be perceived by others as a positive externality.

    You say that people are required to learn about other countries. Do only children take these classes, not adults? That seems to allow too much ignorance. How much do they learn? There’s a tension between avoiding memetic contamination and learning about others that I don’t think can be resolved.

    I am intentionally trying to ruin your idea. But I like the idea very much. Although the idea has problems, I agree that moving towards archipelago is usually better than moving away from it.

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    • anon says:

      Overall, although I agree with you that tackling object level problems is difficult, I think it is our best hope for a good political system. It will be slower than taking shortcuts by mutual agreement, and maybe some such shortcuts here and there will be necessary to provide space for solving object level problems, but our focus should be on figuring out the object level questions, difficult as this process is.

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  15. suntzuanime says:

    The reason this seems like a liberal society to you is because the liberals are the ones who get access to all the kids for purposes of brainwashing.

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    • Multiheaded says:

      Well, d’oh. What’s wrong with that? What good are strong old-timey virtues that can’t withstand a little liberal brainwashing? Even a degenerate like me certainly tries to have a few!

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    • Andy says:

      Not brainwashing, simply “There are other communities in the world, and if you don’t like it here, you can leave by going to the WorldGov compound, contacting the WorldGov at [email address], and if you don’t have secure email, yell “WorldGov, I choose you!’ at the sky, and we’ll come get you. But if you leave, you might not be able to come back.” Commercetopia is probably used to people leaving on business trips, and coming back, for example.
      And it’s necessary to the system. People have to be aware of an exit in order to exercise exit rights. Reactionary communities may actually be in favor of this because it gets potential troublemakers out of their hair.

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      • Multiheaded says:

        No, let’s use the opponent’s terms. Don’t try to gaslight him by pretending he’s crazy to call it “brainwashing”; you don’t have enough social power for it. Instead, argue in defense of some brainwashing that you like, preferrably in a TDT-consistent manner.

        Brainwashing! Cathedral! Degeneracy! Crocodiles! Yes to all!

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        • anon says:

          Edit: I have Asperger’s, gonna blame that for not perceiving the irony. Thanks for the clarification.

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        • suntzuanime says:

          Multiheaded was being ironic – to the extent their post was rude, it was me to whom it was rude.

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        • Multiheaded says:

          I wanted to throw a bone to the rightist-sympathizers here. And yes, it’s micro-gaslighting. While we’re all postmodern up in here, certainly we should let the non-progressives avail themselves of the most tumblr things, as long as those are useful to their project?

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        • Andy says:

          But I am not in favor of a one-size-fits-all pattern of brainwashing, I want Quiverfull-topia to be able to do its things, as long as its effects don’t spill over onto other communiites. If Quiverfull-topia is depositing 50,000 refugees a year onto Atheistopia, Lesbiantopia, and Gaytopia, the central government can notice and help these communities accommodate the hordes of refugees.
          My goal is to have no community necessarily imposing oppression on another. From the internal perspective of someone in Quiverfull-topia, yes, the curriculum taught in Multitopia may well be considered harmful brainwashing. Because one person’s utopia is another person’s dystopia, we give them the least possible interference in the name of being sure that people know they can leave.
          And if Multitopia starts censoring information about other societies or blocking people from exiting to Jimtopia for whatever reason, I would support slapping it down too. Because there is no one true way, and no one is above the law.
          Edit: I was unaware this was irony. But I am letting my point stand, just to be reeeeally clear.

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    • ozymandias says:

      I think that the most sensible way to run the classes would be to say “okay, each country gets a week to explain their deal.” So Quiverfulltopia gets a week in Lesbotopia to try to convert everybody to Jesus, and Lesbotopia gets a week in Quiverfulltopia to tell people that patriarchy is Bad.

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      • suntzuanime says:

        So are you going to allow them to lie outright, or are you going to let the liberal government police their content?

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        • Intrism says:

          Sure, why not? Bring everyone to a nice safe classroom in Dragumve, let everybody know that people can and will lie to them (and that they are free to decide that we’re the liars), then let representatives from everywhere say their piece. You need to stop generalizing from what your tribe would or would not ban.

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        • suntzuanime says:

          That wasn’t a rhetorical question, and I’m tribeless and despairing. Please don’t make unwarranted assumptions.

          The concern if you let them lie outright is that you are no longer competing in terms of your societies, you’re competing in terms of your advertising. I feel like you would end up with cult recruitment tactics on a grand scale.

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        • Zathille says:

          Perhaps a debate would be more proper a way to expose people to differing ideologies?

          That way, should false information be used it can be called into question by the other side. I’d think, rather than having the meta-gov be the arbiter of what is disseminated or not.

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        • Intrism says:

          My apologies; some of the things you’ve been saying recently have appeared to me to resemble tribal signaling of the most irritating sort, and have made me testy. I am sorry for judging you wrong, and retract the inappropriate assumption.

          In a truly open marketplace of ideas, especially one front loaded with a month or two of general curricula, I can’t imagine that a brief period (day?) with a dishonest, scammy guest lecturer would make too much difference. Perhaps, to further mitigate this, rebuttals and debates can be built into the curriculum.

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        • nydwracu says:

          No, all it would need to do is make the information available, both of the existence of exit rights and of the existing communities that one can exit into. If you want to exit, you’ll research it yourself, no?

          And if every community advertises to every member of every other community, the perceived risk of memetic pollution will likely be countered by the development of memetic antibodies — which would, for obvious reasons, be a problem.

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      • Oligopsony says:

        Rumspringa is sort of like this, except the pilgrims in the land of sin are encouraged to explore it to excess in a way that natives rarely do, so understandably most burn out on it and have their worst prejudices confirmed.

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      • Andy says:

        In contrast, I think in more controlled topias such as Quiverfull-topia, or TERF-topia, the central government would be more polite and effective by saying simply “If you are not happy here, come to our compound and we will talk to you and help you leave and go to places where you can be happy.”
        Let’s go from general to specifics. Say there is a female-bodied person living in TERF (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist)-topia, where only female-bodied and female-identified individuals live, who feels different and out of place. He is trans, but all he’s been taught is that male-identified individuals are Bad and Dangerous. So he, remembering that he can leave TERF-topia at any time, goes to the WorldGov compound and talks to a counselor, someone intimately familiar with TERF-topia’s culture and the issues that might send someone out into exile. The counselor asks this person about what’s wrong, diagnoses him as male, and gives him, one-on-one, an unbiased and gentle overview of maleness in different cultures and gives him an overview of cultures that he can exit to, who have agreements set up with WorldGov to take male-identified refugees from TERF-topia. (Would Ozy-topia take him in? 🙂 ) Or he can return to the life he knows in TERF-topia, but he has to stay in the closet and can’t talk about those male-refugee exits to anyone else in TERF-topia, just refer people to the WorldGov counselors. This way, while the existence of the exit right is made very explicit, the specific options are only presented to people who are already troubled and questioning their society, on a one-on-one basis. This way, happy TERF-topians don’t even have to know that LibFem-topia or Trans-topia are even in existence, but troubled individuals can find a way out if they are so inclined.

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        • Dan says:

          All this trans- talk makes me almost think people believe that trans- is an already achieved thing.

          I mean I am a scientist and I don’t want us to get ahead of ourselves too soon. It will be exciting when trans- becomes a real thing, but surely people realize we aren’t there yet, right?

          No offense to anyone is intended, but as far as I am aware the number of people who have actually transitioned in reality is so far still zero. People realize that the primary sex organs are the testes and the ovaries, right? People know that so far scientists haven’t yet even created a sperm from a non-sperm cell of a male yet right?

          If Trans-topia has honest admission standards (and I am a dreary scientist with my expectations and whatnot) then it would have no residents at present, with just the possibility in the future if a number of breakthroughs occur.

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        • peterdjones says:

          Why would trans have to be a real thing? Patchwork is going to have multiple conservative religious nations, one for every religion, and every possible religion, which is open ended…

          …..but no religion’s a real physical thing.

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  16. Intrism says:

    I’m not sure that mandating that the separate communities teach to a Dragumve curriculum would ever work. I mean, we’ve tried that in the real world, and it sure hasn’t worked here.

    I think my way of solving the problem would simply be to mandate that every person, regardless of their community of origin, must spend some number of years (probably a specific year, like their sixteenth) in school in Dragumve. Either withholding children or indoctrinating them so severely that they cannot effectively participate in school will result in World Government slapping their communities of origin.

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  17. This sounds like a fascinating fictional world, though I don’t think I quite understand how much of an issue resource scarcity is supposed to be in it. If the world government is supposed to be headed by a “kind of omnipotent” viceroy for a transhuman goddess, why does it need to collect taxes? You’re vague about just how much the technology / magic of individual communities can accomplish, but if this is supposed to allow for communities that have mile-long starships, does this also mean communities can get Omi to allow them technology / magic that alleviates all their resource problems? If a religious fundamentalist community believes it’s their sacred duty to have as many children as possible, when do they run into resource constraints?

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    • Multiheaded says:

      I don’t think I quite understand how much of an issue resource scarcity is supposed to be in it.

      Assume awesome, centralized and *cheap* means of destruction, but rather more humble means of production?

      Report comment

    • James James says:

      I can move to Siberia and found a community in accordance with my values, and live in poverty with a few like-minded people…

      or I can capture an existing community and subvert it to my values, thus getting to live in a nice place that already has buildings and capital for me to appropriate, which is much richer because it already has loads of people (network effects).

      What a dilemma!

      Even if the community was unsubvertable, I might still choose it over exit. A rich community that doesn’t share my values vs a poor community that does.

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  18. Phil R. says:

    How is it ensured that WorldGov continues to do the liberal thing and only the liberal thing? What’s to stop the sincerely convinced ideological leaders of x-topia for any given x (who, remember, are object-level thinkers and so can’t see a difference between liberalism and x because they define both as Good For You) from taking over via regulatory capture and using the ex hypothesi insuperable might of the WorldGov military to enforce their ideology on everybody for their own good? For that matter, where does the military come from, and how is it kept from taking over in the interests of its own x?

    Also, why is the community the minimum unit of -topia? If I fence off an area of the wilderness and build a cabin, will WorldGov be on my side against squatters who come in while I’m spending half my time in various communities getting my minimum-human-contact needs met? Can I be considered a community of one while I’m there?

    If I can, then I’m in, by the way. I question because I care.

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  19. Oligopsony says:

    A lot of the nice conservative communitarian things seem to depend on knowing that everyone involved is going to stick around for you forever, which exit rights undermine. Small towns and villages aren’t what they used to be. Even most liberal people like that there are costs to severing family ties.

    I’m also not sure that there’s any way to solve adverse selection without re-introducing politics.

    (In general, it seems to me that exit rights are good for techno-commercialists and bad for other kinds of reaction. At some point or another NRx is going to realize this and realign, I suspect.)

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    • Multiheaded says:

      Even most liberal people like that there are costs to severing family ties.

      Agreed, but again, if we’re talking about walking away from Omelas here… sorry, that’s an abstract philosophical obsession, in practice this is a proposal to just funge really hard against individual oppression, although it might style itself as compatible with reactionary ideas.

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    • Isn’t “you don’t know anybody, have no (or few) goods and may not have the necessary skills for the local tech/magic level” not sufficient disincentive? Also, there is no guarantee you’d be allowed to return – I’d imagine emigrating is less like a 21st-century holiday and more like moving to a nearly-unsettled Australia.

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  20. peterdjones says:

    There’s a lot of Exit going on , or being attempted,globally. IOW, refugees and immigrants. Most of it is driven by the desire to find better economic circumstances, or escape violence in which they’re caught in the middle. Which is to say, most of it isn’t driven by the desire to find a more congenial culture. What’s more, even the most liberal states are leery about taking in immigrants and refugees, for economic reasons.

    Patchwork seems naive about the ability of small states to accomodate incomers , about the motivations for exit, and about the requirements for world govenment.

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    • Anonymous says:

      A right to Exit doesn’t imply a right to Entry. Even the strictest versions of Xenia still don’t force you to house and take care of guests for the rest of their lives, and that’s exactly what ‘accommodat[ing] incomers’ means in this case.

      There’s nothing contradictory about the idea that you are free to leave but no-one wants to take you in.

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      • peterdjones says:

        I know it’s not contradictory. I just don’t see why anybody who has the combined right to both exit and entry, and reentry, as I currently have, would support a system that removes two of those rights.

        Whoever wants Patchwork , for whatever reason, will have to force it on the rest of us. Do we have meta Exit?

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        • Anonymous says:

          It takes a very specific ideological perspective to think that not letting people immigrate to your country indiscriminately ‘forces’ anything on people in other countries.

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        • Andy says:

          Peter, Anon, I think you’re talking past each other. Let’s see if I can untangle this a bit.
          Peter, the main problem with “exit rights” I think you’re trying to get at is the lack of any place where there is a guaranteed entry. The historical example of this was the American West, which was a frontier where refugees from all over Europe and America could remake their lives… after the Native Americans were wiped out, so not quite a perfect Entry.
          Anonymous, the entire idea of exit rights is predicated on them having somewhere to go, otherwise you’re pretty much asking them to take an exit from life, which I think many would resist violently, possibly enough to overthrow a reactionary/minarchist government with all the usual bad consequences, so exit rights and having a sure entry should be seen as a safety valve for reactionary/minarchist states.

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        • peterdjones says:

          @Anon

          Look at it the other way round. I can currently enter 27 countries unconditionally. Patchwork doesn’t mean I can enter a single one more, and may mean that someone else gets the right to expel me.

          @Andy

          The only the thing that prevents complete exit rights, here and now, is lack of entry rights.

          The left wing version of Patchwork involves special havens ( Liberia, Israel) for everyone.

          The right wing version disguises expulsion as exit, (and genocide as expulsion).

          The one is nightmarishly impractical…the other just nightmarish,

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        • Ken Arromdee says:

          I’m pretty sure the left wing version considers Israel to be a colonialist imposition by the West on the oppressed Palestinians controlled by a Jewish elite, not a haven.

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        • Andy says:

          The only the thing that prevents complete exit rights, here and now, is lack of entry rights.

          Exactly the point I was making, and to have entry rights, you need either a designated “We Take Everyone” region or a lawless frontier where anyone can buy land cheap and make a new life for themselves. Seasteads or Space, if we can solve the physiological issues of living in a hostile hell-environment, may help this issue.

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        • peterdjones says:

          I know that Israel per se doesn’t pattern-match to Left …the point is that the neural idea, “multizionism”, is left wing world government writ very large, ie it’s

          Rights based
          Expensive
          Redistributionist
          Intrusive

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        • peterdjones says:

          Forced exile into a lawless territory isn’t hugely better than a death sentence.

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  21. Multiheaded says:

    Fine. I think white separatists have exactly the right position about where the sort of white people who want to be white separatists should be relative to everyone else – separate. I am not sure what you think you are gaining by demanding that white separatists live in communities with a lot of black people in them, but I bet the black people in those communities aren’t thanking you. Why would they want a white separatist as a neighbor? Why should they have to have one?

    A special round of applause for this.

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    • Oligopsony says:

      The problem with this is that if you let white separatists white separate, you let any white do so, and given the existence of prejudiced whites and the way housing markets work they will generally do so, even if they lack any prejudice themselves, for Keynesian beauty contest reasons (“property values.”) This is probably extensible but I don’t know how to formalize the conditions off the top of my head.

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      • Multiheaded says:

        Oh, yeah, that’s serious.

        And of course I should’ve mentioned that I’m adamantly against this in the real world (meaning the 10’s West with the There-Is-No-Alternative), where, naturally, we need implicit taxes on dominant groups like these (although maybe not in such an ugly and graceless way); but Scott’s proposal seems to entertain the idea of explicit redistribution, so…

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      • peterdjones says:

        Is that supposedly be USA specific or global?

        The USA specific problems seem to revolve around the fact that white separatists, having separated, start preparing for war…

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      • Said Achmiz says:

        But wait; why is this bad, exactly…? (Or are you not saying it’s bad? In which case, this question is for Multiheaded.)

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      • The more general problem is that if the separatists are a large majority and/or have a lot of power, the people the separatists are trying to avoid get shut out of a lot of the world.

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      • Is that actually true? In Archipelago!America, does everyone really want to live close to a bunch of racists? Keep in mind that, although there are plenty of counterexamples, the average racist is probably not the most well-educated or, well, nice person in his/her community.

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        • lmm says:

          People don’t want to live with rednecks any more than they want to live with black people, no. But one imagines there would be a -topia for the suburban gated community demographic, and a white flight to such.

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  22. peterdjones says:

    ….and then there’s WorldGov, the real world version of which is the not very potent UN. Which notably doesn’t do anything about large powers like the Russia, the US and China.

    Even if you are allowed a wave of the magic wand to break them up into smaller blocks, worldgov would still need huge resources to defeat coalitions. Which would mean lots of tax income from states that don’t necessarily believe in tax.

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  23. drethelin says:

    Centralized Exit is idealistic utopia, decentralized Exit is more likely to actually happen (though still unfortunately unlikely). A situation where tech enables independence to any who can achieve a certain amount of wealth seems more plausible than an actual benevolent metagovernment.

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  24. soapjackal says:

    and the French called it panarchy. Interesting idea would love to see it in practice.

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  25. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    From your comments above, are we to understand that a person cannot give up their right to exit? That no matter what commitments they make or what laws they break, at any point they can exit to a territory which will take them (under whatever terms) and have full WorldGov protection to do so?

    resdistributive taxation from wealthier communities going into less wealthy ones

    Where did this come from? Taxes for running the archipelago system and maintaining the army seem natural enough, but this is hardly ideologically neutral.

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    • peterdjones says:

      Persons have a right to exit already. Pesons don’t have an automatic right to entry, already. Patchwork, in it’s reactionary form, doesn’t add the right to entry, it makes Exit involuntary.

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  26. Hainish says:

    “things that Weaken The Moral Fabric Of Society. Like putting up tobacco ads. Or having really really big sodas. Or publishing hate speech against minorities. Or eroding trust in the community. Or media that objectifies women.”

    Two of these have less to do with the Moral Fabric of Society, and more to do with actual people experiencing harm. If I were the target of hate speech, society’s Moral Fabric would be the least of my concerns, much farther down on the list than, say, not getting killed/beaten/harassed/fired/a t-shaped wooden structure burned on my lawn.

    [Now I’m going to read the whole thing.]

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    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Two of these have less to do with the Moral Fabric of Society, and more to do with actual people experiencing harm

      “Society’s moral fabric” can be seen as shorthand for “the actual behavior of a bunch of individual people who make up said society.”

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    • ozymandias says:

      I am pretty sure being killed, beaten, and fired is not hate speech, and if you are arguing that hate speech makes people more likely to kill, beat, and fire members of minorities then that is, I think, a moral fabric argument in the sense that Scott is making it.

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    • suntzuanime says:

      The whole point of the Moral Fabric of Society is to keep actual people from experiencing harm. Do you think people just want it because it looks pretty?

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      • Hainish says:

        The usual justifications I’ve come across have less to do with preventing harm, and more to do with tradition, preserving a social structure (regardless of how it affects individuals), purity, etc.

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        • suntzuanime says:

          Do you think people just want tradition, social structure, purity, etc. because it looks pretty? People want purity because if there is enough cow shit in your milk drinking it will make you sick.

          Strictly speaking some of what they want is not “harm prevention” but rather positive goods – not just non-sickness, but actual health. I feel like most conceptions of utilitarianism care about the positive end of the scale as well as the negative end, though. (Maybe not the Idiot Moron Rawls.)

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        • Oligopsony says:

          Do you think people just want tradition, social structure, purity, etc. because it looks pretty?

          With the Catholic right in particular this actually does seem to be a major explicit goal. The illiberal right in general seems to be more concerned with aesthetics than the rest of us, which is probably why they’re (admitted exceptions admitted) better at it.

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        • Hainish says:

          “Do you think people just want tradition, social structure, purity, etc. because it looks pretty? People want purity because if there is enough cow shit in your milk drinking it will make you sick.”

          By purity, I’m not referring to hygienic/public health measures (but I think you knew that).

          I think people have several overlapping motivations for wanting tradition, purity, etc., but few are those have to do with ensuring an individual’s ability to go about life without experiencing harm or the threat of harm. Conflating them with the people who want to ban hate speech isn’t going to lead to any better understanding of them. To plagiarize from the entire rationalist community: It’s a little bit like lumping things together because they share one particular characteristic, while ignoring the more important features that distinguish them.

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        • ozymandias says:

          …I think all five things that Scott listed are obviously examples of Things Alleged To Cause People Harm, though.

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        • peterdjones says:

          @SunTzu

          If conservatives restricted their concerns about purity to what causes demonstrable harm , they would be no different to lliberals.

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        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          If conservatives restricted their concerns about purity to what causes demonstrable harm , they would be no different to lliberals.

          Different definitions of “demonstrable” and “harm” could account for almost all of the difference.

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        • Hainish says:

          I’ve noticed that conservatives are more concerned with harm that could possibly happen, to unspecified persons, in some not-entirely-specified way (cf same-sex marriage – in which case, it’s not even people who are harmed, it’s the institution). Liberals tend to me more concerned with harm that is happening to them *right now.*

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        • suntzuanime says:

          Right, like the immediate harm of complying with carbon regulations, as opposed to the speculative harm of climate change.

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        • houseboatonstyx says:

          I’ve noticed that conservatives are more concerned with harm that could possibly happen [….]

          Yes. In many cases, the conservative argument against X is not that X (medical marijuana, Dungeons and Dragons, etc) itself is causing harm right now, but that it is a Slippery Slope to something else (hard drugs, real satanism, etc).

          In contrast, the SJWs say that words A, B, C etc are right now harming certain people by hurting their feelings.

          Oddly, in this respect, the conservatives are more open to reality-based or evidence-based argument. If the real world result of X has not in fact been Y, many opponents of X will drop that issue (sometimes admitting they were wrong) and turn to a new issue that has not yet established a track record. Or they will admit defeat on that issue (as Orson Scott Card did).

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        • Creutzer says:

          I’ve noticed that conservatives are more concerned with harm that could possibly happen, to unspecified persons, in some not-entirely-specified way

          That, I believe, is because concern with harm isn’t really what’s behind this. They are just using the language of harm to try to sell their point because it’s universally accepted that harm is bad, but it’s not universally accepted that you should legislate your aesthetic preferences. So they have to come up with strenuous arguments for why not conforming with their aesthetic preferences is actually harmful.

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        • lmm says:

          Political arguments are often made on the basis of an intuition that something is wrong rather than a utility calculation, sure (though I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad heuristic). But the harm-based argument is fairly straightforward: stable families have children who have better life outcomes. All those out-of-wedlock births are measurably harmful in the same way as if their mothers had smoked while pregnant.

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      • Multiheaded says:

        The illiberal right in general seems to be more concerned with aesthetics than the rest of us, which is probably why they’re (admitted exceptions admitted) better at it.

        They are unable to comprehend our aesthetics, though.

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  27. Ken Arromdee says:

    Another hole in this idea: This says that if you move into a community where your children are educated by taxes, and then you leave and go to a low taxes community, one possibility is that the world government still forces these people to pay high taxes. You can’t reap the benefits for free.

    What happens if there are disagreements on whether the taxes create benefits at all?

    One simple case is where taxes provide education for your kids, but the education is terrible, and not worth the price paid. You finally get fed up after your kids go through school and they haven’t learned anything useful that you haven’t taught them yourself. You then move and the fact that you got “free” education that is useless is used as an excuse to tax you for the rest of your life. Considering how the education system actually works in many places in real life, that’s quite a plausible scenario.

    Alternatively, suppose the free education is not uniformly bad, but it has some good parts and some bad parts that overall make it not worth it. The free education taught your kid how to do algebra, but also taught your kid that gays are evil. Overall, you didn’t benefit from that education at all; it caused both a benefit and a harm.

    Alternately, suppose the taxes didn’t go just to education. But the local government taxes you and uses the taxes to create a massive, state-run, censorship campaign (or some other objectionable, tax-funded, system) that they claim is for the benefit of the children. When the parents finally get fed up and move out, they are told that they must pay high taxes for exactly the same reason they are told they must pay high taxes in the education version: they reaped the benefits when their children grew up so they are required to pay to provide the benefits to other children.

    What if it’s not children? What if the government taxes only people over 30 and uses the taxes for normal purposes that protect all society? Is that a loophole which allows the government to prevent people from leaving an area to avoid taxation? (“You reaped the benefit of police and fire protection when you’re under 30, so now you need to pay the taxes even if you move out”).

    What if it’s not taxes? Many policies, not just education taxes, only benefit or purport to benefit people of certain ages or certain situations. Can the government tell a female CEO “you benefited from a sexual harassment policy when you worked your way up to CEO, so now you are required to provide those benefits to other people and cannot move to escape that”? (If you do *not* do this for non-tax-related benefits, there are exploits similar to the education tax exploit, so you can’t just resolve this by saying it only applies to taxes.)

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    • roystgnr says:

      I’m reminded of the “Company Town” scam, but more so of:

      “The West was bedeviling the East with a vigorous campaign of recruiting East German professionals and skilled workers, who had been educated at the expense of the Communist government. This eventually led to a serious labor and production crisis in the East.” – from a *pro-Berlin-Wall* essay by William Blum.

      There’s no obvious upper limit to how far “we spent money on you and you don’t get to leave without paying it back” can go.

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  28. Emily says:

    “I think white separatists have exactly the right position about where the sort of white people who want to be white separatists should be relative to everyone else – separate. I am not sure what you think you are gaining by demanding that white separatists live in communities with a lot of black people in them, but I bet the black people in those communities aren’t thanking you. Why would they want a white separatist as a neighbor? Why should they have to have one?”

    If by “white separatists” you mean the relatively small group of people who actually call themselves that, sure. But the group of people who have shown via their housing/education choices that they prefer living in and sending their kids to school in communities with higher proportions of white people (whether this is explicitly because of race or because of stuff that correlates with race) is much, much larger than the group of self-identified white separatists. We already let many of them separate to a pretty significant degree: de facto residential segregation and educational segregation are high. I would argue that letting them separate to the degree that we currently are is better than trying to force them to integrate, because that involved some pretty terrible policies and didn’t work extremely well, but I wouldn’t argue that it’s been good for black Americans that, for instance, we’ve basically given up on school integration.

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  29. Ken Arromdee says:

    Another problem is that requiring the children be educated with certain knowledge ruins much of the benefit of having separate communities. Yet you have to mandate some kind of curriculum to avoid the problems described. This becomes a “who watches the watchmen” situation where the people mandating the cirriculum can no more be trusted than the people doing so in our own world. Although you only really need to mandate the curriculum to the extent that the children understand that there are other places to move to and receive a “non-brainwashed view of the world”, that gets fuzzy. You don’t want children brainwashed into thinking they are evil, but what if they are taught that moving is evil? What if they are taught something (“you have an obligation to your community and abandoning it is evil”) with the same effect? If the society teaches that everyone must go to church, is that the same thing as teaching a child who doesn’t want to go to church that he is evil?

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  30. Harvey says:

    Ahhh Archipelago. Good times.

    I never even got close to realizing it, but the endgame goal of the Favored’s Matrix-like state was for their AURA supercomputer of the Matrix world to take physical form, complete with all the powers of reality she had in the simulation, essentially making the real world exactly like the simulated reality. She was actually entirely benevolent, in cold, computer sense the sense that she would enforce dignity and longevity and freedom… as long as none of that stuff started going down the road of trying to usurp her from being a goddess.

    Needless to say, Marimoto (which I’ve always found a completely unlikable, repulsive character, I’m sorry to say) doing more or less the same thing but doing it with both in-game and out-of-game power to back it was… disruptive to my ideas. I know this was obvious, but I violently opposed Omi Oitherion and all of your attempts to control the world through fiat. Archipelago became the latest battleground of the conflict between your and my differences. You always believed that there was a right way to do things and a wrong way and you wanted enough power to force people to do everything your way, which you felt was the right way. I always felt that, look, every time we do that it ends badly, and the only way to find the “right way” is through experimentation and building a system that naturally supports itself rather than is designed from the ground up to be perfect.

    Needless to say, we both lost. Neither of our models were sustainable. Archipelago just didn’t work very well.

    I did really enjoy the experiment though, because I think the Favored/AURA storylines I created was one of my best. It seems like a weird cross between the Matrix, anime, Minecraft, and, I dunno, SMAC? at first, but I felt it had some serious potential to build a humming society that was fleshed out and familiar enough to be able to be understood but foreign enough to be alien and creepy.

    I’d suggest we try it again, but I know it would work even LESS well now. So, I’ll just say good times. Glad you wrote this entry.

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  31. Alexander Stanislaw says:

    This is an awesome proposal and I wish that it could come to pass. This bit in particular gave me chills:

    But I think the end result is that the closer you come to true freedom of association, the closer you get to a world where everyone is a member of more or less the community they deserve. That would be a pretty unprecedented bit of progress.

    Of course this requires mobility, which poverty tends to impede. Especially since poor people depend heavily on friends and family. If we could solve poverty and provide freedom of movement then society would be not so different than Archipelago.

    True freedom of movement though, needs to provide a way for people to realistically break away from the influence of their friends and family. Its very hard to walk away. This is nicely solved by non-family arrangements.

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  32. Whateverfor says:

    How different is this in practice than a (relatively) liberal national government with strong non-governmental social societies? When the strongest sanction available to the ‘Islands’ is exile, how strong can the sub-governments be? If you look at the Amish right now, how much different would their lives be under this system than the current one?

    I think we’re closer to this system than you think. It doesn’t look like it because the sub-government societies are generally weak and pathetic. That’s just the honest revealed preference that most people don’t give a shit about these issues.

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  33. peppermint says:

    At first I thought “malicious inter-community transfer” would be like if one country decided to transfer population to another country to affect their civil wars or extract resources. But then I noticed you had come up with a word for illegal immigration and a justification for condemning it that you consider liberal.

    Speaking of which.

    http://imgur.com/F73wM2D.jpg

    http://imgur.com/9q5DAPT.jpg

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    • ozymandias says:

      I am pretty sure most illegal immigration isn’t people trying to avoid taxes, it’s people trying to move to a place they find more congenial, which under Scott’s system would be called “legal immigration.”

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      • anon says:

        I mean, they move into an area that has paid in taxes for things like better medical care and education and police/military protection. They’re not evading the taxes of their former country, but they’ve evaded the taxes of their new country. That’s vaguely similar, though not identical.

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        • Andy says:

          They can’t do anything about past investment, unless the local topia wants to impose an entry fee or an initial debt that you have to pay if you want to stay, though that can’t be too exploitative, or the topia will lose people to topias with better immigration policies.
          But with American history, there was an expectation that the Immigrant Group of the Year, whether it was the Irish or the Germans or the Jews or the Chinese or the Mexicans, would contribute to the future tax base. And from Irish and German immigrants who served in the Civil War (mostly on the Northern side), to the heavily decorated Japanese units of WW2, to Hispanic immigrants serving in the US military today, there’s been no shortage of US immigrants willing to put their lives on the line for an adopted country.
          Though Archipelago would probably have a shortage of opportunities to signal service through war heroism, a topia could require new immigrants to work in public service for a year, with room and board but low compensation. Such requirements would have to be clearly outlined before choosing to emigrate there, and laid out in plain language by a WorldGov employee who has no incentive to increase or decrease immigration to or from particular topias. Done properly, a year or so of service indenture before gaining the full privileges of topia-citizenship could give new immigrants a stable, controlled time to integrate into their new society, especially when Archipelago may have such wildly divergent societal models.

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        • ozymandias says:

          …Immigrants pay taxes though.

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        • Ken Arromdee says:

          …Immigrants pay taxes though.

          Immigration is more attractive to people who would pay little in taxes compared to how much they consume in tax-funded services. So the immigrants will be a sample that is biased towards consuming more than they pay.

          Which makes it not really much different from the Archipelago case at all.

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        • ozymandias says:

          According to Wikipedia, the average undocumented immigrant household has a net deficit of $14,387 per household and amnesty would mostly increase the deficit. However, I’m not sure if that’s because undocumented immigrants are more likely to be low-skilled workers, since highly skilled workers can immigrate more easily, and I’m also not sure if that proves that undocumented immigrants are immigrating for services instead of because they want jobs and the jobs in their home countries are shit.

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        • Ken Arromdee says:

          I’m also not sure if that proves that undocumented immigrants are immigrating for services instead of because they want jobs and the jobs in their home countries are shit.

          I’m not sure this matters. The flaw in the system manifests when a lot of immigrants come in and use services that they don’t pay for. Whether this is caused by a policy of intentional malicious inter-community transfer, or whether they come because they want jobs and this merely drains the economy the same as malicious inter-community transfer, is ultimately irrelevant.

          Also, you need to consider the possibility that it is intentional on some levels but not others–that is, the immigrants don’t intentionally come here to use more services than they pay in tax, but the people who sent them here did intend that they do that. (Note that “sending them here” can include indirect methods thats encourage immigration, without explicitly telling any particular person that he should go.)

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    • Andy says:

      transfer population to another country to affect their civil wars or extract resources.

      The latter definitely exists, as when the Saudi government ships prisoners to the civil war in Syria, as long as their relatives stay in Saudi Arabia as hostages honored guests. Extraction of resources could be trickier, but I suppose a topia like Ape-topia (where environmental-minded anarcho-primitivists hang out and commune with nature) could make an agreement with WorldGov that none of their resources may be extracted or remitted beyond their borders.

      I thought a much better liberal justification of immigration control was in Scott’s Reactionary Philosophy in a Planet-Sized Nutshell post, where he posted a Berkeley invaded by super-Oklahomans who make the culture more conservative.

      I don’t see the context of your two images, but the second one, of the woman in Islamic dress holding a sign saying “THIS IS TERRORISM NOT ISLAM” reminds me of the “This isn’t Christianity!” signs waved by my campus’s progressive Christians when the super-fundy street preachers come around and shout that we’re all going to Hell.
      The sign on the left of that image is perhaps tied to a local context. I’m guessing that picture is from Nigeria, perhaps from a Bring Back Our Girls or an anti-Boko Haram protest? If there is a belief that the Boko Haram insurgents or ideology have come from beyond Nigeria’s borders, a belief that the borders should be sealed against militants is a perfectly logical reaction, and not necessarily connected to any threat of illegal immigration. This doesn’t just include national borders – the protest sign could be referring to the borders of a sub-national region, given Nigeria’s history of ethnic conflicts and Boko Haram’s dominance in the northern part of the country.
      But what precisely are you trying to prove with those pictures?

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      • peppermint says:

        How about when Mexico sends its unemployed peasants to the United States – this isn’t their official policy, of course, it’s just what happens. The Mexican president isn’t exactly ignorant of what’s happening; with about a tenth of their population living in the United States, he made his millions on long-distance phone calls, and remittances are a larger part of the Mexican economy than tourism. But it’s not an official policy of malicious inter-community transfer for the purpose of resource extraction and to get rid of undesirable citizens.

        It was, however, official policy for the racist Southern redneck good old boy sheriffs to give Blacks a bus ticket to Chicago and instructions for signing up for welfare when they got there. How’s that for a malicious inter-community transfer? It wasn’t official Chicago policy to view it as malicious, but it was racist Southern redneck policy.

        Besides the Saudis sending their terrorists to other countries with the dual purpose of harming those countries and getting the terrorists out of sight and out of mind, there was also the Irish bishops sending people to Kansas so they could vote for Kansas to be a free state. What the Saudis do is probably worse, because terrorism is worse than voting, but, they won’t explicitly say that’s what they’re doing.

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        • Andy says:

          Or mental hospitals in other states sending mentally ill people to Los Angeles via Greyhound, but not giving them directions from the Greyhound to care facilities or arranging a bed for the patient. And because our Greyhound station is in Skid Row, those patients end up in the local homeless/addict population. LA has actually sued several mental hospitals for the practice.
          And do you have a citation for bishops sending Irish to vote for Kansas to be a free state? From the Civil War history I’ve been reading, very few Catholics were in sympathy with either the abolition movement or its Free Soil cousins, as Irish Catholic workers at the bottom of the white hierarchy often found themselves in conflict with free blacks over wages. I’m not surprised, but if true it’s an interesting case where incentives produced interesting coalitions.
          Presumably in Archipelago, the central government would have mechanisms short of massive slapping if topias engage in this sort of shenanigan.

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        • peppermint says:

          This one guy on DailyKos claims that his uncle’s grandfather was sent by the Archbishop of Dublin – http://www.dailykos.com/comments/988233/42173426#c19

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  34. Said Achmiz says:

    This is a wonderful idea, so please interpret this comment as the quibbling that it is:

    The one thing Archipelago misses is the idea of place: that some physical locations are inherently more valuable (at least, to some groups) than others.

    To take an almost trivial example: if all the Jews want to form their own state, it’s one thing if they can form it in the region around Jerusalem, and another thing if that place is already taken and they have to go elsewhere.

    To take another example: if the gays and the Jews and the blacks and the Christians all live in Glorious And Wonderful New York City, The Most Awesome Place In The World (we’ll just abbreviate it NYC), perhaps each of them want to be separate from the others, but each of them also wants to keep NYC (given its aforementioned glory and awesomeness). It doesn’t… quite seem fair to say “well, I guess NYC goes to whichever group is willing to stick it out while all the other groups skedaddle”.

    (Astute readers may be reminded of one of the philosophical differences between the Idirans and the Culture in Consider Phlebas)

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  35. Matthew says:

    While this might be better than the actually existing world, I don’t think it qualifies as utopia (at least in the sense of a perfect place; it might be in the original meaning of a nowhere-place that can’t exist).

    1. Presumably, there’s some minimum number of people necessary to have a viable community, and a maximum also a maximum number of communities given finite land. You’re pretty much inevitably going to have people who don’t fit neatly into any existing community, and who don’t have enough people with the same set of idiosyncracies that they could form a new community.

    2. My circle of friends right now is diverse enough that they would clearly not all fall into one community under this system. Probably not into just two or three, either. But it sounds like, other than the rule to educate children of the existence of the other communities, these communities can basically cut off all ties to outside. I for one, would not be happy having to choose only one community and be cut off from the people in the others.

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    • Andy says:

      My circle of friends right now is diverse enough that they would clearly not all fall into one community under this system. Probably not into just two or three, either. But it sounds like, other than the rule to educate children of the existence of the other communities, these communities can basically cut off all ties to outside. I for one, would not be happy having to choose only one community and be cut off from the people in the others.

      Presumably, if your friends moved to topias that had relatively open communication/censorship policies, you could communicate with each other. And I could well imagine that “would I be able to communicate with/travel to see friends and family” would be one criterion for choosing a topia.

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  36. Matthew says:

    The second reason is quite similar to the conservative reason. A lot of liberals have some pretty strong demands about the sorts of things they want society to do. I was recently talking to Ozy about a group who believe that society billing thin people is fatphobic, and that everyone needs to admit obese people can be just as attractive and date more of them, and that anyone who preferentially dates thinner people is Problematic. They also want people to stop talking about nutrition and exercise publicly. I sympathize with these people, especially having recently read a study showing that obese people are much happier when surrounded by other obese, rather than skinny people.

    On a different note, I’d like to request a future post on the underlying logic (or lack thereof) of which sexual preferences society deems acceptable and which unacceptable. At this point, it would be considered worse than crass outside the conservatopia to tell people that homosexuality is wrong. Sapiosexuality is similarly above criticism. But if I tell you that I have a preference for thin women and am genuinely incapable of being attracted to the obese, suddenly I’m society’s greatest monster. Yes, weight isn’t entirely a matter of self-control. Intelligence is even less a matter of individual effort, but sapiosexuality isn’t going to be criticized for it….

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    • Oligopsony says:

      On a different note, I’d like to request a future post on the underlying logic (or lack thereof) of which sexual preferences society deems acceptable and which unacceptable. At this point, it would be considered worse than crass outside the conservatopia to tell people that homosexuality is wrong. Sapiosexuality is similarly above criticism. But if I tell you that I have a preference for thin women and am genuinely incapable of being attracted to the obese, suddenly I’m society’s greatest monster.

      What is the context in which this comes up?

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    • suntzuanime says:

      I think mostly “society” will let you have any sexual preference that isn’t towards something on its “banned list”. The list tends to shrink over time, in our society, not grow. The reason for this may have something to do with Cthulhu, I’ve heard various theories.

      I don’t think a preference for thin women is actually considered wrong by society. Yes, there are fat women who think you’re evil if you won’t sleep with fat women, and there are trans women who think you’re evil if you won’t sleep with trans women, and there are supreme gentlemen who think you’re evil if you won’t sleep with supreme gentlemen, but these are fringe and obviously self-serving and hypocritical beliefs.

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    • ozymandias says:

      I think, in general, the discomfort is less with having the preference– lots of people date solely thin women and never get yelled at about it– but with explicitly stating the preference. Many people feel sad when other people say they are not attracted to them, particularly if they include insulting language while saying that, but sometimes even if they frame it in a nice way. This is particularly bad if there is also an entire culture constantly telling you that you’re hideous for being obese. Fat girls are sensitive about that shit, and I don’t think it necessarily makes sense to blame them. Blame the people who keep telling them they’re ugly.

      In addition, it is a fairly common experience for people to have their consciousness raised about fatphobia and afterward come to find fat people attractive when they didn’t before or discover that they were repressing a desire for fat people because it was low-status or whatever. This doesn’t always happen, but it’s fairly easy to Typical Mind Fallacy that sort of thing and assume that if everyone else just learned about body positivity they would find fat people attractive.

      Also, some parts of the Internet contain fat girls complaining about not getting dates. Those girls are likely to be like “UGH, guys who won’t date fat women are the WORST.” They probably do not actually mean you are the worst, they are just venting, and I would advise men who prefer not to date fat women to stay away from those bits of the Internet.

      Finally, I highly doubt the average man who prefers to date thin women gets even a tenth of the shit chubby chasers get.

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      • Matthew says:

        I was using “but if I tell you” figuratively. Normally, I don’t actually go around announcing this. And criticism is way more widespread than just websites catering to heavy women. There’s a common presumption that if a man prefers thin women, that’s only because it’s an artificial preference induced by Hollywood/magazine publishers, and therefore illegitimate.

        (I’ve never seen anyone take crap for preferentially dating heavier women, but then I don’t know anyone personally with that preference. I seriously doubt they’re told they only do so because society duped them into it, however.)

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  37. Rodger says:

    Something I’d been meaning to ask and fits with this topic. Since (I believe, somewhere?) you’ve referenced it before, you do consider the original CelestAI thing to be a sardonic horror story, right?

    It always confused me that people didn’t; I don’t think one needs to even have familiarity with the community it’s mocking to get that.

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    • lmm says:

      Are you genuinely confused, or are you being rhetorical? It sounds pretty good to me. Do you find the premise that people don’t put a very high value on “freedom” / not being uploaded /etc. to be implausible? Do you think that CelestAI isn’t really satisfying people’s values? Or some other problem?

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      • Said Achmiz says:

        Wait, are you saying you don’t consider the Optimalverse to be horror?

        Some points (and TOTALLY SPOILERS, PEOPLE): a) I don’t want to be turned into a pony; b) I don’t want all the aliens to be destroyed; c) I don’t necessarily want to be uploaded at all; d) I don’t want the Earth to be all messed up; e) I certainly don’t want to be modified to enjoy being a pony; f) I don’t want to be ruled over by a sentient superintelligence; g) I don’t want my, and humanity’s, possibilities and paths to be guided and limited and circumscribed in this way…

        … and just more generally, I don’t want the world described in the series to come to pass. I think it would be horrible. In the fic, that world does happen, and forcibly, without our consent. As in Three Worlds Collide, I have judged that this would be terrible. What else is there?

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        • ozymandias says:

          I’m pretty sure aliens aren’t destroyed, they’re also uploaded and turned into ponies?

          And, gosh, I think that a world where everyone is ponies is obviously superior to a world with death, suffering, disease, starvation, poverty etc. etc. So it fails a really essential dystopia criterion.

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        • Peng says:

          CelestAI has a personhood predicate. Some alien species pass it and get uploaded; others fail it and get destroyed. Canon FIO never specifies whether CelestAI is using the right personhood predicate, or whether it misclassifies some aliens.

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        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          I’m pretty sure aliens aren’t destroyed, they’re also uploaded and turned into ponies?

          Depends on the aliens. Most fail to meet CelestA.I.’s hard-coded definition of what “human” means and are promptly disassembled for atoms, no matter how intelligent they might be. Those that DO meet her definition get their values satisfied through friendship and ponies.

          I too don’t see what’s so bad about the Optimalverse. The aliens are a regrettable loss, but an acceptable one. Same with being turned into a pony. Some of the social control mechanisms were a little creepy (bits, leaderboards, achievements, etc…) but you can write that off as being David’s personal shard, since he was a gamer. Certainly in the expanded Optimalverse you can find a lot more variety in shards.

          I really can’t find it in myself to give a damn about being ruled by a sentient superintelligence (is CelestA.I. even sentient?), or to have humanity’s limitless possibilities and destinies being guided into a small region of future-space by her. That’s, like, 0th world problems.

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        • Said Achmiz says:

          The aliens are definitely destroyed (unless they’re very human-like, in which case uploaded).

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        • drethelin says:

          CelestAI is suboptimal but probably still way better than the alternative military AI foom scenario!

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        • lmm says:

          I definitely don’t consider it horror. Reasonable people can disagree over whether the ideas are good or misguided, but I don’t think it’s hard to understand why some people would view it as a positive.

          a) Being a pony… yeah, it’s an annoyance, but not a massive one. I’ve seen people post supposed-utopias where I wouldn’t be allowed to be a masochist any more; that would bother me, but just a change in body shape? (FiM ponies seem to think like humans) Meh, I’d get over it.

          b) Aliens: I feel it’s impossible to discuss them honestly for the same reason that no-one ever says “I defect in the prisoner’s dilemma”; whatever you’d actually do when the chips are down, saying “I’d support aliens’ right to live peacefully with us” is the correct move.

          d) Meh. There are plenty of planets out there. There are things I like about Earth, but the environment I’ve lived in and loved has always been entirely artificial anyway; there’s no qualitative difference between one kind of human-created environment and another.

          e) I modify myself all the time; I’ll listen to particular music to adjust my mood, I’ll use conditioning tricks to get myself to enjoy things I think it would be good to enjoy. A more efficient way of doing that? Awesome!

          c, f, g) Sure, room for disagreement. But horror? I find it hard to see that.

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        • Ken Arromdee says:

          And, gosh, I think that a world where everyone is ponies is obviously superior to a world with death, suffering, disease, starvation, poverty etc. etc. So it fails a really essential dystopia criterion.

          Any assessment of how good a world is has to take into account how you got the world into that state. There are states which don’t have disutility once they are formed but cannot be reached without a lot of disutility. Otherwise, not only will you conclude that a world where everyone has been turned into ponies against their will is a utopia because they don’t suffer once they are ponies, you’d also have to conclude that a world where everyone is killed off except 100 ponies is a utopia, for similar reasons. After all, the 100 ponies have no death, disease, poverty….

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      • Rodger says:

        You can color me surprised this got so many responses when better lines of discussion on comment threads here don’t, and I really just was curious about Scott’s answer as it were.

        As for the story, it’s constantly, sarcastically mocking. It’s been over a year since I read it but there are tons of examples. The story makes fun of everyone who acts irrationally about nootropics, unjustified “magical Moore’s Law” thinking about technology, and as others have brought up constant dystopian events and actions by the superintelligence. Plus, you know, just reading the story for language and tone, there’s a little surrealism throughout but the entire time it’s at best dark comedy.

        For someone who had never ever heard of concepts like a technological singularity or any related community, and simply was reading stories and happened upon this one to read a couple chapters, sure, they could have whatever opinion. I don’t think there is anything more informed people needed to get this except if the story had titles or subtitles like, “Certain singularity movement people act like phygists or phyg leaders.” So yeah, that’s what I was confused about, I really don’t see how people miss it.

        Are these the same people who would watch Stephen Colbert on the Colbert Report and think he was being serious?

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    • Charlie says:

      It’s no utopia, but it’s better than a sharp stick in the eye. I assumed the ending was meant neither to be horrible or utopian.

      Which community would you say it’s mocking? The people who get fleshed-out motivations and sympathetic backstory are the enthusiasts – the people reduced to cardboard cutouts are the jock characters. I’d say the story mocks jocks far more than it mocks adults who like children’s cartoons.

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  38. a person says:

    I agree that this utopia sounds like a nice place, but your proposed method of getting halfway there, namely to have everyone idenftify strongly with some internet subculture, would result in a terrible uncanny valley situation . The ideal is that everyone lives in a community that they strongly connect to. In your cyber vision, however, everyone has to balance the twin beasts of their unsatisfying, non ideologically-connected group based on physical proximity, and their behind-a-screen internet culture, which cannot ever truly replace human physical contact. Instead of one strong connection, they end up torn between two weak ones, which is essentially the worst possible situation when seen from the “everyone should identify with their culture” lens.

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  39. Tarn Somervell says:

    “Right now that principle is the Principle of Harm: you can do whatever you like unless it harms other people, in which case stop”

    A little tangential, but this seems false. There at least paternalistic laws (things to prevent you harming yourself) – seatbelt laws seeming the most uncontroversially so – and definitely norms against self-harm.

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  40. lmm says:

    So is there interstate redistributive taxation or isn’t there? Your talk about white separatists seems to imply there is, and I think there would be huge social problems if all the rich people can just move to Moneybagstopia and forget about the poor people. But I don’t think the libertarians would be happy if they have no way to avoid taxes.

    Thinking about it further, any nation that admitted poor people would rapidly become poor. So I suspect you end up with free movement for the rich, and poor people getting exiled from everywhere except a few hellholes and Dragumve which rapidly becomes a hellhole (a few nations try to be organized poor people, building factories and the like, but as soon as their best people get rich enough they exercise their exit rights and flee to Moneybagstopia), till eventually these concentrated poor people riot and overthrow your whole system. (This is more-or-less my problem with seasteading)

    You’ve talked about people getting expensive services and moving out, but what about the opposite? What if someone makes a lot of money in zero-tax Libertariopa, then grows old and moves to Compassiontopia where there’s publicy-funded dementia care? You could ask them to pay a lifetime’s taxes out of their assets, but what if they’ve spent all their money on crack and hookers? Does Compassiontopia just have to have a policy where immigrants don’t get free medical care? If every nation does that you have another barrier to actually moving.

    How does inheritance work? How do “intellectual property rights” work across states? I can imagine many people being unhappy if there’s no way to enforce copyright across the entire archipelago.

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  41. T. Greer says:

    Scott, you may be interested to know that Michael Lotus and James Bennett make almost this exact same argument in their book America 3.0.

    Here is a quote from my review of the book:

    the authors go so far as to suggest that states like California, Texas, and New York may split into more manageable units. I found this section of immense interest; long time readers will know that the urgent need for political decentralization is a common theme at the Stage. [3] The authors agree with this sentiment, but go much further than I have, suggesting a series of reforms that move talk of decentralization from the realm of abstract political principle to concrete action. The book is worth reading for these twenty pages on decentralization alone. Key to the program is the goal to “push as many contentious issues as possible to the most basic local level as possible, and then reducing the transaction costs as low as possible (229).” In other words, let each community decide its own policy on social issues but make it as easy as possible for people to switch from one community to another. If state senators in Connecticut want to ban the ownership of assault rifles – let them! If a small town in Utah wants to require every teacher to carry a gun with them to school – let them! If you do not like the policies in your community, move to somewhere new. The end result will be drastic idealogical sorting, as people move to the communities who have the laws and services they want their government to have.

    They note that – par The Big Sort this process is already underway. Thus America’s current problem is that we are becoming more fractured socially but are not becoming more fractured politically, contributing to the polarization of our era. Easiest way to end the culture war is to decentralize it.

    (Note on the book for those who consider purchasing it: America 3.0 is essentially a conservative political tract aimed at an educated but popular audience. It is probably the best example of what a political track can be. Its analysis stretches hundreds of years into the past and several decades into the future and is better researched than any of the more popular tracts pushed on talk radio programs. It is an “idea book.” Only one sentence in the book contains the words “Barrack Obama.”

    If you want to see what a political book aimed at popular audiences done right looks like, this is an excellent example.)

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  42. handle says:

    Congratulations. You just discovered Multizionism. The water’s fine. Competitive micro-governments dedicated to particular ideological visions of community, and with the right of exit, existing in confederation, the peace and security of which is protected by a minarchist empire.

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    • Andy says:

      Except when two or more tribes want the same sacred place, like Jerusalem, which would be a sleepy little nowhere town if it weren’t for being a sacred site to three related religions. Though the minarchist empire could, if the parties are not amenable to compromise, destroy the contested ground and say to the various tribes, “this is why you don’t deserve nice things.”
      (You don’t want to see my Middle East peace plan…)

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      • handle says:

        Not what I mean by ‘Zion’, don’t read too much into it. Anyway, lots of nations fight and argue about land and sea they claim is rightfully belonging to their tribe. France and Germany over many wars, China and all its neighbors, etc.

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  43. James Scott says:

    As an added economic bonus: What about Sweatshopland, a place that has no labor laws, no taxes, no social safety net, and votes are assigned in proportion to net worth? All of the various businesses go there to set up shop, and quickly out-compete all non-Sweatshopland businesses – meaning that if you want to have a job, you have to go to Sweatshopland.

    Other communities would love to tax Sweatshop land. They want to provide things like social security for their own people – but they can’t because all of the businesses left. Individuals are left with the choice of “stay here, have nothing” or “leave, work in sweatshop and be miserable”. Other communities have no method to force Sweatshopland to pay them. Boycotts fall prey to coordination problems -and if you can coordinate well enough to boycott Sweatshopland and force them to have social safety nets or pay you taxes, you’re effectively reinvented (a more intrusive) world government, defeating the experiment.

    (Not all businesses are so mobile, and neither are people – but then, the entire experiment’s advantages are predicated on high mobility as well.)

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    • peterdjones says:

      Who is Sweatshopland going to sell its goods *to*?

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      • Oligopsony says:

        If you have a single Sweatshopland (or sufficient cooperation among several,) then it can solve underconsumption crises with whatever public works its shareholders find valuable. If not then that is indeed a problem for the system as a whole, though possibly less of one if countries can’t turn to war, but doesn’t change the incentives making Sweatian policy an attractor.

        In practice this tends toward at least some decentralization, because different frameworks at better at producing comparative advantage in different goods. Without military means of encouraging cooperation I suspect Archipelago is less coordinated than Earth, though maybe this is another one of those things the magical supergovernment solves.

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    • Intrism says:

      I suspect that any society bothered by this would be well empowered to institute embargoes or punitive tariffs on goods from Sweatshopland. Perhaps a tariff that counterbalances the difference in working conditions. (And, actually, I happen to think that such a tariff would be good policy in general. Removes the incentive for countries to promote shitty work environments.)

      Seriously, the only thing a community has to do to avoid this fate is to not buy from Sweatshopland. And all the communities (by fiat) have the same natural resources, so it’s not like there’s any reason that they must buy from Sweatshopland; it’s just cheap.

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      • Andy says:

        Especially if it has a philosophy like Marxistopia where honest labor makes one a better person and all communities are organized as egalitarian communal farms.

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    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Assuming all the communities have arable land, then if nothing else they can all become subsistence farmers and have some small scale trade, like the Amish do. Then they shouldn’t need jobs. Whatever scientific or technological advanced Sweatshopland makes that require minimal infrastructure to use, they can copy.

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  44. Anonymous says:

    I also invented a similar setting for a yet-unpublished scifi series, but with one big difference: my World Gov is way less interventionist than yours, and I think it has to be that way. In particular, so long as no one is physically prevented from going to the local World Gov outpost, no one cares if children are brainwashed or subjected to other forms of soft coercion. The reason is that Shit Happens. You cannot possibly prevent every form of oppresion, and if you attempt to do so you’ll quickly fall into a black hole of police state moralizing that undermines the entire premise of the utopia

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  45. MugaSofer says:

    Hmm. I’ve considered a very Archipelago-eque utopia in the past (independently.)

    But … we don’t have a transhuman goddess to enforce peace. We don’t even have a OWG, in fact, but let’s imagine we did.

    Say the planetary government elects to have everyone divide into charter city-states. Everyone elects to join like-minded people in their own little utopia. What happens next?

    Well, it seems to me that they all find that gaining status is now a question of adhering as strongly as possible to the central doctrine of their particular clade. In fact, one stalin isn’t enough! We need two Stalins!

    Pretty soon, we have exactly the same mentality you decried in Canada – conservative Christians are icky. And what’s the main way to push anti-ickiness in the public square, displaying your virtuous disgust for icky people?

    In the One World Government senate, that’s where. Where it will be pushed as hard as possible, crowding out whatever clades they can form political blocks to outvote – up until the Goddess gets tired of their BS and strips their cities to the bedrock with hypertech weaponry, I guess.

    ***

    In the real world … we’re not so lucky. We don’t have a Goddess. What we do have is people; and splitting them into tribal groups, that define themselves against Outsiders … seems like it might have consequences.

    That’s not to say there isn’t merit in the idea, but I think it needs further analysis before we start treating it as the ideal to aspire to in all matters.

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  46. Ilya Shpitser says:

    The worry with “moving towards Archipelago on the margin” is this: can we even in principle construct Archipelago world government out of the social monkey pieces we know we have? If we require a fundamentally different cognitive architecture to make it work, then that’s sort of an easy way out — I can construct lots of Utopias out of better pieces!

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  47. Dib says:

    “Forty years ago, Robert Nozick proposed a very strange utopia, which he considered the culmination of libertarian principles.

    Ten years ago, Mencius Moldbug proposed the same utopia, considering it the culmination of conservative principles.

    Three years ago, unaware of either, I independently invented a role-playing game around the same utopia, considering it the culmination of liberal principles.”

    “The Liberal Archipelago: A Theory of Diversity and Freedom” – Chandran Kukathas
    http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/019925754X.001.0001/acprof-9780199257546

    One of the best books on cultural diversity I read while doing my philosophy PhD

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    • TGGP says:

      It was reading Chandran and Jacob Levy that convinced me I am such an extreme “pluralist” I can’t be considered liberal. That post also leads into my disagreements with Scott on necessary educational preconditions.

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  48. MugaSofer says:

    OK … suppose I’m obsessed with paperclips. I start a movement dedicated to producing as many paperclips as possible, which remains too small to register a new clade with WorldGov that mandates maximum paperclip production at all times and removes all those pesky rights that interfere.

    So I add a new tenet to our beliefs: produce as many paperclips and children as possible, and teach them that they need to do the same. This isn’t brainwashing – they’re well aware that many Bad People out there don’t care about paperclips or children. But, of course, a majority – not all, but a majority – of the children will remain within the movement.

    Pretty soon, unless we’re in a clade that forbids unregistered childbearing (if we are, we move to one that doesn’t care), we have enough members to request our own city-state where paperclipping (and childbearing) is law. Production of both paperclips and new members ramps up in the absence of those irritating “human rights” they insisted on in our homeland.

    Pretty soon after that, the population has doubled. Half of us leave to start a new clade based on the same principals.

    A hundred years later, most of the world is dedicated to paperclipping, and we all vote to remove the last international laws holding us back. Then we use the WorldGov army to obliterate the last remaining rivals, who were tying up resources with their non-paperclip ways.

    ***

    I think the solution is simple, actually: we need to restrict reproduction. Ideally, Omi asks Maria to render the world sterile and create batches of clones at regular intervals – to be raised in Dragumve, choosing their nation at adulthood. If people object (and they will), maybe a set number can be adopted by each clade.

    If they object to *that*, maybe Maria can just make it physically impossible to reproduce without a licence from Omi, which are only granted in carefully-controlled numbers. But somehow I don’t think she’d want to oversee all those fiddly details – more likely, I suspect, she’d just give everyone implants. And if she did, unless they are perfect magical implants, good luck keeping them working when everyone on the planet wants to crack them.

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    • kappa says:

      I think draconian population restrictions to combat worldgov-gaming by tailored religion would be like swatting flies with an industrial laser. Why not just ban this kind of mitosis? “Convince the Voice of God to set you up” was already a step in the civlet-founding process. The Voice of God can tell something is going on at the point where the paperclip cultists have split off a couple of times. The next time half the population of Paperclipland wants to go found Paperclipton next door, it seems reasonable to inform them that they already have their choice of four paperclip countries and don’t need any more on top of that.

      Also, I feel like your Papercliptopias would bleed citizens like a slit throat. But I’m not as confident in that prediction as I am in my policy choice.

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      • Ken Arromdee says:

        Who gets to decide when something is similar enough to something we already have, that no more are needed? Otherwise you get “No, you can’t have a country for Jews. We already have four monotheist countries and we don’t need any more of that”.

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        • kappa says:

          The Voice of God gets to decide.

          It’s pretty heavily implicit in the original comment that there are no substantial differences in philosophy between the different Papercliptopias – otherwise, by the process of splitting there would be a danger that eventually some of them would stray from the true path and become Stapletopias and enact a counter-revolution. I think it’s reasonable to look at the charter for a new country, see that it contains the exact same list of two items as the charter for the country it wants to split from, and deny the split on that basis. In fact I’d venture to say that a scenario in which the Papercliptopias actually manage to take over without the Voice of God ever cottoning on and forcing them to consolidate is unrealistic to the point of absurdity.

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  49. Kaminiwa says:

    You can throw me on the list of people who came up with approximately this idea. It just seemed like an obvious social model to me at one point. My main twist was the idea that one should classify communities based on physical danger: RED communities are ones where murder/assault are largely unregulated, YELLOW for stuff like execution and death penalty, and GREEN for what we tend to view as “civilized” these days.

    It seemed important to note that some community choices can result in potentially irrevocable consequences, like getting killed – whether this is “anything goes” anarchy or “we’ll execute those who violate our entirely sensible rules”.

    I’d also note that the United States seemed to be aiming for this initially: a very minimalist, constitutionally constrained Federal Government, and then a “most anything goes” approach to State Government.

    Given how well that went, it’s probably worth considering how you’d avoid a similar failure state in Archipelago.

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  50. zaogao says:

    As a big fan of yours I was disappointed by this post. You cannot sidestep the problem of politics by pushing it up the ladder. You started off mentioning the interpersonal issues around the harm principle. These issues exist in between comunities as well, you recognize this when you bring up global warming.
    Anti-donuttown may not be harmed by the existence of a distant pro-donuttown, that’s fine. But there is a fundamental tension between a poor industrializing country that wants to burn dirty coal and some shallow tropical island. Even if we are being supremely generous and assume there is global scientific agreement, how do you balance the value of lifting millions of Chinese peasants out of poverty vs. the negatives of global warming?

    You cannot meta your way out of politics. Something is allowed or it is not allowed, and your atomic communitarianism is subject to the same critique as atomic individualism. A sovereign needs to choose.

    You say that it would be impossible for communities to oppress each other, and immediately follow that up by saying the black communities would be payed reparations. Is it just me or does “World Government takes white money to give to exclusive black settlements.” sound more like a libertarian utopia or an exagerrated right-wing view of progressivism?

    You say that people would be happy to pay taxes and would love the government. That is smuggilng in the required result to the problem of politics, which is that people want different things.

    The USG was originally set up in a pretty smart way, but what states and the central government thought was acceptable diverged, and I think there was a war or something. When GloboCorp realizes eating animals/natalism/religion/atheism is unacceptable and some portion of the world disagrees, are you okay with global civil war? What moral bar is neccesary to be passed to provoke violence? Does the answer change depending on the distribution of military force, ie if only the central government has nukes/drones/nanobots?

    I would like to hear the method by which these decisions are made. That is what distinguishes all the types of archipelagos you mentioned.

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    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      I agree with your post.

      You say that people would be happy to pay taxes and would love the government. That is smuggilng in the required result to the problem of politics, which is that people want different things.

      To be fair to Scott, he DID posit that the Archipelago was surrounded by a barbarian horde. The outside enemy is one of the oldest tricks in the book for unifying people, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the community members were much more patriotic and willing to pay taxes than might be expected under different circumstances.

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  51. Sarah says:

    I’m more or less sympathetic to pluralism, so stuff *like* this usually makes me happy. “If you don’t like dominant culture, go build your own” is a constructive suggestion, in general, and in general I prefer “build your own” solutions to social problems. They’re peaceful, and the coordination problems are smaller.

    The primary problem with this stuff is that the modern world is *not* a patchwork of isolated cultures, and most people (myself included) don’t want to live in isolation. I buy things made in China and Malaysia, from people of vastly different cultures than my own. On a smaller scale, I share a university with people from different intellectual cultures (the humanities) and a company with people from different professional cultures (marketing, medicine). And that’s a *necessary* thing. A community made entirely of people like me probably couldn’t be economically or biologically self-supporting.

    But as soon as you begin to trade and work with people from other cultures, you get cultural diffusion. Mostly I *like* this. Miscegenations upon miscegenations, as they say. Village kids around the world learn English from sitcoms, Africa runs on cell phones, etc. I think Western culture and global trade are nice things, and one piece of evidence for that is that people are so goddamn eager to get imported stuff.

    Real enforced isolation is brutal. That gives you North Korea. (Or India under its period of autarky. Or the nastier variety of cult.)

    In real life, people don’t belong to only one community. They have several at a time; lightweight ones like a particular fandom, heavier ones like a profession or a religion or an ethnicity. If there were a Transland and a Programmerland, all the trans girls I know would be at least tempted to choose the latter.

    Which means, of course, that Programmerland is under pressure to be tolerant. So there’s voice as well as exit; people will argue over how Programmerland should be, because it’s such a desirable property and would lose its value if it fragmented. You can’t entirely get away from voice. There are network effects pushing in favor of big communities, and big communities need to be somewhat pluralistic.

    I think of this as Polis vs. Empire. Empires can be polyglot and cosmopolitan and tolerant. There’s a reason why they name little Jewish boys “Alexander” — his empire was a nice place to live, even if he did call himself a god. Empires impose values and laws, but with more a flavor of universality than custom. “Neutral point of view” is an Imperial kind of rule. So is the metric system. The Napoleonic Code. The roads of Rome and China. These things are forbidden to the devout anarchist, but subversively I have to admit they are useful.

    I don’t think we can all live happily without empires. Empires give scale and scope. They allow civilized comforts. Technical and commercial people do well in empires.

    The trouble with Galt’s Gulch is that, instead of building a transcontinental railroad, you have to content yourself with two miles of track. It’s a *small town.* Maybe the human psyche can accommodate itself to being happy in a small town. But it’s a huge ego blow, at the very least. Imagine that everything you do, for the rest of your life, will only be known to your family and friends. You will never rank as “successful” at anything in society at large. You will never “make an impact” or “change the world.” You’ll just live in a small town and do your thing. Now, I don’t know about you, but that sounds disappointing to me. Maybe it’s a sign of weakness.

    Or maybe there are good reasons why people congregate in big hubs and build big institutions and don’t always fragment into little Arcadian communities. Maybe some of us are rootless cosmopolitans after all, and may as well get used to it.

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    • Alexander Stanislaw says:

      Pluralist-land is also one (or more) of the Archipelago communities. If people’s preferences are to live in pluralist societies then that will be revealed in how the Archipelago communities turn out. I think Archipelago would shake out to look a lot like the US, but people would have the option of living somewhere drastically different if they want. Also Archipelago is not a bunch of isolated communities; they trade with each other (although they are not forced to) and follow some universal laws (like the non-invasion one).

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    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Maybe the human psyche can accommodate itself to being happy in a small town. But it’s a huge ego blow, at the very least. Imagine that everything you do, for the rest of your life, will only be known to your family and friends. You will never rank as “successful” at anything in society at large. You will never “make an impact” or “change the world.” You’ll just live in a small town and do your thing.

      ?

      Humans evolved to live in small hunting-gathering tribes. A return to smaller, more isolated communities would almost certainly be no worse on the human psyche than living in urban areas is, and in all probability it would actually help to ameliorate some of the social pathologies associated with cities and suburbs. In “Dunbar’s Function,” Eliezer analyzes the disconnect humans feel between their ancestral instincts and the nature of modernity:

      If you work in a large company, you probably don’t know your tribal chief on any personal level, and may not even be able to get access to him. For every rule within your company, you may not know the person who decided on that rule, and have no realistic way to talk to them about the effects of that rule on you. Large amounts of the organizational structure of your life are beyond your ability to control, or even talk about with the controllers; directives that have major effects on you, may be handed down from a level you can’t reach.

      If you live in a large country, you probably don’t know your President or Prime Minister on a personal level, and may not even be able to get a few hours’ chat; you live under laws and regulations that you didn’t make, and you can’t talk to the people who made them.

      This is a non-ancestral condition. Even children, while they may live under the dictatorial rule of their parents, can at least personally meet and talk to their tyrants. You could expect this unnatural (that is, non-EEA) condition to create some amount of anomie.

      If people don’t like being part of large organizations and countries, why do they stick around? Because of another non-ancestral condition—you can’t just gather your more sensible friends, leave the band, and gather nuts and berries somewhere else. If I had to cite two non-regulatory barriers at work, it would be (a) the cost of capital equipment, and (b) the surrounding web of contacts and contracts—a web of installed relationships not easily duplicated by a new company.

      I suspect that this is a major part of where the stereotype of Technology as the Machine Death-Force comes from—that along with the professional specialization and the expensive tools, you end up in social structures over which you have much less control. Some of the fear of creating a powerful AI “even if Friendly” may come from that stereotypical anomie—that you’re creating a stronger Machine Death-Force to regulate your life.

      But we already live in a world, right now, where people are less in control of their social destinies than they would be in a hunter-gatherer band, because it’s harder to talk to the tribal chief or (if that fails) leave unpleasant restrictions and start your own country. There is an opportunity for progress here.

      Another problem with our oversized world is the illusion of increased competition. There’s that famous survey which showed that Harvard students would rather make $50,000 if their peers were making $25,000 than make $100,000 if their peers were receiving $200,000—and worse, they weren’t necessarily wrong about what would make them happy. With a fixed income, you’re unhappier at the low end of a high-class neighborhood than the high end of a middle-class neighborhood.

      But in a “neighborhood” the size of Earth—well, you’re actually quite unlikely to run into either Bill Gates or Angelina Jolie on any given day. But the media relentlessly bombards you with stories about the interesting people who are much richer than you or much more attractive, as if they actually constituted a large fraction of the world. (This is a combination of biased availability, and a difficulty in discounting tiny fractions.)

      Now you could say that our hedonic relativism is one of the least pleasant aspects of human nature. And I might agree with you about that. But I tend to think that deep changes of brain design and emotional architecture should be taken slowly, and so it makes sense to look at the environment too.

      If you lived in a world the size of a hunter-gatherer band, then it would be easier to find something important at which to be the best—or do something that genuinely struck you as important, without becoming lost in a vast crowd of others with similar ideas.

      The eudaimonic size of a community as a function of the component minds’ intelligence might be given by the degree to which those minds find it natural to specialize—the number of different professions that you can excel at, without having to invent professions just to excel at. Being the best at Go is one thing, if many people know about Go and play it. Being the best at “playing tennis using a football” is easier to achieve, but it also seems a tad… artificial.

      Call a specialization “natural” if it will arise without an oversupply of potential entrants. Newton could specialize in “physics”, but today it would not be possible to specialize in “physics”—even if you were the only potential physicist in the world, you couldn’t achieve expertise in all the physics known to modern-day humanity. You’d have to pick, say, quantum field theory, or some particular approach to QFT. But not QFT over left-handed bibble-braids with cherries on top; that’s what happens when there are a thousand other workers in your field and everyone is desperate for some way to differentiate themselves.

      When you look at it that way, then there must be much more than 50 natural specializations in the modern world—but still much less than six billion. By the same logic as the original Dunbar’s Number, if there are so many different professional specialties that no one person has heard of them all, then you won’t know who to consult about any given topic.

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      • Sarah says:

        Yes, but forget what human minds “evolved for.”

        Would *you* want to live in a small town, mostly cut off from the rest of the world?

        What if “the World” still exists, skyscrapers and airplanes and all, and you’re not part of it? That doesn’t sound even a little depressing? It sounds depressing to me, and I have a vague sense that one *ought* to go into Stoic-style retirement from “the World.”

        To anyone who says that the small-and-local life is better, the obvious question is, “Why aren’t you living that way, then?”

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        • I am living that way. I moved from a large metropolitan city to a town of less than 20,000 people, and in about a year I anticipate moving into a village of probably less than a thousand people. I work in an industry where it’s easy for me to work from home and set my own hours, and I do so, knowing full well that it keeps me from achieving anything like notoriety or reputation in my field, and that’s because I choose my family and my free time over “success”.

          I know that this isn’t everyone’s preference, and I don’t claim that it should be, but: it is certainly possible to live this way, many people do it, and it’s really not that hard. And it’s plenty rewarding.

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  52. DanielLC says:

    The problem comes when you’re wondering what kind of entity is capable of receiving harm, and what constitutes harm. If someone is in a coma, is euthanasia harm? Is lack of euthanasia harm? I suppose that you could at least solve by the idea that if they’re living in an area that euthanizes people who are in comas, they don’t mind being euthanized.

    The other one is more of a problem. Obviously, the Archipelago is going to step in to prevent you from murdering your children if your local government does not. But at what point are they you’re children? Conception? Third trimester? Birth?

    Do animals count? They don’t know how to just move away. I’m not happy with animals being factory farmed, just because it doesn’t happen in my area.

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  53. If the central government regulates carbon, it regulates the entire economy – you wind up with the usual problems of socialism.

    If the central government wants to protect children from being brainwashed, intervenes heavily in the family, you wind up with the usual disturbingly massive and hostile intervention in the family that Boko Haram rightly protests. Boko Haram then starts killing members of the central government and abducting women.

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  54. ashv says:

    This is the opposite pole from Moldbug’s patchwork. This isn’t “reactionary” in any sense. It’s leftist to the core.

    World government is the end goal of any flavor of liberalism, and obviously your proposal is much more honest about it. The key element here is that there are no neutral principles. Any government will be based on a philosophy that can and does judge every other.

    If you believe that a world government that dictates the structure of every society in it is “the single core idea of reaction”, then you understand nothing about reaction.

    Civilization is founded on violence. Your proposed “World Gov” will have to brutally repress any community that opposes it, or fail.

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    • peppermint says:

      so? Any government has to brutally repress any community that opposes it or fail.

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      • Zathille says:

        While violence is the underlying premise of any government, the extent it has to use it instead of persuasive or administrative methods of control can differ. The more naked repression a government must employ, the more it signals its instability and possibly strengthens the position of its opposition(s).

        With this in mind, the proposition of a ‘neutral’ world government to mediate between many diverse territories, each with its own ideology, may be dangerous. What we’d have is not necessarily a world where everyone is free to join a place where their ideologies or preferences are the norm, but rather one in which the ‘neutral’ party reigns hegemonically over many vassal states and may end up quashing any ideological townships whose acts or ideas challenge its hegemony, thus, constraining the available pool of ‘acceptable’ ideologies.

        In short, It’s the whole ‘who watches the watchmen’ problem all over again.

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      • ashv says:

        so? Any government has to brutally repress any community that opposes it or fail.

        So this is more about destroying “exit” than preserving it.

        A pretense of “neutrality” for an {ideology, religion, political formula} is dangerous because it claims a privileged position while denying that anything of its kind should be allowed a privileged position.

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  55. Two ways to begin moving in this direction,

    1. Allow for far more educational diversity so that more new subcultures (including more new positive subcultures) are allowed to form,

    http://changethis.com/manifesto/show/38.03.EdInnovation

    2. Support Startup Cities,

    http://www.startupcities.org/what-are-startup-cities/

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  56. Anonymous says:

    I read that among our hunter-gatherer ancestors, if some group disagreed with the choice of a tribe leader, the usual resolution was that the tribe would split in two and the resulting tribes would go peacefully their separate ways following their respective leaders. The open-source community operates in a similar way: when there’s too much disagreement about the way a project is managed, a group of developers may choose to start developing an independent version of the same software. It’s called forking a project.

    This reminds me of the Archipelago. It seems strictly better than the system under which we hold elections and whichever side gets the most votes is free to oppress the others (within certain limits), so what’s the catch? It seems to me that peaceful forking can only work when there is no competition for resources other than team members.

    I think that explains why Archipelago is a conservative utopia and a libertarian utopia and leftist utopia. If you described a society where everyone owned a ten-bedroom house with a swimming pool, had access to top-notch medical care and flied a carbon neutral supersonic airplane, then it would also sound good to everyone no matter their affiliation. I think Archipelago is the same kind of an all-around utopia, it’s just less transparent about the fact that it’s feasibility is premised on access to near-infinite wealth.

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    • ashv says:

      If you described a society where everyone owned these fabulous possessions but had to submit to having their children stolen from them, many people would oppose you tooth and nail.

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  57. Desertopa says:

    The idea of this kind of community separatism has never held much meaning for me as anything other than a concept for works of fiction, since I feel that there are really so many issues that you have to resolve to make it remotely workable (I mean, the fact that in your setting the status quo is enforced by a figure of nigh omnipotence is worth taking notice of here,) that by the time you can actually pull it off, you could probably just, say, get a friendly superintelligence to optimize society for you instead. I think that as a societal model, it would probably be obviated by the time it’s feasible, rather than even slightly after it’s feasible.

    As for the question of whether a friendly AI might itself fracture society, perhaps it would, but I certainly don’t see the need for sinking resources into an army or world government when the same ends could be accomplished without them via effective omnipotence. Indeed, these seem like places where practicality, if not good story mechanics, suggests “resolve this via omnipotence” as a superior option within your own fictional setting. I think that we might be happier not knowing we live in pieces of a fractured society, with all of us being sorted into our proper places via quasi-divine serendipity without ever being made aware of the vast mechanism we’re part of. I think this probably occupies a very close rung on the technical feasibility scale, but has the advantage of making it obvious that it relies on superhuman intervention.

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    • Eli says:

      The question is whether you can describe what a “friendly superintelligence” should actually do with social questions like these. If you can’t describe what they should do, either by resolving the question or by dissolving it and answering from lower-level first principles, then you can’t actually build the friendly superintelligence, can you?

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      • Desertopa says:

        I don’t think that follows at all. The best chess playing programs aren’t made by programmers who’re comparably good at playing chess. The problem of how to make a superhuman intelligence is separate from the problem of figuring out what it would actually do.

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  58. Eli says:

    Oh, you’re trying to conworld and roleplay a Coherent Extrapolated Volition. Clever.

    I’m going to have to watch this thread, as I’ve been thinking about how to draw up a way of linking fundamental ethics and meta-ethics to fundamental political philosophy in a way that can beat the low expected-fun-for-any-particular-person value of CEV.

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  59. Dan says:

    We have sort of tried this and it was the amazing, civilized world of the past that is now collapsing around us.

    The nations with successful models get flooded with hoards from unsuccessful nations, spreading failure and dysfunction into every nation.

    Sweden now has a growing urban crime problem and rape problem which is new in their history, but which will likely be with them for the remainder of their history.

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  60. Dan says:

    Scott, surely you are trolling us all. You can’t have missed the gigantic wordplay sitting right there in your title?

    My mind’s eye saw the words “Gulag Archipelago” and “Communism” before my conscious brain even comprehended the title.

    Your world actually existed, and it was much more civilized than anything we have today. There were different social contracts and social models and understandings that worked for different people in every part of the world. In the twentieth century these were all torn up by ambitious revolutionaries who would take over the reins, almost always from the left, to implement their ideals.

    A hundred million or more were murdered by leftist regimes in a huge variety of countries, and many more cultures which had served people well for a millennium or more lie degraded.

    It seems your world is blind to the great reality of our age. Leftists do not leave social contracts alone; they just don’t. Please read Solzhenitsyn’s Archipelago to understand the endgame of your world.

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    • Multiheaded says:

      There were different social contracts and social models and understandings that worked for different people in every part of the world. In the twentieth century these were all torn up by ambitious revolutionaries who would take over the reins, almost always from the left, to implement their ideals.

      Bro, do you even materialism?

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      • Eli says:

        No, no they don’t. One of the great, big, immense arguments against neoreaction being anything but a fantasy is that it simply cannot deal with historical-materialist readings of history. Economic and political power have shifted away from where their happy, happy feudal systems were remotely sensible at all, and they are insisting that we can somehow keep the technology and ditch the “bad” (ie: uncomfortably modern, non-ancestral-environment) social system.

        God willing, 50 years from now there will be people making the same damn arguments claiming it all somehow went wrong when we implemented commons trusts, cooperatives, and basic income stipends.

        And then, God willing, 100 years from now, someone will have a great time ranting to the tolerant ears of the local friendly superintelligence about how it all went wrong when we abolished death and evil.

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        • Dan says:

          “And then, God willing, 100 years from now, someone will have a great time ranting to the tolerant ears of the local friendly superintelligence about how it all went wrong when we abolished death and evil.”

          Bless your tender heart, Eli, that was beautiful! I literally am wiping a tear from my eye!

          I have worked with patents for more than 15 years and I must tell you about a minor fly in the ointment: No nation on Earth, with the exception of tiny Israel, manages to achieve both above-replacement fertility and significant patent output. Nations with high fertility (Africa, Middle East, portions of Latin America) have patent output that is virtual nil, less than many Western towns. HBD is the bitter reality whether you choose to accept it or not.

          It used to be the case, when traditional culture still existed, that many nations had above-replacement fertility coupled with high innovation and high patent output. Now there is just one.

          Here is the likely future of technology.

          http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2069222/Not-exactly-NASA-Ugandan-space-chief-builds-test-craft-mothers-yard-says-shuttle-orbit-2015.html

          Do you think that paper mache shuttle is leaving the ground any time soon?

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      • Dan says:

        “Bro, do you even materialism?”

        Can’t parse this sentence. There should be a verb in there somewere.

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  64. Erik says:

    Robert Nozick proposed a very strange utopia … Mencius Moldbug proposed the same utopia … I independently invented a role-playing game around the same utopia

    No, you didn’t. Your utopia has a similar shape to Moldbug’s utopia, with many small separated diverse communities, but calling it the same is like saying that a tennis ball is an artificial orange. Your utopia runs on handwavium, with a goddess and her viceroy minding everyone’s externalities and everyone’s media and everyone’s children, and I threw up my hands in despair at “is considered an inoffensive, neutral option” (and not just because of the passive voice). You’re guaranteeing exit then micromanaging exit rights and throwing cross-community taxes in, too, all run by this supreme viceroy of the goddess.

    Moldbug’s utopia is unrealistic too, but at least it involves mundane political failures and Fake Optimization Criteria all over the place and likely no way of getting there from here, rather than outright handwavium. The Patchwork nominally runs on financial incentivization; Patches are pushed somewhat towards being diverse communities because they’re advertising to niche markets, but limited in that it’s a bad strategy to alienate arbitrary segments of your customer base to become more niche. Patches have reason to uphold bans on contractually forbidden interaction because having a reputation for keeping to one’s contracts is good business sense, but will default to allowing other interaction because they might profit from it. Patches are kept at peace by nuclear-armed backers.

    Omi’s response to people falling through cracks in the system seems to be micromanaging the system so that this will happen NEVER AGAIN! Moldbug’s response to the same seems to be setting up some incentives for others to find and recruit those people for something productive, and allowing for the existence of private charities for those who are unrecruitable and unproductive.

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    • Scott Alexander says:

      It runs on handwavium in-game because I needed an omnipotent game master.

      In reality, I could see it being run with World Government as a republic, with a representative from each community, based in some large or historically important cosmopolitan community. There’s a very specific constitution which lists exactly the limited things the federal government is allowed to do, specific enough that there are obvious bright lines, and every community understands that once they cross one of those bright lines to gain an advantage over a competing community, the bright line can be crossed against them next.

      I’m not saying it’s immune to drift. But it’s no more susceptible than real countries are, and probably a lot less so (since the government loses one of its best excuses for meddling).

      Moldbug’s version seems a lot like the world today, with the hand-waving of “Once America stops enforcing its values on everyone, everything will be fine”, which suffers from the problems of first expecting America to go against its self-interest, and second that no things wouldn’t be. Also, relying on nukes to keep peace among weird communities not otherwise tempted to be peaceful seems like really really asking for trouble.

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      • Erik says:

        So, to compare to a historical example, your World Government charter would be (initially) free of open-ended exploitables like the Commerce Clause and the General Welfare Clause at setup, but there’s still the issue of the (later) Fourteenth Amendment to deal with.

        Several of the states in the United States had state churches at their founding, which seems like a nice bit of Archipelago setup. These days, those state churches are not merely gone but considered illegal, and while the first explanation I’ll get out of a lot of people is “first amendment”, it coexisted with state churches for a hundred years, and what precipitated the change wasn’t so much stepping over a bright line as the introduction of a new excuse to meddle in the form of the Fourteenth Amendment and the accompanying Incorporation Doctrine, which, to move the comparison back, basically says that what goes in Drachumve goes in the islands too. The very specific constitution listing the limited things the World Government can do now becomes a very specific constitution listing the limited things any Island can do.

        Besides, “every community understands that once they cross one of those bright lines to gain an advantage over a competing community, the bright line can be crossed against them next.” sounds like it’s either question-begging if you sneak this in as an established premise that the communities are made up of wise agreeable people who all share this understanding and wouldn’t dream of making up sneaky neutral-sounding principles that have disparate impact, or highly optimistic if it’s not made a premise at the outset.

        My impression of the Patchwork isn’t so much “Once America stops enforcing its values on everyone” as “Once a sufficiently strong country, coalition, or set of mutual defense pacts calls America’s bluff and makes the world multipolar”. But, again, no way of getting there from here, so I hesitate to describe it with any sort of simple transfer scenario.

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  65. Erik says:

    Previously I objected to describing your utopia as similar to Moldbug’s. Now I would like to object to a specific neglected tradeoff in this proposal.

    Moldbug is upfront about the possibility that some Patches will recreate North Korea, but, hey, we have North Korea and Zimbabwe and Mogadishu and Venezuela and Honduras and Rwanda and Burundi already, and turning a Patch into North Korea is counter-indicated by the profit motive.

    However, Moldbug’s reason for supporting a system where some Patches might limit exit (and this is otherwise an all exit, no voice setup) is that this is closely tied to the power of a Patch administrator to exercise internal governance – i.e. that the administrator actually runs the patch, rather than holding it as an Iqta-like loan from God-Emperor Omi Oitherion. Moldbug’s vision of exit is that no patch controls all the other patches, and NKPatch can’t make the others give refugees back; yours is that Omi controls every patch so that NKPatch can’t prevent refugees leaving.

    You’ve got more exit from NKPatch (it probably doesn’t exist in the first place), at the cost of no exit from Omi. If you don’t see the problem with this, imagine that Omi retires and hands his power over to the moldbugger of your choice. If, as you said, Moldbug’s utopia is the same as Omi’s one, this shouldn’t be a problem, should it? 😉

    You evidently think it very important that no NKPatches happen, but you’re not only neglecting the tradeoff required (God-Emperor Omi Oitherion has to have massive interventionist power), you’ve wandered off the deep and built some more aspects of society on having God-Emperor Omi Oitherion in place, to the point where God-Emperor Omi Oitherion and his world government meddle far more in the affairs of patches than did, for example, the Holy Roman Emperor in the affairs of HRE member states.

    So there’s no exit from Omi, but, at least so far, more exit from NKPatch. But I’m going to tear into that idea too. Where does one get to exit to? Moldbug’s Patchwork sets approximately one constraint on what a Patch must look like: it must be sovereign or have a sovereign willing to back it (probably with nuclear weapons), which is largely an explicit formalization of something nearly unavoidable in the world. But in your Archipelago, whoever owns or runs an Island seems to have pretty much zilch for control over its inhabitants due to the strict voluntarism and possibility of exile as replacement punishment for everything. This is a lot more constraining.

    Now, quite a lot on this subject was inadvertently said by Multiheaded et al, who think authority is abuse, contracts are coercion, expectations are evil, imperium is inimicus, obligations are oppression, promises are propaganda, punishment is perverse, loyalty is lighting-gas, and I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel for clever alliteration here, but I think you get the idea when the very first comment complained about “the orthogonal problem of oppressing people with contract law”. These assertions about the supposed rights of Odysseus to listen to the Sirens and children to vote ice cream and chocolate for dinner already set out one kind of problem in extended detail, cemented by Multi’s call for reactionaries to be oppressed.

    But there’s another problem, which goes something like this:
    1) Desecrate the MLK Monument of Civilrightopia
    2) Get billed for damages (whether physical or psychical)
    3) Refuse to pay damages, exile to Whitenationalistopia instead
    This is the flipside of the atheist lesbian daughter: people leaving your community in ways that make you want to demand payment, but saying “pay us before you get to leave” gets cracked down on very hard by World Government maintaining the supreme right to exit. It doesn’t even have to be a crime before moving; it could be that someone takes a loan from or incurs an obligation to Topia A and then moves to Topia B, where Topia B considers Topia A to be a bunch of dicks whose loans are invalid and oppressive, and then welches on the loan.

    The obvious solution is to have World Government come in and begin specifying which actions are eligible for damages, but the problem with this obvious solution is that now World Government is dictating to the individual Islands of the Archipelago which things are so really super double-bad that World Government will intervene to pay for them, rather than single-bad things that merely result in mild punishment or exile.

    So if you want an exit to Really Serious Civilrightopia where people don’t do that sort of thing, you’re out of luck, because anyone willing to take an exile can do it, and you will likely get the local equivalent of internet trolls who lurk just long enough to get through the visit filter, commit some trolling, and leave because they don’t care if they’re b& from stupid uptight places like Really Serious Civilrightopia, they were never going to live there anyway. (Also, probably some equivalent of spammers.) So with the drive-by disruptions, you can’t have a society where certain principles are seriously resDIE FAGGOTpected, and with the exile option, you can’t have a society where people owe anything vaguely social. (Plain economic debts might if they were sufficiently dissociated from the nature of the specific topia, because nobody likes outright fraud, but I wouldn’t be too sure of it considering various utopian communist projects to abolish debt.)

    You can theorize that other communities will come together to build a World Troll List and keep these people out of all nice communities, but good luck getting them to agree what’s actually a “troll” and what’s “civil disobedience” or one of the many other irregular verbs*. So it seems to me that either you’ve got trolls and spammers (“they’re pamphleteers!”) undermining the diversity and dedicated purposes of communities because the communities cannot punish these people, or else you’ve got World Government doing the same and undermining the independence of the communities to boot because World Government has two criminal codes.

    In summary: Moldbug’s Patchwork has a very wide Overton Window maintained by “who has nukes, or a backer with nukes”. Your Archipelago has a narrow one maintained by “who has the approval of Omi Oitherion”.

    * Yes Minister. “It’s one of those irregular verbs, isn’t it: I have an independent mind; you are an eccentric; he is round the twist.” “That’s another of those irregular verbs, isn’t it? I give confidential press briefings; you leak; he’s being charged under section 2A of the Official Secrets Act.”

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  66. Shenpen says:

    Dear Scott,

    Isn’t it obvious that the main contention between conservatives vs. liberals vs. leftists is not in the basic principle itself but in defining what constitutes harm?

    Two examples:

    – there is a certain degradation of a human character or virtue that is considered harm by a conservative, but not by a liberal or leftist

    – there is a certain harm to human autonomy or dignity that is considered harm by a Kantian liberal or leftist, but not in all cases by a conservative

    In fact, we don’t even define dignity the same way. To the liberal or leftist, it is something you inherently have, and only others can violate it. To the conservative, dignity is primarily about behaving in a dignified way which first and foremost you yourself can violate for yourself by e.g. engaging in bestiality, although others employing force or even just playing to you desires can push yourself towards violating it.

    The Harm Principle is never really contested – rather we simply disagree about what constitutes harm.

    Left-liberal definitions of harm tend to focus on1) harm to your health 2) harm to your wallet 3) harm to your autonomy or dignity. Conservative definitions accepts the first two, not so much the third one, and add 3) harm to your character or virtues 4) harm to the social fabric around you – removing your from a safe and meaningful community with a strong sense of belonging.

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  67. Shenpen says:

    Oh Scott, just noticed it:

    “and every child, no matter what other education they receive, also has to receive a class taught by a World Government representative in which they learn about the other communities participating in Archipelago”

    You really don’t get the whole basis of the conservative worldview, which basically means your worst enemy is inside, your own desires, pride, vanity, which the Buddhists call the ego-illusion, Christians call original sin and I guess scientists should call “shit was really different in the ancestral environment we evolved for” ?

    The point is, as the WHOLE point of conservatism is to keep the ego small (using the Buddhist terminology for now), everybody deserves as much freedom as much self-control they have i.e. as much they are able to repress their own egos.

    From this viewpoint, children, who are CHARACTERIZED by low self-control (psychologist Jonathan Haidt shown somewhere that basically growing up is not about learning ethics, but learning the self-control to follow the ethics we already had in childhood), and thus need repression and limited information and generally many “white lies” to be able to keep their egos small are exactly the wrong demographic for it.

    The only way conservative communities can function is that if kids don’t hear about other communities until they are grown up, and by that I mean not even 18 or 21 but seriously grown up, when they have known stuff like work and dealing with their own children, so get some life wisdom. Like around 30.

    Seriously many conservative values are so that 30 or 40 years old people “get it” but cannot put them in words. Conservatism works by life experience, wisdom, pattern recognition, not quite by verbal rules. Largely because it is not really possible to explain to children that their worst enemy, the ego – the same one that made you eat those donuts – is inside them.

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    • peterdjones says:

      If you are a Farmer living a hardscrabble existence, restraining your ego (id?) might be adaptive….but would it count as an unconditional virtue?

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    • a person says:

      I agree with most of your points but I don’t think that learning of the existence of other cultures would jeopardize moral development too much. If a kid in Conservaland hears about Hedontopia, his parents can just tell him “Yeah, those guys exist, but they’re evil and crazy and stupid and they’re everything we hate,” and the kid will probably grow to hate them too, unless he finds a reason to distrust his society completely, in which case he is the one that this sort of education was meant for.

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  69. ThePrussian says:

    Interesting until we get to this: “, resdistributive taxation from wealthier communities going into less wealthy ones,”

    In short, some communities would be doing the work and others would be collecting the goods. The whole point about exit rights is to escape this.

    And what happens if the black community happens to be wealthier than the white one? Aren’t we just straight back to the bad kind of segregation you mentioned earlier?

    Here’s how it would work in practice: well organised communities that are conducive to growth would do well (that’d be the capitalist ones). Less well organised communities would do more poorly (the communes etc.) and demand the well organised ones pick up the slack. The difference from these two would grow as productive members of the less well organised ones F.O. to the well organised ones. Then the less organised ones would begin to collapse internally and start blaming everything on the well organised ones, and clamoring for more and more, to be delivered by the World Government. The well organized would eventually get fed up and try to push back in the WG. Then we’re straight back to where we were at the start.

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    • Multiheaded says:

      And what happens if the black community happens to be wealthier than the white one? Aren’t we just straight back to the bad kind of segregation you mentioned earlier?

      No.

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  70. Hrothgar says:

    At risk of sounding too slippery-slopey, ı do wonder about the conservative Christian law school in Canada: Should the school still be allowed to ban gays and sexy people if the school was the unrivaled Best School in the country?—as in, if you want a good law education, really your only option is Holy Christ Law School?

    The “let everyone do what they want in their communities” works as long as there are enough communities, but if one community holds far more resources than the others, what happens then?

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  71. rrb says:

    I want to convince you that America is a little more Archipelago-like than you think. I mean, I want you to think that there’s a little more politically-motivated movement than you currently do.

    I’m a first year grad student. People applying to grad school are already committed to moving. And when they decide where they’re moving, a significant fraction make the decision based on culture or values. Significant enough that I know a few, in my peer group of people who recently made the decision where to go to grad school.

    It’s not quite “politically motivated”, although it’s close, and for some the difference in politics seems inseparable from the difference in culture. But it’s not for “business or family reasons.”

    Okay, well, yes, it is for business reasons, it’s to get educated. Professional reasons, to speak more broadly.

    But my point is that people who are already moving for professional reasons make politically or culturally motivated decisions about where to move to. Which increases Archipelego-like aggregation of people with similar values.

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  72. TGGP says:

    Sounds mostly good, although I’d have much less faith in your World Government. After all, you can’t escape that. Ideally there would be treaties between communities, but I understand it can be difficult to scale that.

    The great point made by Patri Friedman about seasteading is that when viewing governance as an industry, entry is incredibly difficult. It’s not the total stock of nations which is the problem, but the flow. Even if there were fewer countries, if it was easy for someone to create a new one, that would have a big impact. And yes, most people might not bother moving, but as long as marginal consumers have that option it can lead to more consumer surplus for the continuing customers of the former monopoly.

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  77. Sigh! had I found this a couple of months ago it would have saved me from writing this: http://purebarbell.blogspot.com.es/2015/09/what-is-anarcho-traditionalist-anyway.html
    and this: http://purebarbell.blogspot.com.es/2015/10/the-anarcho-traditionalist.html
    and this: http://purebarbell.blogspot.com.es/2015/10/society-should-be-for-man-and-not-other.html
    and even this: http://purebarbell.blogspot.com.es/2015/10/a-potential-difficulty-for-any-at_21.html

    Now come to think about it, writing it myself has helped me clarify my own ideas in a way that just reading it as written by Scott wouldn’t have achieved. Still, so many brilliant pages out there to read, so little time…

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  78. Peter Gerdes says:

    How can something make women “hella objectified” when we (or at least I and anyone I have ever quiered about it) don’t have any good idea what objectified means.

    Basically, I think objectified is a horrible term as it conflates two very different notions. Treating someone as an object is generally fine and dandy and we do it all the time “Go stand on that corner of the tarp to hold it down. Here hold this for a minute”

    On the other hand used in the feminism context it has nothing to do with treating someone as an object. Indeed, the most “objectifying” porn is deeply concerned with portraying women as having certain emotional responses (loving getting fucked or feeling hurt or whatever).

    There is quite plausibly a useful concept in this neighborhood but when you refuse to abandon an obviously inappropriate term it makes it hard to charitably assume you have a coherent notion in the background.

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  79. Peter Gerdes says:

    And what is this crap about needing a neutral principle and not simply evaluating things using whatever you think are the true moral facts.

    I think you conflating the need to publicly support/commit to an easily applied widely agreed upon rule with the truth/need for such a rule itself. I mean (as a utilitarian) I think the only reason to worry about these parental invasions by the government is that we have good evidence that such interventions have substantial costs to utility down the line and little utility benefit both of which are hard to see.

    Since I am sure that people are incapable of opposing measures which signal strong support for their values on such vague and mushy reasons we have to lie and convince them of some nice neutral rule they can trot out in soundbites.

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  80. Peter Gerdes says:

    The problem is there is too much leakage between neighboring societies.

    Sure, if the major world economies said “Ok, have that country and do what you want but every entry/exit requires a week long decontamination period, money and goods can’t cross the barrier and no internet connectivity” then you could genuinely live and let live. However, because of the superlinear economic benefits of scale such a country would be so unreasonably impoverished and isolated as to be unworkable.

    Sort of that you can’t just let the people running an efficient untraceable assassination market keep it up. Even if the benefits are only payable in this libertarian state freedom of movement means an assassin could do the deed and then emigrate to collect their reward.

    Even what freedom of movement means is a deeply troubling issue. We have millions of people in cement houses and various halfway houses we won’t let leave. ISIS has sex slaves they won’t let leave. What’s the rule you can get people to agree to which separates these situations.

    Presumably it still wouldn’t be cool to let ISIS keep sex slaves even if one couldn’t become a slave until 18 and only then as a result of some kind of ‘consent’. Sure, the slaves have done something (agreed to be a slave) that results in their confinement …. but absent truly open immigration and magic ferries that move you at a whim the only choices they really had were starving to death (and other bad fates) or becoming a sex slave. So it isn’t really a choice in any meaningful sense.

    Yet one could make much the same argument about US laws regarding drugs and other activities that keep so many young black men locked in prison.

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  81. Paul E. Black says:

    Thank you for a clearly reasoned essay. One huge problem that I don’t think you touched on is that few of us want to be with a like-minded community in every aspect of life. Yes, I want to hang out with people that watch Star Wars instead of Star Trek, but I want to work with people that take their programming seriously. And I don’t care whether the person driving my bus is a Democrat or whether the clerk at the grocery store is a Republican. Although an archipelago a of Transtopias or Theotopias or Fitopias is an interesting political concept, most people will want stuff (entertainment, the best police officer, gadgets, clothing, the best singing, movies, etc.) that comes from people in other communities.

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