J Thomas on December 15, 2010, 01:13:41 pm

Is the Hadron Collider less likely to be developed in an anarchy?  I don't know about less likely but I imagine it would probably be a harder sell, because there would be real accountability demanded in an anarchy.  Wishful thinkers would naturally prefer a government to rob those who are insufficiently impressed with the proposal, but it doesn't make it any less a robbery.

Is the Collider impossible in an anarchy?  Demonstrate that it is, and I'll revisit my views on government.  If you can't demonstrate impossibility, will you revisit yours?

I'm making an argument from despair here. We tend to search for optima with something like hill-climbing algorithms. You see how good it is where you are, and you look which direction seems better, so you go that direction. When you reach a place which is better than all the places around it, you quit. This is a good way to find a local optimum. Is there something better, that you can't get to without going through something worse first? Maybe.

When the only way to get to a discovery is to do something stupid first, goverment is your best shot at doing the stupid thing that gives you the new viewpoint. This is not a great recommendation. In fact maybe for a long time you'll do better by not doing something stupid, by following up on the smart clues. Maybe it's only when you start running out of smart moves that you learn more from stupid moves.

Arguing that an AnCap society ought to maintain some small institution specifically to do stupid things with other people's money sounds even more counter-intuitive than radiation hormesis. I'm not even sure it would be valuable. But certainly in an anarchy you *could* create an institution to do things like Hadron colliders if you wanted to.

The question was raised, how can government help science and technology. And that's my answer. If you do things that nobody in his right mind would pay for, you might possibly learn valuable things that nobody else knows. And there's a chance that government will pay for that when nobody else will.

Whether the successes from this are valuable enough to justify the failures, can be found only by experience.

terry_freeman on December 15, 2010, 01:52:54 pm
Vast amounts of high tech have been and are being created by the private sector. In the last three decades or so, the government has swollen large, and is investing a lot more into "science" than was the norm, but this is not necessarily a good thing. Politicians don't care whether science is useful, so much as whether they can get campaign dollars and votes for it. Political entrepreneurs do things which are economically and scientifically stupid - such as making sure that items must be built from parts located in numerous congressional districts, and then assembled elsewhere - not for economic or rational reasons, but because "that is where the votes are."

This is, in a nutshell, one more application of the economic calculation problem - you can let markets work, or you can distort the computational process by throwing political considerations into the mix.

To give an example, we're not ready to develop Star Wars technology yet, regardless of whether government is involved or not. The billions spent on that effort were not spent as efficiently as they would have been, had they been directed by profit-seeking entrepreneurs who chose to risk their own resources, instead of confiscating taxes from unwilling victims. Who knows what good things would have been created, had the economy been left to function more freely?

 

SandySandfort on December 15, 2010, 05:23:41 pm
Arguing that an AnCap society ought to maintain some small institution specifically to do stupid things with other people's money sounds even more counter-intuitive than radiation hormesis. I'm not even sure it would be valuable. But certainly in an anarchy you *could* create an institution to do things like Hadron colliders if you wanted to.

Of course. Universities do it all the time. Yes, they let government corrupt them with bribes, uh grants, but in a far richer society, there would be money to burn for such things. And if there are people today who will donate money to save the whale, there will be people who would donate to probe the wonders of the universe.

As for people doing "crazy things" that bring give us new perspectives and stumble upon new technology, well, those people are always with us. They are called "eccentrics." They spend their money chase their particular passion.

One of the whines I get from statists is that all sorts of "public goods" would not be possible without putting a gun to taxpayers' heads. Well, when I lived in San Francisco, I used to visit a private park that was open to everyone. I will tell you this, it was way cleaner and better kept than the City's Panhandle Park.

There was also a private library that was open to all (for $50 per year). It was comfortable, clean and quiet. BTW, Bobby Fischer used to visit on the sly and play chess with members.

When I lived in Flagstaff, I toured something that statist told me was impossible, Percival Lowell's private observatory. You know, where Pluto was discovered. (See "eccentric" supra.)


quadibloc on December 16, 2010, 12:58:03 am
Is the Collider impossible in an anarchy?  Demonstrate that it is, and I'll revisit my views on government.  If you can't demonstrate impossibility, will you revisit yours?
It's reasonable to think that the LHC is less likely in an anarchy. But if it isn't really a worthwhile project, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

As Sandy pointed out, Percival Lowell built an observatory with his own money. He was a wealthy man, and he was interested in the possibility that there was life on Mars. Eventually, Pluto was discovered there.

As advances in science and technology progress in a free society, two things would happen: there would be greater individual wealth, and the cost of doing things would come down. So an LHC would still be possible in an AnCap society - it would just happen later.

I think that later is a bad thing, simply because science is the foundation on which technology is built. Even with governments spending tax dollars with abandon, science spending is down from the heady days of the 1960s. Scientists think it should be up, instead - since we're richer now, and since, at least in some fields, the required equipment to progress further is bigger and more expensive.

I'm sure garment makers would like the U.S. to purchase more changes of uniform for its soldiers. So I realize that special pleading isn't much of an argument.

And, of course, most of the anti-technology, anti-nuclear, anti-genetic engineering types are very collectivist and statist.

Whatever the political system, in time, the expense of projects to advance basic science is likely to increase, and its applicability to consumer products will become more remote. In some fields. Big government wasn't needed for the microelectronics revolution, and for the most part, despite Federal funding of the human genome project, I don't think that the biotechnology revolution is going to be halted if the government happens to be stingy with academic research funding.

It is true that the Minuteman II missile program (not the Apollo space program) provided an early impetus to the integrated circuit industry. But IBM - and Ma Bell - used their own types of integrated circuits which weren't good enough for missiles (IBM: Solid Logic Technology, Bell: beam-lead ICs) and other computer companies would have come to Fairchild with orders soon enough in order to stay competitive.

It's not really clear that after discovering atomic energy, Big Science has that much more to accomplish that will improve people's lives. Are we going to have a need for Bose-Einstein condensates in industrial quantities? I think we can do without.

The two things that might be helpful that seem to require government-scale expenditures are... fusion power, and the colonization of space. Since space powersats might make fusion power unnecessary, except that of the Sun, and since many people, here and elsewhere, believe that private industry can provide us with space access, and NASA is the problem, not the solution... I don't think it would be worth trying to prove that we can't live without taxpayer-supported megaprojects for this reason.

The LHC is just a nice to have, not a necessity.

mellyrn on December 16, 2010, 07:37:00 am
Quote
in time, the ... applicability [of basic science] to consumer products will become more remote.  In some fields.

The NCNR is a government-created-and-run center for fundamental neutron physics -- and Exxon (for example) is a regular customer.  Means that Exxon sees use for fundamental neutron research (something to do with fuel cells, I believe, at least currently).  Obviously they haven't built their own neutron research reactor for the purpose, but I suspect that's because they see no value in building another when there's already one handy.  Or they do have one but it can't do some things that the NCNR can.  If the NCNR didn't exist, then Exxon, alone or in conjunction with others, would probably build something like it, since they're evidently interested.

If I ran a big company, I'd fund basic research, on the grounds that the next big Must-Have might come out of it.

J Thomas on December 16, 2010, 07:52:26 am
Quote
in time, the ... applicability [of basic science] to consumer products will become more remote.  In some fields.

The NCNR is a government-created-and-run center for fundamental neutron physics -- and Exxon (for example) is a regular customer.  Means that Exxon sees use for fundamental neutron research (something to do with fuel cells, I believe, at least currently).  Obviously they haven't built their own neutron research reactor for the purpose, but I suspect that's because they see no value in building another when there's already one handy.  Or they do have one but it can't do some things that the NCNR can.  If the NCNR didn't exist, then Exxon, alone or in conjunction with others, would probably build something like it, since they're evidently interested.

It can be argued, though, that Exxon is big and rich because of the government. That in a free society big inefficient companies would get outcompeted and would fail.

Quote
If I ran a big company, I'd fund basic research, on the grounds that the next big Must-Have might come out of it.

So would I. Unless I was in stiff competition that didn't allow luxury spending on long-shots. Still, if my company made lots of money and distributed it to stockholders, a rich stockholder might fund basic research because he wanted to. And if the company was efficient and sold at low prices without making excess profits, the customers would be richer and better able to fund research. There's always some way it could work.

ContraryGuy on December 16, 2010, 10:49:14 am
There is alot of thoughtful insight on this thread.  I even managed to agree with Sandy.
However, Quadibloc, J.Thomas and others have forgotten one *tiny* detail in their otherwise thoughtful posts:  Human Nature.

*there are no rich anarchists.  In order to become rich enough to live well enough that you feel you have excess income to devote to profit-less longshot projects that may not pay off in your lifetime, you have to have enough societal security that you do not fear poor anarchists attempting to take you down.

*there are no altruistic anarchists; at least not for long.  There are always selfish, greedy and otherwise mal-contented people who joy in life is hurting or taking from other people.
Our current society is not perfect; but most people, from someone like me, to someone like Bill Gates, have enough faith in society that we do not worry about someone poorer than us firebombing our house just because we have it and they dont.

We're talking about mal-contented people here.  In an AnCap society, not everyone can afford a private security company, just like not everyone can afford health insurance.

In an Anarchistically Capitalist society, money is the be all and end all of all things.  When I mentioned human nature above, I was referring to greed.
i am not the naive idealist about people that most residents on this board are; I understand that most people are kind and well-meaning.  Unless there is no underlying social foundation, like New Orleans after Katrina.
If people are told that there is no underlying foundation of social behavior which all people are expected to adhere to, than those kind and well-meaning people start looking after themselves, and their neighbors, or some stranger, can go to hell. 

After all, were talking anarchy here.

I suppose this isnt the most cogent argument, but I believe it illustrates the impossibility of producing something like the LHC with anarchists.
Independent, entrepreneurial people with vision and money; sure, they could build an LHC, but anarchists, no. 
No anarchist would submit themselves to someone elses tyrannical rule for long enough.

Oh, as a P.S., what about land issues?  an LHC takes as much space as all of New York City, but out in the country.  Waht anarchist is going to let a bunch of nerdy yabbos take over their prime farm or grazing land?

bjdotson on December 16, 2010, 11:16:30 am
I'm glad somebody mentioned Star Wars. Using the profit motive, they set out to make an unforgettable movie. Their striving to achieve this resulted in new technologies to make movies; some of these turned out to expand technologies in other areas as well. The medical advances in computer imaging used by the medical profession is an excellent example. They sought to make movies and saved countless lives. This is how a free market expands its technology.

mellyrn on December 16, 2010, 11:55:04 am
Oh, ContraryGuy, thank you for raising the issue of human nature.  Yes indeed, let's look at human nature.

It's estimated -- conservatively, mind you -- that one in every hundred humans, 1%, is a psychopath. 

Psychopaths recognize that they are different at a very early age, and thus have plenty of time and material to study normals.  Normals, otoh, have very little awareness of, and therefore few tools to cope with, psychopaths.  And as a psychiatrist friend once remarked, with a diabolical chuckle, "Psychopaths can be very charming people."

I don't know what percentage of psychopaths are drawn to power; let's assume -- I think conservatively -- that interest in power does not track with psychopathy but rather is independent of it, so that percent of power-seeking psychopaths is the same as power-seeking normals.

Let's say there is a political office available.  Let's say it's in a democracy (or democratic republic, or the like).  Let's say Joe Normal and Jane Psychopath are the available candidates.

There are some things Joe simply Will Not Do, lines he will not cross, in order to "win" the seat.  But there is virtually nothing Jane will not do to get it.

Who's more likely to get the office:  the one who plays fair, or the one who will freely lie, cheat, trick, steal, even kill for it?  And remember:  "Psychopaths can be very charming people."  They'll even charm for it -- play nice where it suits, where it can be seen.

This necessarily means that psychopaths are "over-represented" in government office.  Which in turn means that government power is skewed towards control by Joe, who really wants to serve his community, or by Jane, who's getting her power rocks off?

And that's just assuming that psychopathy and the lust for power do not track together.

Looking at the world, and world history -- I used to joke that "anyone who wants to run for an office ought to be disqualified just for wanting it."  I no longer think this is a joke.  And it seems to me that the more power is at stake, the more likely it is that the psychopaths will go for it.

We joke, "How do you know when a politician is lying?  His lips are moving!"
And then we go ahead and freakin' vote in the next election as if we thought we weren't being lied to!  WTF?  How many lying politicians does it take before you get it that their promises are all lies?  They're not even being subtle about it anymore!

At least in an anarchy, in order to achieve any kind of social power (e.g., by becoming wealthy and thus able to, say, hire others; or as with King Reggie, earning respect, emphasis on the "earn"), you have to produce something worthwhile.  There is no center of power that the psychopath can co-opt.

(I don't know where you get your claim that there are no wealthy anarchists.  How do you know what all the wealthy people think?  They may not have had an anarchy in which to grow up and grow their business, but that's no reason to say they couldn't have, wouldn't have, or wouldn't have wanted to.)




SandySandfort on December 16, 2010, 03:29:33 pm
In an Anarchistically Capitalist society, money is the be all and end all of all things.... After all, were talking anarchy here.

What are you smoking? Are you just ignorant or is this some pitiful attempt to be "confrontational"? I'm going with ignorant, but you could just be trying to be a troll. Not a very good one, but a troll.

Your half-assed claims about AnCap are, well... silly. Before you embarrass yourself further, you might want to actually read something about anarcho-capitalism. Armed with your newly acquired understanding you can come back and attempt to strike another heroic pose. I'm not optimistic you will have anything intelligent to say, but maybe you will surprise me.

jamesd on December 16, 2010, 05:42:53 pm
I think that later is a bad thing, simply because science is the foundation on which technology is built. Even with governments spending tax dollars with abandon, science spending is down from the heady days of the 1960s.

Government spending on X seldom produces more X.  What it produces is bureaucracy, special interest groups, and funding for political activity.  If you are a scientist, science is not the way to get ahead.  Grantsmanship is the way to get ahead.  So you wind up not doing real science.

Similarly with defense.  In thirteen hundred years of war with Islam, there have only been a handful of important state to state victories by Christendom.  In practice, the victories of Christendom usual came from settlers, settler militias, and state sponsored pirates and bandits, most famously the reconquest of Spain.  Observe what happened when Israel pulled the settlers out of Gaza. 

jamesd on December 16, 2010, 05:57:04 pm
We're talking about mal-contented people here.  In an AnCap society, not everyone can afford a private security company, just like not everyone can afford health insurance.

The Gangsta Disciples provided security and contract enforcement to drug dealers at thirty dollars a month.  Policing really is not all that expensive.

I think those without such a contract would be bums and criminals - people with a past history of trouble would find such contracts expensive.

J Thomas on December 16, 2010, 06:06:50 pm

The Gangsta Disciples provided security and contract enforcement to drug dealers at thirty dollars a month.  Policing really is not all that expensive.

I think those without such a contract would be bums and criminals - people with a past history of trouble would find such contracts expensive.

It's possible that "past history of trouble" would include "taking on somebody richer who had a bigger, stronger security force".

Maybe if you fail to back down when somebody stronger tells you what to do, regardless of who's "right", your security contracts will immediately get much much more expensive.

There are lots of ways it could possibly go.

It's possible the security forces could provide arbitration. They meet up and discuss the merits of the dispute, and together they provide both sides with an offer they cannot refuse. And then the result might be pretty much a toss-up. A weaker security force who stands up for their client because he's right, against the odds, might find their services become far more valuable because people would think they might do it again someday.

terry_freeman on December 17, 2010, 11:06:14 am
If there are positive reasons to do scientific research - if, as has been said, applied science depends on it - then why do you think there would be less in an AnCap society?

This would be true only if - magically - far-thinking individuals gravitate to government, but not to positions where such dreams can be accomplished in AnCap society - and the differential is great enough to more than counter the greater available resources in AnCap society.

I find these assumptions preposterous. The same government which is proven to be inept at managing other resources is unlikely to be magically efficient when managing scientific resources.

I have been in the computer field for nearly four decades. One of the great stories of the 80s was that Japan was going to kick America's butt with their Fifth Generation Computing initiative, a vastly expensive dream of their government. They were going to bring about real Artificial Intelligence - computers so smart that you could talk to them and the computers would write programs to do whatever you wanted. We're still waiting.

Any honest observer will tell you: the project was a failure. Japan is still not creating earth-shaking computer chips; their strengths have been in memory, not processors.

Vast amounts of research are done by the private sector. If government were "contributing" less, the private sector would do more, and would allocate resources more efficiently. It is fashionable to claim that the private sector looks only to the next quarter, but that's bullshit. Private-sector research initiatives often look ahead a decade or more. Google up "memristor" for an example - it is a technology which may yield revolutionary results ten or fifteen years from now. HP is one of the leaders in this research. IBM is engaged in a long-term research project which will eventually lead to optical interconnects on silicon computer chips, leading to much higher cpu-to-memory bandwidth. IBM has many other research projects going, which will lead to faster chips, greater efficiency, better cooling, and so forth. Is some government money involved? Of course, hardly anybody turns down "free" money, but the private sector still has strong incentives to do scientific research.

I expect more science in an AnCap society, not less - and the science will be more honest, less tainted by politics.


SandySandfort on December 17, 2010, 02:54:34 pm
It is fashionable to claim that the private sector looks only to the next quarter, but that's bullshit. Private-sector research initiatives often look ahead a decade or more

The whole raison d'Ítre for the creation of Bell Labs was to do speculative research without the necessity of making a profit; only to come up with interesting result. (BTW, I got a tour inside ESS 3 <Electronic Switching System Number 3>, at the Bell Labs outside of Chicago. It was a huge room-sized room-temperature computer you could walk through. That was at a time when most computer centers were cold enough to hang sides of beef. ESS was designed to not have to rely on A/C.)

 

anything