"You like the government?" the other man asked sharply.
"Well.. Sort of."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean.. I really hate how the government does certain things. Most of our taxes going into military funding for example. I'd like to pick where my taxes go. But I like other things they do."
"I don't like the allocation of my tax money either. What are things you like?"
"I like how they're supposed to look after people, you know? Not all of us are rich or have the mentality to become rich. Not all of us have marketable skills; I make barely over minimum wage driving a street sweeper, and that's pretty much all I can do. Once the government is gone I won't have a job anymore unless some street corporation hires me to sweep streets. But it's not even the pay itself that bothers me. Since it was a government job they gave me a bunch of nice benefits such as medical expenses, and all those are going to go away too. How am I going to survive in this upcoming world? I can't do this alone!"
"Well, I have good confidence that in the next few decades powerful nanotechnology will be around... That will give us virtually free food, shelter, medicine, the ability to augment our intelligence..."
"Yes I've heard that before, but how do I survive until then? I might find another job sure, but the kind of jobs I could work for aren't likely to come with medical care and the pay wouldn't be enough for me to get it on my own anyway."
Maybe if you gave up beer you could save up the money... "I see your point. So with government gone, how are the poor people going to survive? I think it's quite possible by banding together and pooling resources, along with humanitarian-oriented companies."
"Pooling resources? Just like communism?"
"No, not just like communism, but yes pooling resources. It could be done in the same way as a struggling family, sort of. Every family member works and contributes money to the big family fund. This gives them much more power than each acting individually."
"I don't see this power yet. So what, are the resources going toward who needs it most, or divided up evenly?"
"The group as a whole decides how to spend resources. Shall we buy 10 loaves of bread to feed us this week? The--"
"Let's say there are 10 people in this poor-person "family". What's to stop one guy who contributes the least eating three loaves all himself?"
"Besides common courtesy? I'd say if that were to happen, then the rest of the family should kick him out if he refuses to cooperate. He can try fending for himself. This goes in the other direction as well: why should a member of this family who after some months is finally making enough to support himself remain if he doesn't want to? The only reason such a family group would form in the first place is because none of the members can survive individually."
"So members can join and leave any time they want?"
"Yes. Well, to join requires permission, but it's the obvious choice to allow it if the joining party is of good will. I sort of envision group houses set up where these poorer people go, with some people staying for perhaps 10 years contributing what they can and others staying only for a few months after they get back on their feet after some catastrophe."
"Would you say each member should work to be part of the group?"
"Each member should contribute to the group in some manner. This doesn't have to necessarily be a job; it could simply be cleaning up the area. If the group determines that an individual isn't pulling their weight, then they kick them out. Of course people are kind by default so they would probably offer several chances before actually kicking them out."
"Okay, this sounds feasible... but the money or food distribution is done by vote?"
"Sure, though they can decide if all votes are equal or if they should be weighted by contribution or what-not. Let's even say one group has a very smart man in their midst who is helping them from altruistic concerns. I see no problem in the group agreeing to concede to the smart man their votes of what the the money should be used for; the smart man can even demand it or else refuse to fund them. It's a case of trust--this man is rich and he is educated, so he could probably find better ways to allocate the pool than you could, or the group as a whole could."
"I guess technically, but it's by consent. At any time the group can decide they want to manage the pool together instead of letting him do it, and at any time the educated man can stop funding them for whatever reason, e.g. them wanting to control the pool of which his funds make up the most."
"Let's say one of the group members pulls a gun on the educated guy and demands him to continue funding--"
"Stop. Where did he get the gun, and why has he not added it to the pool of funds? But even say this highly unlikely scenario did occur, I'll discuss the decisions of the educated man some other time. I'm in this town for a few days doing a business deal, will you be here tomorrow evening? Then we can talk about what the educated man might do."
"Yeah, I'll be here. This plan sounds really weird, but I might agree with you and it could work..."
"All that is required is for people to realize they can achieve greater power by pooling their funds. Without government, there's nothing to keep the rich serving the poor but the rich's own will; without government, there's nothing to keep the poor from banding together to support each other and choosing to disband when it makes sense to; without government, there's nothing to keep average-income people from banding together to fund a large project none could individually afford such as a road system."
"Hold it. With this banding together, wouldn't society eventually converge back to a centralized government? I mean, since pooling is so powerful, one group could pool with another group and that bigger group could pool with yet another and they could start grouping and absorbing everyone until we're back where we are now."
"That is a danger and it may very well happen if the group elects the republic way of democracy. It's..difficult to manage a large group where everyone has a say, and so what would happen is people would create dictators over their own subgroup to represent them in the large group. This has danger written all over it though, since when things are of that scale the people who really need help don't get it. Perhaps if that were to stat happening the people at the bottom would realize they need at least some control and leave to form a separate group. There would be nothing stopping them unless the giant group had begun dictating government-like things about who can leave and who they should force to leave or join. I hope no group would grow to that scale, as it's the failure of today's government model."
"So the grouping business is tricky and people should resist the natural slide into big government. Okay. But wait! Back to the medical thing. Let's say I just joined a group and then fell down some stairs and broke my leg. It takes a huge amount of the group pool to fix me; wouldn't they just kick me out of the group to save the money for the rest of them? Isn't that the rational thing to do for them?"
"There is always that danger, to which my advice is: don't join groups whose highest utility is the money. Join the groups whose highest utility is human life. The danger exists in a real family situation as well. With no government, there's nothing stopping a father from telling his son with a broken arm 'too bad we're poor no fixed arm for you,' and refusing to pay. But human psychology would seem to indicate that the father not paying is very unlikely because his son's health is a higher utility than the family's complete money pool. Of course this risk of being thrown out of the group exists with government as well--do you think people never get denied care?
"Even consider that you fell first, and then tried to join a group because you need help. If the group is humanitarian, they will help. If not, they won't. It's the same with a government."
"Still, it's scary and there's lots of uncertainties. I mean, no government? Sure with the power of banding together you can get models of distributed democracy and dictatorship, but there's nothing binding those social contracts but each individual's will."
"Right. But don't be afraid of change, and many aspects only seem uncertain because so many people are pessimistic and cynical about human nature. And if this no government system ends up in shambles it is very easy to return to the old way of doing things, though I would argue against it. Just remember: every change isn't always an improvement, but every improvement is necessarily a change. We need to try different ideas instead of stagnating in a swamp of 'it mostly works'."
Posted on 2009-09-09 by Jach
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