Oct 02 2012

Austerity Doesn’t Augur A Bright Future: Some Unsolicited Advice For Libertarian Transhumanists

""){ ?> By Malcolm McCluhan


There are many different political views in the world of transhumanism.  If you look at the recent IEET poll,  which cast a very broad and accurate net by inviting participants from the virtual places where transhumanists gather, you will find that — when asked “what is your political position?” — the majority of transhumanists fall into categories that are usually defined as “progressive’ or ‘left.”  If you total up Liberal, Socialist and Marxist selections, you wind up at 54% (rounded off).  Libertarians come in at 27% (rounded off) — making that an approximately 2 – 1 ratio.  (The remainder describe themselves as moderates.)  Still, libertarianism and transhumanism are frequently paired in the minds of many of its critics and even some of its adherents.

Whatever your broad ideological views may be, it strikes this writer as bad PR for any advocates of a world beyond limits to line up with a contemporary conservative (libertarian or authoritarian) economic political trend that supports austerity programs as commanded by the state-supported economic banking and finance giants.  If nothing else, listen to the language.

Ideological abstractions — such as the idea that the perfect free market will bring about the greatest wealth — have their place.  But in on-the-ground reality, the program of austerity is experienced by poor and middle class people as an attack on their well being and, as such, it fosters anti-technological reaction.  People know — literally or intuitively — that their world is already being buffeted by technological acceleration.  Is it wise to pull the survival net from under them (us) during these fragile times?

Libertarians believe in reducing the size of government and keeping it out of people’s private lives.   There are massive government expenditures for corporate welfare — government and business “partnerships” have built massive “complexes” that we describe as military-industrial, prison-industrial, ad infinitum.  Crony capitalism is rampant throughout Europe and the US.  And governments have not been backing away, in the least, from interfering with people’s private lives and personal rights.  We’ve witnessed the build up of massive — and expensive — apparatuses of surveillance and repression. But the only influence libertarians have in the actual political world is as part of a conservative coalition that squeezes the “entitlements” that affect the poor and middle class. Notice how you only get the low hanging fruit.  Apparently, the rest of the libertarian ideological package isn’t particularly in the interests of those who actually wield power.

So here’s a suggestion.  I hope some flexible and strategic-minded libertarian transhumanists will try to reorient and refocus their political discourse and activism toward this notion: end corporate welfare first; end crony capitalism first; end the expensive and excessive national security complexes first; end the interventionism that leads to expensive wars first.  Leave the devolution of centralized programs that effect the most vulnerable for last.

Maybe by then, the technologies of abundance will be so advanced that no one will have to suffer austerity. And maybe you will have avoided an uprising of people “fighting the future.”

Just a thought.




  • By Valkyrie, October 3, 2012 @ 2:56 am

    The problem with this suggestion is that it runs completely against the central goal of “Randian” Libertarianism, which has managed to almost utterly destroy any other form.

    That goal is the elimination of all government to allow society to be ruled entirely by the concentration of wealth, effectively restoring the Unaccountable Aristocracy of Pre-Enlightenment days. There is no actual desire for liberty, freedom or justice inherent in this movement, merely a childish infatuation with the idea that a removal of “government” interference would equate to immediate elevation to “Alpha” status. In other words, the majority of these “true believers” are those who feel victimized by the existence of “government”, characterized as a “thief” who continually “robs” them of their chances to become members of the ruling class, and who think that removal of “government” will allow them to suddenly become aristocracy themselves, a delusional belief which shields them from all factual evidence to the contrary.

    Government exists to provide for the common good of all. It exists to pool resources and maximize efficiency by using those pooled resources to aid all individuals in society. Those “social safety nets” so abhorred by “Randian” libertarians are the PRIMARY function of any government. The problem is not in their existence, but in their failure to be extensive enough to provide for all.

    And yes, if you eliminate the vast amounts of “pooled resources” being sucked out of government by “elite special interests” (also known as corruption, bribery, corporate welfare, etc) there would be more than enough resources to not merely provide for universal “safety nets” but sufficient excess to completely eliminate poverty and privation.

    The problem is not and never has been “The Government”, it has always been with individuals siphoning off societies pooled resources for individual wealth building efforts (i.e. using “bailouts” to pay for “bonuses”). And it’s these “successful parasites” that are the most avidly defended by “Randian” libertarians, as they aspire to become such themselves one day.

    For a more detailed discussion of the true role of government:

  • By deltac, October 3, 2012 @ 6:17 am

    Along with advances in technologies of abundance come also advances in technologies of destruction, which will be easier to create and in abundance for those maniacal leaders around the world who would use them. There must remain a mechanism in place to render these gov/orgs harmless as threats increase. Fanaticism is not going to go away. Transhumanists may find themselves at the center of attention by some of these groups as they may perceive your particular world view a very real threat to their deeply entrenched ideologies.

  • By Matthew Bailey, October 3, 2012 @ 10:11 am

    Well stated, Valkyrie.

    what you have pointed out is something that I have discovered since falling from my own position of privilege. I came from a family that was among the “Minor Aristocracy” of the Texas Oil and Cattle industry, and as such, I got to see an endless parade of sycophantic parasites, and aristocratic parasites.

    There was no end to the number of people who thought that simple proximity to wealth would allow it to rub off on them, and elevate them to some position of privilege (there is a grain of truth in that, but it takes more than just proximity to pull it off).

    Another thing that I find interesting is that many Transhumanists don’t actually produce anything of value, other than a constant stream of liturgies about some utopian future. They don’t seem to understand that entrenched power is not so easily dislodged, and that many in those positions of power are now paying heed to these stories about the future, so that they might leverage the changes taking place to further entrench their power.

    This sort of development doesn’t bode well to any sort of utopian future.

  • By Valkyrie, October 3, 2012 @ 8:23 pm

    The solution to this problem is already underway, and yes, many of those entrenched in power are making efforts to mold it to further that hold. I discussed this in my articles and

    Every effort to leverage these technologies is being made. The problem is that they are not neutral technologies. They are inherently hostile to authoritarian systems of control, and inherently empowering to democracy, liberty, freedom and a true “free market” that is not manipulated to favor a select few. While each has a preliminary phase which can appear to favor “elite” interests, their long term effects are fatal to those interests.

    We are in an economic transition phase, much like we were during the 18th century as the industrial revolution began to erode the previous economic paradigm of the slave driven mass agriculture. Much like the “barons” of the old south convinced the masses to fight against their own interests and for the interests of the elite, so too today is the established “aristocrats” seeking to convince the majority that stasis and stagnation are the only path. This will fail in time, but there will be much harm done to many before it does.

  • By Singularity Utopia, October 11, 2012 @ 2:09 am

    Hi Malcolm, I agree wholeheartedly with this:

    “I hope some flexible and strategic-minded libertarian transhumanists will try to reorient and refocus their political discourse and activism toward this notion: end corporate welfare first; end crony capitalism first; end the expensive and excessive national security complexes first; end the interventionism that leads to expensive wars first.”

    I am doing my bit via “Post-Scarcity Warriors” to change the world. Please add the Post-Scarcity Warriors G+page to your circles, and feel free to use the page as a direct action rallying point.

    We desperately need greater awareness of our free future because via that awareness this will help people make clear sighted decisions now, whereas currently many decisions are being made based on a world where money and prices will always exist.

  • By StupendousMan, October 14, 2012 @ 11:59 am

    First I think that the posters, and article writer, should do some research about what the libertarian philosophy is based on.

    Quite simply all of the ideas, positions, what have you, held by the average libertarian are based on the Non-Aggression Principle, or NAP. The NAP put simply, says that one cannot ethically use force, coercion, or fraud to pursue ones goals. This also includes doing so via proxy- the government. One cannot cede an authority to another that you don’t hold yourself.

    “…merely a childish infatuation…”

    Ad hominem? Come on you’re better than that. I will add that no ideology, philosophy, etc. can answer every question or address every circumstance to every persons’ satisfaction. The same with libertarianism. It’s strength lies first in the the NAP, it is the most ethical of foundations for a political philosophy that I’ve found to date.

    The constant arguments against libertarian philosophy, that usually devolve into strawman fallacies, are tiresome especially when very intelligent people engage in them. Take the whole “Randian” angle. Ayn Rand wasn’t a libertarian. Her philosophy was closer to AnCap- if you don’t know what that is you shouldn’t be holding forth about libertarianism.

    Now on to two points that struck me.

    First the austerity issue. Let me say first that I’ve never read a libertarian piece that supported corporatism or public/private partnerships. They are corruption and theft writ large. The reason that many libertarians are for “austerity”, or write about it often, is because social program costs dwarf corporate handouts. They constitute the lions share of governmental costs in western countries. All of whom are in dire financial positions. What cannot go on forever won’t.

    Second, government, especially democratic governments cannot fix this modern cycle of redistributionist bubbles. Times are good the government spends like crazy, for votes, times are bad the government spends like crazy for votes. Generally governments do this through borrowing regardless of tax revenues. So not only does it cause market distortions hurting everyone it saddles future generations with astonishingly huge debts. In the case of the US this spending trend has never stopped- every administration has spent more than it takes in for decades. It’s truly insane.

    Now on to the Trans-humanist angle. I believe that it will be technology that shrinks governments and allows people to pursue their happiness and increase their standard of living. I don’t think this idea is controversial in these circles. Technologies that allow for non-centralized living will slowly and inexorably remove the control levers of government. Mesh networks, efficient home energy productions, 3D printers, home food production from hydroponics to vat meat, etc. will allow people to produce much if not all of their basic needs without the need for huge infrastructures. Once these technologies are available- many of which are almost there -people will pretty much be living in a libertarian society. By this I mean that they’ll have the choice of whether they need a government or not. They’ll be able to live by their own creeds. They’ll have the choice of how to mediate disputes, etc.

    Anyway, that’s my semi-rant. To steal a phrase, “We’re the libertarians, we’re here to take over… and leave you alone.”

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