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Democratic Socialism - is it Ideal for Transhumanism?
Hank Pellissier   May 20, 2015   Ethical Technology  

Bernie Sanders, Senator from Vermont, is campaigning to be the next USA President.  He defines himself as a “Democratic Socialist” and praises Scandinavian nations. USA citizenry is largely puzzled and aghast:

“The only thing most American know about socialism is they don’t like it.” - Leo Huberman

In a survey of transhumanists, 16.9% described themselves as Socialist, 4.2% Marxist, 32.7% Liberal, 27.4 Libertarian, and 15.6 Moderate. The Transhumanist Party is running a candidate in 2016 - Zoltan Istvan. I’ll be posting a series of articles on transhumanist political positions.

In this first installment, I interview four contributors to IEET.

Amon Twyman  (born in New Zealand, now in the UK) is the founder and leader of the UK Transhumanist Association, the Global Party Secretary of the Transhumanist Party - Global  and the founder/leader of Zero State.

Khannea Suntzu (The Netherlands) is a cosmist, cosmicist, upwinger, socialist-libertarian, hedonist and abolitionist.

Joern Pallensen (Denmark) has a lifelong interest in ontology of self. He blogs at Transhumanisten.com.  He was previously interviewed for the IEET article, “Happiness, Freedom, Equality, Rudeness - welcome to Denmark!”

Peter Wicks  (born in the UK, now living in Belgium and China) was employed for 16 years at the European Commission, working mainly on environmental policy. He now works as a consultant.

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Americans think “Socialism” takes away a person’s freedoms. What’s your opinion?

Amon Twyman: It depends on what “Socialism” you’re talking about. Historical Communism (which called itself “Socialist”) definitely did take away freedoms. But a complete absence of social protection takes away freedoms too, since it leaves you with no options but to do what your employer tells you. True freedom is a question of finding a sane balance between extreme, irresponsible forms of both Socialism and Capitalism (and any other -ism).

I do not describe myself as a “Democratic Socialist”, since I see problems with both terms. I am a Social Futurist, or Technoprogressive. I strongly support democracy but think it needs deep reform, and am wary of what is often meant by “Socialism” but strongly support an emphasis on enriching the community and supporting its citizens. This third way or “radical centrist” position is reflected in the ideas of the Transhumanist Party in the UK and Europe.

Khannea Suntzu: Socialism is not a single thing. It is a diffuse concept. I only know I label myself a Socialist-Libertarian, along the lines of Noam Chomsky, and I wholeheartedly agree when Chomsky says ‘Socialism’ and the entire intellectual socialist ideological movement in the US ended up in the equivalent of concentration camps. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1MrbSNeLBw

It is a quaint historical artifact that most socialist states ended up almost as fascistic as capitalist states. The success of the US NeoLiberal/Capitalist model used in the US is that the US could afford to be “a little more free and prosperous”, largely because it was so culturally efficient in turning oil into societal affluence.

Joern Pallensen: Historically yes, - in nature and in most varieties yes, but.. to the extent it sticks to being democratic, not to speak of liberal / libertarian, - not necessarily..

Peter Wicks: My freedom to swing my arm ends where your nose begins. The myth of perfect freedom is just that: a myth. We all operate under constraints. Democratic socialism reflects the understanding that equality of opportunity (the usual capitalist mantra) has to be balanced by equality of outcomes. The freedom for parents to spend money on their kids’ education has to be balanced by the freedom for those with less privileged backgrounds to overcome the constraints of their birth. Redistribution of wealth is part of the glue that binds society together, in the US as well as in Europe. The main difference is that some parts of Europe have gone further with it, and Europeans are not afraid of the word “socialism.”
 
Americans don’t seem to understand socialism but they resist it. Can you describe socialism and its benefits?

Amon Twyman: Again, it depends on what Socialism you’re talking about. Communists would tell you that it’s about workers owning the “means of production” - i.e. the factories and materials they work on. So they get a fair share of the profit, instead of investors and CEOs getting almost everything. Inequality is a fair thing to be concerned by, but taken too far this leads to the abolition of private property. The modern European view is simply to have a fair, balanced approach to workers (and citizens’) rights and remuneration. A fair deal.

Khannea Suntzu: Socialism is… you take “a little” away from the relatively successful in society, and redistribute it to the relatively less successful.  I think Americans are well aware what socialism is but they are culturally competitive, and prefer competing with people they don’t like. Socialism in the USA also has to contend with several decades worth of indoctrination and propaganda. It assumes that the relatively Rich (older white Anglo-Saxons) are supposed to give some of their money, “under fair state compulsion”, to people they really don’t like. The whole US system has evolved to resist this. In the same way an Atheist party won’t work in places like Saudi Arabia, likewise the US is culturally “weaponized” against redistributive state systems.

Joern Pallensen: I would define it as - Common ownership and production for human needs, as opposed to individual ownership and production for profit.

Peter Wicks: It depends what kind of socialism you are talking about. Common ownership and redistribution of wealth are certainly core concepts, but they can be taken to extremes (Marxism), or adopted in moderation. Democratic socialism looks favorably on this type of policy, but without (necessarily) losing a pragmatic approach (i.e. “does this work in this particular case?”), and of course embedded in an overall democratic system where socialist parties compete with, and sometimes even govern with, other (e.g. centre-right) parties.
 
It seems like European nations have “free” or “inexpensive” universities due to Democratic Socialism. Whereas in the USA, college debt is crippling. Do you think nationalizing education is beneficial?  Any drawbacks?

Amon Twyman: Again, balance is key. Universities are at their best when they have state support and so can indulge in “blue sky” research and non-commercial teaching, but at the same time also have the freedom to explore relationships with industry and entrepreneurs. To imagine a choice between wholly privatised Libertarian universities and dour state-controlled Communist-style universities is a false dichotomy.

Khannea Suntzu: The current system of education is geared towards maximum cost. I can easily envision a system where quality education is a fraction of its current cost.
 
Joern Pallensen: Free, nationalized education, (from cradle to grave !), is beneficial for a great number of reasons, notably because it guarantees access for all, but I do not, however,  advocate nationalizing, say, Stanford or Caltech, both private as far as I know, and two of the top 10 Research Universities in the world. In other words, I advocate both free, nationalized and private education. Cooperation of state and private, including funding, is beneficial for all..

Peter Wicks: Beneficial, certainly. Drawbacks? Well obviously it puts a burden on government finances, and thus ultimately on the taxpayer. Systems where private money is allowed to flow into the education system but the state is generous enough to ensure a highly skilled workforce in the future seems to be the way to go. As an aside, though, any discussion about education has to take account of the huge issue of technological unemployment as computers take over. We need to envision futures where wealth is distributed relatively evenly and people have something meaningful to do. Our education systems need to prepare people for that, not entrench our children in obsolete thinking patterns.

Americans pay a fortune for Health Insurance and Health Care. Is nationalizing health care is beneficial?  Any drawbacks?

Amon Twyman:  I support the UK National Health Service, wholeheartedly. Private options are available, but health care is available to all citizens, regardless of their monetary situation. Overly privatised healthcare destroys lives, and represents a limitation of choice and personal freedoms.

Khannea Suntzu: If I could buy into a system that actively aimed for me feeling good and remaining healthy, I would. I’d rather pay for a medical health-maximization industry rather than an industry that for all intents and purposes maximizes medical product consumption.

Peter Wicks: As with education, systems work best (there are good examples in Europe) when both private and public money goes into the system. My own country’s (the UK) has an essentially Marxist approach to health, which is particularly jarring in the context of what is generally a relatively low-tax governance concept. Not enough private money going into the system, too much burden on the taxpayer, mediocre system. There are better examples. Obamacare needs to be given a chance, of course. And much more focus on preventive and regenerative medicine, and doctor’s who see their role as being to guide and enable their clients (CLIENTS that is, not “patients”), rather than to scare and control them.

I am assuming Democratic Socialist nations set minimum wages, maybe even maximum wages - do you think this is beneficial or is it just governmental interference? 

Amon Twyman:  A minimum wage guarantees that people don’t starve while working. It represents fair pay for a fair day’s work. I am not aware of any maximum wage law anywhere in Europe, and would personally oppose such a thing.

When you refuse minimum wage, you get the perverse situation currently faced by the US, where the taxpayer still has to pay for food stamps, and major corporations like Walmart (who don’t pay their employees enough to live on) effectively become state dependents. That is the worst of all worlds, and is a situation that could be avoided by simply accepting the idea that people shouldn’t be forced to work for less than a fair minimum. That idea is called slavery, and most reasonable people think slavery is an abomination.

Khannea Suntzu: Systems such as minimum wages, consumer protection laws, welfare, disability, pensions all lead towards maximum economic perversion. These systems may in the current paradigm be absolutely necessary, sadly they are all largely cosmetic. Basic Income Guarantee would cure literally every economic pathology we can envision. Basic Income would also cut the very rich down to a more manageable level. 

Joern Pallensen:  More money in the pockets of  millions of low-payed workers struggling to make ends meet is, needless to say, very beneficial ! – In terms of overall quality of life, health, etc. etc.

Peter Wicks: I don’t think democratic socialism necessarily implies a minimum or maximum wage. I don’t think there should be a maximum wage, progressive taxes and international agreements to reduce evasion, shareholder empowerment to reduce the prevalence of obscene bonuses, that kind of thing. I have mixed feelings about minimum wages: nice idea in principle, not so good if it leads to widespread illegal employment or just keeps people out of work. Again, a pragmatic approach is needed. At its best, socialism is about desired outcomes and values (equality, sharing, collectivism), not about means. We have to be flexible about means, otherwise we get locked into obsolete mechanisms.

Americans believe Socialism leads to astronomically high taxes. Do Europeans like high taxes?  Don’t they cheat and try to get out of them?

Amon Twyman:  People tend to be happy with their quality of life here. Those who try to cheat on their taxes are cheating their neighbors, and rightly seen as criminals.

Khannea Suntzu: Americans have absolutely no problems with extremely high, almost lethal tax levels. Nobody in the US, except a few, complain about trillion yearly dollar budgets on the military. Behold the F35 debacle and just look at the debate surrounding the plane. It can’t fly and won’t fly and could have bought every homeless person in the US a house.  Americans will eagerly embrace forced redistributive policies as long as it is consistent with the state religion.   

Joern Pallensen:  If that European is the average Scandinavian, then yes, we do “like”, or at least support high taxes, - but not if you are Gerard Depardieu, who departed France because of a proposed 75 per cent tax rate on annual incomes over one million euros, and the same goes for other, “average” high-income earners, many of whom have secret accounts in tax-havens.., – including Danes..

Peter Wicks: We don’t like paying taxes, but we like the public services they pay for.
 
What percentage of Europeans like or dislike Democratic Socialism?  Do many actually admire the USA and would prefer our economic system?

Amon Twyman: I couldn’t say, but laissez faire economics have certainly dropped in popularity since 2008, because people see bankers being rewarded while the regular citizen is effectively punished for bankers’ gambles. Obviously some business people prefer the American system, because it would mean more for them personally, at the expense of the community.
 
Khannea Suntzu: I have no idea how many Europeans prefer either the political extreme of leftist/progressive Social Democracy, or the political extreme of US style Creditism/NeoLiberalism.  Many admire the US here in Europe, but most don’t actually want to live there. 

Joern Pallensen:  According to one source, the average vote for Social Democratic parties has decreased from 33 to 26 percent since the 1950s, - or from 41 to 28 percent if we use the 1970s / 1980ies as a starting point. - http://tinyurl.com/os9heku  - (But then, if you’re an American, you’d probably count even our Liberal parties as Social Democrats / Democratic Socialists, – if not outright socialist.) I very rarely hear Europeans advocating US economic system, i.e. extreme inequality…

Peter Wicks: You can certainly find Europeans who prefer the US system, and/or emigrate there. But democratic socialist parties poll well, and often form governments. So they can’t be that unpopular.
 
Are retirees given money in Democratic Socialism?  What about the unemployed?  What motivates people to work if you can get money from the government for doing nothing?

Amon Twyman: It’s called a pension. The government is supposed to pay a small pension, but for most people it’s not enough to live on alone, so they set aside savings to augment that pension. Pension pots are dangerously low though, so there is a pension crisis looming on the horizon, as Baby Boomers go to retire and the money simply isn’t there. There is a need for an intelligent, new solution, such as a technology-backed Universal Basic Income.
 
Joern Pallensen: Yes (basic amount) to retirees. For the unemployed: NO ONE who is able to either work or get an education gets money for doing nothing. As unemployed, you must be actively seeking work and, in some cases, be willing to relocate and / or travel long distances. People are required and willing to work if and when they can get – and need -  a job, it’s that simple.

Peter Wicks: The last question is in some ways the most interesting, because it gets to the heart of how we often get motivation theory completely wrong. Money is actually a relatively poor motivator, once basic needs are satisfied. Day-to-day positive feedback, for example, is more important. Relying on fear- and finance-based motivational systems will NOT form any kind of basis for a future, technology-driven society. People seriously need to move beyond this.


 
Do you think Democratic Socialism aligns well with transhumanist ideals?

Amon Twyman:  Again, I’d have to know whose idea of DS was forming the basis of any government before knowing how I felt about it. In Europe, the most generic, centric “Democratic Socialist” parties tend to be along the lines of the German “Social Democratic Party”, or the Labour Party in the UK. These are very much parties of the establishment, so if you want to know how they’d behave, just look at most current European parliaments over the last 15 years or so, particularly pre-2008. None of these parties are particularly pro- or anti-Transhumanism, although there is a disturbingly anti-technology trend on both the further left (Greens) and right (traditional & religious parties).
 
Khannea Suntzu: I do not know. I only know any other system terrifies the living daylights out of me. I can only label myself a radical democrat. I want substantially more democracy than any existing system can offer.  I realize that more democracy would be a very risky proposal, but I have seen the alternative - “rationed democracy” and I sure as hell don’t like it. 
 
Joern Pallensen:  No, - not quite. – There’s a reason why liberalism / libertarianism is absent in the “equation”: Maybe it’s me being paranoid, but I fear its authoritarian tendencies, i.e. that at the end of the day it will favor “social” over democratic, or worse, - over liberal / individual freedoms. I therefore wholeheartedly advocate.. Social Liberalism: liberalism / libertarianism with a human face, i.e. welfare.., – the only “system” that gives justice to both equality / egalitarianism and individual – and general – freedom.

Peter Wicks: I don’t think you can really say it aligns well or badly with “transhumanist ideals”, it depends very much what one’s “transhumanist ideals” are. If the core transhumanist idea is that we must transcend our “natural”, biological limits as a species and become something new, I would say this is orthogonal to one’s political views about redistribution of wealth and even democracy. Bear in mind also that socialism, especially in Europe, has been around a long time, so many self-identified “socialists” are actually quite conservative in their thinking. But I certainly don’t see any fundamental conflict between democrative socialism and transhumanism. Both are broad enough to overlap.

If you are interested in maximising welfare, social democracy is a good place to start. But it needs to change, and adapt. Americans should not be scared of socialism because it is “dangerous”, or it will take away freedoms or whatever. Democratic socialism is a tried and tested system, which works. But will it work in the future? Only if our systems of governance adapt to this new, scary world of accelerating technology and existential risks. In this context, capitalism vs socialism is really yesterday’s debate.

Hank Pellissier serves as IEET Managing Director and is an IEET Affiliate Scholar.



COMMENTS

As a Marxist Socialist and Technoprogressive Transhumanist, I’d like to answer these questions as well:

Americans think “Socialism” takes away a person’s freedoms. What’s your opinion?

The question of freedom is certainly a biased one. One man’s freedom is another’s tyranny. From a class-based perspective, this certainly reveals itself when you sit a set of people from different class backgrounds and ask them the same questions.

When you ask those from the working class side what they consider to be a freedom of theirs, they would tell you the freedom to work without their wages being diminished due to wage-cuts, or the freedom to not be let go of a job without benefits to fall back on and keep them afloat while they search for another job. Ask the same question to those of the upper-class echelon and their answer couldn’t be more different: the freedom to maximize profits, the freedom to ensure their company is working in top shape, the freedom to not be taxed higher than those below them.

So when you ask if people are afraid that socialism will take away their freedoms, I would say that it depends on who you ask. Socialism would certainly take away the freedom to exploit, the freedom to do as one desires regardless of the repercussions, etc. Then again, it subsequently enhance the freedom to have healthcare, an energy policy that doesn’t discriminate based on one’s wages, a welfare system that helps people either unemployed or those among low-wage communities.

Americans don’t seem to understand socialism but they resist it. Can you describe socialism and its benefits?

From a Marxist perspective, socialism is a changing dynamic based on the current social conditions. Reason why I’m a Transhumanist - I recognized that Transhumanism was the movement of the 21st century that could feasibly create a brand new socio-economic system outside of the confines of capitalism. Whether one calls this next socio-economic system socialism, or the Age of Abundance, or a Zero Marginal Cost Society is irrelevant - let’s just get there!

As a Transhumanist, socialism would ensure that a Basic Income Guarantee is in place to address technological unemployment. Cognitive enhancement technologies would be distributed equally and with a cheap price, if not free of charge. College education would be free, ensured by either taxes or by other means. Healthcare would be single-payer and open-source via mobile technologies, i.e. tricorder self-care. These are all just the tip of the iceberg, however.

It seems like European nations have “free” or “inexpensive” universities due to Democratic Socialism. Whereas in the USA, college debt is crippling. Do you think nationalizing education is beneficial?  Any drawbacks?

Education doesn’t necessarily need to be nationalized, as current Democratic Socialist logic would believe otherwise, but it certainly needs to balance the methods in which we provide education. There should be a nationalized sector of education where college tuition is free of charge, but I also believe we can ensure this type of system by different methods, whether it’s via taxes or through a contract-based payment plan where education is provided for free, but you have to pay back the university you got your degree from through a small percentage of your wages. 

Americans pay a fortune for Health Insurance and Health Care. Is nationalizing health care is beneficial?  Any drawbacks?

Throughout history of those governments who adhered to a nationalized, single-payer healthcare system, the benefits were robust, but there were drawbacks to some extent as well insofar that people had to wait if their current condition was less severe than others. Those who adhered to right-wing politics used this drawback as their justification to opposing single-payer. The benefits still greatly outweighed the drawbacks, but that didn’t stop them from using the drawbacks as their reasoning to maintain a privatized healthcare system.

Those drawbacks, however, could be alleviated using modern technology. We’re at a point now where we can ensure everyone is taken care of by open-sourcing single-payer healthcare using modern technologies. So in terms of a democratic socialist healthcare system run by Transhumanists, I’d say there wouldn’t be any foreseeable negative implications as a result.

I am assuming Democratic Socialist nations set minimum wages, maybe even maximum wages - do you think this is beneficial or is it just governmental interference?

I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of any maximum wage policy, but minimum wages were set up under a capitalist socio-economic system to ensure that workers are given enough to survive. But even that is changing where a minimum wage doesn’t even ensure you can acquire the basic necessities of life. Reason why Los Angeles just recently enforced the increase of the minimum wage to $15. That’s pretty close to ensuring a family is taken care of and can survive relatively well.

However, again, as a Marxist I have to look at the current paradigm and witness its transformations to really understand what socialism needs to ensure for those living in the 21st century. And a minimum wage - alongside welfare systems like social security, food stamps, etc. - is really a pathetic, and equally archaic, method to ensuring people are taken care of. Which is why I support a Basic Income Guarantee.

Americans believe Socialism leads to astronomically high taxes. Do Europeans like high taxes?  Don’t they cheat and try to get out of them?

I’m not European, so I can’t really answer this entirely, but to some extent socialism would try to redistribute the wealth by increasing taxes on those who are much wealthier than the majority bottom percent. However, this is no longer a socialist cause, but equally a liberal cause as well. Most liberals today support higher taxes of the upper-class. Reason why the right-wing consistently compare liberals to socialists.

Most people don’t like paying taxes regardless, but most people are also content with paying taxes because they enjoy the benefits of those taxes, from roads, to schools, to healthcare.

Are retirees given money in Democratic Socialism? What about the unemployed? What motivates people to work if you can get money from the government for doing nothing?

Under the current Democratic Socialist policy making, pensions would be given to retirees. I’m not necessarily against this, because it’s quite equal to that of a Basic Income Guarantee, but I’m also of the opinion that money isn’t really the best motivator. Once your basic needs are met, providing an open venue for people to express themselves and do as they please - whether it contributes society or a hand select few among society - would be the best motivator. We’re starting to realize this with Basic Income Guarantee policies as well.

Do you think Democratic Socialism aligns well with transhumanist ideals?

Democratic Socialism could align well with Transhumanism depending on how you define socialism. Again, it’s the very reason why I adhere to Marxism, because it was Marx who explicitly stated that society changes over time and we need to accommodate those changes into the fabric of a socialist society, or else we’ll fail.

Throughout history, socialism has almost always failed because those who pushed socialist policies were trying to fight the changes that were occurring. This was largely detrimental to society as a whole. A great example being China during when Mao Zedong was leader. While he certainly led his people in a magnificent way, overthrowing the Republic of China, their entire cultural revolution was a disaster. Mao was too impatient to realize that capitalism was still in its infancy in China and needed to ripen before a new revolutionary socio-economic system were to emerge.

That’s when Deng Xiaoping came along - someone who I greatly admire - and said that capitalism was still in need of developing before we could feasibly consider a socialist socio-economic system. Not only did he call for building up the productive forces of society, he subsequently noted that science and technology must be at the forefront of these productive forces. He realized just how important science and technology were at developing a post-capitalist society. Today we’re finally starting to witness this transformation.

As Peter Diamandis once said during a conference, “I’m sort of a libertarian-capitalist at heart, but we’re heading towards a future of socialism.”

Welcome back Hank!

Re “Socialism takes away a person’s freedoms.”

Some interpretations and proposed implementations of socialism do, others don’t. I support the versions of socialism that respect personal freedoms as much as possible and don’t punish victimless crimes, but I oppose the others.

@Peter re “Europeans are not afraid of the word socialism.”

Speak for yourself Peter, I am an European very afraid of the intolerant, thought-policing, mobbing version of socialism. In some parts of Europe, socialist “equality of outcomes” seems to mean that everyone must wipe their butt with the same hand. I claim the right to choose which hand I want to use.

For a recent defense of Social Democracy see: The Great Forgetting: The past, present and future of Social Democracy and the Welfare State, Jack Luzkow, Manchester University Press; 1 edition (May 1, 2015).

As a futurist with a foot in transhumanism, Singularitarianism, techno-optimism and progressivism, I first see the need to transcend the delusional dialectic and let the full evolutionary effect and force of the coming economic singularity sink in as I touch upon in my book The Singularity and Socialism on amazon. When this is done it is readily apparent that the very questions you pose are themselves defective and based on pre-singularity forms of socialism. Ideological biases make one champion the European social welfare state without asking the pertinent questions that surround the welfare state itself. Jean François Revel’s great book, “Without Marx or Jesus” soundly foretold that the future revolution was with America as he went over the failings of European socialism. Unfortunatly the decades between when he wrote the book, the 70’s, and today the European socialist ideology has infested the American neo-left and turned their heads backward toward Europe rather than forward to a new form of socialism which was evolving.

So let me wade in on your questions from an evolutionary point of view.

Americans think “Socialism” takes away a person’s freedoms. What’s your opinion?


The very fact that the term socialism came to designate a movement which desires to give more power to the state to control the economic and private sphere of life gives rise to the disturbing tendency for all forms of socialism to become ever more despotic.  As any top down command and control system,  by any real and valid definition is anti-social.  The economic sphere is just an extension of human action, personality, wants and desire. The ability to freely trade is interrelated with a person’s freedom of thought, action and their liberty. The market is a spontaneous, emergent, interrelated, evolutionary, complex system that cannot be divorced form human action and humanness itself.  Complexity theory and economics in this matter has proven the insights of the classical liberals and the Austrian School of economics.  The old Newtonian mechanical view of human social systems was and is erroneous. Even as Karl Marx himself observed, “the productive material forces give rise to the political and legal superstructure of society.”  A command and control economic system must axiomatically give rise to a command and control political and legal system. Marx escapes this axiomatic dictum by having the state wither away after the communist eschaton, welfare state socialism has no such escape hatch as the state continues on in perpetuity.

The only way to solve this problem is to completely overhaul socialist theory in line with complexity theory and to get back to a full and complete understanding of evolution- “dialectics.”


Americans don’t seem to understand socialism but they resist it. Can you describe socialism and its benefits?

This is a difficult question in light of pre-singularity socialism’s many failures.  The fight to bring capitalism down now, to petrify the present economic system and to bring about socialism by various revolutionary means, both violated Marx’s later evolutionary understanding as detailed by Meghnad Desai in his great book “Marx’s Revenge” and my own book as well, has played into crony capitalist’s hands who used the ever increasing prices and artificial resource shortages as a way to support and grossly inflate their profits.  What is missing even from your question is that over 200 Trillion was stolen from the US’s economy alone since 1913, a tremendous amount of capital that if it had been left in the economy could have already brought about the economic singularity.  So the benefits humanistically have to be weighed against the losses evolutionary wise.  By giving welfare today, did we stop an evolutionary process that would have given wealth and ownership to all later? So your question raises the spectre of Bastiat’s “What is Unseen,” which honestly has to be answered.

It seems like European nations have “free” or “inexpensive” universities due to Democratic Socialism. Whereas in the USA, college debt is crippling. Do you think nationalizing education is beneficial?  Any drawbacks?

The memes going around and championing free this and that in Europe never looks under the hood of the Edsel being proffered. What is the loss in productivity, what is the added cost of living and what was the cost to American tax payers to fund Europe’s rebuilding and defense since the end of World War II?  It is easy being socialist when you are parasiting another country and they are paying for your ability to enjoy free x because you don’t have to pay the full freight for your defense.  Also your question avoids or totally ignores what was the US governments constant interference in the educational and health care markets effect on those institutions as well as what happens to everything when it becomes part of the evolution of the global brain? MOOCs and the X-Prize tricorder and other new medical discoveries bode a coming crash in medical care prices which a single payer plan will do nothing but delay helping to prop up Big Meds profits which The Affordable Care Act actually does.  The bureaucracy that is required for top down management has a coefficient of friction that economic studies show waste at least 75% of the money collected for the program. The law of diminishing returns alone eventually dooms welfarenomics.  To date the real effect of technological deflation has delayed or kept economic reality from crashing the US and Europe’s economy decades ago. 

I am assuming Democratic Socialist nations set minimum wages, maybe even maximum wages - do you think this is beneficial or is it just governmental interference?

Minimum wage laws in the US were set up by Fabian Malthusians who wanted black Americans to be left out of the labor pool. This is a horrid bit of history totally ignored today.  The classical liberal economists have always been correct; if you raise the wage rate above the market rate of labor you increase unemployment. You also cause cost of living increases to ripple throughout the economy.  Keynesian monetary theory was based upon debauching the workers real wage rate through inflation so as to being about full employment.  Every person who is promulgating a fair wage, or advocating one already agrees with the classical liberal viewpoint axiomatically,  as it is obvious that all previous wage rate increases have failed to fix the underlying problem which is the constant rise in the cost of living.  Thus the Sisyphean action to raise wages yet again wastes everyone’s time and effort as you will be back again in a few years when inflation eventually eats up the new living wage.  The hamsters wheel to nowhere that hurts the poor and those living on fixed incomes has to end and only by doing everything one can to stop and then reverse the constant rise in the cost of living done by our banking system and the governments. 

Americans believe Socialism leads to astronomically high taxes. Do Europeans like high taxes?  Don’t they cheat and try to get out of them?

You have to pay for social programs. There is no free lunch. Either you increase taxes, borrow money and go into more debt or you inflate the money supply, which is hidden taxation. All of these methods are inflationary and give rise to the cost of living and hurt production.  Pre-singularity socialism, by adhering to so many economic fallacies of previous centuries, contributes to the rise in all prices.  Human action and behavior being what it is, everyone tries to escape the debauching of themselves and society.  What is amazing and Kurzweil mentions this as well is that prices have actually dropped in constant dollars over the last 200 years, but especially since the 80’s even in the face of inflation as technological production increased

Are retirees given money in Democratic Socialism? What about the unemployed? What motivates people to work if you can get money from the government for doing nothing?

Answering this question could take a book and entire books have been written about it.  Once again we should adopt an evolutionary view to overcome the redistributionary view of things. Gov spending does not create wealth, the US’s SSI program from the beginning was a way to take money out of the economy and invest in US gov debt, this allowed FDR to inflate the money supply. Since Fed rules changed congress just raided the SSI funds every year to pay for programs.  Over 9 to 15 trillion was kept out of the US economy.  If it had been a true fund investing in the market, the amount of wealth that would have accrued, would have made all retirees today wealthy. 

Do you think Democratic Socialism aligns well with transhumanist ideals?

No I do not. Today’s socialism was an ideology born in the realm of scarcity and like all ideologies formed in that realm it is deficient.  Older forms of socialism at least advocated that only through the full and complete evolution of capitalism and greater and greater technological and scientific evolution could the socialist epoch commence, but as Robert Zubrin mentions in his book, The Merchants of Despair, the old left was betrayed by the neo-left in the 60’s and luddite Neo-Malthusianism was adopted.  So todays green Luddite romantic socialism is incompatible with transhumanism and Singularitarian thought as it is reactionary and revisionist and longs for the idyll of the happy peasant of the Middle Ages. Deep Green Socialism/communism today is 180 degrees from what Marx, Engels and the older socialists taught and as such is not conducive to Futurism in any manner.

See my book for a full discussion, The Singularity and Socialism, on amazon.com

 

 

Its not size its complexity. Dynamic complex systems are impossible to manage, it doesn’t matter the size. Look at Hong Kong and Taiwan.  Politics and their cronies tend toward creating QWERTY systems that they can manage, ie they slow down the system to today’s extant technology and keep it there longer-all for control issues. That is the issue that we have to address, are we covering up basic conservative reactionary attitudes with emotional platitudes? The Singularity tolls the death knell of the state, there is no denying this aspect of the coming distributed economic singularity.

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