Subject: Re: Lessig/FSBs and client-server
Date: Sun, 28 May 2000 15:55:55 -0700
Sun, 28 May 2000 15:55:55 -0700
On Sun, May 28, 2000 at 12:44:51PM -0700, Seth David Schoen wrote:
> Jonathan S. Shapiro writes:
> > Sigh. As a rule, I expect better from Russell. I suppose I have bad days
> > too.

By my count, a bad millennium in this case, with some spill to the prior.


> > Russell's line of argument may be summarized as:
> > [...]
> > 3. I refuse to learn about topic X because to do so will provide financial
> > support to the author of topic X and my completely unsubstantiated and
> > uninformed preconceptions lead me to believe that I do not wish to support
> > such an author.
> Today, I'm going to buy
> (1) a new or used copy of  Code , for myself,
> (2) a used copy of  Code , for Russell Nelson.

There's a great greeting card of an ostrich, doing a full-Nelson
(apologies, Russ, except that you've earned it), which I once received
for a B-Day.  It would accessorize the book perfectly IMO.  Also
appropriate considering Lessig's ostrich metaphore in  Code 's

*Not* wanting to continue the conversation [1], but as the debate
appears to be on the verge of re-erupting publicly, I thought I'd warn
the other participants of the likely direction.

The upshot as best I can tell is that Gummint Is Bad [tm], because
Gummint Kills Peeple [tm].

Drawing from the thread (1st order is Russ, "> "quoted is me, "> | " an 
unnamed third party):

    > The vehemence of your response is disquieting.

    Karsten, the number of people killed by governments this century is
    anywhere from 90 million (this figure by the government *apologists*)
    up to 350 million.  Probably the best is 250 million.  I really,
    *really* don't trust anybody who says that we have to give governments
    any more power than the government is able to take.

The problem I ran into was that the definition got rather circular --
government is that which kills people, that which kills people is

    So what do you call a government?  The only way I can see to
    distinguish a government from any other organization is 1) the
    government claims a monopoly over violence, and 2) most people
    acknowledge that claim as legitimate, and cooperate with the
    government in enforcing its claim.


    government is an organization which claims a monopoly over
    violence.  This doesn't stop the Mob from challenging that monopoly,
    of course, however, the government has more supporters and thus more
    resources than the mob.

    .... writes:
     > Silly or not, you've defined government as that which has a monopoly
     > over force, and you've defined the exercise of violent force in the
     > majority of cases as the action of government.

    Yes, that is what I have said.  We agree there.

     > That's circular.

...and a third-party observation:

    | Russell seems to have the Libertarian religion, i.e. that a group 
    | can be arbitrarily large, powerful, hierarchal, monopolistic,
    | authoritarian, colonial, obstructionist, and destructive of 
    | freedoms, as long as it calls itself a "business" and not a 
    | "government".

...and a summary of mine to third party:

    Third party wrote:
    > I agree with Russ's evaluation that runaway government power leads
    > to genocide.  Just watch CNN to see other countries prove this: "Gee,
    > we voted to become independent, and the standing army shot us."  More
    > analysis of genocides in the 20th century is at


    I don't.

    Madmen (Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Milosovec, Hussein, etc.)
    acting by the power vested to them through trickery, the military,
    and corruption may be the voice of "the government" in name but there
    are so many other factors confounded (personal ambition, greed, ethnic
    rivalry, religious fanaticism, militarism, economic issues, etc.),
    that I simply can't say "that's the fault of government".   Ditto the
    acts of mobs, or the acts of two forces bent on mutual destruction.
    I can't wrap that all up in one tidy package and dismiss it.

    This is my main fault with Russ.  He's simply defining government
    as that which uses force and gets away with it, and that which uses
    force and gets away with it as government (all A is B, all B is A).
    I accept neither premise.  There's also the issue that I don't
    quite know where he's coming from.  The usual bent in this field
    is Libertarian.  Russ has his pacifist essays.  I'm getting a mix
    from him that's a bit of both and yet something altogether different.
    Not very rational IMO.


    > Can we agree that we observe genocide happens when the balance of
    > power tilts beyond x?


    > And this balance is only tilted beyond x by runaway government?

    No.  I don't accept that, both because "government" wraps up too many
    concepts, as cited above, and because the simplification that these
    are "acts of government" is a gross oversimplification.  To take your
    public health example, it's like saying disease is caused by "stuff".
    No, you can't do public health that way.

...and my final word to Russ:

    You got the last word.

</attack type=personal style=earned>

Karsten M. Self <>
  Evangelist, Opensales, Inc.             
   What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?      Debian GNU/Linux rocks!      K5:
GPG fingerprint: F932 8B25 5FDD 2528 D595  DC61 3847 889F 55F2 B9B0

[1] Cf:  Horses, dead, and tribal wisdom:

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