Libertarianism in a Post-Human Society
Zoltan Istvan said major institutions – capitalism, labor, and police – will cease to exist in 25 years.
Istvan is running for President of the United States under the banner of the Transhumanist Party. He described a transhumanist as:
“Someone who wants to use radical science and technology to modify the human being and modify the human experience.”
The goal of this science and technology is to achieve human immortality. Zoltan Istvan (his name even sounds like a cyborg) also advocates for universal basic income, compulsory college education, and a “scientific industrial complex.”
Istvan’s goals clearly violate libertarian principles. If these things were done voluntarily, then they could be great. But his policies rely on the use of state violence, even though he describes himself as a left-libertarian. He claims to “basically agree with the NAP.”
Rather than debate the merits of this goal and whether it is scientifically possible, I want to discuss the political implications of a post-human world. Specifically, I want to know whether libertarianism and the non-aggression principle still matter for post-humans.
Libertarianism, more than any other political philosophy, accounts for the nature of humans. It reflects humans’ overarching regard for decency but still understands their capacity for violence and theft. Libertarianism recognizes and applies the economic concepts of scarcity and self-interest, but it views the world as the harmonious interactions of peaceful individuals, not cogs in an economic machine. Libertarianism is a political philosophy made for this world and for these humans.
If there is a move toward a post-human world, then the most peaceful, efficient, and moral way to get there is through a libertarian society. The government should neither help nor harm any transition. Social outcomes, regardless of their merit, do not warrant the use of violence.
But what if human nature fundamentally changed?
In a post-human world, immortality might wipe scarcity out of existence. Without scarcity, it is hard to tell whether aggression could still occur.
For example, let’s suppose that humans are immortal and robots supply all labor. Even if a one person shot another, what harm would be done? (It’s like District 9, where they have the technology to reconstruct dead human beings and bring them back to life.) The aggressor’s actions might cause you physical discomfort, but in a post-human world physical discomfort probably would no longer exist.
The person will still be alive and no resources were required of them. Someone could argue that their “time” was stolen because they had to be reconstructed by the robots. But what is time to an immortal being? Being killed might ruin your lunch plans, but it does not seem to really take anything from you. A subtraction from an infinite amount of time is still an infinite amount of time.
In a post-scarcity world, theft appears to lose its meaning as well. If scarcity truly was eliminated, then private property would be meaningless. If someone has infinite money, food, shelter, and pleasure, then stealing their lunch would mean nothing.
It is not that humans would lose their ability to act aggressively in a post-human world, i.e. steal, murder, cheat, but that these concepts would lose their meaning. Murder is nothing to an immortal being. Stealing means nothing to a man or woman with infinite wealth.
Governments would have no use. They would have nothing to gain through war or taxation. Unless humanity’s immortality could be reversed and scarcity could be implemented again, the state seems to have no role.
There are many problems with the concept of a true post-scarcity world, and most of this discussion is science fiction right now. Here are a few of those problems: Scarcity is usually viewed from a material perspective, but what about friendship, love, and joy? These are scarce, and a robot probably couldn’t satisfy those needs, no matter how human-like it is. Also, land, energy, and natural resources could only be developed to a certain point.
Istvan’s claims aren’t much different than the Marxists. They promised to usher in a post-scarcity world where human nature could be fundamentally transformed. They only brought violence.
If post-humans are immortal beings and have infinite resources, then political philosophy becomes pointless. But, as long as humans are mortal and constrained by scarcity, the need for a political philosophy consistent with human nature is necessary, and only libertarianism provides that.
“If men were angels (or post-humans), no government would be necessary.” – James Madison
* Joshua Paladino is a student at Hillsdale College, Michigan, majoring in politics and economics, with a minor in journalism. He is currently an opinions editor for his school newspaper, the Hillsdale Collegian. He also writes on pension reform and other fiscal issues for the Michigan think-tank, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Paladino is a minarchist.
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