e$: You get what you pay for

At 12:50 am -0400 on 5/13/97, Blanc wrote:
> Robert Hettinga wrote:
> >Ah. A 90's version of Freddy Hayek's "Road to Serfdom", maybe?
> >A turn-of-the-new-century Phabian Society needs a Stalin to make it's
> >dreams reality?
> >
> >Be careful what you wish for, ladies and germs...
> .............................................................
> Well, now, what exactly do you mean? How does this relate to bombing a
> village, with all its communists & captives, out of existence?

I was expanding on your riff, a bit, I guess.

I suppose that intellectual ruminations, including my own on occasion here in cypherpunks, are all well and good, but when it comes time to put the rubber to the road, or in flames around the oppressor's neck, or whatever, people usually don't get what they think they want, um, other people to do for them. Which is Hayek's point, as demonstrated by England's Phabian Society, which probably did more to advance the cause of Stalin than Lenin ever did. :-).

After such episodes of political "success", there is a reason most of us, as the esteemed Mr. Townsend once said, "...get on [our] knees and pray we don't get fooled again...".

I think that strong cryptography, especially strong financial cryptography, is going to create a world we'll scarcely recognize in 100 years, or maybe even 30 years. Not because of politically motivated violence, but of economic necessity.

Yeah, I know. Economic necessity sometimes creates politically motivated violence. And, at the heart of that is a paradox, as juicy a paradox as well meaning victorian British socialists apologising in advance for the behavior of a totalitarian Russian monster 50 years later.

When you think about it, the events of 1789 France, or post-Weimar Germany, or even post-Tito (nee' Soviet) Yugoslavia, all came after the crises which supposedly caused them were pretty much over, and people had the brainspace to think about how pissed off they should be about it.

The Pelleponesian War was probably more about Athens slacking off her Delian League repression (the introspective episode in intellectual potlatch we now call the "golden age" of Athens) than her later genocidal punishment of a vassal state for not coughing up the requisite League dues.

There was a study of...um, urban cub scouts, lately, which talked about how it wasn't the lack of self-esteem which caused extremely violent gang behavior, so much as it was, ironically, too much self-esteem. There's nothing so self-confident as a 14 year old with an AK or a Mac10(?), as any resident of Beruit, or Chicago, or Mogadishu, or Monrovia, or, now, Tirana, will gladly tell you. Much hubris goes before the fall of domestic tranquility. :-).

Anyway, when I'm prone to worry about such things, I think, depending on my mood and the weather, that either the government is getting so powerful that we're going to have to fight back some day, or that it really isn't so powerful anymore, and now the more cocky of us think we can stand up to it and fight back in redress for its past sins, real and imaginary. Remember that dear Uncle has demobilized considerably. Mr. McVeigh himself is someone who would now be cheerfully blowing up things in Special Forces practice somewhere, if he had more practice time and running room at the selection process before he was economically demobilized after his heroic exploits in Kuwait.

One of the fun consequences of having a large standing army, of course, is what do you do with the, um, standees, when you can't afford to feed and train them any more. I'd bet that a large percentage of the Russian "Mafia" are former soldiers, and certainly spook/torturers, just doing what comes naturally.

In this regard, I think that America lucked out after WWII because lots of its sharply increased industrial, um, womanpower, could step aside so Johnny could come marching home to a job in the factory down the street. The GI bill mopped up the rest of the slack(ers) by putting the brighter and more easily bored safely away in college for a few years :-). In a few years, everyone had a wife, 2.2 kids and a mortgage to worry about instead of the injustice of encroaching government power. Problem solved.

We may be reaping what we've sown after the 50-Year War with Russia, though. This time it may not be so easy, because people like Mr. McVeigh are not people who went off to fight a war to return immediately after the shooting stopped, but, people who, like our politicians, are now careerists. Lifers. Empire builders, in the truest sense of the phrase. People who, it now appears, are as pissed off at dear Uncle as the rest of us are, though for different reasons, all their manifestoes and rationalizations to the contrary.

Unfortunately, we can't use the economic rent we've beaten out of the rest of the world this time to put them to work at something else, especially because no matter what we hire them for, it isn't the thing they were selected and trained over a lifetime to do. More to the point, something they expected to do for the rest of their working lives.

Oh, well. Life is hard. Sometimes you don't get what you want, to paraphrase a fellow tradesman of Mr. Townsend. Or, as my nephews' governess used to say, sometimes you don't have to wanna. So, though I'm not to the "beware soft targets" stage yet, it's good advice in almost any age, and should be paid attention to.

Finally, my own hope for stuff like financial cryptography in this regard is that it will make so much money, wringing the required economic rent out of progress rather than the comparative devastation of the rest of the world, that we'll be able to "bribe" all those demobilized spooks and soldiers to leave us alone, much the same way that Harry and Ike did with the creation of the middle-class entitlement state. Without, of course, the "state" part.

I think that such hopes are at least justified. History has shown us that there is nothing like a whole bunch of technological and economic progress to focus people on better stuff than blowing up themselves and their enemies. Modulo the odd paradox, of course.

Bob Hettinga


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