Scary Quote of the Day

Cloning is a new technology with potential to profoundly alter social, economic and political relationships, and therefore on egalitarian principles, should remain illegal for general use until it is economically viable to provide it to the population equally.

- Daniel Davies, commenting in a Crooked Timber
thread
about arguments for and against cloning

I'm not sure if Davies is being serious here, but regardless, I've heard similar arguments from other egalitarians. What's interesting about this line of argument is that it is extremely conservative. This kind of egalitarian is far from progressive; in fact, their slogan might very well be: "Standing Athwart History and Yelling 'Stop!'"

As another commenter points out in the same thread, the problem with placing such a moratorium on technological development is that the technology will never become cheap enough in the first place if it is not exposed to the forces of competition and the incentives of market rewards. The moratorium is just a red herring; its advocates are truly pushing for a complete ban.

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I'm seriously entertaining

I'm seriously entertaining the idea rather than seriously espousing it; Brian asked for people to suggest arguments rather than to make them, and it would be nice if you could make that clear. In general, and on sound Hayekian grounds, I'm not in favour of massive nonincremental social change, and the widespread introduction of reproductive cloning strikes me, under plausible science fiction scenarios, as a much more significant social change than the Industrial Revolution.

If human reproductive

If human reproductive cloning is not "introduced" via a government subsidy, push, mandate, or whatnot, then it would initially be limited to the very rich / very desperate, in which case it would not be widespread at all.

In that case, it would follow the general trend of technology dissemination- hyper rich, really rich, affluent, middle class, everybody, and such processes are (by nature) incremental and slow.

I would agree that a plan, ala Huxley, to implement immediate and widespread reproductive cloning would have drastic (and, IMO, highly disruptive and negative) effects on our society. But I don't see that in the cards if the technology is allowed to diffuse 'naturally'.

Slow diffusion gives 'society' time to absorb the implications of the new technology. I don't see (at present) a need to due massive cloning efforts (its not like we lack people in the world), either for military or industrial purposes.

Genetic modification of humans for specific personality traits (eugenic engineering) would be more troubling than simply twinning someone, but that's another issue.

I don't think you have to

I don't think you have to oppose it on "egalitarian" grounds, except in a very weak way. You can oppose it for the same reason that we oppose athletes using performance enhancing substances; it gives them a huge advantage.

If our society rewards ingenuity, height, good looks, intelligence, a sense of humor, etc. Then it would stand to reason that those are the qualities that would duplicated if humans were to be genetically engineered. But here's the rub- the people who succeed monetarily get to Aristocratically pass on strengths that perpetuate their lineage. That's an increase in inequality, to be sure, but not just inequality of results- inequality of opportunity. It woudl creat a virtual aristocracy of money, unless it was a guaranteed human right (i.e. socialized.)

But matt, we don't oppose

But matt, we don't oppose athletes using performance enhancing substances. You oppose it. I have no problem with it. I would love to see special leagues where all the athletes can use whatever performace enhancing substances they choose.

People who succeed in life already get to pass on various benefits to their children: money, health insurance, good genes (because they are more likely to find a healthy and attractive mate), etc. All of these are part of the reason why people want to succeed in life in the first place - so they can leave nice things for their children.

Using your logic, we should not only ban inheritance, but we should ban all private healthcare. Even under a socialist system of healthcare, you would still wish to prevent people from being able to spend extra on health care; just as Adam Swift wishes to prevent people from being able to spend extra on private education even when education is socialized and offered for free.

And lets take this a little further. Communists living on Israeli Kibbutzim realized that children of good parents get a huge advantage over children of bad parents. In order to eliminate this inequality, all children were forced to live away from home in a group children's home, so that no child could benefit from better parenting.

I could go on and on about how far we might be willing to go in order to remedy inequality of opportunity, but I think you get the point. And when you make these sorts of claims, matt, it is difficult for me to see how you do not support state socialism. What other societal structure other than a large bureaucratic state would have the power to prevent parents from giving their children better healthcare and education, not to mention more attention, love, etc.?

okay "how far we are willing

okay "how far we are willing to go to eliminate inequality of opportunity" and creating further examples of it are two different things. A bunch of counter examples about inequality will do us no good here. The problem is with results:
are you comfortable with your principles producing a literal aristocratic society, with no class mobility?

Telling me this already exists to a degree means nothing. Suppose I tell you of coming hurricane and you respond "well it's already pretty breezy and what's your problem with wind anyway?"

Natural elites rise always

Natural elites rise always and everywhere.

The problem is (not sure if it's a strawman) that it does not necessarily follow that natural "aristocracy" means no 'class' mobility. The US for most of its history had no welfare state or such interventions, yet still there was class mobility of a sort that it was called "the American Dream"- the idea that anyone from any background could possibly make it big, or at least do better than their parents. That's equal opportunity (vs. equal outcome) and it existed even when there was a natural elite/upper crust emerging and "entrenched" in America.

Additionally, in a society where the poor live like kings of old (or even rich people of 100 years prior), "class mobility" becomes more of a moot point- there is class mobility, but in the end it is true that a rising tide lifts all boats (those that are seaworthy, anyway).

A society cannot be just nor advance if high achievers are constantly limited and torn down, and blocked. A proper orientation is to lift people up who cannot do so themselves. But that requires people who are "up" in the first place.

It is your responsibility to

It is your responsibility to explain why we shouldn't take your argument and apply it to other areas. Personally, I am comfortable with inequality of opportunity, because I believe the measures needed to eliminate it are even more unjust than the inequality itself.

the slippery slope equality

the slippery slope equality argument is the only good argument that libertarianism has going for it, as far as I'm concerned. The only reason that libertarian philosophy benefits from this is it is able to pretend that it solves for it in a better way.

Am I convinced that life on an Israeli Kibbutz would be worse than life in a Gattaca society, in which there are effectively two races of humans, divided by class? I am not. I'm also not convinced that those are the only two options.

The problem is, especially considering the interesting discussion of reductio creep, the conclusion that your philsophy supports that sort of massive inequality is a slippery slope argument against your philosophy altogether. If you think about what a ridiculous society this would create- allowing advanced eugenics to be based on wealth- it's pretty clear that this is a society noone but the rich would want to live in. If your philosophy neccesarily leads to those conclusion, that a good reductio ad absurdam argument that it should be rejected.

This interestingly parallels the numerous difficulties that Nozick has rationalizing the original "unowned property" state of affairs (in his discussion of where property comes from.) Nozick's response is prefectly analogous to Brian Doss's, very consistant, response. The error is also analogous. Nozick's philosophy is the ultimate paternal argument (believe it or not)- he begins by presupposing that every human has a right to self-determination, but then immediately abandons it to the belief that material wealth is the ultimate goal. I'll spell this out more with regard to nozick if you want, but I'll instead just use the same logic to respond to brian:

Brian, your "kings of old" argument is problematic because the one thing it does not do is treat people as ends in themselves (or respect their right to self-determination, depending on whether you're uncomfortable with Kant.) It pretends that human value is to be measured by material wealth, and that any state of affairs can be rationalized so long as it materially improves (or keeps the same) "the poor." How about slavery then?

The problem is, especially

The problem is, especially considering the interesting discussion of reductio creep, the conclusion that your philsophy supports that sort of massive inequality is a slippery slope argument against your philosophy altogether.

Again, matt, try reading what I actually wrote. I said that I am comfortable with inequality of opportunity, because I believe the measures needed to eliminate it are even more unjust (and counter-productive) than the inequality itself. That doesn't mean that I am in favor of inequality, in the sense that I hope it happens, nor does it mean that I believe that libertarianism will lead to inequality.

Much, if not all, of the inequality we experience today is because of the government: think about how many government programs (social security is a prime example) take from the poor and give to the rich. Think about how wealthy businessmen who are afraid of competition use the government to protect themselves from it. This about how much "equality" was actually achieved in placed like the USSR, where the goal was equality, but because everything was controlled by politics (as you would like it to be), those who held political power or were friends of politicians enjoyed vast inequality relative to everyone else.

Similarly, just because libertarianism refuses to force people against their will to feed their starving fellow man does not mean that libertarians are in favor of this failure to act, nor does it mean that libertarians expect people to act this way. As David Friedman notes, "What makes you think people who won't hand money over voluntarily will ever vote in a government to make them hand it over?" In other words, if a majority of people are willing to vote for welfare programs, why wouldn't these same people be willing to donate to charity voluntarily?

If you think about what a ridiculous society this would create- allowing advanced eugenics to be based on wealth- it's pretty clear that this is a society noone but the rich would want to live in.

I am not wealthy and I would want to live in it - how do you explain that, professor?

Nozick's philosophy is the ultimate paternal argument (believe it or not)- he begins by presupposing that every human has a right to self-determination, but then immediately abandons it to the belief that material wealth is the ultimate goal.

How is this in any way paternailistic? Further, why does one have to abondon the supposition that every human has a right to self-determination in order to observe that most people's ultimate goal is material wealth? Sure, there are people who take a vow of poverty or reject riches for one reason or another, and they should certainly have the freedom to live this sort of lifestyle, but for the vast majority of us, we prefer more wealth over less wealth.

Brian, your "kings of old" argument is problematic because the one thing it does not do is treat people as ends in themselves

Wtf? Brian in no way implied that people shouldn't be treated as ends in themselves. You can't fault someone for something they did not say that thing wasn't at all relevant to the conversation. Brian is simply saying that there is nothing wrong with inequality, especially when the poor are getting richer over time, even if the rich are also getting richer. This has nothing to do with a failure to treat people as ends in themselves.

It pretends that human value is to be measured by material wealth

It in no way implies this. Where did Brian ever say anything about human value? All he said what that the welfare and wellbeing of people can be measured by material wealth. He said nothing about "human value", whatever the hell that means.

I'm gonna be short with this

I'm gonna be short with this because I already typed a full response that got lost when Catallarchy went down a few days ago (when I hit post it said "cannot find server".) Plus it's a dying thread.

I said that I am comfortable with inequality of opportunity, because I believe the measures needed to eliminate it are even more unjust (and counter-productive) than the inequality itself. That doesn't mean that I am in favor of inequality, in the sense that I hope it happens, nor does it mean that I believe that libertarianism will lead to inequality.
If you don't believe that advanced eugenics will bring about a (practically literal) aristocracy, then I'd like you to explain. It seems pretty intuitive to me that the Wealthy sector of society would be involved in a "positive feedback" loop that'd be irreversible. You going to have to be "comfortable" with that to support your positions. On the thread about madmen with guns you are arguing about a problematic situation that occurs as a result of your (or Locke's) negative rights principles. Perhpas you should just say "Well guys, since I think the alternative of abandoning negative rights theory is worse than this, I'm gonna say that I'm 'comfortable' with the madman doing such things."

Why wouldn't you do this? When confronting a siutation that could plausibly result from modern capitalism, why would you just allow yourself to be "comfortable" with such inanities?

Similarly, just because libertarianism refuses to force people against their will to feed their starving fellow man does not mean that libertarians are in favor of this failure to act, nor does it mean that libertarians expect people to act this way.
yes, but I think it's a predictable consequence of the libertarian state of affairs. The selfish habit, having been encouraged by the free market, will substantially limit altruism. And "forced against their will" is only accurate if you equate property rights and wealth with people. That is if you give people absolute dictatorial control over property and capital. I reject such absolutism.

I am not wealthy and I would want to live in it - how do you explain that, professor?
It's a tough one. If you want my honest opinion, you claiming to want thatresults from a combination of
a. your stubborness. It's been my experience that stubborn people often use themselves as counterexamples because there's no way to argue against it. You can always respond "no I don't/wouldn't/am not." Naturally this line (the one I'm engaging in) of argument is subject to such a critique.
b.an unwillingness to actually imagine what such a state of affairs would be like.