Sim City: The Anarcho-Capitalist Edition

I recently got hold of a copy of Sim City 3000: UK Edition, to taste my first ever experience of The Sims computer game franchise.

And it was just great to be told, after I had planted my first water pipes firmly in the ground, that as the City Mayor I had to provide all of the city's education, police, health, transport, recreation, and fire needs, and pay for them all out of general taxation, otherwise the Sims would avoid my city.

Obviously, there is no other way for any of these services to be provided in any possible manner in the real world, other than through collectivised monopoly, but it would be nice, I thought, if an anarcho-capitalist version of the Sims could be created, where hospitals and schools could compete for health and educational trade, and where fire and police services could compete in a robust security and property protection marketplace.

There are some great games out there already, I know, for apprentice anarcho-capitalists, such as myself ? for instance Rollercoaster Tycoon II, Railroad Tycoon III, and various other tycoon games. But what I have in mind is a brand new game called Human Tycoon III. [Obviously, we would have to start out at version III, to help the marketing folk.]

So here's my plea to someone like the Von Mises Institute, or the University of Chicago, or any billionaire philanthropists out there, with time on their hands. Publishing the great works of the great Austrians or the great Chicagoans is fantastic, and such work is much appreciated at this end. But if you really want to get under the skin of the world's youth, especially those who have failed to wake up yet, and then get them started on the road to freedom, maybe you could help fund talented and sympathetic games creators and get them to blend anarcho-capitalism into the next generation of really addictive computer games?

In doing this you would also help create great research tools for yourself with which you could explore Austrian axioms, push Chicagoan assumptions, or do whatever it took to prove to people that your ideas really do circulate the philosophical area known as ultimate truth. No more quoting Icelandic society in the fourteenth century or living through Greenspan busts to see if his cigarette packet equations were correct. You would just play the game.

If you need any more persuasion, I feel confident that all of the concerned parties, both investors and games creators alike, would make a great deal of $$$moolah$$$ in this process, as well as helping to create a better world. To back my assertion, you may wish to read Kevin Parker's article, at Reason Online, called Free Play: The Politics of the Video Game. You could then try Jesse Walker's piece, also at Reason Online, called Hobbes in Cyberspace. And finally, Micha Ghertner's related critique, concerning Diablo II.

By the way, if anyone wishes to hire me as a creative consultant, at a fantastically extortionate rate, for Human Tycoon III, here is my initial pitch for the first version of the world's most addictive-ever computer game [codename: HoppeWorld]:

In this superlative gaming experience, the start-up Human Tycoon would own the central segment of a large bare micro-world. He would be surrounded by other city-providing landowners with similar land-plots and freshwater opportunities, sea access and coal deposits, and the same gold reserve starting capital. There would be nine competing micro-states in all, with a human player controlling the tycoon in the centre of the grid. The idea would be that with your own piece of land you would have to create more wealth than the other surrounding micro-states, to provide the human actors, or Hums, with a maximally attractive city and associated services. You could do this pretty much in any way you liked, even taking over the property and services of other surrounding computer-controlled micro-states, where you could swing deals with the rival computer-driven tycoons to sell them bits of your own property and developed services, to your judged advantage, or buy their land and developed services, to your judged advantage.

The fun would be in trading your own land and developed services in a way which kept you ahead of your fellow traders, or even in a way which helped all of you together to achieve a scenario goal, of say, everybody reaching 1 million ounces of gold in their personal bank accounts within 30 years. Or whatever?

You could have all sorts of scenario hurdles, such as the total wealth achieved by all nine players, the total wealth generated by the single human tycoon, the cities with the least crime, the cities with the best health and life expectancies, or the cities with the most strike-free fire services, unserweiter, unserweiter, as they say in Vienna. And all of it based upon either Austrian axioms or Chicagoan models, dependent upon whichever rival anarcho-capitalist school gets to the market first, with a viable game, to clean up in both the ideological and financial arenas against its rival school of anarcho-capitalist thought. Subtle? Moi?

A multi-player version would involve nine people over the Internet, each starting with their own Lockean homestead, with which they would mix their own brains and their own brawn. In Human Tycoon III every single possible service would be open to competition, including the police, the army, judicial services, hospitals, schools, and yes, dare I even say it, library services. Yes, I know. How could it even be possible to conceive of library services being provided by anyone other than the state? It's an outrage! Yes, maybe it was okay for library services to be initiated in the nineteenth century by private charities and philanthropists, however I fully realise that I should be locked up for even daring to hint that one day libraries could cease to be controlled by the full and mighty flower of the peaceful and benevolent state.

Getting back to HTIII: in an advanced edition of the game an outside entity would also appear, called NukeSov, who would try to take over everyone else, including the human tycoon. The trick would be for the Hums to remain alive and successful in free societies, while neutralising NukeSov and then rendering this outside entity totally harmless. Or at the very least, mostly harmless.

In Human Tycoon IV, we could then introduce planets, and much larger stellar grids, with video-active space flights, and defensive wars against NukeSov, with an ultimate mega-level battle occurring on NukeSov's home planet, Moscdor, under the scenario title of Release of the Slaves. Though I am confident that NukeSov will pop up again somewhere else to keep the game going, perhaps under another insidious guise, as the seemingly nice but thoroughly evil SwedeBorg.

By God, I want to buy this game already. If somebody writes it, I'll give you a whole $49.99 dollars for it. It will be a damn sight better than having to cave in to the Fire Strikers' wage demands in Sim City, to try to get my city's fires put out. If anybody knows where the hidden Sack The Firefighters ? Privatize The Fire Service button is, in Sim City, please let me know, along with the Sack The Aura Consultant button, to help me remove a character straight out of a politically correct City Hall department near you, right now. Until I can find these buttons the game is just too excruciatingly painful to play. Which is a shame, because I simply love the music and the graphics. Though I better go now, as I'm starting to sound like Hannibal Lecter again.

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Andy, if you're first in

Andy, if you're first in line for your proposed game, I'll be second.

This is a truly terrific

This is a truly terrific idea.

Do we get to send in

Do we get to send in Godzilla to destroy up-and-coming statist neighbors? Do we? :)

I don't buy it. The whole

I don't buy it. The whole point of liberalism is that nobody can predict what humans will come up with next, and so we shouldn't straitjacket them into what we expect will happen.

If you want a game where each citizen will be simulated, you still have to write the rules for the simulated humans. How will your sim-citizens decide how to spend their money? How will your sim-merchants figure out what to sell? How do you simulate the benefits of, say, education, such that your sim-citizens care about it?

Sure, you can write a libertarian game that says, "You have low taxes and regulation - you win!" But that proves nothing.

"...same gold reserves

"...same gold reserves starting capital"

hmmm, this isn't right. We not only don't all have the same capabilities, we don't have the same initial conditions. Developing strategies for progressing from realistically random starting points, with realistically random and variable impediments, would be far more entertaining as well as instructive. Strategies would vary wildly, inventiveness would flourish. Everything from catastrophic failure to brilliant success could result from nearly any random combination of initial conditions. Gaining competence in such a game would be very useful. Failure can be as instructive as success.

Charles Hueter writes: Do we

Charles Hueter writes:

Do we get to send in Godzilla to destroy up-and-coming statist neighbors? Do we? :)

Only once we've read the Ethics of Liberty, by Uncle Murray, and been aggressed upon by a statist neighbour, such that a respected common law judge agrees that we have been aggressed upon to the point, in the natural law, where it is within our defensive rights to, yes, ok, send in the Big Green Fella! :-)

digamma writes:

I don?t buy it. The whole point of liberalism is that nobody can predict what humans will come up with next, and so we shouldn?t straitjacket them into what we expect will happen.

Well, yes, it would only be a model (though I would hope a spectacularly good and complex model driven by the very latest in AI technology), but the point of it would be that if you got your axioms right, the game play situation would very much correspond to real life (see the Reason Online articles), and would be satisfying and exciting to players (as well as hopefully teaching them about economics and capitalism, in real life, and showing us that non-monopolized judicial and security services CAN, or yes possibly CAN'T, work). The more satisfying, challenging, and realistic the game was, the more we could be satisfied that our underlying axioms (eg: the disutility of labour, the preference for more goods for the same price, rather than less, etc, etc), were correct.

If the game felt 'fake' and unsatisfying (eg: as with my experience with the Sims), we would realise that our axioms needed adjustment, and so we would adjust them accordingly, and rethink our behavioural theories to account for the discrepancies between the Game and Real Life. It would be a fascinating psychological/philosophical/economic (though highly expensive) research project. It would, I think, also produce a fantastic series of very lucrative and addictive computer games.

Is life itself just a computer game, though a damned complicated one? Oh no, I must stop there before I quote 'The Matrix'! :-)

back40 writes:

We not only don?t all have the same capabilities, we don?t have the same initial conditions.

Personally, I'll never get above 'ridiculously easy' level, and set all eight of my robotic competitors to 'very, very, stupid', every time, so I can beat them every time, and feel clever doing so! :-)

However, I'm sure we could add in a randomizing element. Or allow players to start with nothing, and work their way up, to see if they could come to dominate. But I think I would personally get bored (in the game) stepping off a boat, working in kitchens, saving up enough to give my son a good education in economics, or saving enough capital to then invest in my shirt-mending business, before 37 game years later becoming the top tycoon. But hey, if that's the way you want to play it, we could build that kind of component in to satisfy you. You are the customer. We in the Human Tycoon Corporation, exist to serve.

Personally, I'll go for the Rockefeller option each time, and work my way down to champagne king! ;-)

digamma - AI always has

digamma -

AI always has this problem. Even the "statist" sim AIs pale in comparison to playing against real people.

The game will work much better as a multi-player, and the more players the better.

I think Sims like Sim City

I think Sims like Sim City tend to be statist because the player represents the government and they are giving the player control. You could simulate a company or you could have a sim-politician game where you could have libertarian politicians but if you are simulating building a city then you are going to be the one doing the building. If the Sims did it themselves through independent action and operations in a free market it would be something you watch and perhaps influence a bit but not something you do.

AI always has this problem.

AI always has this problem. Even the ?statist? sim AIs pale in comparison to playing against real people. The game will work much better as a multi-player, and the more players the better.

I still don't see the potential for simulating a free market. Every video game gives the player a finite bunch of choices. The players will attempt to maximize their utility through those choices. One problem with the simulation is that in real life they would have infinitely more choices. The other is that the player will maximize his or her OWN utility, not the utility of his or her character.

In multiplayer online games I have experienced, the goal of most players is superiority over other players, usually through violence. These people are, like most people, generally not violent in real life. There must be a reason why their behavior is so different in the game world, no?

digamma writes: In

digamma writes:

In multiplayer online games I have experienced, the goal of most players is superiority over other players, usually through violence. These people are, like most people, generally not violent in real life. There must be a reason why their behavior is so different in the game world, no?

This is an interesting point. I suppose this is because for millenia it has been in the interest of the stone age human to be violent, in order to survive, and underneath the skin of all of us are these priemval urges, which did so well for us for so long. I think Hayek summed it up well in The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism, when he explains the origins of socialism as the attempt to return to the primeval tribe, where as a tribe member you are free to do anything, absolutely anything you like, including murder, rape, pillage, theft, etc, as long as the tribal chief says you can.

The tribal chief, although he helps himself to the first spoils from the tribal cooking pot, is only one man, who can easily be killed by any member of the tribe, therefore he requires ideological protection as well as brute arm strength, so the second person to help themselves from the pot is the tribe's leading intellectual (witch doctor, priest, educationist), who is always persuading everyone in the tribe of the intrinsic right of the strongman to be the leader, if anyone should doubt it. The witch doctor's payment from the strongman is therefore this second helping, or a tithe, or a generously paid position within the bureaucracy.

Even now, although all moral systems say it is wrong to kill innocent people, the tribal leaders and their paid intellectuals tell us it is ok to kill in war, marching forward as christian soldiers, or muslim fanatics. So we obviously still have some way to go, in our moral development.

But in the book Hayek describes how moral systems did arise to curtail these initial murderously successful and free ways of living, because in trading with the next tribe, rather than trying to wipe them out and steal from them, although it was a delicate long-term process, eventually it was more successful than straightforward murder and pillage. The strongmen and the witch doctors even liked it, because they became kings and high priests, and eventually presidents and professors of sociology.

And the basic moral behind this increasing prosperity, which the most successful human tribes adopted, was that thou shalt not aggress against others, eg:


Thou shalt not murder
Thou shalt not commit adultery
Thou shalt not steal
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour
Thou shalt not covet they neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's

And libertarianism will, I hope, eventually come to dominate the world, in the same way that religion did, because it's central tenet of not aggressing against anyone will, I believe, give rise to the maximally successful human society, in the same way that religion took us out of hunter gathering and caves, and gave us cities and agriculture.

But to get to that world of maximum freedom within the maxim of peacefullness towards others, we need to persuade people to come and join us, and to do that we need to speak to them in a language they can understand, and which they are prepared to listen to, and if it takes a computer game to do it, I'll go with that. Plus, I would really like this particular game, just personally! :-)

We owe a lot to our aggressive impulses. Without them we would not be here today. And we must acknowledge these impulses, rather than trying to suppress them. And what a magnificent outlet we have discovered, over the millenia, to allow these impulses out safely. And that is sport, characterised by multi-player computer games where people kill each others' characters, as well as soccer, rugby, and American football.

As long as we keep it on the pitch, or the chessboard, or keep it on the screen, we'll be fine. I'm even a fan myself of Medieval: Total War (though it keeps crashing whenever I get really big Byzantine armies), and I'm really looking forward to Rome:Total War.

And although you may not be a customer, I do see the potential for simulating a free market in game form, because it will satisfy a different part of the brain, from that of the violent impulse, that of the successful competitor, the hero who can tame the world. But just to satisfy that violent impulse, you, as a player, may wish to take charge of a large insurance company employing various regiments of very heavily armed defensive troops, to protect your customers from outside aggression. And when NukeSov appears, or some other similarly aggressive collective body, the video-active part of the game, defending the free folk of Humville, will be just as good as Medieval: Total War.

You may not be in the queue for HTIII, or whatever it's called, when eventually it comes to market. But John Venlet and JDM, as well as myself, are already waiting. Bring it on.