Monday, February 24, 2014

Both sides of the wall

The strongest proof of the failure of socialism is the fall of the Berlin Wall, Milton Friedman said. To be more precise, the proof of socialism’s failure is the need for a wall in the first place, to keep people in, like prisoners. What the Berlin Wall’s fall proves is that people will flee the prison of socialism for freedom.

They won’t flee socialism if they are brainwashed to love their confinement. Nor will they flee if there’s no freedom to flee to. Would the Pilgrims have set out across the Atlantic if they were promised the same religious tyranny as they suffered under in England?

If the dark powers of this world, appealing to the worst in human nature, rise unchecked by morality, by reason, no Berlin Walls will be needed to keep us in. There are no empty, inhabitable lands to escape to. We are trapped in our prison by gravity.

Space as a refuge from a devolving Earth is the foundation for many speculative fiction works. But if there ever was a human society prone to enforce tyranny upon itself, it is the extraterrestrial state. Life in space, by necessity, is strictly regimented. The airtight confines of a closed habitat put enormous pressure on individuals to conform to authority. Limited resources, especially of air, requires communal sharing that would Lenin and Trotsky blush.

Astronauts are capable of such discipline—for 6 months at a time. They come from military backgrounds, endure years of training, and represent the tail end of the bell curve. How would a representative wedge of humanity, large and genetically diverse enough to reproduce, make it in space? They would have to learn to love their confinement.

Once you’re a member of an oppressive regime in space, you can’t escape. At minimum you need a supply of air and a pressurized cabin to survive, neither of which a collective is willing to part with. Self-financing billionaires will enjoy freedom in isolation, but they won’t perpetuate the human race.

Those on whom “assimilation” programs fail will be a problem. Destructive behavior by the unassimilated endangers all where instant death by exposure is one mistake away. Like defective babies in Sparta, they will be exiled to die, or killed in their sleep and recycled.

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