“…as to your avowed intention to institute a Universal Income, we welcome such systems – as evidenced by our own Citizen’s Dividend – as an excellent answer to paracoercive states. (Para-, in this case, meaning “not really”, but having initially solved the ethical problems of true coercion, which is to say choice-theft, we may rightly turn our attention to the moral concern of those whose volitional phase-space is limited not by the actions of others, but the insufficiency of their own resources.)

“The difficulty, of course, is that one is not permitted to use unethical means in the pursuit of moral ends, for the one is mandatory and the other supererogatory, as is necessarily the case when ill means poison all good ends. For ourselves, the Citizen’s Dividend is a voluntary obligation accepted by all of our citizen-shareholders in their signing of the Imperial Charter, and since citizen-shareholdership is a privilege (which may be denied by the existing citizen-shareholders in Senate assembled on the grounds of philosophical incompatibility), those lacking properly enlightened self-interest or the generosity appropriate to a daryteir are merely denied that privilege.

“As a korasmóníë, of course, such a Universal Income in your case, if attained through political means, would be doing precisely that, inasmuch as it would be funded by institutionalized robbery on a mass scale. We would not, and obviously did not, find this acceptable in our own case. However, in yours…

“In your case, we must acknowledge reluctantly that local conditions do not always admit of the immediate implementation of ethically perfect solutions. I fear I am as unable to offer you advice on this matter as the old proverb would have it. While it is easy for me to advocate the construction of a system such as ours funded by infrastructure returns and externality fees, or one entirely funded by voluntary contributions in the manner of the Plurality, this depends on an existing consensualist governance, or at the least one which can be counted on not to interfere.

“As for the other, you yourself must weigh in the balance the reduction of paracoercion against the increase in coercion actual in the context of progress towards your desired consensualist future, while bearing in mind the risk – I have attached a number of relevant clionomic models – that a nonconsensual Universal Income carries with it a substantial risk of becoming an instrument of mulcting in perpetuity.

“If I may offer a final thought: I would only remind you that “While certainty is best, where there is doubt, it is best to err on the side of the Excellences. For the enlightened sophont acting in accordance with Excellence can only be betrayed, and cannot do wrong.”

– Meris Ejava, Freedom’s Seed COG, letter to the Second Temne Seed

16 thoughts on “Paracoercion

  1. Which is as good an opportunity as any to ask: What is the Empire’s justification for having a Citizen’s Dividend, as opposed to not having one and simply requiring everyone to make their own living on the “merits of their labor” (in accordance with certain views advanced by certain Emhites* who believe that in a true free market such measures would be not only unnecessary but ultimately counterproductive)?

    From Efficient Market Hypothesis, courtesy of Ventakesh Rao over at Ribbonfarm; in this context, referring to proponents particularly of the Strong EMH.

      • In the same sense as any other dividend, anyway. Having the ownership of 1/n of the Empire where n is equal to the current citizen-shareholder count, you receive the appropriate distribution of its profits. See Imperial Charter III.I.

        (For the Georgists in the audience, while asset taxes such as LVTs are of course strictly forbidden, these profits do include the externality fees for, say, resource depletion – i.e., the fee you pay when mining iron ore because when you’re done, there ain’t no iron ore there any more, and so forth.)

    • That would be:

      we welcome such systems – as evidenced by our own Citizen’s Dividend – as an excellent answer to paracoercive states


      properly enlightened self-interest or the generosity appropriate to a daryteir.

      Sure, it’s not economically efficient if one defines economic efficiency as ensuring maximal utilization of sophont labor, which the Minister of Progress and Prosperity would freely admit, right before informing you that that’s a bloody awful thing to optimize your economy for.

      A market is a machine for satisfying values. The transactions within this bloc are how it satisfies values like “people should be free to better themselves and take risks”, “a civilized society doesn’t waste sophont minds on sub-robotic grunt labor if it’s possible not to”, and “poverty is philosophically, empathetically, and aesthetically displeasing to me”.

      Labor, after all, has neither value nor virtue of its own.

      • Labor, after all, has neither value nor virtue of its own.

        And yet, isn’t a strong work ethic and a willingness to labor a key component — perhaps the key component — to the whole idea of asymptotic self-improvement?

        • Oh, so because self-improvement involves labor that means the sort of menial busywork that gets handed out in bureaucratic organizations all the time is actually useful and not just wasting time?

        • No, it isn’t.

          We have plenty of people who have a great work ethic and labor very hard (be it picking crops or shuffling papers), and if anything, that they have to devote most of their time and effort to that means that there’s nothing left over for self-improvement.

          The number of jobs in systems like ours that can be intrinsically self-improving is a very small number, and most of the rest don’t offer the opportunity for it even when they could. (There’s a reason the programmer who’s had “one year of experience, ten years running” is a cliché.)

          Also, bearing in mind the local culture, which places (physical, unskilled, etc.) labor in opposition to thought, which is the essential difference between serviles and technarchs –

          “Cogs and fire can labor; but only man may think.” – Ianthe Claves-ith-Claves Elinaeth, “Admonitions”

          Well, hell, that idea’s explicitly anti-technepraxic. He who is willing to (or is constrained to by circumstance, which while no shame is the whole point of eliminating this paracoercivity) labor digging ditches by hand will never invent a better shovel, or the backhoe, much less the Riantar Ventures, ICC, !tesh 120 swarmdozer. Programmer’s Laziness is a virtue greater far than sphexishness.

          Action is a virtue; labor is at best The Worst Instrumentality, the poor substitute for inadequate cleverness you use when you can’t come up with anything better; at worst, the tragic defect in the universe that the will does not readily translate to the deed, which through machines technepraxic strives earnestly to correct.

          To create a machine to work your will is to create your destiny. – Aphorisms for Technarchs

          • Much appreciated 🙂

            I’m sort of curious to see what a hypothetical eldraeic critique of the “Protestant work ethic” would look like, especially given how the idea has such sweeping ramifications for modern society’s attitudes towards work, employment, and self-satisfaction derived therefrom (even among people who don’t self-identify as “Protestant” or even religious) in the Western cultural millieu. But perhaps that should best be saved for another day if it does come up.

            I’m also somewhat curious as to how this attitude towards labor colors their views on the particular mechanics of first acquisition of property, especially since the same underpinning idea of the “sanctifying” value of labor is the cornerstone that John Locke built our modern conception of property rights on here.

        • Another note would be that “work ethic” often implies to a large degree “willing to uncomplainingly drudge away on things you don’t actually care about”.

          About the closest to that you’re going to see there is that doing nothing but lying around all day on your ass is socially sanctioned.

          But as long as you’re doing something cool, society will, by and large, be chill with it. If you want to take a couple of decades to program the greatest mods ever for Galaxy of Conquest or really polish your gigaword-length epic Captain Cosmos fan-fic, you do you.

          • But as long as you’re doing something cool, society will, by and large, be chill with it. If you want to take a couple of decades to program the greatest mods ever for Galaxy of Conquest or really polish your gigaword-length epic Captain Cosmos fan-fic, you do you.

            Does that still apply — as in, do I still get to draw my Citizen’s Dividend — if I do these things purely for my own enjoyment, and never publish them publicly for others to enjoy / critique / review?

  2. The closest thing to a “non-coercive” UBI I can think of would rely on some sort of charitable organization setting up some kind of AI-managed investment portfolios with large amounts of seed money.

    Most people pushing for UBI now couldn’t afford an Imperial Citizen-Share or the equivalent amount in Federal bonds.

    • The simplest form is exactly the way the coercive form works if you don’t just print money to pay it. You form the Enlightened Social Opportunity Fund, and ask all N members to tithe X% of their income to said fund, in exchange for which each member receives a sigma-X over N payout and the warm fuzzy glow of helping to provide a Security Blanket, Seed Capital, and Preventer of Mere Subsistence to your fellow sophs.

      (This is of course subject to the same pool problems as US-style not-actually-insurance health-insurance in the presence of bad actors, so to make it work in practice you need a virtuous culture and some sort of mechanism to deal with defectors and defaulters; but that’s just fancy wording of “you can’t have nice things if people suck”.)

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