As I'm sure long-time readers are aware, there are all too many people in the world who would force you and I to suffer greatly and die from old age for no better reason than they want to and they can - concentration of power is the enabler of great horrors.
Politicians and government employees - with or without the tacit approval of the governed - have done far worse than force old age upon people in the past; the power to cause death and misery is only restrained by the threat of the same. Those with power insulate themselves from the consequences of actions that would bring just retribution upon others, however. There is no good cause for believing that an ugly future of mandated and enforced limits on life span could not occur -complacancy for our freedoms and tolerance of the abuse of power are the first steps down that sorry path.
A blog entry by Nydra at Betterhumans prompted this line of thought. It's a response to the stagnation objection to healthy life extension, a particularly poorly formed objection amongst many poorly formed objections - but this one touches on (or rather tramples over) the topic of freedom more than most.
The entire fulcrum of this comment seems to be the notion that individuals must necessarily be sacrificed so that some central tenet of nature may be upheld for the "greater good". I question the notion that a maximally "good" and ethical society must condemn people to death, despite the possibility of developing healthy life-extending technologies. Though some people certainly garner meaning and motivation from awareness of their own mortality, this is not true of all people. I do not see why the "death is meaningful" folks should get to decide the lifespans of those who disagree. As far as I am concerned, people who want to die are welcome to do so, but those who would rather stay around longer should have that option.
Freedom, in other words, in the form of self-ownership; the freedom to do as you see fit with your own body. But the trampling in the stagnation argument occurs earlier in the quote above, in the assumptions underlying a "greater good." Who gets to decide, and how do they get to force that decision upon others? Words like "we," "society" and the like - indeed, any assumptions of unity or of speaking for groups - are tricky pieces of camouflage for people who are employing force to have things their way, usually at your expense.
Further discussion on this matter would be greatly appreciated, since the "stagnation" argument against radical life extension seems to be nearly as frequently encountered these days as the "overpopulation" argument.
Agreed. More discussion is the way to show these arguments to the world as the nonsense they are. People change, and long-lived people will likely change more. If people refrain from change, that is their choice, and I would like to live in the sort of society where choice without harm is respected. What sort of person calls for institutionalized murder when faced with a free choice that does not impact him or his possessions?