Libertarianism, Pragmatism, Healthy Life Extension

I have strong libertarian leanings. I value freedom, honesty, and a strong rule of law. In an ideal world, I'd be able to live in a thriving minarchy or anarcho-capitalist society. I think that the Austrian school of economics provides a far better view of the world than that offered by competing economic theories.

Western style democracies are about as far as you can get from a libertarian society and still have a place that's moderately pleasant, free and safe to live in - so long as you blend in and don't make enemies amongst the powerful. Many people believe that high tax rates and lack of freedom (due to a winner-takes-all majority rule system of government and the preponderance of unaccountable, unelected officials) are the necessary cost of personal safety in a modern civilization. The only high profile modern alternatives - dictatorships - are invariably very much worse places to live, after all. But it is simply not true that we need high taxes, large government, and unaccountable officials: there are better ways of doing things.

In any case, how does this little sidebar fit in with healthy life extension? The answer is that in a world of large government, in which a good 35% of all medical research funding is provided by government grants, you can't ignore the system. It is an open question as to whether public funding for medicine speeds the rate at which real anti-aging and healthy life extension therapies are made available more than other aspects of a large government slow things down. For example, it is well known and documented that high taxes have a devastating effect on the economic engine that powers growth, commercialization and advancing technology.

As an individual, you can't change the system on a useful timescale. People are making serious organized attempts to create more libertarian societies, but this has little direct bearing on the large scale advance of real anti-aging science over the next decade or two.

Hence, we come to pragmatism. Between the two biggest problems I see in life - a) that we are aging and will all suffer and die if nothing is done, and b) that society is far less free and honest than it could be - aging is clearly the problem to be dealt with first. There's a time limit attached to it, and I am very much a first things first type of person.

So I draw my lines in a pragmatic manner. At the moment, I support working within the system to the extent of protesting government restrictions on research (although a more libertarian postion would be that any such interaction with government has the undesirable effect of legitimizing the very system you oppose). I'm not a big fan of the California stem cell research ballot initiative, but only because I think that too much (big government restriction and interference) bad is coming with the (research dollars) good on that one. Private projects like the Methuselah Mouse Prize, or any number of foundations and research groups are just fine in my book.

You folks should draw your lines where you please. I'm not a jealous libertarian, like some I could mention, and I'm certainly not telling you what to do. If you are comfortable with living in a Western democracy, more power to you; in a truly plural society you would be able to do so without forcing me to do so to as well. But we don't yet have such a thing, and probably won't until new frontiers - space, virtual nations, ocean living, floating cities in the upper atmosphere, and so forth - are opened up through advancing technology.

My advice to you is to support the healthy life extension initiatives you are comfortable with, and that - on examination - you think will speed progress towards longer, healthier lives. If we all make smart choices, we can help medical science to advance towards real anti-aging medicine in the face of opposition, government and otherwise.