Illustrative of a Certain Set of Attitudes

I felt I should share this item with you; it is illustrative of the attitudes of a certain set of people who stand in opposition to healthy life extension, and illustrative of a certain sickness that has crept into the minds of men in modern times. It is a petition upon an open access UK government website - there is something of a trend in that country towards using the tools of the web in this sort of manner; time will tell if anything meaningful comes of it. In any case, here is the view of one person as a concisely condensed compilation of the views of many more:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Ban all scientific research aimed solely at increasing longevity past 70 years.


A number of biotechnology companies (which cannot be named here) are trying to allow rich people to extend their lifespans to over 100 years using pharmaceuticals. Unfortunately, this could take money from the poor and give it to the rich (in their long pensions) by increasing everyone else's pension contributions, and housing and healthcare costs. All health research directed towards extending longevity beyond 70 years should be banned to save our pension system and NHS from collapse and to give room for the wonders of the next generation.

Impressively condensed, no? One scarely knows where to start.

As I've discussed in the past, many people play host to a fear of change so great they would rather suffer and die than work to improve the world. Worship of "the system" is symptomatic of this internal rot - there is no system of governance and regulation so bad, so horrible, so destructive that it has no slavish defenders. Imagine - a set of laws to take money from one set of people and give it to another has grown such an ossified cult that there are millions who cannot imagine a world even slightly different, and who would go to their deaths rather than think about changing matters for the better.

Another of my numerous soapboxes, well illustrated in the quote above, is the effect of economic ignorance upon the world.

Life is unfair, make no mistake. People are unequal in opportunity, capacity and the hand they were dealt at birth. To think that this truth can be removed in any way, shape or form is to betray a profound ignorance of economics and the human condition. You cannot make life better at the bottom by tearing down the top; the top is where progress happens, progress that lifts the quality of life for everyone. Punishing success in order to reward failure has predictable results - more failure and less success. The wealthy of 1950 were far worse off than the poor of today precisely because progress brings economic rewards to the successful.

Arguments based on inequality are, at root, made from a misunderstanding - willful or otherwise - of the way in which wealth, medicine and technology are best created. Rapid progress for all requires a free market, strong rule of law and property rights. Such a culture necessarily has a power law distribution of ownership and success. There's a reason the US has led the world in technology, for all that it's going to the dogs nowadays - it's the flip side of the reason that communism, socialism and the politics of envy lead to poverty and suffering.

Creating "equality" by taking from the successful ruins the creation of wealth - very much a non-zero sum game - for all. It takes away the vital incentives and rewards for success. At the end of the process, as demonstrated by all that transpired in the Soviet Union, you are left with the same old inequalities, but now taking place amongst ruins, starvation and disease.

Not to mention the tragedy of the commons that is socialized medicine - a surefire way to turn plenty into poverty by disconnecting usage from responsibility and cost, transforming the non-zero-sum game of economic growth and transaction into a zero-sum game of selfishness and destruction. Commons have a way of turning people perfectly capable of responsibility into helpless, childlike losers who will claw the eyes from anyone they think is doing better, but who will perform not one iota of work to improve the situation for all.

The world of government-enforced commons is a twisted mirrorland, in which more years of healthy life, a greater ability to work, a greater call for products and production are made into a black destruction - rather than the very lifeblood of opportunity, economic growth and happiness they are in a free economy.

Do we really live in a world in which our deaths - on time, to a schedule laid down by government employees - are required to fuel "the system?" Or do we live in a world in which we strive to produce more and better life, and in which rules are made to serve the interests of people rather than vice versa? The answer to that question is up to us.

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This is bizarre. Surely even from a socialist viewpoint, it would be more logical to demand that the government guarantee everyone equal access to the technology, not try to ban its development. One wonders whether anyone back in the day demanded bans on the development of motor cars, vaccines, or antibiotics on the grounds that the rich would disproportionately benefit from them at first and that the money could better be spent elsewhere. If anyone did, all social classes today are fortunate that they did not succeed.

Posted by: Infidel753 at January 31st, 2007 8:57 PM

This may tangentially resemble an ad hominem, but I assure you is not: I am simply curious as to what motivates a person to render a petition such as this one. I assume that the Dr. Jeremy Parsons in question is he who maintains the site at If not, disregard this! However, why would an apparently middle-aged, scientifically trained individual feel emotionally compelled to submit this kind of petition ? Is it a question of temperament that is entirely divorced from social standing, educational background, rational thinking ? Or is it a quirky notion that cultural progress is linked to the dying off of the old so that the young may advance ? There is something to the idea that progress depends on people being driven and the young have a natural propensity to do so. However, as we all know, individual mileage may vary - a whole lot! I can't help but wonder if this is not simply a contrary reaction from someone who gains more emotional comfort from established mores than from a progression into a time of more potential. Not saying it's wrong, but it sure isn't rational...

Posted by: LY at February 1st, 2007 2:53 AM

It's evil, but there's an upside:

"signatures: 3"

It's about as popular as it ought to be.

Posted by: Julian Morrison at February 2nd, 2007 12:38 PM

it would be better if life extension be affordable for all through redistribution of wealth by a government.

Posted by: nick at February 2nd, 2007 6:04 PM
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