2015-07-23

A Peaceful Solution To Knaves (A Response To Scott Alexander)

I hardly ever read the blog Slate Star Codex, but today I happened to do so. I was going to leave the following thought as a comment under his post, but I happened to notice that there are already over three hundred comments under that post. Maybe it's just my vanity talking, but I don't want my thoughts to get lost. So SSC's loss is Stationary Waves' gain.

In his most recent blog post, author "Scott Alexander" (scare-quotes because it is an admitted pseudonym) writes:
...the representation of weirdoes [sic] and [consumers of deviant and borderline-illegal pornography] is no higher [on Reddit] than any other part of the population. But that’s not zero. And a disproportionate number of those people became interested in the new site [Voat]. 
Already, we see why the typical answer “If you don’t like your community, just leave and start a new one” is an oversimplification. A community run on Voat’s rules with Reddit userbase would probably be a pretty nice place. A community run on Voat’s rules with the subsection of Reddit’s userbase who will leave Reddit when you create it is…a very different community.
When very smart people start thinking about very big ideas, they occasionally fall victim to the mouse that roared. In other words, "Scott Alexander" is speaking so enthusiastically about the problems of hardline libertarianism that a practical solution to the Reddit-Voat thing (and consequently also to the libertarian thing) is sitting right under his nose.

In short, "Alexander" suggests that the problem with "go start your own community then" is that it will soon attract knaves. I say that's not a problem, because so long as the knaves are there, then they're not here. 

On a small scale, what if Voat was started by a bunch of Reddit people pretending not to be Reddit people, who wanted to attract all the knaves to a "holding space" where they could be knaves to their hearts' content, without adversely affecting the experiences of non-knaves? And what if it worked?

On a large scale, what if a peaceful society designated a sort of "holding space" to deviants who wanted to be deviants, without adversely affecting the lives of everyone else?

There are illiberal ways to accomplish this, of course. Prison, for example, or nefarious and corrupt zoning policies.

But there are also highly libertarian ways of doing this: night clubs, for example, are often places where risk-seeking people can seek out risks (e.g. drug use, casual sex, etc.) while being essentially isolated from the rest of a city's nightlife (e.g. theaters, restaurants, date spots, and pubs).

The two populations can mingle if they wish to do so, or avoid each other if they wish to do so. Nobody has to outlaw anyone else. Nobody has to ban anyone else. Life goes on.

So, in attempting to argue in favor of necessary rules, "Scott Alexander" has actually missed the simplest solution to his problem.