Practical Bob and his Practical Jar of Answers

Practical Bob and his Practical Jar of Answers
by Ben Stone

Are you familiar with computer and video games?
I suppose that’s a vague question since there are a myriad of types of video games. I should be more specific.
Are you familiar with simulation games, specifically world simulation or “god games” where you play the role of the world or civilization builder? Often times these games start with a relatively blank canvas and you can choose how customized you want your world to be from a set of predetermined settings. So for example, you may want a world with lots of waterways where you can build cities and towns that have an economy based on fishing and sea faring. Or you may prefer a forested world or a desert landscape. Or perhaps you want a combination where you can build competing civilizations dependent on different resources. Many soothing hours can be spent building civilizations, developing their characteristics, and watching their advantages work themselves out.

Most games have features that programmers call “wizards” where you can overcome basic problems of a developing civilization by utilizing preset solutions that the wizard can do for you with some simple commands. For example, lets say you’re developing a civilization that you want to watch move from the Neolithic Age to the Bronze Age. To do this your civilization will need an abundance of stone, copper ore, tin ore, and enough food to provide leisure time for your people to utilize their skills on something other than finding sustenance. A wizard program can do this for you with preset functions. You simply launch the wizard and it solves the resource problem. No need to go all over your virtual world placing ore deposits and berry bushes in random locations hoping your little people can find them.

A different example of a wizard was the annoying Microsoft Office Assistant “Clippy” a feature developed for the single purpose of driving people crazy. In the case of Clippy, he could be set to appear only when you request him or he could jump onto your screen randomly and attempt to humiliate and annoy you. Clippy was originally a part of a wizard program called Microsoft Bob. Yes, Bob was discontinued because he was a dismal failure and Clippy eventually joined him in cyber Purgatory where they will burn in agony until they have paid for their annoying tendencies, but the concept is still good and has shown to be useful in a variety of applications.

I was thinking the other day, and I came to the conclusion that a wizard would be handy to have when explaining anarcho-capitalism to those who are not fully comfortable with completely eliminating the State. Let’s say you have a small program called Practical Bob. Whenever you’re talking about liberty and you mention that the State is the source of a particular problem and the other person says, “Yes, but without the State we would have no roads and highways!” Practical Bob would pop in and say, “It looks like you need a solution to the road problem, can I help?” Then Practical Bob reaches into his Practical Jar of answers and hands the solution to the person. You could even make Bob look like Walter Block.

You see, when a person begins to contemplate the foundational moral axiom of libertarianism, the Zero Aggression Principle, and as they come to grips with the depth of the meaning of property right, that person will either rejecting the core of libertarianism, choose to ignore the elephant in the room, or admit there is no moral justification for a State. Once they understand that the State is an entirely immoral concept they are faced with the dilemma of keeping some part of the State for practical purposes or placing their hopes in some vague faith that everything will be just fine without the State. This can be a terrifying proposition.
On the other hand, for the fully immersed anarcho-capitalist who is trying to help the new libertarian see that a truly free market can supply all of humanity’s needs, having to back up and deal with a simple issue like roads, water rights, policing, foreign threats, etc, can be frustrating. Who of us hasn’t been that stereotypical libertarian, listing book after book insisting that if the other person would simply read those 20 volumes and spend a few hundred hours studying Austrian Economics they would understand the power of the market?

So then, I propose that some industrious libertarian with computer skills create a phone app. By simple prompt, Practical Bob would launch and ask what kind of help you would like. Then Bob would reach into his Practical Jar and pull out a sound bite by any of several popular authors.
Example:
User ~ “Practical Bob”
Bob ~ “What can I help you with?”
User ~ “private security and police”
Bob ~ “I’m sorry, please clarify. Rothbard or Molyneux?”
User ~ “Molyneux”
Bob ~ reaches into his jar and pulls out the cover image for Practical Anarchy by Stefan Molyneux, a section on DRO’s begins to play and you hear Stefan’s voice. Additionally, a link to where you can buy the book appears.
Or:
User ~ “Practical Bob”
Bob ~ “What can I help you with?”
User ~ “IP Law”
Bob ~ whips out Against Intellectual Property by Stephan Kinsella and you hear Jock Coats‘ voice.
Or:
User ~ “Practical Bob”
Bob ~ “What can I help you with?”
User ~ “slavery”
Bob ~ “I’m sorry, please clarify. ‘Slavery in a libertarian society’ or ‘Lincoln and slavery'”
User ~ “Slavery in a libertarian society”
Bob ~ out comes For a New Liberty by Rothbard and you hear the voice of Floy Lilley reading “Chapter 5, Involuntary Servitude”

With a wildly popular app like this, the next logical step would be to actually create a “god game” with Practical Bob and his Practical Jar helping you build a perfect anarcho-capitalist world. Or perhaps Practical Bob as a dropdown feature in a MMORPG that would incorporate anarcho-capitalism in a rich online environment.
I can’t guarantee I would play such a game, but I could convince myself to cash the check if someone wants to write such games and slip me some of the profits.

Ben StoneBen
2011

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