Monday, August 25, 2008

The Seven Billion Pound Gorilla

The world just has too many fucking people. 6.7 billion folks is just too damn many. The rumble you just felt is Malthus rolling over in his grave. Paul Ehrlich is on his fourth double martini.

But, it isn't too bad here in the good ol' USA, we have a whole lotta farmland and we export like crazy. We are also pretty rich on our parent's residuals and (other than oil) we still have quite a parcel of resources available to us.

Granted, we have screwed up our small truck farmers pretty badly, opting instead for a long-range transport based systems out of a few big areas like the Imperial Valley, but oil and water shortages will put paid to that foolishness pretty soon now. We will have to restructure the way that we do some things, but we still have the resources to have enough food to go around.

Sorry for the digression, back to the issue at hand. When you get down to it, the government is pretty much backed into a corner lately. That isn't to say that Georgie and Dickie haven't gone out of their way to choose the worst possible options. But the reality that they and future presidents will have to deal with is that the population is steadily going up and they have to control the people (like it or not folks, controlling the people is the main purpose of government). As the population increases they will necessarily have to make choices between the freedom and safety of the individual and the order and safety of the Polis.

Our country was founded with a population base of around 4,000,000. Add in the million or so Native Americans and you are looking at less than 5,000,000 bodies on the continent at the time the Constitution was signed. That few people in that much room makes for a lot of freedom. We are now looking at >300,000,000 souls in the country. We can feed them all, I'm not sure we can find jobs for them all. Each and every one of them seems to have well defined ideas about what makes up an American's package of freedoms. Not too many of those perceived packages seem to match any of the others.

When we say we are losing our freedoms, we are correct. But perhaps the question should be, not how do we keep our freedoms, but rather, which individual freedoms are possible in a system when there is a steadily increasing population base coupled with a static natural resource base? This dilemma only looks more gloomy when you complicate the issue further by noting the fact that we operate within an economic system that is predicated on constant growth. We may be looking at some problems here.

The real trouble is that with that many bodies and all the individual concepts of freedom and rights, we are going to have some real trouble in establishing what are "rights"and what are mere fripperies. Everyone will have their own opinion as to whether this or that desire/right is critical. The main issue is that there are going to be toes stepped on as individual "freedoms" are exercised. That friction will cause other folk and the government to push back.

I don't know where all of this is headed. It may be that there is not be a good answer available. But I am thinking that perhaps a constant push for "freedom" in a crowded system may well cause as many or more problems than the loss of freedoms.

The United States has a basis of government as "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness". Canada has a basis of government as "Peace, Order, and Good Government". The truth seems to be that all six are required, but here in the USA we have a tendency of only looking at the first three.

1 comment:

Mfskinner said...

Your point is very interesting. Freedom for one in many cases infringes to some degree on the available choices of another. I believe it was Aristotle who pointed out that where there were more than 5000 souls trying to live together it would get harder to accomplish as the numbers grew.

We have cities with millions of people who mostly live like anarchists until the ordinances and limitations are brought to bear in some fashion. We have rules but most do not internalize these rules on a daily basis and usually wish to have them enforced when and if they feel their space is threatened and their choices somehow limited.

Controlling over 300 million people is not going to happen but a lot of strategies are employed to keep the number smaller. Divide and confuse, and a little racial divisiveness help to keep any real organized threat to the status quo in check.

As for resources I think most people only worry about getting theirs and do not even care about how long it will last.

But I differ in one respect with what you said I do not think there have been that many real freedoms present and I also do not think people were very aware of this. How many have read any part of the constitution?

Control can be benevolent or malevolent and I think what we are most concerned with is limiting the tendency for people to want more power and to abuse it.

Left to their own devices people would act pretty much as they do now, with a few bumps along the way.