Do some gun owners really believe in the conspiracy that the government is planning to take away all the guns?

…as answered by twv on Quora….

Yes. Sure. But most believe it is not a conspiracy, exactly, but instead an open movement that wishes to accomplish civilian disarmament by incremental regulations and prohibitions.

And since that is precisely what many gun control advocates and former advocates have publicly stated as their goal and their method, these gun owners are not witless, are they? Of course they are reasonably skeptical of any further regulation.

I know that when I flirted with gun control ideas, a mass confiscation immediately popped into my head, and I discussed it with other gun control advocates.

Also, political promises of “we only wish to do this so much (and no more)” and objections on the order of “how dare you think we will go all the way!” of any new proposal are to be believed only by chumps. The income tax was promoted as something only a few of the very rich would pay, and even then not all that much. Within five years the rates on the top bracket went from 7 percent to 77 percent and people at the bottom went from paying nothing to paying 1 percent. Government “wants” to grow. So any small increase in regulation is rightly seen as merely a “first step.”

It is also a known thing that many people in government — as legislators and as functionaries — want a general civilian disarmament. It sure would make their jobs easier! They think.

But gun owners look upon all this with a growing sense of incredulity. Government functionaries cannot successfully do their jobs now, as was shown in the recent Parkland, Florida, shooting incident. And the War on Drugs failed to eradicate psychoactive drugs even from prisons, the most heavily guarded buildings in the country.

So that means that a gun confiscation — or any increased legal encumbrance upon citizen ownership — would surely do only one thing: decrease the ability of peaceful and lawfully disposed citizens to own guns, but not the violent and the criminal. It would basically leave people less safe.

Besides, Spencer’s Law applies, as increasing numbers of gun owners understand. Gun crimes have been going down in America as gun ownership has risen. And this applies to school shootings, too. If someone, conservative or progressive, is much exercised about “a rise in violence” in America, they are, for the most part, being driven by coverage and hysteria, not facts, figures, and sound risk assessment. The rise in demand for “doing something” is occurring as the need for “doing something” is diminishing.

Given this, gun owners wonder what could gun control advocates be thinking? Are they that credulous?The kids are, surely — yes. But some gun control advocates, they know, are indeed malign proponents of authoritarian government. Many gun control politicians and activists love tyrannical government as such. Just look at their methods and policies. Freedom has nothing to do with their agendas. They like robust government, vast redistributions of wealth, and massive regulation of every conceivable element of life, down to the drinking of sodas. They are illiberal. Every society has such people. Not a few of my friends and acquaintances would welcome a “benevolent” tyranny if it would get them the policies they desire.

To the extent that they advance their political program in public, gun control organizing is not conspiratorial. It is, instead, an open political assault on a free society. But some of these people are in government, and no doubt do have contingency plans in place to confiscate vast hoards of guns. So I guess even I believe in such a conspiracy.

But mainly I am politically opposed to the entreaties and counsel of fools.

twv

I, of course, am harmless.

The new openness and honesty in the Democratic Party deserves more attention. For years Democrats have been accused by the deeply suspicious of being (a) for citizen disarmament and (b) actual socialists. Now, increasingly, Democrats are copping to both.

Beto O’Rourke did something new for a major Democratic presidential candidate at Thursday night’s debate when he said, very clearly and without any prevarication, that he’d take “weapons of war” and certain guns away from law-abiding Americans.

“Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We’re not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore,” said O’Rourke, a former congressman from El Paso, Texas, who has re-created his presidential campaign around the issue of gun control after a mass shooting last month in his hometown.

Zachary B. Wolf, “Democrats have spent years denying they’ll take people’s guns. Not anymore” CNN, September 12, 2019.

And it is not just Blithering Beto:

O’Rourke is one of three Democrats, along with Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey to support mandatory buybacks for certain guns. Other Democrats would make them illegal but not require them to be bought back by the government. That was O’Rourke’s position, too, until the shooting in El Paso.

At the debate, O’Rourke had been asked whether he was ready to take guns away from people. He said yes, “if it’s a weapon designed to kill people on a battlefield, if the high-impact, high-velocity round, when it hits your body, shreds everything inside of your body because it was designed to do that so you would bleed to death on a battlefield and not be able to get up and kill one of our soldiers.”

This is something of a turning point for Democrats.

But it is not the only turning point. The popularity of Senator Bernie Sanders, who openly supports the Socialist label, and the “democratic socialists” of the Squad, points to something bigger: a willingness to go all the way to total government, despite America’s long tradition of opposition to socialism:

From being willing to murder babies fresh from the womb to the recent publication of something called the “Green New Deal,” Democrats can now be said to be totally out of the closet, allowing the American people, for the first time in a very long time, to see them for exactly who, and what, they are.  Before President Trump, Democrats had always been much less forthcoming when it came to revealing what it was that they were really up to.  But it would seem that these days, for whatever reason, they see no reason to operate in the shadows.  It’s almost as if they want us to see just how crazy they have become.  And the president should do nothing to discourage them from talking, in fact he should encourage them to talk more.

And it’s this “Green New Deal” that is the latest utopian idea to be presented by the Democrats, and is also arguably one of the most insane idea they’ve ever come up despite being championed by the genius, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  It reveals much about just how out in the open the Democrat Party is now willing to operate.  And regardless of how insane it is, this cockamamie plan was promptly endorsed by at least five candidates for the Democrat nomination for president in 2020, including the current frontrunner, Kamala Harris.  And it’s upon closer inspection that this highly touted “Green New Deal” has got to be seen as being one of the craziest, if not THE craziest, bits of legislation ever conceived in all of modern day politics.  

And I can’t help but wonder why this entire idea isn’t being ridiculed to the point where its supporters have been forced to go into hiding out of fear of becoming a laughing stock for daring to support it.  After all, the plan calls for the entire U.S. economy to switch to solar and wind power in ten years, an end to air travel, and guaranteed jobs for all, including those “unwilling” to work.  It will be paid for by printing more and more money. And if you dare to disagree, the planet will die.  While this “Green New Deal” is not the first crazy idea ever to be proposed in Congress, it is the first crazy idea to be taken so seriously and to be co-sponsored by as many as ten U.S. Senators and a third of House Democrats, so far.  

A close second would be “Medicare for All,” which Kamala Harris endorsed last month, adding that she would “eliminate” private health insurance — though she later said she was open to other paths to socialized medicine.  “Medicare for All” is not even popular in Harris’s deep-blue home state of California, where a plurality of voters opposes the plan, according to a Quinnipiac poll released this week. Yet the same poll revealed that the policy is very popular among Democrats, with 61% in favor and 24% opposed. When Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Democrat, blocked a similar idea in 2017, saying there was no way to pay for it, he received death threats.  Many Democrats have long believed in having the government run everything.

Front Porch News, “The Democrats Come Out of Their Socialist Closet,” A Backwoods Conservative, February 8, 2019.

Arguably, if you believe “in having the government run everything,” you are a socialist. But what does it make you if you say your balk at total government, but only support increases in the size and scope of government, never decreases? The late-19th century individualists had a name for that. I remember how the late Bill Bradford was fond of the term, a specific suffix. And here Paul Jacob uses it:

There is nothing more tragic than full-blown socialism: mind-control and the snitch society; purges and mass starvation, with millions upon millions dead. But give them credit: the trendy new Democrats say they’re only for the Nordic Model of . . . well, the European term for it is social democracy. The fact that they now insist on calling social democracy “socialism” might be comic. It’s sort of witless. . . .

But they sure seem to push for evermore government — more regulation, especially. And since Denmark, Sweden, and Finland are all very close to the United States on Cato Institute’s economic freedoms tallies in the institute’s annual Human Freedom Index, demanding more regulation isn’t likely to make America more like Scandinavia.

But it would be more socialistic. Emphasis on the “ic.”

Paul Jacob, “Socialist-ic,” Townhall, March 3, 2019.

But this is not just a nomenclature issue:

Warren’s no socialist — she wants to “save capitalism,” after all.

Yet by only adding to government kludge, she might as well be one.

And that’s both the comedy and the tragedy of the Democratic Party: even when Democrats forswear the s-word, they keep touting more and more government, ignoring the mistakes of their past.

Which is why the new embracing of the label “socialism” is at least a sign of transparency.

But in politics, does such transparency pay?

As even a few fuddy duddies in the Democratic presidential line-up insist, this open embracing of socialism as a label, and Ever-Growing Government as a platform, may very well ensure The Donald’s reëlection.

But if one of these gun-grabbing socialists does win office — or if Democrat pols merely persist in continuing this latest ideological dedication — the consequences could extend much further. The United States could indeed go through something very much like death paroxysms, leading (best-case scenario) to disunion, either

  • in the form of a renewed federalism or
  • with secession leaving us two or more separate unions.

Brexit is peanuts compared to what is brewing here.

Yet my Democrat friends never seem to acknowledge what they have put into the roiling water.

As for me, I am mostly fascinated. You see, I am an anti-nationalist. Have been since a teenager. This gives me a rather jaded perspective. I think of Alexander Hamilton as a traitorous liar, and the union he molded as a treason against the states and the liquidation of the Founding’s promise. And so I look upon the Republicans as at best pathetic fools, but mostly as enemies of liberty — willing to compromise anything (even gun control and socialism) to maintain national power, which is their core insanity. And Democrats? — as at best ridiculous tools of the plutocracy, even while lashing out at “the top one percent,” never realizing that centralized power must always play into the hands of an elite. It is always worth a chuckle, really, populism being the Grand Delusion at the heart of the left.

When people want impossible things, they push incoherent dreams.

The Democrats’ new-found daring regarding their dreams and their putative reality is, at the very least, refreshing.

But, looming over all politics is the specter that haunts us all: The Thomas Theorem. Imagined causes have real effects. Those effects cannot be what is imagined, though. Not exactly. And that gap between fantasy and consequences is the most interesting divide there is, for both the left and the right tend to deny their respective divides.

Ideologues think in a fantasy realm, but we must all live in those realms’ shadows. American Democrats might work up at least some caution regarding the shadow of their dreams.

A sketch of the most basic form of ideological map.
A question asked by a far-left Quora “space,” and which I answered —
and published on the libertarian “space” Liberty at Large.

The freedoms of a “typical capitalist society”:

You may choose your occupation, or trade. No one forces you into any particular form of work.

You are tempted by myriads of goods to enjoy, but are not forced to buy any one of them.

Instead of spending all your income, you can save wealth and invest in work that is not plotted out for you, but which you figure out yourself — that is, you can become an entrepreneur.

You can live simply, floating on the hard work of others (and the vast accumulations of wealth) and basking in the general tolerance of society, getting by with just a few contracts. Or you can immerse yourself in the world of commerce and public affairs, buying and selling expensive goods like real estate or antiques or what-have-you. You are not forced into any one manner of living.

Freedoms you do nothaveinclude the ability to command others’ work or attention by threat. You do not have the freedom from want, or from fear, or from anxiety about the future. You lack any freedom to force others to include you in their schemes for advancement. Generally, the rule in a free society as provided in capitalist ones is reciprocity.

This is a great liberator, sure, but many folks resent that freedom. They see that they can ruin their lives with bad choices, and wish to blame others for those choices. And “bad fortune” — misfortune — can happen to anyone. And capitalist societies — private property, “commercial society” — are in the promotion of quality and value, not in equalizing quality and value. Those prone to envy hate such free advance, demanding, instead, organized advance on theirterms, not people’s generally.

Of course, “typical capitalist society” is somewhat vague. “Typical” as in average or modal, or “typical” as in conforming to an ideal type?

Exploring the latter sort of notion, we begin to look upon the laissez faire element as typical in capitalism, as essentialand defining, while in history and usual experience so far, what is typical is mercantilism, protectionism, and mixed economy/transfer state (“bourgeois socialism”) elements. Not a few of the people who most love the freedom to be found in the extended order of a liberal capitalist society emphasize the non-government features, the emergent order, not the spoliation features and centrally planned attempts. Others, ambitious or impatient or resentful, seek to impose an order upon capitalism especially advantageous to them or constructed by their values. So we have the forms of capitalism now dominant: state capitalism, crony capitalism, welfare state capitalism, social democracy, and … what it all comes down to as it works out, The Churning State, where the transfers of wealth by regulation and plunder and “distribution” are so complex that special interests are only sure of their advantages gained in a few specific programs that they have special access to, the general tumult of interests having been so churned on issue-by-issue basis and by sector-by-sector privileges that the general interest becomes impossible even to conceive coherently.

But this latter is not freedom. It is chimerical. Perhaps the term for it should be chimerical capitalism.

I prefer the palpable freedoms of the liberty provided by limited government and the opportunities of voluntary interaction to the illusions of political promise and governmental machination.

Having some trouble caring what Scarlett Johannson thinks.

Ms. Johannson was in a few Woody Allen movies (Match Point, Scoop, Vicky Christina Barcelona) and was fun to watch in each one of them, though her acting was, how shall we say, restrained. So her defense of Woody against accusations of pedophilia, incest and statutory rape may seem understandable.

But this is one of those issues where the proper response to being questioned on this subject would be “I think it inappropriate of you even asking me this. You shouldn’t need a lecture in logic or manners or law to see why this would be so.” When The Hollywood Reporter asks, you needn’t answer.

Actors and actresses are too often prompted to talk about things they should not be talking about.

Professionalism in acting should include knowing when to say nothing.

But of course Hollywood’s narcissist culture precludes that.

So I guess that means I could, just maybe, work up some sympathy for Ms. Johansson, in that she has been caught up in a roiling idiocy that she cannot control, or even likely comprehend.

I mean, I have misguidedly spoken candidly to people I thought, mistakenly, had my interests at least a little bit in their heads.

So maybe I do give a damn.

twv

N.B. Ms. Johansson has been in a few movies that I think of as classics: Ghost World, The Man Who Wasn’t There, and The Prestige being the greatest among them. She was fine in other very good films, like The Girl with the Pearl Earrings and Lost in Translation. And of course she is most famous for playing a superhero.

Oh, and I write, above, that her acting in Woody Allen movies was “restrained.” Actually, I do not remember what she did in Vicky Christina Barcelona at all. Not even a shadow of a memory.

From the “Nerdy Commie” Fb group. (A friend wondered, doesn’t that second tie photo look like Rothbard? I answered, Yes!) But something wasn’t quite right….

You’re welcome.
You see the most obvious typo: “by” when “buy” was meant.

Imagine a religion without beliefs, sans credo, but based upon mere suspicion.

Now consider environmentalism, the ideology in which what should be at best suspicions are held religiously as points of dogma.

Now, briefly to reïterate my long-standing position: anthropogenic global warming sure seems plausible. But that is mere suspicion. Beyond this suspicion, the “science” is all over the map. Sea levels have been rising steadily as measured on east and west coasts of North America since 1850 — long before the great releases of greenhouse gases from modern civilization. And if you look at reliable U.S. temperatures for the last 150 years, it is not at all evident that a general warming has occurred.

So, while there is room for suspicion regarding current and future climatic shifts of possible catastrophic proportions, there is not yet grounds for anything close to certainty.

Yet the dogma on the environmentalist left is clear.

How must we appraise this? Well, as always with religious people, it is by their fruits we shall know them. If they say our coasts are going to be under water in a few years — unless (of course) we act immediately in a massive and transformative way — then you would expect environmentalists to flock to the uplands. It sure is obvious that the “proper” transformative policies they demand are not being adopted.

Because environmentalists are not heading for the hills, I do not believe they really believe in their catastrophe scenarios. They are playing at belief.

Not as suspicion, but as fantasy.

I suspect they do this the better to hate on those who doubt. It is a proven “winning” religious strategy.

twv

A cove in Cape Disappointment.

…as answered on Quora:

Liberals are not upset by Dave Chappelle. Leftists are; Progressives are.

Conservatives and other non-leftists have got stop bashing “liberals.” A liberal is for freedom of speech at the very least. It is a defining feature. If you give up on free speech, you give up on liberalism. You do not get to use the label. And leftists generally have given up the free speech cause. Today’s left-progressives sound like the conservatives of my youth, who thought it important to suppress disruptive and unsettling and non-nice speech.

Conservatives in the past were especially upset by frank or unruly speech about sex; today’s progressives are especially upset about frank or unruly or even just skeptical speech about “gender.”

And boy, does Dave Chappelle zero in on that obsession.

As for me, I have been a Chappelle fan since his “how old is fifteen really?” bit years ago. He is still provocative, funny.

It is just that now progressives have gotten so annoyingly anti-freedom and anti-fun that they cannot take a joke. They can dish it out, but cannot take it. Actually, it is worse than that: they have gone so far that they cannot really dish it out any longer. Jon Stewart was funny on The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert was funny on The Colbert Report. But Colbert is not funny any longer. Nor are the others in the late-night anti-Trump brigade. Why? Because they became relentlessly partisan and (worse) came to think of themselves as always right.

They are merely always left.

And hopelessly unfunny.


After I published this response, directly above, the original question was changed to reflect my complaint. It now reads “Why are the left so upset with Dave Chappelle? Are they only finding humor in bashing Trump and conservatives?” Which, because of grammar issues, may be worse!


Addendum 9/4/2019:

The context just gets richer.

I oppose the concept of “gender” and quite a bit of today’s intersectionalist nomenclature. This is especially the case with the trans mania.

But I should clarify. For the record, I am not “trans-exclusionary.” That term of alleged opprobrium doesn’t do my position justice. I am a trans denier. Whether or not I play along with other people’s fantasies and fakes and frauds is a matter of whimsy only, circumscribed by manners and fleeting circumstance. On principle, anyone who threatens me — in the realm of manners or in courts of law — to obtain my compliance with their fantasies and fakes and frauds will gain only my contempt and defiance. The current trans movement is a bullying idiocy.

Now, though I oppose current trends in trans advocacy, I have no great animus against these sexually confused and deliberately confusing people. When I was young I knew a number of trannies. That is what they called themselves. Trannies. They were technically called pre-op transexuals, I think. But whatever they were called, I liked them. I had no trouble with them. I thought their passion for drag shows was stupid, but I think most other people’s pastimes are stupid, and as everyday people I got along with them fine.

But at no point did I think of these men as women. Lacking two X chromosomes and sporting dangling pudenda put the kibosh on any of that. Putative trans women, even after plastic surgery, are still not women. Though if they can pass I give them a pass.

But that was yesterday — today’s trans activists are my enemies.

Why? Well, they have gotten increasingly bold in their effrontery. About once per month I encounter some public argument to the effect that I am somehow bad if I do not want to get naked and engage in penetrative sexual play with a “trans person” just because I do not like their genitalia. Well, I like women. Well, a very few women. And I have a fondness for their genitalia, too. And I have no interest in naked play with any man. I would be most happy if I could go the rest of my life without seeing another penis, at least up close. The idea that trans activists think they can guilt me into accepting their hidden or mangled pudenda appalls me.

And I have a right to my feelings.

My values.

My sexual preferences.

Today’s trannies who seek to take away my right are evil.

twv

The logic of gun control legislation has always rubbed against reality’s grain. The most obvious problem is that gun confiscations, regulations, licensing, etc., all affect peaceful citizens directly, but criminals hardly at all. Take what we learn from three-year-old study using data from the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Firearm Tracking Unit (FTU):

The top-line finding of the study — that the overwhelming majority of gun crimes aren’t committed by lawful gun owners — reinforces a common refrain among gun rights advocacy groups. They argue that since criminals don’t follow laws, new regulations on gun ownership would only serve to burden lawful owners while doing little to combat crime.

Christopher Ingraham, “New evidence confirms what gun rights advocates have said for a long time about crime,” Washington Post, July 27, 2016.

Nevertheless, gun control advocates continue to demand that law enforcement and government bureaucracies make it harder for law-abiding gun owners to obtain, keep, and carry their firearms.

So, are gun control advocates earnest, or do they have other commitments that undergird their support for remedies that are unlikely to work?

A conjecture

In my experience, folks who approve of gun control tend strongly to oppose “stop-and-frisk.” This provides a major clue to their actual policy values. Stop-and-frisk is an integral method of gun control in that this procedure — unlike registration and background checks, etc. — directly takes “unlawful” weapons from random or suspicious pedestrians. It is an effective method of gun control, such as it is. Conservatives tend to love it because it focuses on de facto criminals and “suspicious” folks, and conservatives like riding herd on those targeted by police suspicion. But why would non-conservative gun control advocates be against stop-and-frisk? It is effective, while other methods are not. It does indeed get prohibited guns “off the street,” which is allegedly the whole point.

The common opposition to stop-and-frisk practices by gun control advocates suggests to me that they do not actually care about solving the problem of violent crimes with guns. Instead, what they want is to control people they don’t like. And who are those hated people? Well, progressives do not like normal gun-owning Americans, who tend not to vote for their candidates and who are not likely to be vegetarians or into “spiritual but not religious” regimens and the like. Those gun owners are “conservatives” and are all-too-apt to be enamored of barbecue and NASCAR and patriotic country-and-western songs. The progressives’ most-hated enemies are, in the words of Gene Wilder in Blazing Saddles, “the common clay of the new West; you know, morons.” (This is a major cultural marker.)

Because gun control makes the lives of progressives’ opponents less pleasant, gun control ably serves to play up the basic democratic enticement. The real reason most folks become and stay political in a democratic society is to lord it over the other tribe, to make people who disagree with them do their will.

The default mode of the Administrative State

And so it comes to pass that this sort of attitude feeds the common State practice of anarcho-tyranny, riding hard over peaceful people while letting the criminals run free.

Note how this anarcho-tyrannical modus of law and order feeds (and is fed by) gun control advocacy.

By being tyrannical to normal folk, but letting the anarchs wreak havoc, governments can always find excuses — chiefly in the inevitable decaying social order — to meddle in the lives of non-threatening people. The Washington Post article I quoted, above, does not go on to advise giving up on the gun control dream, but instead frets about finding ways to prevent guns from leaving good people’s hands to bad people’s — in effect, still targeting peaceful people’s behavior.

It is easy to see why folks in government might prefer anarcho-tyranny to overbearing police power over suspects — in profiling the peaceful government agents risk less. But why would non-governmental people prefer that modus operandi? It is the underdog meme, I think, the commitment to protect the other — which in this case gets carried to an absurd extreme.

The traditional Law and Order approach feeds the anarcho-tyrants’ ire, too. Riding herd over suspects seems so “mean.” And here we come to what does appear to be the main divide between left and right. But before we condemn the left wholly, note how shaky the right-wingers can be: they decry gun control, but love stop-and-frisk, which is nothing more than gun control made effective.

Both sides love profiling, of course. The right seeks to profile the “usual suspects,” and the left profiles the peaceful.

More rational crime control procedures?

Not on the table.

twv

Herbert Spencer’s Synthetic Philosophy, my set.

Is it possible to reduce the world population by 50%? Isn’t world over-population the cause of all the problems in the world?

…as answered on Quora:

Two questions, eh?

  1. Is it possible to reduce the world population by 50 percent?
  2. Isn’t world overpopulation the cause of all the problems in the world?

The answers are simple:

  1. Yes.
  2. No.

But there are complications:

  1. Many of the ways to decrease populations quickly, especially by half, are of the Thanos-or-worse variety. We do not want to decrease populations quickly. Gradually could be another story.
  2. As economist Theodore W. Schultz explained — and as Julian Simon demonstrated in a more daring and popular form — population is not the huge problem that neo-Malthusian alarmists say it is. Human beings, if they do not rely upon predation and parasitism, and have plenty of opportunities for market coöperation (trade), are what Simon calls “the ultimate resource.”

When we rely upon trade, we must be of service to one another. We engage in trade only when we expect to gain, that is, when both parties to an exchange expect to gain from it. I help you out if you help me. And the more trades occur, the more that competition for each others’ business hones our productivity. The more productive, the more advances in technique and technology we bring to the stock of civilization. This is progress.

Thomas Robert Malthus’s worry in his Principles of Population (1798) was that (a) the rate of agricultural advance would be outstripped by (b) the natural rate of human population growth. He was stumbling towards a modern conception of external economies, of the “market failure” focused on in neoclassical economics. That is where options seen by the individuals as in their best interest yields widespread effects not in the interest of people generally. (Malthus was arguing against the anarchist rationalist William Godwin and his belief that moral progress would lead to an ethical utopia of excellence everywhere.) Basically, the Malthusian fear is that people would be incentivized to reproduce at a socially dangerous rate. Reason would fail — in effect be upended by circumstance.

But Malthus had an interesting analytic mind, and he handled the problem with something more than a glib pessimism. He noted that these two diverging trendlines (agriculture expanding at an “arithmetic rate” versus population expanding at a “geometric rate”) were offset by other forces, at least on the reproduction trend line.

There were, he wrote, natural checks on reproduction rates, including famine and pestilence and infant death by malnutrition; and there were artificial checks, including sexual abstinence in several forms, most of which he regarded as moral, and some gruesome means, such as infanticide and abortion and eugenics. His worry was that populations would grow to bring misery, and also a rise in immorality out of perceived prudence. He rightly saw that crude measures of packing people in close together, as happened in cities, often breed plague and sexually transmitted diseases. And it is in his spirit — and often inspired by reading his treatise — that many modern prophets of doom have developed the popular anti-population mania. And theirs is indeed a harrowing philosophy, turning otherwise nice and smart folks into anti-humanist immoralists, praising horrific measures of (aack) mass death or (ugh) government repression. This sort of thing inspired the modern environmental movement, where you will find some folks advocating reducing humanity to “a size twice the population of bears.”

But all this misses the “miracle” of modernity: progress.

Malthus failed to see what Herbert Spencer saw in the early 1850s: coöperative humanity can indeed fight against the Malthusian trap, flipping the trend lines so that agriculture can grow exponentially more productive than the rate of population reproduction . . . and in turn spurring increased populations to be increasingly productive. The only thing we would have to give up? The militant, regimented means of social organization, instead embracing “industry.” Which in this case was the predecessor to the industrial recolution, the agricultural revolution. Spencer saw trends on Malthus’s agriculture forecast that would raise the line several orders of magnitude.

Interestingly, Spencer almost came up with the theory of natural selection in this work. But he only applied his notion of a ratcheting up of living standards by means of competitively coördinated coöperation to the social world, not to the long-term cycles of plant and animal descent. “Missed it by that much,” as Agent Smart said in Get Smart. It is for this reason that sociologist Jonathan Turner inverted the infamous “Social Darwinist” charge against Spencer: Darwin, really, was a “biological Spencerian.” Spencer spiffed up his approach a decade later, for the final section of his Principles of Biology. And in the process he gave us the turn of phrase “survival of the fittest.” Though it has been trendy (for a full century, actually) to look upon Spencer’s viewpoint as a ghastly exercise in cruel theoretics, Spencer was actually emphasizing peaceful coöperation and presenting humanity with a remarkably positive vision. J.D.Y. Peel, in his study of Spencer, said that the British philosopher-sociologist “out-Godwinned Godwin”! But Spencer did this not by hoping for a triumph of Reason, but by merely noticing the flourishing that is possible with distributed patterns of collaboration sans an over-arching plan.

The amazing thing? He was basically right.

Spencer was actually presaging what today’s more realistic economists and demographers understand perfectly well. And, what is more — less: today’s best researchers notice that as human societies get wealthier, the rate of reproduction goes down.

In Schultz’s terminology, parents swap “quantity of children” for “quality of children.” In mere agricultural societies, children can be productive in farm life and in resource extraction; in industrial societies, for people to be productive they have to decelop their skillsets more markedly, so parents opt to expend resources to “invest” in their children’s “human capital.” So, that old black magic of having scads of children ceases to increase the chances of family success, but, instead, tends to reduce it.

That is one big reason why people, today, tend naturally to produce fewer children than in the past.

One might think that this would be completely scuttled by the lowering of childhood death rates, but for a number of reasons, this does not appear to be the case.

And, yes, populations are indeed declining in the First World — and as the rest of the world catches up (and in my lifetime the poverty rate has declined markedly with the expansion of the extent of the market), the general reproduction rate will level off. In Europe, the white population is veering to the opposite-of-“Malthusian” trend: demographic collapse. In the United States, were it not for immigration and recent immigrants’ higher reproductive rates, America, too, would see population decline.*

Demographic collapse is actually probably going to be a bigger problem in the future than the “population explosion.” It is the implosion that would more likely destroy civilization.

But here we have another offsetting trend: technological progress.

The great heterodox genius Samuel Butler, not long after publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) argued that the next form of evolution will be machine evolution. This was played for science-fictional interest in his dystopian romance (or is that utopian comedy?) Erewhon (1872), but now we are really seeing this kick into high gear, as we approach something like a social Singularity (see Ray Kurzweil).

About the time of Malthus, there arose the legendary “Ned Ludd,” who saw only devastation in the destructive creation of technological advance. And since then there have been worriers who see mainly the death of labor in “labor-saving devices.” And like Malthusianism, Luddism, if true, would have meant the death of free labor and our whole civilization a century ago. The opposite is the case: technological advance increases worker productivity, leading to a general increase in wealth and welfare. The “trouble” is, people have to adapt to the machines.

Perhaps the challenge of population decline will not be so bad, as machine evolution makes our lives better and better. Maybe, in Richard Brautigan’s poetic lines, we shall be “watched over by machines of loving grace.

The real challenge will be political.


* The downward trend line is exacerbated by welfare state interventions, and the high rate of abortions, too. But for this analysis I need not get into to it.



Additional thoughts:

I wonder if there is not a third major danger playing here besides Malthusian and Luddite, but the belief in scientific management of the human livestock, which inevitably buys into Malthusian and Luddite predictions, then uses untold cruelty to violently whip the human population towards a better condition. Our OP demonstrates it.

Timo, do you agree that there is this third strain and from whom do you think it originates?

Dennis Pratt, replying to my answer, May 30, 2018.

Yes. These are the intellectuals I call Social Galtonians, after Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton. There is a great irony embedded in this social engineering movement. Inspired by Darwin’s tough-minded biological theories, these scientists and activists invented eugenics. But it wasn’t natural selection they advocated, or even sexual selection (the two key concepts Darwin marshaled to help understand speciation), but, instead, the everyday concept that Darwin used to explain natural selection, by analogy: “artificial selection,” or breeding.

Basically, these people see the apex of advance in an elite that would engineer society for further advance. It is profoundly anti-Darwinian, really. They wanted to “take charge of evolution.” But Darwin was trying to explain spontaneous order, advance without Plan. The Social Galtonians wanted to Plan, in all-caps: PLAN.

And here we can see the contrast with the thinker usually called the major “Social Darwinist,” Herbert Spencer. His view was that in the course of super-organic evolution various interpenetraing and almost-indistinguishable institutions (like religion and The State) would diversify and integrate simutaneously. The state would get smaller to accommodate countervailing, offsetting institutions like religions and industrial organizations and markets and the like. That is not what happened, but he thought that was what needed to happen for the kind of progress that would work best for the greatest diversity of people.

And what was important and “Darwinian” about this was not the scope for “natural selection” (a factor in explaining man and society at every level) but the primacy of individual selection selection. Voluntary breeding.

The social engineers and eugenicists wanted to clamp down on this decentralized, distributed reproduction technique and replace it with top-down breeding. Artificial selection as a super-elitist activity justified by a mis-reading of evolutionary science.

So, Spencer was more Darwinian and less crude in his preference for sexual selection over anything like social engineering. The State should be peeled back to a limited role, not expanded to mimic the reductionist and naive view of organisms as top-down, total-conscious mechanisms.

The social engineers, of course, are hubristic. They make a huge error in their basic world view. But it “feels” scientific, to themjust as the maroons who wax enthusiastic over “the scientific consensus” get all the good feels from their mania.

It is scientism.

But it is not our current problem. Not really. For sentiment transformed eugenic-minded progressivism after the Hitler debacle into an incoherent welfare state-cum-churning state. And what dominates now, in combination with the feminist cult and cultural Marxism, is dysgenic. Policies leading to the cultivation of vast hordes of near-criminals and parasites.

That is hardly a Social Galtonian view, or Social Darwinist. It is its own satire.

The Hegelian dialectic as it spins society through the rinse-repeat cycle is something of an ironist.



The primary political reaction to the Darwinian challenge, then, comes down to this: how we conceive of responsibility in the management of human reproduction. Should folks be regarded as their own people, responsible for their own couplings and reproduction strategies (per sexual selection) or should they be treated as breeding stock (per artificial selection)?

The Progressive Era, with the rise of socialism and fascism, chose artificial selection, which led to the sterilization of “the unfit” and unwanted — and those perceived as dangerous. I have called this Societal Galtonianism. The old liberal idea was simply the Smithian “natural liberty” and Spencerian “Law of Equal Freedom” approach, where people were let alone to choose for themselves. Call this alternative Independent Adaptation.

So, which will be “the ultimate recourse”? Freedom and the division of responsibility, or force and social engineering?

But note that Independent Adaptation, which I obviously prefer, is now developing to a new level of sophistication, where the sexual selection of partners can be boutique and even commoditized. Instead of letting the ablest swimming sperm capture the egg immediately after an act of coition, now we enter a world where

  • fertilized eggs can be chosen for viability according to various criteria
  • eggs can be pre-selected
  • sperm can be pre-selected
  • DNA can be altered in pre-nates

which certainly will all have huge social consequences, making the “problem of children” all the more interesting.

The modern fear of the breeding stock approach led to a few famous dystopias, such as Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and many not-so-famous ones, such as the late J. Neil Schulman’s The Rainbow Cadenza. And in the world of open-source science fiction — that is, in ufology — the fear of humanity being reduced to breeding-stock status becomes a major cultural meme.

None of this expresses the core truth of our time, though.

In reaction against eugenic breeding programs of the Progressive Era, modern “liberals” and (post-modern) progressives have embraced the dysgenics of the unstable pairing of free sexual selection with tax-funded subsidy. This is our current paradigm, in which freedom and responsibility are kept separate. This is part of the dominance of left versus right politics, where the two flavors de-link freedom and responsibility issue by issue, and the compete in the political marketplace to set policy in an ad hoc way. It is quite messy, and we live under the chaos of freedom-without-responsibility and responsibility-without-freedom as the two option against which society constantly lurches in drunken sailor fashion.

Trouble is, the pure social engineering, totalitarian approach, which might be more culturally stable than our current kludgy dysgenic approach, strikes most people, including me, as horror-show repugnant. While the libertarian/responsibilitarian approach strikes most people, excluding me, as freaky unsettling.

So we will probably be stuck in the intelligentsia-approved compromise system until our civilization crumbles.

twv