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The Limits of Human Scale


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#1 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 07 March 2010 - 04:51 PM

[Note: I am posting this in a series to make it more readable due to length.]

Introduction

Our society is seriously out of scale.  This fact has produced a range of dysfunctional behaviors that we have incorporated into our behavioral framework, creating further imbalance.  The end result will be atomization, depopulation, and social chaos.  The only remedy for this problem, long term, is reduction in scale, achieved by reorganizing nations into manageable and relatively homogenous populations, population and immigration control, and restraint of technological, economic, and social policies which give rise to problems of scale.

This remedy is not, I must stress, a devolution--it is not a reversion to the past, much less an idealized past free from worry.  In any composition of society, there will be tension between traditional and progressive outlooks, there will be complacency and conflict and all the usual human evils.  Nor is the primary concern Malthusian, that is to say an unsustainable growth in resource consumption (while this is a problem we face as a result of scale, it is not my focus here).

By scale I mean more than mere population growth; I refer also to the scale of complexity created by the West's conversion to a multicultural, globalized social model.  In this model, all distinctions including race (meaning ethnicity), nationality, culture, and religion are viewed as subordinate to the division between the managerial class and the managed class.  Thus effective democracy is blunted and masses of people are shifted and reorganized in accordance with the decisions of a managerial class.  Aside from the negative consequences brought about by heedless change, a second order of effects is seen in the dramatic increase in social complexity and the need for citizens to accomodate radically different (and in some cases incompatible) outlooks.

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Posted 07 March 2010 - 04:53 PM

Population Density and Social Pathology

Although there is a long history of sociological research into the problems of post-industrial society (for example Durkheim's work on suicide), the seminal work on overcrowding is John B. Calhoun's "Population Density and Social Pathology".  As the title suggests, Calhoun's work centered on experiments in population density separate from a concern for resource availability.  Density here is best defined as the proximity of other competing organisms, and the experiments suggest that at a certain level of density, well below that required by physical needs, there is a complete breakdown in social behavior.  Thus this research explored a problem that Malthusians ignored.

Calhoun's experiments consisted of creating enclosed rat habitats which provided unlimited food and water, safety from predators, and disease control, and enough space (about a quarter acre) to accomodate a maximum of 5000 rats.  Originally intended to study the effects of social structure on access to communal resources, Calhoun found that the result of his experiment was profound social pathology.  While the rat population stabilized far below capacity, once rat density crossed a threshold Calhoun observed a nonlinear increase in dominant male aggression and deviant sexual behavior, including exclusive homosexuality and hypersexuality, and on the part of many rats passivity and withdrawal.  Some males became completely solitary and focused on eating, sleeping, and self-grooming.  Cannibalization and maternal neglect also rose dramatically (not entirely unexpected for a rat population).  Most unusual was the development of what Calhoun termed a "behavioral sink", whereby the mass of subordinate rats stayed huddled together in the center of the rat pens.

In one of Calhoun's papers his conclusion is particularly affecting:

John B. Calhoun:

The results obtained in this study should be obtained when customary causes of mortality become markedly reduced in any species of mammal whose members form social groups. Reduction of bodily death (i.e. 'the second death') culminates in survival of an excessive number of individuals that have developed the potentiality for occupying the social roles characteristic of the species. Within a few  generations all such roles in all physical space available to the species are filled. At this time, the continuing high survival of many individuals to sexual and behavioural maturity culminates in the presence of many young adults capable of involvement in appropriate species-specific activities. However, there are few opportunities for fulfilling these potentialities. In seeking such fulfilment they  compete for social role occupancy with the older established members of the community. This competition is so severe that it simultaneously leads to the nearly total breakdown of all normal behaviour by both the contestors and the established adults of both sexes. Normal social organization (i.e. 'the establishment') breaks down, it 'dies'.

Young born during such social dissolution are rejected by their mothers and other adult associates. This early failure of social bonding becomes compounded by interruption of action cycles due to the mechanical interference resulting from the high contact rate among individuals living in a high density population. High contact rate further fragments behaviour as a result of the stochastics of social interactions which demand that, in order to maximize gratification from social interaction, intensity and duration of social interaction must be reduced in proportion to the degree that the group size exceeds the optimum. Autistic-like creatures, capable only of the most simple behaviours compatible with physiological survival, emerge out of this process. Their spirit has died ('the first death'). They are no longer capable of executing the more complex behaviours compatible with species survival. The species in such settings die.


#3 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 07 March 2010 - 04:56 PM

Conceptual space

In the same paper there is this exchange regarding overcrowding, which I quote in full because it makes an important distinction:

Quote

Professor Mellanby said Dr Calhoun had suggested that by 1984 man was going to be as crowded as his mice and that this would have disastrous effects. Experiments had been going on for a long time with man. Man was not uniformly distributed. He lived in some communities just as crowded as Dr Calhoun's mice. Professor Mellanby had been very familiar with populations in parts of London forty years ago which were restricted communities. People seldom moved out of them. Until the children were taken to camps for holidays they had seldom been more than a quarter of a mile from their homes. They were living amidst extreme crowding and bred very successfully. Therefore, was it not possible to get an answer to this for human beings by examining such communities? Did crowded, enclosed communities behave like the mice? Or did this occur most obviously in those communities which had about the lowest population density in Sweden or the United States?

Dr Calhoun replied that 1984 was not the year in which ultimate density would be attained, but a date beyond which the opportunity for decision making and designing to avoid population catastrophe might be quickly lost. He stated, in any case, that density per se was not the major factor, that rate and quality of social interaction were paramount issues. Basic to his thesis was that despite the thousandfold increase in human numbers since the beginning of culture, some forty to fifty thousand years ago, there had been no change in effective density. The reason for this, alluded to by Professor Young, was that man had discovered a new kind of space, conceptual space, which enabled man to utilize ideas in order to mine resources and guide social relations. However, there was a breaking point for this process, at which time physical density might overwhelm man's ability to utilize conceptual space in order to cope with increasing numbers and it was that breaking point which we might be rapidly approaching. The fact that reproduction could be affected by density had been dealt with by Dr Thompson in Indianapolis (Thompson 1969). An older study for Scotland (Kincaid 1965) had shown that stillbirths and other parameters were density related. However, in terms of conceptual space, it might be the necessity for limitations to growth which might be the more difficult conceptual area for man to deal with. In that case a further increase in birth rate might be expected past the breaking point (Galle et al. 1972).

Here in Calhoun's "conceptual space" we find room for the psychological tax placed on mankind by increased complexity in the cultural, technological, and social spheres.  This issue of conceptual space may implicate modern geopolitics, in which we see conflict develop among nations which  were in the past removed from each other's concerns by both physical distance and conceptual distance, a lack of awareness based on lack of interaction (even where there is knowledge and limited trade).  Post-industrial globalization has changed this, and for the first time in human history it has put cultures which have developed more or less in isolation from one another (i.e. geographic non-neighbors) into direct resource conflict.  That human culture as it has evolved for 50,000 years has been rooted to a limited geography with an ethnically homogenous identity may be a necessary condition for stable development, and an awareness of and economic linkage to alien cultures may lead inevitably to a "clash of civilizations".

This exchange (developed further in the original paper) also shows concern for crossing a line past which population control becomes effectively impossible--this concern is shaped by Calhoun's experimental findings that even when the rat population fell the rats retained dysfunctional social behaviors and depopulation continued until extinction.  While extinction is an unlikely fate for mankind (even Western man), it suggests that there may be very long term effects--and that pathology in one generation may lead to subsequent dysfunctional generations even when the main driver of the original pathology is removed.  This can be viewed as either a conservative tendency of social behavior or as the destructiveness of pathology to social behavior (the latter could explain the development among advanced civilizations of high standards of ethical and moral conduct, rooted in religion, as a crucial safeguard against just such destabilizing pathology--and the evident erosion of these standards during periods of decline).

Therefore it is wrong and misleading to view the implications of Calhoun's experiment as bearing only on physical overcrowding.  Care must of course be taken when drawing connections between Calhoun's rats and human populations.  For example, the common existence of large, thriving population centers does not in itself refute the notion that population density leads to social pathology, because other factors can influence the sense of conceptual overcrowding, including population diversity, advances in communication, and a smaller percentage of the population originating from non-urban settings (i.e. the relative inescapability and importance of the city to cultural life).  Experiments conducted on human subjects measuring performance in crowded vs. non-crowded settings cannot hope to capture long-term psychological effects of overcrowding.

#4 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 07 March 2010 - 04:59 PM

Modern social pathology and secondary effects

The sociological implications of Calhoun's experiment are profound.  One can see in contemporary politics both greater aggression and greater subordination and passivity, a presage perhaps of Spengler's "age of Caesars".  The profusion of modern sexual deviancy, not limited to the homosexual population (which is now accorded status as an approved lifestyle in much of the West), is accompanied by predictable decline in fecundity.  Similarly, sex roles have blurred, men becoming more solitary and self-preoccupied while women exhibit more aggressive behavior, as with the rats in Calhoun's experiments.  Crime is only kept in check by record levels of incarceration (hence the misleading nature of crime statistics that view only the rate of reported crime).  Other research has shown that increasing ethnic diversity has had exactly the predicted effect of making people more suspicious and dissociative, and it is highly likely that increased integration of technology has had a similar effect.

There are other effects of this increase of scale beyond the social dysfunctions seen in Calhoun's experiments.  The scale of modern society has necessitated a professional managerial class to govern it, which has had serious implications for democracy and social equality as well as the bourgeois class upon which democracies and markets rely.  This managerial class, made up of society's cognitive elite, has become isolated and inbred in addition to the problem of its compulsive novelty-seeking (as discussed elsewhere).  As the mass of society grows more unstable the managerial class acts mainly in a self-serving manner, developing short-term strategems (wage stagnation, mass immigration, massive debt, culture wars) that will likely produce greater long-term instability.

In this context, the drive to over-maximize and over-optimize systems can be seen as a kind of frenetic resource-hoarding, perhaps the natural result of further atomization and aggression.  This has in turn produced dehumanized environments as optimization and efficiency reduce the amenities and dignity of daily life to the absolute minimum that can be sustained in the short term (to increase profits disbursed in a winner-take-all manner).  The modern cubicle office seems more fitting for rat experiments than for human beings, and the lowest designation of office work, the call center, is provided the further indignity of constant anxiety over the prospect of outsourcing and further automation--at least for those few who can tolerate such a job for very long.

The stresses and anxieties of modern life drive an unsustainable, insatiable consumerism, most visibly evident as gluttony but also present in our greater indebtedness and our obsession with immediate amusement.  This consumerism, I argue, is the result of and attempt to escape from the anxiety of daily life.

It is also my theory that anxiety and complexity drive us into a psychological state from which spiritual fulfillment becomes impossible--just as the sufferer of acute depression finds common enjoyments unsatisfying, so do we in our present state find solitude, peace, and religious communion to be empty and meaningless experiences.  Instead we are driven to momentary and increasingly isolating pleasures, and our spiritual pursuits regress to infantile pacification.

#5 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 07 March 2010 - 05:03 PM

How can the problem of scale be addressed?

I reject the sociological positivism that marked the work of Durkheim and also Calhoun's generation of social scientists.  Due to the complexity of human behavior and human environments, researchers have been unable to adequately model social surroundings and their experiments are largely useless, except insofar as they confirm a negative hypothesis.  That is to say, such research may confirm the conditions for dysfunctional social behaviors, but it cannot confirm the conditions necessary for healthy social behaviors because if a single factor is overlooked the entire social ecosystem may be put in jeopardy--healthy social behaviors are fragile.  (More likely they will overlook not one but several factors due to bias and cultural influence.)

A general problem with social transformation is that its ill effects can remain latent for one or two generations because of the lingering influence of older (superintending) generations.  Thus the most significant impact may not arrive before the second or third generation.  The implication is that significant social transformations always carry with them a grave risk of compounding error.  That error can be compounded still further when society reaches the scale where transformation quickly becomes global; in effect, the replication rate of error increases due to large scale society's reliance on mass communication and mass culture and the cognitive elite's infatuation with novelty.

For all the risks associated with such things as genetic modification or carcinogens, comparatively little attention is given to the risks of social transformation, as evidenced by the last century of transformation and upheaval.  (It now seems that each successive transformation is a cure for the last one.)

Scale may be the inevitable result of our evolutionary imperative to reproduce or perish.  Natural selection only produces advantageous adaptations in the relative short term; as environments change, species face constant challenge to adapt or perish.  The problem of scale is the unintended result of extremely successful adaptation in conflict with the practical limits of the human mind.  As with Calhoun's rats, once we reach the limits of our conceptual space, we begin to degenerate--though in some respects we have chosen to define our degeneracy as normal or even superior.

Many of those influenced by positivistic thinking have attempted to formulate strategies to ameliorate the effects of scale on ordinary life, but I think a much more comprehensive and indeed radical solution must be sought.  Scale must be diminished directly, not merely managed through the development of new coping strategies.  There are four vectors of attack on scale:

1.  Smaller nations comprised of homogenous populations

For countries such as the United States, this means division into regional states preferably with independent governments.  Current regional divisions are too great to foster healthy politics, and in places such as the southwest they have become ethnic divisions as well.  Cultural and ethnic homogenity may begin to repair the community bonds weakened by excessive diversity.  Government can become more responsive to the needs of a unified citizenry with a shared sense of identity and purpose, and greater possibilities awakened by less obsessive competition.

2.  Population and immigration control

To insure the maintenance of a stable and homogenous society, immigration should be tightly controlled and population should be maintained at no greater than replacement levels.  A severe reduction in population is not desirable for the instability it would bring about, but a small rate of decline could be manageable even for modern liberal democracies whose current economies are addicted to growth.  How this can be achieved is an open question, but acceptance of the necessity of restraining population for the health of all would allow for a considerable range of options.

3.  Management of systems vulnerable to problems of scale

Here we have the greatest challenge, as the most vulnerable systems show the greatest short term benefits from scale, namely economic and technological.  We must rid ourselves of the delusion of efficiency--the belief that any increase in productivity is justified regardless of its effect on human beings.  This will be a painful process, as it has been a driver for many of the superficial pleasures we have turned to as our society has become more complex and threatening.

Efficiency has come to mean cheapness in all things, and we refuse to see the ill effects of this cheapness--on the dehumanization of daily life, on the mechanization of work (the loss of physical labor which we require as animals), on the psychological upheaval that comes with the loss of careers and employment meaningful to us as individuals.

Implicated in this last vector is the entire managerial class, which has utilized the delusion of efficiency for its own gain and at the expense of the managed class.  How the cognitive elite can be restrained, given its well-established tendencies in this direction, is another question.

4. Political reform

In order to preserve what social stability remains, political participation should be reformed to reduce the influence of atomized citizens on political discourse and to restore a balance between the rural and urban outlooks.  To this end, I favor restricting the franchise to property-owning households (that is, one vote per family).  This may well be regarded as the most fanciful suggestion in a series of fanciful suggestions, for the franchise has become in modern society a sacred touchstone, never mind that it is increasingly used only to select the emptiest and most inane politicians from a highly competitive series.  I would argue the opposite, that the franchise has been degraded by being awarded to everyone everywhere while requiring less sense than is needed to pass a driving test or obtain a credit card; it is granted as well to those who are still in a mode of living more closely resembling adolescence than adulthood.

This political reform is not flippant; it targets precisely that voter who has become most menacing to society, the rootless, self-infatuated, novelty-seeking intellectual.  I admit it will be difficult if not impossible to get this one past him, for he reads and often pretends to understand what he reads, and has arrogance to spare besides.  However it is clear he will undo everything in an instant, for any reason or simply because he is bored with life (this more or less describes his entire involvement in politics).

#6 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 07 March 2010 - 05:05 PM

Conclusion

We can see that scale is intimately tied to many of the social and political dysfunctions of modern life.  We are dealing here with the limits not of human ideology or imagination but of human psychology--limits which there is no convincing evidence we can or should wish to change.  The sort of human being who would prefer our over-crowded, over-complicated, and atomized society is properly understood as autistic or else sociopathically aggressive.  Apart from the anxieties which drive consumerism, aggression, and infantile pleasure-seeking, we are left with impoverished spiritual lives which dull our taste for everything in life.

There is no reason in the world to believe that the density and complexity of the present scale of human civilization is sustainable past the short term.  One way or another we will face crisis and diminished existences.  Our choice is whether to restore the conditions necessary for truly human lives, with all the richness of the human spirit, or continue as pathetic, huddled rats.

#7 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 08 March 2010 - 10:39 AM

I would like to add as a postscript to this the observation that scale's corrupting influence on business and politics extends beyond the elevation of an amoral managerial class.  Where rewards are asymmetrical (e.g. winner-take-all situations), scale produces a fever pitch of competitiveness, supposedly its major benefit.  However this competitiveness reaches such a level that only the most relentless and personally malleable individuals succeed--everyone lacking this single-mindedness fails.

Thus everything becomes shaped by a new form of person whose drives push him to a narrowly defined standard of success--appeal to the masses--and thus is lost the variety and vitality of the culture.  One sees it in film, literature, politics, and especially business, as the gradual erosion of verisimilitude, and the loss of innovation and wide range of perspective which are ironically a hallmark of systems operating in suboptimal fashion.*

Perhaps this is most readily visible to the average person in the quality of movies he sees at the cinema.  Hollywood is the embodiment of scale, a cultural and industrial colossus which by virtue of its scale attracts nearly everyone of every level of talent.  As a result of this intense competition, it is inevitably degraded:  standards of personal behavior and ethics plummet, creativity weakens both from inbreeding and from the demands of a heavily optimized financing system, and the gradual darkening of its reputation provides a selection pressure on its population by pulling in those well-suited to it.  In effect a dysgenic shift in the population occurs, all due to the inevitable forces of scale.

This process then happens everywhere--again the result is a diminishment of life against which one can do nothing so long as scale is allowed to reach its fullness.  To limit scale becomes the one goal that a man who cares for his culture, his art, his people must have.

* Note that resilient nature is pervasively suboptimal.

#8 Legs McDuck

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Posted 08 March 2010 - 04:02 PM

1883 Socialization also presents dangers. Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which "a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co- ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good."7

1884 God has not willed to reserve to himself all exercise of power. He entrusts to every creature the functions it is capable of performing, according to the capacities of its own nature. This mode of governance ought to be followed in social life. The way God acts in governing the world, which bears witness to such great regard for human freedom, should inspire the wisdom of those who govern human communities. They should behave as ministers of divine providence.

1885 The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of collectivism. It sets limits for state intervention. It aims at harmonizing the relationships between individuals and societies. It tends toward the establishment of true international order...

IN BRIEF

....

1891 The human person needs life in society in order to develop in accordance with his nature. Certain societies, such as the family and the state, correspond more directly to the nature of man.

...

1894 In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, neither the state nor any larger society should substitute itself for the initiative and responsibility of individuals and intermediary bodies.

http://www.vatican.v...sm/p3s1c2a1.htm, emphasis added.

I see much agreement between your diagnosis and RC Church teaching.

#9 oni

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Posted 08 March 2010 - 07:59 PM

The Catholic Church is hardly a poster child for proper scale regardless of what their catechism says...

#10 Jeff Fries

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Posted 08 March 2010 - 08:29 PM

Posted Image

#11 Legs McDuck

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Posted 08 March 2010 - 10:55 PM

View Postoni, on 08 March 2010 - 07:59 PM, said:

The Catholic Church is hardly a poster child for proper scale regardless of what their catechism says...
For the sake of discussion, I'll stipulate that the Catholic Church is institutionally hypocritical.

#12 mladikov

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Posted 09 March 2010 - 01:40 AM

Quote

Here we have the greatest challenge, as the most vulnerable systems show the greatest short term benefits from scale, namely economic and technological. We must rid ourselves of the delusion of efficiency--the belief that any increase in productivity is justified regardless of its effect on human beings. This will be a painful process, as it has been a driver for many of the superficial pleasures we have turned to as our society has become more complex and threatening.

Efficiency has come to mean cheapness in all things, and we refuse to see the ill effects of this cheapness--on the dehumanization of daily life, on the mechanization of work (the loss of physical labor which we require as animals), on the psychological upheaval that comes with the loss of careers and employment meaningful to us as individuals.

This point on efficiency cannot be emphasized enough. It would not be an exaggeration to claim that our overweening will to technical efficiency has been responsible for a fair majority of our current socio-cultural ills. From the accepted distortion of sexual and moral norms, to repeated attempts by educrats and the managerial overclass to plasticize human nature, to our petulant and selfish political culture, the enthronement of mediocrity, the vanishing of small communities and wild spaces - in all of these, the hand of technique, efficiency made an end in itself, can be seen. Instead of asking 'does it work?", we need to start asking ourselves "for what purpose?" - what is the ultimate end of our progress, our buildup of military power, the violent separation of communities from their spiritual and cultural taproots? If we answer that question honestly, we'll find the solution to our technological society's teleological imbalance.

Of course, the questions raised by the problems of human scale are worthy of discussion as well, but I believe that this one concern - of efficiency held as the prime, overarching social value - is not merely a symptom, but a cause in itself.

Edited by mlad, 09 March 2010 - 01:44 AM.


#13 mladikov

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Posted 09 March 2010 - 02:20 AM

Quote

To this end, I favor restricting the franchise to property-owning households (that is, one vote per family). This may well be regarded as the most fanciful suggestion in a series of fanciful suggestions, for the franchise has become in modern society a sacred touchstone, never mind that it is increasingly used only to select the emptiest and most inane politicians from a highly competitive series. I would argue the opposite, that the franchise has been degraded by being awarded to everyone everywhere while requiring less sense than is needed to pass a driving test or obtain a credit card; it is granted as well to those who are still in a mode of living more closely resembling adolescence than adulthood.

The fervor with which people today defend their participation in the electoral process is entirely out of parity with the significance, symbolic or otherwise, of that participation. Your suggestion is eminently reasonable and is clearly the best arrangement if we want to preserve whatever dignity remains attached to the democratic process, but as you yourself admit it will be inevitably be met with caterwauling over MY RIGHTS, HOW DARE YOU TAKE AWAY MY RIGHTS YOU MONSTER...and for this reason, I question the wisdom of even retaining the franchise, as you call it, at all. Anarchy or autocracy seem equally feasible, given the excessive attachment of individuals today to their fractional involvement in what basically amounts to a nationwide platitude-spouting competition.

Your proposed encroachment on that involvement, minor as it is, will encounter as much opposition as if you had suggested that we elect David Duke as president-for-life and change our nation's name to THE UNITED STATES OF HITLER. So what advantage does limited suffrage offer over...well, no suffrage at all? Why do you think that the franchise hasn't already been degraded to the point that even its restriction to property-owning households cannot save it?

Edited by mlad, 09 March 2010 - 02:21 AM.


#14 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 09 March 2010 - 09:50 AM

View Postmlad, on 09 March 2010 - 02:20 AM, said:

The fervor with which people today defend their participation in the electoral process is entirely out of parity with the significance, symbolic or otherwise, of that participation. Your suggestion is eminently reasonable and is clearly the best arrangement if we want to preserve whatever dignity remains attached to the democratic process, but as you yourself admit it will be inevitably be met with caterwauling over MY RIGHTS, HOW DARE YOU TAKE AWAY MY RIGHTS YOU MONSTER...and for this reason, I question the wisdom of even retaining the franchise, as you call it, at all. Anarchy or autocracy seem equally feasible, given the excessive attachment of individuals today to their fractional involvement in what basically amounts to a nationwide platitude-spouting competition.

Your proposed encroachment on that involvement, minor as it is, will encounter as much opposition as if you had suggested that we elect David Duke as president-for-life and change our nation's name to THE UNITED STATES OF HITLER. So what advantage does limited suffrage offer over...well, no suffrage at all? Why do you think that the franchise hasn't already been degraded to the point that even its restriction to property-owning households cannot save it?
I basically agree with your assessment.  Part of the purpose of my conclusions is to reinforce how serious and how large the problem of scale is--it cannot be remedied by half-measures.  I believe that once the problem is accepted in its entirety, it will become evident that some dramatic action is necessary.  Whatever form this action takes, it is important for people to understand that scale must be addressed head-on--we are already mired in its effects, so slowing its rate of growth or working around it are not sensible options.

Perhaps though this is more in the mode of propopents of anthropogenic global warming--so large a problem that no one can take it seriously, much less accept the need for dramatic change.  The very suggestion that America be split up into regional powers (although I find this wholly feasible and sensible) will probably come across as a weird hallucination--it strikes at the heart of our multiculturalist, melting pot fantasy.  How can he not see that diversity is our strength!

What would be an acceptable outcome to me would be to jolt conservatism back into some form of life--particularly intellectually.  There are a wealth of conservative ideas out there (you yourself have pointed to writers such as Ellul who I think have an inherently conservative message), which could be grappled with in preference to the absurd economic and geopolitical fixations that form the center of conservative "thought".

#15 PRCD: Death (and Taxes)

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Posted 12 March 2010 - 04:13 PM

As Niall Ferguson wrote, "There is no solution to the problem of declining empire."  I don't believe the US is an empire in the sense Britain was, but its home territory has already become an empire of disinterested ethnicities.  

I think solutions need to be explored along those lines.  Forget about repairing the Western nation-state.  What low-RCS local solutions can be devised?  Is there a way to minimize one's dependence on the utilities grids? Are there ways of de-coupling our incomes from soulless corporations run by the managerial class we despise?  Can we live more frugally?

I know from talking to some of my old friends who now have kids that there is a nucleus of family-forming people who still hold to the old ways of viewing things because of the cognitive dissonance they experienced living in the extant multicultural utopias of the US.  They look to the future and don't see much for their children in the United States.  The question is, "How do we get such people to all live around one another and form an architecture parallel to that of fedgov and the state governments?  I think it can be done.  I think it must be done.  We need to start thinking more solidly "Post-American."

Edit: When you read through the comments on this article, you know that no one else believes any of this is going to end well:
http://news.yahoo.co..._white_minority

Everyone instinctually knows we're headed for a Brazilian future at best, a South African one at worst.

Sorry if this was a bit poorly thought-out or incoherent.  I've been awake for quite awhile.

Edited by PRCalDude, 12 March 2010 - 04:20 PM.


#16 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 12 March 2010 - 10:51 PM

View PostPRCalDude, on 12 March 2010 - 04:13 PM, said:

I think solutions need to be explored along those lines.  Forget about repairing the Western nation-state.  What low-RCS local solutions can be devised?  Is there a way to minimize one's dependence on the utilities grids? Are there ways of de-coupling our incomes from soulless corporations run by the managerial class we despise?  Can we live more frugally?
I think these are interesting questions.  I definitely think de-coupling from institutions of scale is necessary, and it's not insanely difficult to do.  There are smaller companies, if you are willing to accept the lower pay and ups and downs of small business life (not all roses).  I think especially with a return to traditional sex roles "smaller living" is possible.

View PostPRCalDude, on 12 March 2010 - 04:13 PM, said:

I know from talking to some of my old friends who now have kids that there is a nucleus of family-forming people who still hold to the old ways of viewing things because of the cognitive dissonance they experienced living in the extant multicultural utopias of the US.  They look to the future and don't see much for their children in the United States.  The question is, "How do we get such people to all live around one another and form an architecture parallel to that of fedgov and the state governments?  I think it can be done.  I think it must be done.  We need to start thinking more solidly "Post-American."
This part I am skeptical about.  Forget about any kind of parallel society.  Just trying to find like-minded people will tend to suck in extreme types.  Most people, even those willing to take the steps to disconnect, will find themselves pulled away from uprooting--by other social connections, the need to find work, and so on.

Maybe what needs to happen at first is to reshape conservatism.  I think people need a way to live within the framework offered by modern life while rejecting the poisonous excesses of scale.  Really it gets back to traditionalism in everything.  I've been thinking about sex roles lately.  It's a core building block of society because it's such a fundamental part of who we are as animals.  I want to write something touching on this soon.  And of course this is a part of us that has become extremely distorted by the pathologies produced by scale/complexity/overcrowding.

Just look at the way sexuality and sexual identity are completely deformed in the media.  Homosexuality as healthy, promiscuous sex as self-assertive, even something as extreme as transsexualism is looked at as "oh my goodness this poor man/woman/thing".

Of course there are cases--rare--of ambiguous physical sexuality, but these have no relation with any of our current sexual obsessions.  Hardly any homosexuals or transsexuals fit this category, any more than nerd culture is the result of naturally occurring autism.  We are creating this madness--creating then excusing it.

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Posted 13 March 2010 - 09:58 PM

Quote

This part I am skeptical about. Forget about any kind of parallel society. Just trying to find like-minded people will tend to suck in extreme types. Most people, even those willing to take the steps to disconnect, will find themselves pulled away from uprooting--by other social connections, the need to find work, and so on.

Perhaps.  I lean towards this view, but that doesn't mean we should give up.  Quite the opposite.

For starters, we're rapidly moving towards roboticizing most work and having software do ever more of the engineering work.  There might not be much work to even do.  Right now, a good chunk of the population does essentially no useful work, as Bushrod has frequently stated and much data supports.  The amount of manufacturing this country does has actually been increasing as manufacturing employment has fallen off a cliff.  Sooner or later, more and more of the left hand side of the bell curve (and even much above the mean) will be unemployable.  So your point may be moot as there may not be much work to do.  What this does mean, however, is that tech will be extremely cheap.  

Secondly, if crime spikes and we continue this economic malaise (as we almost surely will), people will be looking for cheap property regardless of where family is located.  Right now, the cheap property is in the rust belt and the midwest.  I am in favor of everyone white moving north of the 48th parallel on this continent where lack of pigment is your friend.  If you superimposed Germany onto North America at its original latitude, it would basically stretch from mid Montana to just south of Calgary.  Happily, these areas of the continent are pretty empty.  For instance, Montana is the size of California with a population of only 1 million.  The sun belt is what's filling up with all of the "excitement" right now, though the northern and midwestern big cities have plenty also.  My prediction is that the welfare state isn't too far from collapsing thanks to our skyrocketing debt-to-GDP ratio.  Once it collapses, it will be awfully uncomfortable to live where its cold.  Recall that South Africa is warm, so you won't freeze living in your shanty made of corrugated siding.

Quote

This part I am skeptical about. Forget about any kind of parallel society. Just trying to find like-minded people will tend to suck in extreme types. Most people, even those willing to take the steps to disconnect, will find themselves pulled away from uprooting--by other social connections, the need to find work, and so on.

One reading - certainly not the only reading - of Western history suggests that the church filled in where the Roman empire receded.  I'm not trying to offend anyone's sensibilities by saying this as the Dawkins set finds this idea extremely contentious.  However, the church did play a role where the state failed.  Protestant churches (and, it appears, Orthodox churches) are rather decentralized and facilitate loose structure and networking with authority everyone participating agrees to.  Something secular along these lines would be necessary for non-Christians, but could be worked out.  I actually have no problem with secular government, I'm just throwing out the church as an example.  The "extreme types," in a church setting, would always be weeded out.  In a secular setting, they could simply be cut-off from local economic activity or just generally be made to feel unwelcome.  This is the advantage of downscaling.  I also think that our current government, over the next 20 years, is likely to depopulate this country to quite a degree by trying to tax everything that moves while "fighting" unemployment through by creating more public sector jobs at the expense of the private sector.  Also, as you said, with increasing scale comes increasing complexity and thus chaos.  Also, the tax base is collapsing in more ways than one:
http://news.yahoo.co..._white_minority

The more I read, the more I think we're on the brink of having the ability to decentralize our power, manufacturing, and food production.  Your original post mentioned the effects of excess population density.  Perhaps I didn't read carefully enough, but I believe these effects are only to be seen below certain latitudes and under certain conditions.  Russia, for instance, only has 150 million people over an enormous territory.  Canada and much of the US are largely empty.  Eastern Europe has a shrinking population.  It's only in the warmer slums of the world where population is a problem (India, for instance).  I think there is a lot of land that can be put to good use with small-scale decentralized methods of living that simply shrug at what goes on in Washington DC.

Edited by PRCalDude, 13 March 2010 - 10:19 PM.


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Posted 13 March 2010 - 10:26 PM

You make some good points.  But that Canada and the United States are largely empty doesn't mean very much because everyone lives in (or lives in the circle of influence of) the large cities which generate huge amounts of social pathology.

#19 isamu

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Posted 14 March 2010 - 07:10 PM

View PostPLEASUREMAN, on 13 March 2010 - 10:26 PM, said:

You make some good points.  But that Canada and the United States are largely empty doesn't mean very much because everyone lives in (or lives in the circle of influence of) the large cities which generate huge amounts of social pathology.

You're mixing up concepts.  The absolute population sizes of metro-areas in the US may be large but the population densities are very low compared to historical urban norms and current world norms -- largely due to a car-based infrastructure.  For example, at the neolithic village of Catal Hoyuk:

Quote

The population of the eastern mound has been estimated at up to 10,000 people, but population totals likely varied over the community's history. An average population of between 5,000 to 8,000 is a reasonable estimate. The inhabitants lived in mud-brick houses which were crammed together in an agglutinative manner. No footpaths or streets were used between the dwellings, which were clustered in a honeycomb-like maze. Most were accessed by holes in the ceiling, which were reached by interior and exterior ladders and stairs. Thus, the rooftops were used as streets. The ceiling openings also served as the only source of ventilation, letting in fresh air and allowing smoke from open hearths and ovens to escape.

Catal Hoyuk is about 32 acres, so with the low estimate of 5,000 people, that's 100,000 person/sq mi, higher than present day Bombay.  And Catal Hoyuk existed for around 2,000 years. ( http://en.wikipedia....i/Çatalhöyük )

Current worldwide densities:

http://www.citymayor...ensity-125.html

I can't see how you can attribute US social pathologies primarily to population density, since they're not particularly extreme.

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Posted 14 March 2010 - 07:32 PM

View Postisamu, on 14 March 2010 - 07:10 PM, said:

Catal Hoyuk is about 32 acres, so with the low estimate of 5,000 people, that's 100,000 person/sq mi, higher than present day Bombay.  And Catal Hoyuk existed for around 2,000 years. ( http://en.wikipedia....i/Çatalhöyük )

Current worldwide densities:

http://www.citymayor...ensity-125.html

I can't see how you can attribute US social pathologies primarily to population density, since they're not particularly extreme.
I don't, and this point was already addressed in the passage I quoted discussing conceptual space.  It is a combination of population density, ethnic diversity, and a large overall increase in complexity of society that appears to be the source of the social pathologies we are currently seeing.  Some of those are also driven by a concentrated cognitive elite, which one would expect to have compounding effects (more extensive assault on traditional behaviors, greater status anxiety, and so on).

These factors and the anxiety they produce feed into consumerism, materialism, spiritual impoverishment, deviant sexual behaviors, increased female aggression/male passivity, more hostile winner-takes-all competition, etc., which takes us to the society we have now.  Note that many of these symptoms exacerbate this anxiety as well.

Societies that have retained a strong uniform cultural identity and traditional behavior will of course have more leeway when it comes to population density.


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