August 15, 2012


Today's entry is a two-fer on the subject of human overcrowding and political philosophy.

"When a place gets crowded enough to require ID's, social collapse is not far away. It is time to go elsewhere. The best thing about space travel is that it made it possible to go elsewhere."

"Peace is an extension of war by political means. Plenty of elbow room is pleasanter -- and much safer."

--RAH 'Time Enough for Love' (1973)

UPDATE: It's a THREE-fer!

"Animals can be driven crazy by placing too many in too small a pen. Homo sapiens is the only animal that voluntarily does this to himself."

(Also from 'Time Enough for Love')

Yes I have read more than this one Heinlein work. However, if you only read one, this must be that one.

Philosophy Quote of the Day Posted by JohnGalt at August 15, 2012 3:20 PM

I'm going to come out squarely against Heinlein! It is Johnny Mercer week and "Fools Rush In" cannot be far behind...

But I reject this quote as neo-Malthusian in tone if not in content. Exciting, innovative, creative, wonderful Ricardian, Deepak Lal-ian things transpire when intellects join. It may be peaceful to have a farm in Weld County or your own spaceship, but I reject those who claim we cannot live together orderly just as I would harangue the radical environmentalist who wants us to live like indigenous Americans.

There you go. Y'all gonna take that?

Posted by: jk at August 15, 2012 6:58 PM

I'm going to take a safe middle ground squarely between the two of you.

Elbow room? The last time I heard someone speechify about the need for Lebensraum, it led to some pretty disastrous results, though I doubt either JG or Heinlein are talking about a desire to annex the Sudetenland. But "crowded enough to require IDs" is a reference not just to crowds, but crowds of strangers. I can have lots of neighbors - if I know them and can trust them. It's not a problem in JK's context of "when intellects join." JK's milieu of a bunch of people who are willing to live and interact cooperatively ("live together orderly") is different from JG's milieu of the hoi polloi who live anonymously in what are unneighborly neighborhoods.

Witness the guy in today's news who got beaten senseless by six yoots - because they were bored.

If I were given the option to live amongst a population of JGs and JKs, sure, no problem. Like-minded (mostly), congenial; but drop me down in your average Detroit or Chicago neighborhood? I'd be longing for some elbow room.

So I'd offer that you're both right, but that the issue is not merely the number, but the nature, of the neighbors. The wrong ones would make me positively "unmutual" (bonus points to whoever gets that reference first).

Posted by: Keith Arnold at August 15, 2012 8:28 PM

When I read this quote I think about Rand's 'Anthem' wherein the frustrated "citizen" and his correspondingly unmutual paramour found refuge on a mountain peak, completely removed from "civilization." The attribute being avoided is not overcrowding per se, but the authority that invariably comes along with it, as represented by identification documents. In my rural neighborhood no ID's are required. I know all of my neighbors in a 1-mile radius and anyone else who happens by generally has good intentions and is thus welcome to visit for a time. If they don't have good intentions, well, that is what dogs are for. (One thing, anyway.) Don't believe I've ever asked to see anyone's ID though. By the same token I still revel in my trips "into town" whether corporeally or telepresently.

"Unmutual." I learned the reference but won't claim the prize as discovering it required Binging. My unaided guess was that it came from the aforementioned 'Anthem.' I remember, from my youth, the name of the work which contained it but for whatever reason, never experienced it.

Posted by: johngalt at August 16, 2012 2:12 AM

I don't know that annexing the Sudetenland into Weld County is a terrible idea...

Perhaps even Senator Goldwater would agree with moderation here. I was born in Denver and now get viscerally ill when I visit family, relaxing only as I cross 136th or so. This makes me a strange emissary for city life. I think I may have coined the term urbaphobe in the 1980s but there was no Google to verify.

Yet Libertarianism runs hand in hand with millenarianism and the utopian dreams of my leftist friends are not dissimilar to Rand's Atlantis except in economics.

Sam Colt in Connecticut, Silicon Valley, &c. launched humanity hundreds of years into the future -- perhaps the intertubes have obviated that but I am not certain. Don't everybody all wander off.

Posted by: jk at August 16, 2012 9:48 AM | What do you think? [4]