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The Noble Savage And The Anti-civ Movement

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I think their point is more that these people are going to die anyway, unless something is done. People like Daniel Quinn dont advocate primitivism purely out of some kind of hatred of technology/capitalism - they do so because they believe the current strategies we are pursuing simply are not going to work.

In the essay that Dawn referenced in the initial post, Quinn discussing blowing up a dam and assassinating Senators that advocate "ecocide". He equates human beings to salmon, and the US Government to Nazi Germany. If this isn't anti-technology/capitalism, what is?

Our planet has existed for X billion years. Homosapiens have been around for maybe 30,000. Civilisation has been here for 6000 maximum, and 'technological civilisation' for only about 400. A civilisation so advanced that it possesses weapons powerful enough to literally wipe out humanity is only 50 years old. Despite the certain sense of inevitability we feel about our progress forwards, it isnt inconceivable that the whole Western experiment is going to end before its 6000th anniversary.
Let me see if I follow your chain of civilization advancement:

1. planet exists

2. Homosapians

3. Civilization

4.'Technological Civilization' [in scare quotes?]

5. Civilization with weapons that can wipe out humanity

How does number 5 follow the others? The nuclear bomb is not an indicator of advancement in civilization.

This realisation, this honest facing up to the possibility that things are going to end in tears if we continue along the current path, is what I believe motivates a lot of primitivist standpoints. As Quinn points out, primitivism might not be glamorous, but it WORKS. There is no danger of a society of savages accidentally obliterating the entire planet as a consequence of some stupid war. It isnt about what is 'right' or 'moral', its about what can be realistically be sustained over a long period of time.

So mankind should return to caves because of nuclear weapons??

Maybe high-technological societies just have an expected lifespan of 1000-5000 years maximum, and they only appear in the universe for brief moments before destroying themselves.
Do you have any evidence of other high-technological societies that have not been able to sustain themselves? What legitimate evidence do you have that mankind won't be able to sustain?

Writing them all off as suffering from some pathological hatred of freedom/science/capitalism/mankind/universal love/whatever doesnt seem particularly useful.

Useful to whom? In the above referenced essay, Quinn doesn't make a single valid point. It is the equivalent to emotional vomit. Why should anyone take anything he says seriously?

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I was responding to what you wrote about zero men being able to survive in 'such a state' Hal's post had the years humans DID survive in such a state which was for 30,000 years as opposed to humans living in a civilized state which has been for 6,000 years.


I got that, but look a little further into what I am saying. The consistant application of that viewpoint would put men WORSE off then even the first cavemen, as even they could use their minds.

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I was responding to what you wrote about zero men being able to survive in 'such a state' Hal's post had the years humans DID survive in such a state which was for 30,000 years as opposed to humans living in a civilized state which has been for 6,000 years.

Whichever model (if either) is correct, the oldest fossil evidence for anatomically modern humans is about 130,000 years old in Africa, and there is evidence for modern humans in the Near East sometime before 90,000 years ago.


Hal is pulling statistics out of his posterior.

Inspector did not mean a state of primitivism, he meant a state of NO technology, of fighting with your bare hands against lions and tigers for food, succumbing to any disease that happens to wander by. Planting a single seed is technology. Humans living like animals hardly qualify as "men"; such is not a human method of survival.

If you want to live, you must live AS A MAN, not as an animal

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  • 9 years later...

The population of Earth is increasing exponentially, and unless something drastic happens, there are probably going to be serious population problems 50-100 years down the line.

... .., while the earth is more "populated" than it has ever been, it is less "over-populated" than it has ever been. The late Julian Simon has a few books that address the issue.

I did a sanity check today, about 10 years later. The World Health Organization has information about per-capita food consumption.


In 1997-99: 2803 kcal per day

In 2015 (projected) : 2940 kcal per day


If you look at the details in that link, the food consumed per capita in developing  has grown faster than developed countries (as is to be expected, unless you believe doomsayers). 


I was led to this old thread by the mention of Julian Simon, whose book "Ultimate Resource" is available on the web. I learnt today that Bjorn Lomborg, ex Greenpeace author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist" was triggered to break with traditional environmentalism after reading an article by Julian Simon. That's an example of the impact of ideas, and of how ideas drive history.

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This might be of interest.  I was just re-reading Robert Tracinski's "What Went Right?" series of articles, and he discusses Julian Simon at some length, tracing his impact on thinking about population issues and citing him as an example of an intellectual forming principles consonant with Objectivism first-hand, inductively, and therefore playing a positive cultural role:

A few weeks ago in TIA Daily, Jack Wakeland covered the reaction to the news that the 300 millionth American had been born, and he noted the general implosion of the "population bomb" hysteria. For the most part, the 300 millionth person was celebrated as a sign of our healthy growth as a nation, not as a sign of impending scarcity and privation, as the doomsayers of "overpopulation" have been warning for many decades.

Jack attributed this cultural change to the influence of the late economist Julian Simon, whose work on this subject was implicit in numerous articles and commentaries on the latest population milestone. Jack linked to one such article, but an even better example appeared a few days later in the Wall Street Journal arguing that "more people means more prosperity."

This editorial nowhere mentions Julian Simon's name—but it relies entirely on his ideas. Such is often the fate of an intellectual who succeeds in injecting an important new idea into the culture. The idea of people as a "resource" and especially of the mind as an economic resource is the central breakthrough of Simon's 1981 book The Ultimate Resource, whose thesis is accurately summed up in its Amazon.com review:

This has proven to be an enormously influential idea, providing pro-free-market thinkers and economists a profound argument for liberty. Here, for example, is just one example of the employment of this idea, from an important November 2003 speech by President Bush:

A nation's "greatest" resource is the creativity of its people, which is more important than any natural resource? Where do you suppose that idea came from? Obviously, President Bush has been influenced by the arguments of Julian Simon.

The most interesting thing, from the perspective of Objectivists, is that Julian Simon's argument is nearly identical to the central theme of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. What Simon demonstrated in economics and demographics, Ayn Rand identified in philosophical terms: that reason is man's means of survival and that man's mind is the source of all of his values, including all of his wealth.

I used to think of Julian Simon's work as the application to the special sciences of Ayn Rand's idea. But then I realized that it was not an "application." Simon did not start out with Ayn Rand's ideas and derive his theories from them. He induced his theory from his own observations and from his knowledge of his specialty. He started out as an economist who accepted the conventional wisdom about "overpopulation," until he began to realize that it was not actually supported by the data and by the science of economics. This process led him to a crucial moment at which he made his breakthrough. Here is how he describes the origin of his theory:

To my knowledge Simon was not significantly influenced by Ayn Rand, though I presume he must have known about her at some point in his career, especially since so many fans of her work were also fans of his. His integration and Ayn Rand's integration stand as companion ideas. Simon integrated knowledge he had discovered within his own field, and his integration goes beyond Ayn Rand's in one respect: the detail with which he is able to demonstrate the role of man's mind as a fount of wealth-creation. And Ayn Rand's integration goes beyond Simon's in another crucial respect: the scope on which she applies it. The mind as the source of all values is a principle that goes far beyond economics, and Ayn Rand is able to draw implications from it in art, morality, politics.

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The happiness of primitive man is really a retread of Marx's argument that men where happier when they had a “direct relationship” (quotes mine, can’t remember his words) with their tools of production.  The more complex the society the more dissatisfied man is since he is further removed from the effect of his work.  Thus, modern man in a specialized industrial society experiences emotional dissonance since he has no connection to his work while a farmer is more satisfied since he experiences the direct fruits of his labor, and a hunter gatherer would be most emotional connected to his tools.


I would hope that fearing a stray mammoth or the flu and being lucky to die at 32 while freezing daily and struggling to find enough food to live, or living in a complex free society and living to the 70’s on average while sleeping in on the weekend and perusing the internet… well that speaks for itself.


Assuming I wanted to ignore that, it is impossible to determine what the crime rate was in a small tribe that lived a public life where family and the primitive environment forced choices on you daily in flight or fight scenarios.  Apples and oranges.

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Population is another non-issue.

Populations will grow to the extent food production allows them to grow. For example, if there is enough Food for 100 people and the 101st person is born then the economics of supply and demand will either expand the supply, or limit the supply through increased prices until some enterprising person produces more to take advantage of the higher prices.  From there the equation continues to reset itself. 

Practically speaking – The entire population of the earth can fit into the State of Connecticut while the amount of space needed to feed one man, or the number of men needed to be in food production, shrinks.  About the only way I can see this happening is some dystopian scenario due to a form of “food malinvestment” from Government Programs and regulations.   

Hmmm… Sounds like a good short story: “The Food Bubble”.

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  • 1 month later...

To the extent governments of "civilization" (autocracy, monarchy, fascism, feudalism, tyranny, communism, socialism, democracy = literally mob-RULE) have been and are in fact "anti-civilization" (since the true purpose of civilization is the protection of man's rights from other men... i.e. the protection of man from the initiation of force), man is and should be unhappy... a man ruled is a man whose rights are violated.


To the extent social intercourse and trade in encouraged by societies, man has benefited greatly, through science, technology, advancement, specialization etc.  I think Rand's point in distinguishing between pre-civilization and civilization as described in the OP is in respect of this dimension.


It is, however, no surprise that man cannot be happy in societies where he is a slave and is not free to live according to objective morality for his own rational self interest. As such Man's moral existence has been compromised by rule of government since the dawn of so called "civilization" and hence man indeed has and continues to suffer from it. 


Does this mean Rand missed this problem of "civilization"?  We all know she certainly did not... in fact she fully discovered and identified this problem as well as the solution: rational self interest, minimal government, and laissez-faire capitalism.

Edited by StrictlyLogical
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