Role Playing – A Blast From The Past From Jan 2013

Role Playing – A Blast From The Past From Jan 2013

The other day I found myself reading this study about overpopulation.  Well, the study was supposedly about overpopulation, at least.  I’m talking about Calhoun’s study on rats in a cage, rats who were supplied with every possible resource and yet, supposedly, when the population went above a certain density, found themselves exhibiting various pathologies, some of which will sound eerily familiar: a period of oversexuality leads rapidly to a period where the rats can’t connect with each other for sex or anything else.  There’s cannibalism, violence, apathy and a general falling apart of rat society.  Population falls precipitously.  Those rats that are left behind are too… socially inept to rebuild.

I can’t remember how I got to the study.  I was sure it was through Instapundit, but a quick search doesn’t show me the link.  Perhaps I’m missing it?  At any rate, the link I followed and the article I landed on said that the author of the study was upset about how his study was used, to create the idea of finite resources and the horrors of overpopulation.  I read the article first with that idea – the idea that the man somehow got clobbered by the anti-human-wave, those who think that any humans are too many.

But as I read it I became aware of something that seemed to have got lost in both the interpretations of the people who took this as the model for an overpopulated human society and even in the interpretation of the researcher himself (unless I missed something.) *

He talks about the point at which population outstrips the roles available to rats.  When rats don’t have a role in society, they disconnect from it.

This made me pause and sit back, because – as you guys probably know – I’m convinced we’re nowhere close to overpopulated, even as we’re displaying many of the rats’ symptoms.  Of course it could be a matter of our brain thinking we’re overpopulated (there is the perception we know more people than we know, due to TV and other media) or even of our being too densely packed together in some areas…

It could be a matter of that, except that another explanation is much, much more likely.

I’ve been talking about the falling apart – no, the tearing apart, the deconstruction – of Western Society since WWI.  And what hit me was this – human society doesn’t depend on population or even on population density to create roles.  Humans can create – or destroy – roles for themselves more or less at random.

The whole talk of the anomie and purposelessness of modern life has been with us since at least WWI and possibly before.  It is in a way a risk of affluent societies – when you no longer have to fight for every meal, you, being human, have time to sit back and ask yourself stuff like “Why am I alive?  What does it all mean?”

But the other part of it has nothing to do with affluence, but with the deliberate ripping down of roles.

No?  Ask yourself: if you’d asked pretty much anyone on the street in the 1910s what it meant to be a mother, or to be married, or to be an employee, you were likely to meet with a set of beliefs that, in them, comprised those roles.

No, I’m not saying that everyone in those days lived according to those roles, or even that uniformity in roles is desirable.  I’m just saying that there was a certain unanimity in the culture about what those roles were supposed to be.  People would then define themselves within the role, within the role but with a twist, or against the role.  (Perhaps the number was smaller, but I’m fairly sure there were any number of CONSCIOUSLY bad mothers, even back then.)

Now imagine going out on the street and asking anyone what those roles mean.  You’re not likely to come up with even a coherent minority view of any significance on what those roles mean.  The roles have, in fact, disintegrated.  Fallen apart.

Which means, humans being social animals, that people simply don’t know who they’re SUPPOSED to be.  They don’t even know what they’re rebelling against, because there’s nothing concrete there to push against.

This solved for me, at a glance, various things that had puzzled me for a long time: such as why people who consider themselves rebels are rebelling against a norm that hasn’t been a “norm” for almost a hundred years.  They don’t seem to realize it’s not there, because they need a role, even if it’s the role of rebel against something.  Finding themselves adrift is far more terrifying that trying to fit a model.

Or why the first thing I noticed about Americans was how much happier they were than Europeans, because, at least back in the early eighties, Americans were involved on a volunteer level with organizations in their communities, at a much higher level than Europeans.  (I wonder to what extent the fact that we now all have to work way to much and that local volunteer communities are falling apart is responsible for the Europeanization of our society.)

Or why science fiction people – particularly those involved in the field as either small gods of fandom, con goers, participants in some science fiction book club, or “just” costumers – are in general less prone to the pathologies of the time.  Yes, yes, we are weird, but we are not a “falling apart” kind of weird.  It’s because, by gum, your role might be secretary of the local SF readers’ club, but you care passionately about it, discuss meetings, prepare food for parties, and are in fact someone fulfilling a role.

Yes, I know, several of you are going to prescribe religion as giving meaning to life – and that is true as far as it goes for those who believe.  For those who don’t believe, unless all of you really want to create a club of passionate heretics and church-haters, it’s best if we don’t consider that route.

However, it also explained to me why people join cults and why educated Western women choose to convert to Islam.  It gives them a role, you see, and a fairly clear role, which is important if you are a person of not particularly passionate beliefs.

Human life must always – yes, even for me – be balanced between wanting freedom and fitting into a role, because that part of us that is animal is a social animal and needs to know where they fit in a hierarchy. Any hierarchy.

The good news is that, without binding prescriptive rules for roles, we can give people guidelines that allow them to find their own roles.  We can define “Adult human being” (the line between adult and child is now being blurred) as “someone who takes care of himself and those who depend on him.”  We can define “good” as a person who lives up to his obligations.  We can define “self-supporting” as a goal to aim for.  We can even define well informed and well adjusted as a minimum of things people should know and do.

The bad news is that to do it we’ll have to fight against people for whom there is no sin except “judging” – people so emotionally confused they fight against the idea of defining even things like “A common language of trade.”

People who are, in fact, engaged in tearing down the very idea of social roles, and who, then, can’t understand why they can’t engage with anything or why everyone is so lost and without purpose.

They, of course, blame capitalism.  This is handy as, taken to its extreme, it allows totalitarians to build a society in which roles – mostly master and serf – are once more tightly defined.  Perhaps they sense this.  Perhaps it is what drives them towards results they – objectively – claim to not want.

But we know better.  If we want to preserve freedom, prosperity and hope for the future – in a word, civilization — we need to start redefining society in terms not so prescriptive that those of us who are odds or very odds are pushed out of the polity, (I’m a libertarian chick.  I’m going to err on the side of freedom) but not so loose that no one knows what he’s supposed to be or where it matters.

Let’s start by affirming that humanity matters; that the future of humanity matters; that “overpopulation” (also known as “the danger of too many humans”) is a bogus fear.  Each human born brings with him uniqueness and the possibility of innovation.

Let’s start by saying the most important role for any adult, free individual is to support himself, to look after those who depend on him, to keep his promise and honor his contracts.

And that humanity, such as it is, neither ape nor angel, is yet worthwhile.  Let’s establish it is worth it to work so that the future is always better than the past – and to dream of new worlds, of new universes, and of wonders yet undiscovered.

We might not live to see it, but it is the duty of every human being to work so our descendants will.

Enough of this rat cage.  It’s time to own infinity.

* Some of these ideas came from a discussion with my friend Bill Reader, and at this point I don’t know which of us came up with what.  He has promised to write his own take on this as soon as work lets up a little.

336 thoughts on “Role Playing – A Blast From The Past From Jan 2013

  1. How odd that humanity will religiously adhere to a strict social code of mores and roles that enables survival during a scarcity of resources; when resources are reliably available they will fight against defined social roles; but give humanity infinite resources, and they will fight for the one thing that lacks: socially defined roles requiring religious levels of adherence.

    I suppose that the amount of meaning and purpose in life is inversely proportional to the ease of one’s existence?

    1. I’ve often considered that might be why it’s so difficult for rich people to get into heaven.

      1. “Rich” is a sliding scale. Sometimes it’s owning a pair of sandals instead of walking barefoor. Other times, it’s having your own 737 instead of one of those cheesy business jets.

        1. I have a Facebook friend who likes to point out to Berniacs that if you have no debt and change in your pockets you’re richer than 60% of humanity.

    2. More, perhaps, the amount of thinking (and, eventually, obsessing) about it is directly proportional?

  2. > they need a role

    “The trouble with basing your identity on fighting discrimination is that if you run out of discrimination, you don’t know who you are.”

    – Fred Reed

    1. So the real purpose of all these new windmills is not, as claimed, electrical generation – though any added capacity won’t be turned away – but to give all the poor SJW’s and such something to tilt at?

      1. They’re not the only ones. Although what I’d like to do to the blasted things, eh, *waves at Fed the Fred* let’s just say that when they start falling down and have to be removed and scrapped, I’ll open a large bottle of sparkling grape juice and toast the workers.

        1. Can you get a tax deduction by donating bladekill to the nearest homeless shelter? Are eagles good eats?

              1. There’s a story from Washington State that made the rounds some years ago. Apparently the Washington Biological Survey was conducting a bird migration study, during which they routinely tagged the birds being studied with metal tags that said:


                After the study had been running for a few weeks, the shock of a lifetime arrived in the director’s mail:

                “Dear Sirs, I shot one of your birds a couple of days ago. I think it was a crow. I have to tell you, I followed the cooking instructions on the leg, and it was horrible. Yours truly, etc.”

                The agency now uses tags that read “Fish & Wildlife Service.”

            1. Honey buzzards, on the other hand… them’s good eatin’, or so Patrick O’Brian tells us. In one of his books, the Napoleonic-War era Royal Navy ship has been forced to put to sea without taking on adequate supplies. One of the “delicacies” they pick up at a Swedish port is a barrel of salted buzzards.

            2. According to a story my father told me, they’re dangerous eating. He said there were two Asian guys who didn’t show up for work (apparently, the two worked at the same place) for a few days, and when they finally returned to work, it was learned that they had eaten a vulture and gotten a horrible case of food poisoning.

          1. A friend of mine (and nice to have such friends 🙂 ) went on a vacation to Cozumel a couple of years ago. On an excursion to the Myan ruins, the group was treated to a dinner that included Iguana. On being asked “doesn’t it really taste taste like chicken?”
            Tryphina answered, “No, it’s a little fishier, more like bald eagle.” There was silence.

      2. And they do a damn fine job of thinning out the bird populations.
        Nasty feathered flying rats.

    2. But you never run out. You just find more. Or view backlash as proof, not that you’ve become the offender, but that you’ve still got more to ferret out.

  3. > gives them a role

    I’ve read a number of books about Soviet defectors. What was interesting to me was how many lived in the west for a while, then chose to go back to the Soviet Union.

    Arkady Schevkeno was a diplomat who did that. When the CIA asked him why he was going, he said, “Here, I’m nobody. Back home I have a place.” [or words to that effect]

    Even if that place was “political prisoner…”

  4. > roles

    There’s a (former, I guess) role model that I often see denigrated. At least a couple of generations of adults would probably be surprised to hear “John Wayne” being used as an insult.

    1. We’ve started saying that any sort of can do attitude and no BS mindset is a bad thing

    2. I’ve noticed that most of the people using John Wayne as an insult have never actually seen a John Wayne movie, nor listened to any of his interviews or statements.

      I got into a vociferous argument once at a fan site (IIRC it was Television Without Pity, but I could be misremembering) regarding the John Wayne stereotype where I pointed out that contrary to popular fiction, Wayne was seldom a complete loner in his films – he almost always had a team of supporting characters in his roles that were equally important to his character’s success (Sons of Katie Elder, Rio Bravo, El Dorado, et al), and other tropes (JW’s racist, sexist, etc etc).

      Turned out, after I pressed him and the other responders, they’d never actually watched a John Wayne film and were just going by the popular concept.


      Popular wisdom and everyone knows, generally isn’t.

      Only place in older usage that I’ve heard it in a possibly derogatory fashion is “John Wayning a door,” and there it really isn’t – it’s more a macho bonding thing. ie: “I’d trust him to hold the shotgun while I John Wayned a door,” akin to “Someone to ride the river with.”

      1. I would say that using John Wayne as an adjective to describe toilet paper seems to work- rough, tough, and doesn’t take any crap from anybody.

      1. Americans see an individual confident in their righteousness. Europeans see a self centered loose cannon.

      2. Of course a whole lot of us would consider that a compliment, and John Wayne a DEFINITE compliment.

    3. The type of individual that’s being referenced by a derogatory comparison to John Wayne typically has little in common with the kinds of characters that he portrayed.

  5. Some years ago I was strolling in Mainz, Germany on evening. A group of punks had gathered on the steps of a building facing the main platz and were talking and watching everyone trying not to be seen watching them. I bit my tongue to keep from laughing as I passed, because all those wild rebels against society looked identical, to the point that I noticed the two who were NOT wearing studded dog-collars. But they had a group they belonged to, a role within the group and within the larger society, and were probably as happy as they’d admit to being. (Some looked morose enough to be what people think Goths are like.)

    I think another reason why sci-fi people and makers in general tend to be more comfortable and well-adjusted (for local values of well adjusted) is that we have mental worlds that allow us to make our roles, define them, and live them our way. Some of us can pass for normal, others prefer not to or can’t, but we have the mental make-up to set our own definitions and role.

    A friend’s grandniece joined the Mormons, in part because her mother and sire (he sure wasn’t anything like a father) refused to be grown-ups or to set boundaries. In contrast, the L.D.S. have clear ideas about where people fit and how to behave, and are welcoming of seekers. The granddaughter is very happy, has a nice family, and her grandaunt and uncle are thrilled with how everything has turned out. Oh, yeah, the grandniece likes hard sci-fi and history. Always has. 🙂

    1. I noticed that about “outlaw bikers” long ago. Man, those dudes have one strict dress code…

      1. It’s one item with a lot of respect based groups. There is a hierarchy of who is what and uniforms enforce it

        1. For their interpretation of the word “respect.” Which doesn’t seem to mean the same thing it did when I first learned the word.

          1. At least in terms of motor gangs it is a way of identifying like and also identifying seniority with rockers and such. Speaking internal respect vs general

    2. Reading this comment, in relation to the original post, leads me to wonder if having a defined role is at least part of what draws a lot of urban youth into gangs.

  6. > no sin except “judging”

    Even waving aside the difference between “judging” and “judgemental”, the root problem seems to be that any negative judgement makes badfeelz.

    “Who are you to say that?”

    “I can present my reasoning in detail. Feel free to refute it.”

    One very angry young woman once told me, “You think you can solve everything with logic!” She didn’t see the humor when I replied with the Vulcan salute.

      1. I don’t have to tolerate intolerance. *Thrusts nose in air with a huff while poking at a device built on Chinese slave labor*

  7. > freedom

    A problem here is, while I, and probably you and most people here value freedom quite a lot, a huge number of people DON’T.

    They’ll say they do, but their idea of “freedom” pretty much revolves around their free choice of brands of beer, cigarettes, and fast food. Otherwise, they’re perfectly happy to have someone else tell them what to do.

    The kind of “freedom” you’re talking about, they barely understand and has no place in their world view.

    1. Or, they’re fine with having freedom for themselves- it’s that lot over there that needs to get regulated or outlawed.

      1. This being the true nature of all those people on the receiving end of ill-conceived Wilsonian “self-determination” who supposedly “don’t want to be free.”

  8. It’s not population. It’s population *density*.

    The higher the density, the higher the crime rate, disease, and mental illness. But people keep packing themselves into giant ant farms anyway.

    Someday we may own infinitty. But it’ll probably be in pressure hulls, packed in like Japanese on a commuter train. “Look at all the room we have! And would you please get your elbow out of my kidney?”

    1. The higher the density, the higher the crime rate, disease, and mental illness. But people keep packing themselves into giant ant farms anyway.

      Above a certain level– you have to have someone around to be a victim of a crime, for example, and the stats get warped when there’s only eighty people in driving distance, one of whom has a recognizable mental issue and three others that would but everyone just goes “hey, that’s George, avoid X and he’s fine”– I’m not seeing this function.

      If you zoom out enough, it works, but if you zoom back in, the people factor kicks in again. Our neighborhood is borderline crime-free– the only crimes are people who wandered through. Our last place, there was a lower density and a higher crime-rate, to the point that I’d go check the kids’ playhouse before they went out to play. In that case, if you’d organized by “where perps live” and then zoomed in, you’d find a HUGE density…where they’re shoveling folks who should either be in jail or some kind of institute (drugs or mental, not like I’m dumb enough to get close enough involved to tell the difference) via various programs or– do a search for “seattle the jungle”– systematic failure to enforce.
      Crime is really high in areas that are relatively easy to reach from those areas.

      Our neighborhood’s density comes from things like the house across the way that has at least three families living in it, I’m guessing extended relations; the duplex across the road where a son owns one side, his mom owns the other, and various relatives or friends of the same live with them to get on their feet *if* they’re keeping their noses clean.
      A house a few doors down that either has a lot of foster kids or several families; there’s our Army neighbor who married after retirement, and has his kids and an eternal cycle of cousins from over-seas staying there. (Cranky old guy– good neighbor!) Down the block and across the road is what I’m guessing is someone’s old aunt, who has a ton of military guys cycling through. (guessing from haircuts; I’m terrible at small talk, but I take lots of walks) LOTS of people, but not selected for folks with issues and to have consequences of bad behavior removed. I can only think of a handful of houses that don’t regularly have not-usually-there cars parked out front, and that’s including ours. This house set empty for years and didn’t take the kind of damage a lot of places get within weeks of that “HUD owned” sign going up.

      The crime is associated with density, but it’s not really caused by it– it’s more that the various things to stop crime get shortcircuited a lot.

    2. A point Heinlein made regarding “the People” in Citizen of the Galaxy.

  9. For those who don’t believe, unless all of you really want to create a club of passionate heretics and church-haters, it’s best if we don’t consider that route.

    May I present athiest mega-churches (

    On a more serious note I think the idea of the belted family and household in groups like the SCA, the leather family, and so no are attempts to fill the same thing. Like the secretary of the local SF readers’ club they provide a role to fill and lots of rules of interaction in the person’s primary social environment.

    I would point out that all the examples above have at least an attempt to draw on history (medieval in the first and a set of relatively recent but still real traditions dating to the immediate post-WW2 period) and in that they provide another thing humans need: connection to their past and a sense of place among the generations which mother, father, etc provided.

    1. Around here, anyway, the overlap between “churches” and “daycare centers” is so profound my first thought was that people were getting together to organize daycare without religious indoctrination…

  10. I see the overpopulation issue as one of being able to truly matter in one’s social group, rather than a question of well-defined roles. It’s not so much a problem that there are too many humans on the planet, but that we are part of too large an integrated group, in which none of us really make much difference. It’s not how many of us there are, but how small a percentage of the whole that each of us consists of.

    In a small community, even the least important member matters and has a vote and market share. Right now, most of us feel totally disenfranchised, because our vote does no count, as it is too small a percentage of the total vote. We go to the store and buy our favorite product religiously, and we see it disappear from the shelves, and the store does not care that we were a loyal customer and wanted that item. At the small grocers’, we could talk to the person making the choices, and our opinion would matter.

    We feel insignificant, dwarfed by all the great mass of others, whether the planet does or does not have the resources to support us all. The problem is not well defined roles but clout. Every small person needs some clout to feel that his actions make a difference. To get that clout, we have to break down into smaller, less integrated communities.

    1. I just don’t think that really mattering in your population’s group is that important to most people. Sure, it is for some people, but a lot of people are perfectly happy to live their bland life every day, without making much of a ripple in things, as long as they know what is expected of them.

      That’s one difficulty people like most who comment here have with understanding the larger group of people, which includes “normals”: we need more out of life than they do. We have a drive to make a difference. Even those on the other side of the political spectrum are in the same boat. Those who are driven to make a difference, to make the world better, are vastly outnumbered by those who are sometimes referred to as “drones” or “mundanes”, for whom an exciting night is watching the latest blockbuster movie.

      The “normals” don’t care about making a difference, and seldom care that their voices aren’t heard, until it’s something they particularly care about.

  11. I won’t prescribe Christianity in the mandatory established-church sense you seem to mean – yep, that’s exactly the reaction it creates, and then you eventually get your European church-in-name-only for peace’s sake – but you’d better believe I’m prescribing Christianity as a source of meaning and purpose. Just, you know, not so much a legal mandate as a very enthusiastic recommendation.

  12. > idea of finite resources and the horrors of overpopulation

    As population does up you lose “slack” in the system.

    Barbara Tuchman’s “A Distant Mirror” is supposed to be about French politics in the 14th century. But it’s actually about climate change [*real* climate change!] and its effects on society.

    The population of Europe had expanded until it was more or less in equilibrium with food production. And then the Little ice Age hit suddenly and hard, and they dropped from three growing seasons to one, and a big chunk of the population simply starved to death.

    1. TRX (the layout is making me uncertain whether I’m actually replying to you): I’d assumed by the cover art that the Plague was the big-ticket item under discussion. Huh.

      1. The Black Death made a few passes through there as well, and some nasty wars. It wasn’t exactly a fun and frolicking time.

        The wars and plagues wouldn’t likely have been nearly as big of a problem if it hadn’t been for the multiplier of starvation and fights over resources.

        1. Starving people have a hard time fighting off disease. Would the post WWI flu pandemic have been so severe if a war hadn’t disrupted life so much?

          1. Nit: The “Spanish Flu” hit during the war, in the US starting in the ramshackle Army training camps, and in the end deaths in the US military due to influenza were greater than US WWI combat deaths.

          2. IIRC, that flu was an anomaly, striking down strong, healthy people as much as those who were not so healthy. The spread of it, though, probably had more to do with the crowding of the training camps making it far easier to transmit it from one person to another.

            1. “IIRC, that flu was an anomaly, striking down strong, healthy people as much as those who were not so healthy”

              Actually death rates were HIGHEST in people in the prime of their life, not just equal to the rates of the young, elderly, and infirm.

              1. This. Because it was the immune reaction that killed and it was strongest in strong people. That is ACTUALLY not unusual. Might be why I survived small pox at two (Speaker looked it up. I was two not three. Which is interesting as I have VIVID memories.) Because it’s the immune reaction that kills, and I was very sickly and not strong. My strong, healthy cousin the same age died.
                And the same with the pneumonia I survived at 33, though that one I did have a strong immune reaction to, and it almost killed me. The people it was putting in hospital were “strong people in the prime of their lives.” I don’t think many died, but…

              2. My grandmother, the youngest child in her family, was the only one not struck down. They all survived, but while (fortunately) my grandmother knew how to make oatmeal, she (unfortunately) did not know how to make anything else.

                her mother got over her dislike of having other people in HER kitchen long enough to teach her more, after that.

          3. I should know better than to spout off on something I’m only somewhat familiar with on this site.

  13. I have seen a truly staggering number of people who’d consider themselves to be on the cutting edge of modernity say things to the effect of “you know what’s wrong with society? Too many choices, that’s what. If you were just a baker because that’s what your dad was, wouldn’t that take so much pressure off?”

      1. That one I could actually answer in person.
        “We, collectively, or we, individually? Because an individual probably can only use for results that they want, one or two of those brands– but those brands won’t work for everybody. Haven’t you ever tried a brand that a friend suggested and it gave you a rash, or didn’t work, or worse made you stink?

        I’ve got the patter down pat from various friends/relations and their dietary obsessions. My sister and I look enough alike that her friends, if they haven’t seen her for a month or two, will mistake me for her– but she gets great results from a low-carb diet, and I don’t.

            1. With the recurrent ‘pay for my period’ outbursts how long until the deodorant manufacturer that pays the most in brib…err.contributions gets into obamacare

              1. Not just pay for but paid period leave is being floated in between cries of “anything you can do i can do better”.

                They get annoyed if you say, “especially whining”.

                  1. Hmmmm, Jameson…Flogging Molly will be tomorrow which always means the Tabernacle runs a special on Irish Car Bombs.

                    Now to get Obamacare to cover those (I mean, they will be on sale).

      2. Why should my freedom to choose what brand of something to buy be limited by people who can’t deal with freedom to choose. Freedom of choice is freedom.

    1. Thing is, that’s partially what the post was about, in a sense. People not knowing what to do with themselves. However, rather than trying to move us back to the time when such things were common, Sarah suggested trying to create more generic roles for people to take on, which would retain freedom to choose your career path, while retaining a set of guidelines for things like expected behavior and responsibilities away from the job.

  14. Reminds me of wossname… Diocletian, who kicked off the hereditary profession system in Rome.

    Sounds horrible to me, but I imagine a lot of Romans were thrilled to be guaranteed entry into a profession.

    1. Did Diocletian ever meet a bad idea he didn’t immediately draft into law?

    2. The problem is more when you are an odd who wants to strike out and can’t. Consider if Leonardo DaVinci had been legitimate he’d have been an accountant like his father…
      BUT yeah, most people are perfectly happy.

      1. So we need to butt-kick the pressure to avoid being “just like your father,” when the father wasn’t a bad guy.

      2. I read that as Leonardo DeCaprio the first time, and was scratching my head until I reread it.

  15. Two unpleasant extrapolations:

    Is there a limit to *viable* roles?

    I’m remembering Jack Williamson’s “With Folded Hands.” He made it more sinister, but the question doesn’t require an army of officious robots. Really good automation would do the job, even if everyone owns a piece of the factory.

    You say that competition is good, because it means you have more to read. But if three of the six billion people in the world are writing, is that still the case? And how many paintings can you find wall space for?

    Can there be a level of prosperity where you simply can’t find a role worth having?

    Inquiring writers might want to know…

    More subtly, how many of us are walking around with a role that includes the phrase “–and a failure”? How do you redefine a role like that?

    Even success won’t help a lot of the time, in a case like that. The self-help gurus talk about the “fear of success.” I’ve seen it in action, but it never made sense–even while I was watching. But this discussion of the sheer pervasiveness of the need for a role makes it a bit clearer. To such a person (who, me?), maybe it’s *comforting,* on some level, to “know” what you are. And Lord knows enough of us Odds spent our youth being taught our proper place.

    I suspect a lot of the SJW infestation has come from exactly that–Odds that reacted to that kind of “instruction” by choosing the rebel-role instead. But if you don’t, how do you change your mind about it later?

    Yeah, this is personal, but it’s also a writer question. Could be useful for describing characters *or* societies.

    1. Supply is related to demand. More suppliers mean that more units are available at cheaper price and higher quality. This tends to mean more purchasers. Keeping a market alive requires a certain amount of supply.

      Take cars versus personal rocket planes, horse and buggies, and personal spaceships.

      Personal space ships aren’t available yet, technically and economically speaking. There is no supplier, and costs would be prohibitive if they were.

      Personal rocket planes or flying cars are technically feasible, but insurance and other costs are high. People who fly generally also use a car for more common trips, and general aviation is apparently having problems now.

      Horse and buggies are still available, but horses are expensive, and not widely supported. They have a huge barrier to entry because they are not the standard solution.

      If there are three living writers, the number of readers has shrunk dramatically.

      As for future jobs, we will have crime. So we will have police, which probably takes care of the one in two hundred most suited. There will be war. I’d also note that automation is not magic. Every machine has to be designed and maintained. I know enough about automation, AI, and fabrication that I have doubts about there being a shortage of work for competent problem solvers, barring government tyranny.

      1. Would we actually have had flying cars today if there had been no FAA and other government meddling, er regulation?

        1. The technology for flying cars already exists. What is lacking is an air traffic control system capable of handling that density of three dimensional movement safely. Should a system ever be developed, likely AI driven, that gives what Heinlein referred to as “no sparrow shall fall” level of control, we’ll get those flying cars.

            1. Well, that and the requirements we keep adding to the market for safety and monitoring systems for things does often price out fliers that just want to be able to VFR around. There is an upgrade coming for transponders that is significantly more expensive than existing. It may be easier for airlines and ATC but more than most private pilots can afford. But the airlines have lobbyists. Private pilots really don’t.

        2. Yes. A 1956 Cessna 172 cost $8000, on par with cars of the time (small multiple of). Both were fractions of the median yearly income.

          A Cessna 172 is basically a flying car. You want a flying car? That is what it looks like.

          The current version is $307,000. People will claim that is mostly the inevitable price of safety features, but as a student pilot, I can confidently assert that this is not so. Small general aviation planes are still, mechanically and electrically, very simple devices. As for the electronics: Electronics cost inversely proportional to the demand – if we were selling thousands of planes a year, electronics would be as cheap as your desktop PC.

          In terms of other large industrial goods: Rather than buying our cars out of pocket with a small fraction of a year’s income (~1 months), we now have to finance them over several years.

          What the radically increased price for small aircraft has actually done to safety is the following: Almost all of our general aviation aircraft are used. They are older than I am. Shops keep them maintained, but with anything that old, inevitable problems crop up as parts wear out. No one buys new planes because no one can afford the ‘safety features’.

          1. Basically: Place tons of requirements on operators (some necessary, some gratuitous), and demand for the vehicle falls. Price goes up because fixed capital costs are spread over fewer vehicles.

            Tack on crazy regulatory, material, and manufacturing requirements, and the whole thing collapses until only 0.1% of the population can afford the time investment and cost of flying.

          2. Aren’t most new entry level general aviation aircraft home built from kits nowadays?

            1. Dunno. Ironic if so, because some of the kit aircraft are underpowered and dangerous if misflown.

            2. No, well, if you mean what people learn in, then no. You can’t give flight instruction in a homebuilt unless it is to the owner of the homebuilt and you (the instructor) have been checked out in a similar make and model. (As of ah, four years ago, that is.) If you want to learn to fly in a factory built plane, you are looking at a very mature Cessna 150/152, Piper Cherokee or Tomahawk (aka Traumahawk), or a Cessna 172, which could be older than the current POTUS, or brand new with a gazillion “safety” features that are a PITA to sort out and radios and a navigation computer system that make older airliners cockpits look like the Wright Flyer’s dashboard in comparison. No, I’m not a fan of glass for brand-new students, if you have not guessed.

              1. I just remember a ton of Long-EZs and Lancairs at the Big Bear Lake Fly-in each year. Oh yeah and some Kitfox planes that looked like they were powered by lawnmower engines.

                1. Snowmachine, not lawnmower. Sounds similar, but there’s enough of a demand Rotax is now making kit-airplane-specific.

                  Strange, how the aircraft that used to be “too light to bother regulating” exploded when the heavily-regulated industry died, eh?

                  1. They only sound similar to a deaf person. I can tell the difference between a lawnmower, a ATV, a utility snowmobile and a ‘play’ snowmachine by sound a mile away. And you just explained why I always thought a couple of kit planes sounded like a skidoo. 🙂

                    1. I dunno. The first time I heard someone say “Look out for the enraged lawmower!” as the Rotax fired up…

                      Well, I still giggle. And refer to them as such, too.

          3. Also – If you’re going to require “no sparrow shall fall” magic AI as a precondition for allowing people to mass produce aircraft, you’re basically forbidding it from ever happening.

            Just like nuclear power: De facto outlawed, despite the benefits.

          4. For those outside the aviation world, here’s a little inside baseball: Cessna actually stopped building the 172 in 1986 due to the liability law landscape, and they didn’t build any more until Congress passed aviation liability reform which limited the manufacturer’s liability after N years, so the company was not on the hook for 5 year old airframes. Cessna restarted production in 1993, and when they did, aside from avionics and upholstery and such, they basically made two major changes: They used a much larger displacement and somewhat more recent design powerplant, and they implemented a really overly complex seat support design that stands up to simply enormous G-loads in a crash. That’s pretty much it – the design as it had evolved through incremental change from the 1955 original design, and pretty much static in major form since 1963, through to production ending in 1986, was basically what they started making again in 1993.

            So if it’s pretty much the same plane why did the 1963 plane retail for the equivalent of a new low end Tesla at around $80K in 2016 dollars where the current plane retails for north of $360K?

            I’d say the difference in corrected-for-inflation price for a new 172 is more a function of very different production volume, combined with a very different product liability landscape even post-reform, in 2016 than in 1963. There’s just a lot more lawyers ready to sue Cessna if uncle Joe crashes into a hill than half a century ago.

            1. Made a port call in Spain back when Cannondale bicycles were made in America. They cost less in Barcelona then they did in Norfolk. The only possible explanation for that is liability laws.

              1. Or simply supply and demand. It is possible that they cost more in Norfolk simply because Cannondale knew they could get more for them there.

                  1. Any additional sale could be more profit. Higher production runs may lower cost per unit. Only Gucci and Rolex type products only sell them exclusively at max price outlets. Many possible reasons.

                    1. if the price is greater in Norfolk because of higher demand, it’s not an additional sale, it’s cannibalizing the Norfolk sale.

          5. It’s a consequence of product liability lawsuits. Operator error can never be the problem when someone with deep pockets is available. The side effect is that innovation in the market disappears. Bring out a new airplane, and when someone crashes it, as they will, their lawyers will argue that the fault lies with one or more of the new/different pieces.

            Not the same engine? Different wing geometry? Different instrument panel layout? Different-sized control yoke? Same model, but one of the materials has changed? You can expect that anything that hasn’t been proven safe by sufficient years of problem-free use to be blamed, probably successfully.

            My favorite (in the sarcastic sense) product liability lawsuit involved an individual who successfully sued a chainsaw manufacturer when he had been injured by a chainsaw he’d bought used, because prior owners had removed or disabled some of the safety features. The prior owners didn’t have deep-enough pockets, however.

            1. Not the same engine? Different wing geometry? Different instrument panel layout? Different-sized control yoke? Same model, but one of the materials has changed? You can expect that anything that hasn’t been proven safe by sufficient years of problem-free use to be blamed, probably successfully.

              It’s actually worse than that: Anything that is changed by the manufacturer as an improvement is used by the liability bar as an implicit admission that the previous design or material or manufacturing practice was faulty and thus the manufacturer is liable.

              After all, why didn’t Beechcraft install airbags in the very first 1947 Bonanza? It can only be negligence and malfeasance and bad breath, not that progress will inevitably result in improvements and new technologies that a manufacturer would be negligent to not incorporate once they were proven.

        3. The other problem with flying cars is that anti-gravity doesn’t yet exist. So, we have to make do with good old fashioned wings. The more weight you have, the more wing area you need. Now what do you do with all that wing when you are driving?
          The biggest reason we don’t have flying cars is because you wind up with something neither fish nor fowl- a monstrosity that is too big and bulky for regular use as a car, but too heavy and ungainly to be a fun airplane.

          1. There was a guy in Big Bear who had one of those 1950 amphibious cars. Looked really dorky on the road. Some of the looks he’d get when he would drive it down the launching ramp into the lake were priceless. As for its aquatic properties… For a boat it made a fairly decent car.

      2. I believe Terry’s point was not three writers, but rather three billion of the total six billion population.
        Traditional publishing for good and ill gave us gatekeepers who filtered what got through for general distribution. Even so Sturgeon’s law held true. 90% of it was crap. Those gatekeepers are no longer in charge. (shhhh, don’t tell them. Let them succumb to their well deserved fate on their own) Anyone can write anything and publish with the barest of restrictions, primarily regarding structure, format, and lack of copyright violation. And Teddies law still holds.
        But writing is hard work. Finishing even harder. Producing something that others would bother to read past the first page takes a combination of talent and craft along with a good bit of determination.
        In Channel Markers, a speech Heinlein gave at Annapolis back in the ’70s he broke down what it took to be a professional writer. Most of it is still true today. He still back then had to deal with those trad pub gatekeepers. Now and in future those gates have been distributed to the real owners, the reading public.

        1. People will either find ways to keep themselves together, or they will never get to 50% chasing after a single thing that isn’t food, shelter, maintenance, reproduction et cetera.

          We put a lot of effort into making food, shelter, water et cetera cheap. This has resulted in surplus. Enough that a person can survive without putting their hand to anything. Some choose to, get bored, then start trouble to manage the boredom. Trouble takes work to mitigate, thus sinking surplus productivity.

          Engineers are conservative. Productivity takes effort. Barring a quick solution to massive unnecessary wastes, which probably isn’t in the scope of business or technology, the increase of surplus as a fraction of idle population is likely to be slow. If it is necessarily slow enough, we probably will not see over half the adult population at loose ends if that would cause problems limiting reaching that case.

        2. Yeah, I was going for the three billion figure. But I wasn’t so much thinking about quality control as sheer overload. When a *large* fraction of the populace has nothing but leisure. When you say “I’m a writer” and people say “Oh, Ghod, another one?”

          And the same for every other creative vocation. A half-billion people trying to be sculptors because they have nothing better to do. And so on.

          How do you find your role in society when there are a thousand people for each role–in your medium-sized town?

          1. Why, you invent new work!

            Consider the fate of the scullery maid and the unskilled farmhand; one all but extinct in the era of the dishwasher, food processor, stick blender, microwave, and vacuum cleaner. The other put out of work by the thousands as the combine became a standard fixture on farms, and all but gone in the land of wheat, corn, and soybeans.

            Yet, somehow, despite the fears, not only are our cities not buried in piles of horse dung from the need for transportation by the increasing density of population, but we don’t have hundreds of thousands of men and women sitting permanently unemployable with folded hands for lack of coal dust to scrub from the floors and scythes to swing.

              1. Yeah, but that’s just a democrat administration. They always proclaim the end of work when we’re in power. it’s like declaring us ungovernable. (Rolls eyes.)

          2. In the opposite direction of Dorothy’s point, there are very few roles where you only need one per town. You can sometimes squeeze out a higher efficiency by having more people in an area (for example, I am now four times more efficient at being “mom” than I was when our first daughter was born) but you can also get higher quality from having more people in a role– six “office moms” on a department, with a different focus; you’ll burn yourself out being the “office mom” that does the coffee mess, brings in home-made snacks and acts as the clearing house for folks’ unwanted snacks, keeps track of folks’ family situations, keeps the recall list updated and organizes the monthly potlucks.

            Especially when you look at all the other organizations besides home, work, and gov’t– the snack example I mentioned is what I did for my geek group, the coffee one is what I did for my office, and they kept trying to pin me with the family and recall list one when I don’t really deal with people very well. (Because I was so willing to help, so another dozen things they figured were the same couldn’t possibly hurt, right?) I never got into the potluck one because it was already a political hotbed.

          3. As far as entertainment arts, taste segmentation.

            Genre, media, and other such things are easy to see. Others are harder.

            Take fanfic. This wasn’t really available mere decades ago. Part of that is tech and leisure time. Lot of flavors of fanfic. RuroKen is distinct from Ranma/Sailor Moon, which isn’t Gundam Wing Yaoi.

            Add in language groupings, national grouping, groupings from the limits of the human mind to really care about the opinions of very many people, and there shouldn’t be any shortage of areas to focus on.

            1. If there are a lot of people doing arts, there are a lot of people using art supplies. Add in analysis, and there should be a fair amount of secondary industry from such hobbyists.
            2. Perhaps there are limits to the fraction of the population that can really care much about creatives arts. I dunno. Certainly, not everyone is turned on by creative engineering arts.

            1. “RuroKen is distinct from Ranma/Sailor Moon, which isn’t Gundam Wing Yaoi.’ And I have no idea about others, but I have no idea what any of these are. Wee, I have at least heard of Sailor Moon. That’s the extent of my Sailor Moon knowledge. Sort of like I know there is a Snooki, but I’m not sure why…

              1. Rurouni Kenshin is a Japanese boy’s comic book about a remorseful former assassin. He is fictional, and very loosely based on historical assassins from a civil war the Japanese had at the time of the ACW.

                Sailor Moon is a property that intersects the magical girl and combat team genres. Ranma 1/2 is a slapstick comedy about a martial artist who randomly changes gender and has a FUBAR family situation. There are many many crossover fanfics between the two.

                Gundam is one of the major giant humanoid robot properties. Gundam Wing was a series made for it in the mid nineties, involving five teenage boys sent on a world wide killing spree. Yaoi in this case refers to fanfics written to assume homosexual relationships.

                I thought I had avoided any of the truly obscure properties.

                Naruto and Harry Potter are even more widely known, but I think may have a wider range of stories that one might expect.

                ‘Halloween fics’ deserve mention. These are fanfic revolving around a particular episode of Buffy.

                Look at fanfic, look at table top gaming, look at Asian language internet publishing, look at videogames. Unless we get poorer as society, I think it is fair to predict many more obscure niches of entertainment art.

                1. Sorry, the only names I recognize there are Harry Potter and Buffy. Well and Sailor Moon, but not from the entertainment industry, and from your description, not what the comic is based on, either.

                2. Wasn’t actually asking for an explanation; more pointing out what you said is true. In 1953, 44 million people watched one episode of I Love Lucy, or 27.5% of the population. In 2013/14 the most watched show had 23.1 million viewers over the course of the season. 7.3% of the population. The most watched shows by black Americans don’t even register on the Neilsen ratings for whites. Used to be you could talk about what was on TV last night, and most everyone you associated with was watching the same thing. No longer true. Fragmentation.

          4. Perhaps some will go in for practical handicrafts. After all, you can get a premium for “hand made” even today. Get all your furniture made by hand.

          5. Nowadays, people will assume you are a housewife/husband if you say you’re a writer.

  16. “Or why science fiction people – particularly those involved in the field as either small gods of fandom, con goers, participants in some science fiction book club, or “just” costumers – are in general less prone to the pathologies of the time.”

    Not so sure this is entirely true anymore, not in this age of paranoid “zero tolerance” con policies and asstersik awards.

      1. On the other hand, the growth of Steampunk as a seperate thing from the traditional SF con certainly makes sense in this context: Distinct male and female garb (and even the women in overalls with big wrenches are very clear they’re cross-dressing), high emphasis on courtesies, including very gender-based ones…

        You do make me wonder about the ultimate product of mass conformity / breaking down all roles being a pendulum swing to Neo-middle-to-upper-class Victorians. (The presence of the washing machine, dryer, vacuum cleaner, dishwasher, and microwave alone means that we’re all functioning on the equivalent of at least four servants, not counting the lawnmower, hedge trimmer, weed whacker, and roto-tiller.) Without nearly the presence and spectacle of death in the society, though, unless some of these superbugs get away from us faster than we can cope…

        1. Does anyone remember the News of the Weird feature from about two years ago about the mall that banned costumed Steampunkers who were meeting at a food court stand? As if the mall staff was jumping the gun on Steampunk being non SJW.

          1. I saw a young lady in Steampunk-style garb at my local mall a while back. I complimented her appearance, but for some reason failed to ask her reason.

        2. …a pendulum swing to Neo-middle-to-upper-class Victorians.

          Also see the popularity of Downton Abbey, the run of which just completed last night – I’m interested to see the ratings vs., oh, say, some random political debate.

  17. But the other part of it has nothing to do with affluence, but with the deliberate ripping down of roles.

    *lightbulb* You know, one of the reasons that socialism is the only idiology flatly condemned in the CCC is because it’s totalitarian– top down. There are no intermediate organizations between Man and State.

    And now, in the name of being nice, there are schools that will try to deliberately break up friendships……

      1. Likely because “being friends with one person makes the not-a-friend feel left out”. 😦

        1. Though C.S. Lewis went on at length in The Four Loves about how friendship is inherently abhorrent to the totalitarian types well before “exclusion” became a buzzword in clueless anti-bullying programs.

          Note to anti-bullies out there: exclusion is bullying when there’s always the tantalizing hint you might get into the club, and procedures for entry involve lots of self-abasement one way or another. “Stop tagging along,” by contrast, is pretty straightforward.

          1. True about Lewis, but I think what I said is the “official” reason given.

      2. by saying that it’s racist for whites to friends with other whites. Also it is another way for gov’t to crowd out any other relationship beyond gov’t and citizen.

      3. They’re “disruptive.” And “unfair.”

        Has hit the news several times, in different areas– sort of like the “confiscate everyone’s binders, folders, pencils and backpacks for the teachers to redistribute” thing. (Not as common as the “assign people to bring in classroom supplies in addition to their own stuff” plots, though.)

        1. School districts that practice redistribution of personal property should be sued. Maybe prosecuted for larceny.

          1. The ones I’ve heard of had something worse– moms or grandmas like my own mother went in and informed them that the property would be returned. Now.

            They would have preferred the lawsuit.

        1. Talk about an institutionalized way to kill meaning in people’s lives… I mean, everything Sarah mentioned in the OP happened pretty much because it was helped by circumstance. This… I mean, did they think that Rankin and Bass were actually recommending that children “let the world go drifting by”? I cannot fathom anyone who’s had childhood friends actually believing this.

          1. While it’s quite obviously the wrong solution, it is trying to fix a real problem– bullying, especially bullying by those whose parents will threaten the school. Bullying that can and has gone into criminal assault and harassment territory.

            My solution, as y’all have noticed, is to remove my kids from the toxic environment; teachers don’t have authority to do much, and what authority they DO have, half aren’t qualified to use like a sane being, much less a licit authority.

              1. To an extent, it will fix it for Foxfier’s kids, but exacerbate it for those kids whose parent’s send them to school for a handy daycare while they work to make a living. On the other hand, as you exacerbate the problem you will cause more and more people to take Foxfier’s solution, until eventually you are left with only the toxic kids in the toxic environment, pure strychnine in a bottle on the shelf is not nearly the problem of strychnine dumped in your well. If your well water is pure, most people have the sense to avoid drinking out of the bottle with the skull and crossbones label.

        2. Don’t want anyone sad so don’t let anyone be happy. Keep everyone plodding along an nice even bleh. Who thinks this is good?

          1. It’s just a variation on punishing the victims who resist– it makes things easier for the teachers if they don’t have to think when doing punishment.

            1. Neither was 1984, but the idiots seem to have memorized the worst bits. Like the Samsung smart-TV that watches you, records what you say and sends all the data to the office to be used for marketing et cetera. What could possibly go wrong?

      4. because one person was considered a “bad” influence on the other. this was attempted on me (both sides) back in grade school (mid to late 60’s)
        sarah as for people are not rats ……….

  18. I wonder to what extent the fact that we now all have to work way to much and that local volunteer communities are falling apart is responsible for the Europeanization of our society.</i<

    I know that organizational capture has done a lot to make it worse– folks were working a lot back then, but my parents were still able to volunteer because stuff wasn’t scheduled for, oh, 3pm on a Wednesday, and they’d let you bring your kids.

    Now I have an, in theory, much easier path to joining groups like that… and I can’t, because everything has been organized to make it easy on the same people who were in charge in the 80s and 90s. And then they complain because nobody new is joining.

    The few groups I know that are recruiting effectively get into issues because they generally have to go through one of the other groups that are still controlled by the same folks as 20 years ago, and they don’t want to allow the use of shared resources. (Kind of an ugly fight going on right now with our local Knights group, because they’re actually managing to recruit a decent number of the Millennial men via the strange route of “meetings at reasonable times,” and “not driving them away for being under 40.”)

    1. “meetings at reasonable times,”

      Once again I am reminded of the story of the appliance repair shop that did an amazing business, to the bewilderment of others. And the secret was no secret: OPEN: 5 PM – MIDNIGHT.

  19. We can define “good” as a person who lives up to his obligations.

    That’s the real problem.

    The idea of obligations. Of rights having responsibilities. Especially of obligations that you don’t pick and choose, then sign via legal contract with loop-holes to escape if it gets too tough.

    Being someone who doesn’t live up to their obligations has a consequence, so the very idea that obligations EXIST must be torn down, unless it’s being used to force people to do what you wish.

    1. Well the opposite is happening also. Fathers have many obligations but few rights here in America. So many young men are dropping out of the productive life. It’s a lot easier to live as a bachelor.

      1. It can look like that, but if you look at cause and effect– you’ll find they’re just displaced responsibilities, where someone else is getting their license. (Liberty- responsibility= license for this.)

        Look at what normal mothers and fathers get dumped on their laps– all sorts of junk from only-biologically-adult “parents” dodging responsibility.

        The way guys get screwed just tends to be more public. Dead women don’t complain to their friends and family, after all, and murdered children aren’t even seen. Women and children that were actually abandoned and the cad being forced to fulfill some portion of his obligation are invisible because it’s just– or they’re just less harmed than others. (I’ve seen guys who abandoned their wives and children complain because the $100 they pay in child support for their two sons wasn’t reduced any further. While spending more than that on chew. Doesn’t make the other guy I know whose wife abandoned him, then took the kids and he still has to buy them clothes when they come visit any better off.)

        1. Yes, what you say is true. I was thinking more of the numerous twenty-something men that have absolutely no interest in starting a family because they see marriage as a suckers game. Once you father a child, responsibilities follow whether you want them or not.

          1. Well, and then there’s the mismatch issue due to the three-circle Venn diagram of potential partners.
            First circle: People I would be attracted to.
            Second Circle: People who would be attracted to me.
            Third Circle: People who are readily available.

  20. Let’s start by affirming…that “overpopulation” (also known as “the danger of too many humans”) is a bogus fear.

    Well, it could be. And it should be. But to be as accurate as possible, it might be better to say that it’s a remote fear — even an exceedingly remote one.

    Opening the frontier over our heads would put an end to it, hopefully for good and all. But does it ever seem to anyone else here that the Powers That Be are not thrilled with that prospect? To the power elite, loss of population means diminution of power, and when there’s an open frontier, the brightest and most ambitious will move toward it. It’s a good part of what curbed federal rapacity during the years from the end of the Civil War to the end of Grover Cleveland’s second term.

    1. Francis, embrace the power of “everything we know about population is government statistics. Why should net recipients of “aid per capita” not inflate?” Look, it’s not just Heinlein’s visit to Moscow. I’ve been to places that feel AT WORST half the size reported. A friend whose friends work with NGOs providing water to third world cities say that it’s impossible they’re the size they say they are. Even at third world water-usage, it’s impossible.
      THERE SHOULD be a way to do research on this by water/etc. but I don’t have the time.

      1. Forget government statistics, Sarah. They’re wrong so often that our going-in posture should be “It’s from the government? Therefore it’s wrong.” I was thinking of what Herman Kahn and Julian Simon called the “boundary of crustal abundance,” which is why “exceedingly remote” strikes me as the appropriate characterization. We’d need about a trillion of us to reach that limit to our resources.

            1. Earth. The US is inflated too (all those “uncountables” they add in) but not nearly as much. We’re aspergers nation. we take these rules seriously.

              1. Whatever the real number, Paul Ehrlich is an evil prophet of doom. His book so warped the boomers minds that over population is axiom at the base of Leftist reasoning. Gotta scare the masses into ceding control.

                1. “Don’t you think the world has enough humans as it is, you selfish prick?” is a surprisingly versatile statement where the scarier side of leftist policy is concerned. (“Selfish” here invariably means “has a deep love for people other than themselves.” Go figure.)

                  By the by, I’m informed that doctors in Canada are now being forced to either perform euthanasia or recommend the suicidal terminally ill to doctors who will, and there’s pressure to extend the measure to suicidal minors who are NOT terminally ill.

                  1. What amazes me is that the Progressives never seem to understand what a declining population is going to do, in fact is already doing to all those programs set up on the basis of INCREASING population. The only reason Social Security has lasted as long as it did was the baby boom. And the fact that the government went to great strides to manage things so that the baby boomers were discouraged from having large families, is going to bit the Progs real soon now. As in Social Security and Medicare are going to be unsustainable, starting right now.

              2. How about last Stalinist gov figure before the German invasion? I just got a book about Barbarossa in which the official figure was 194.1 million,

          1. Why would there be spectacularly false advertising on this point? I mean, where is the population being overstated and why is everyone agreeing on figures that aren’t really all that alarmist if you think about them?

            1. Sigh. Because most of this is driven by America. And America doesn’t get how other countries work.
              Look, most countries give a “bonus per baby” — Portugal did — which persists as long as the kid is living at home and non-self-supporting. I THINK my parents are still receiving mine, which on forms means I still live there. And they’re honest for the country.
              Look, it’s almost impossible to explain how even in an arguably first — at worst second — world country like Portugal it would be impossible to COUNT the population.
              Going to less organized countries… Do you think anyone went out and counted the Bedouins? PFUI.
              This is all estimation and when you’re a net recipient of funds well… it pays to inflate upward.
              Periodically reports leak out that there are indications say muslim populations are ALREADY falling, but the birth statistics are inflated. (As for their unending stream of immigrants. They’re that craptacular at maintaining a functioning economy.)

              1. I trust our census data less each time and ours is likely the world’s most accurate. All government numbers seem to be warped by agendas. Not trying to be paranoid, just cynical.

              2. Not sure if Mark Steyn would be relieved or devastated by this news. But, if true, definitely put me in the “relieved” column.

                1. The problem is that we can’t be sure, but apparently the internet allowed Muslim women to discover the rhythm method and they’re voting with their wombs.

                2. Mark Steyn is one of many people who use birthrates, immigration rates, and demographics to try and forecast the future. Issue is, this is mathematical modeling, and many of them don’t have the background to understand the limits of that art. I’ve heard that forecasting populations is pretty unreliable. Like decades out is try to tell today whether another Tornado is going to hit Moore on 5-17-2016. Or maybe even 5-17-2017.

                  I don’t know Steyn’s background, just know he knows an awful lot about showtunes and other stuff I never bothered with, because mathematical modeling is more interesting.

                  1. Mark believes in free speech with all his heart. He abhors politicized bad science. The first two are why he is being sued by Mr. “Hockey Stick” Mann. Other times he quixotically tilts at windmills. His opinions are always well expressed and interesting. Even when I think he is barking up the wrong tree.

            2. I know that the US Census was doing a lot of insane estimates– things like believing that there really were +200 illegals living at an abandoned lot– because representation in a state is based on population, not citizens.

      2. The only government statistics that could ever be believed were those from Britain and British settled nations. That includes us. That is no longer true. No one, and that includes the people putting them, believes the official unemployment statistics put out by our current government.

        When you lose trust in a person- it’s never gained back, not fully. How many generations will it take for our government to regain the trust of the people? I can pretty much guarantee- not in the lifetime of my children.

        No statistic out of Africa is even close to true as regards population. Wander through Africa on Google Earth. Look at the infrastructure, lack thereof.

    2. It’s highly unlikely that we would be able to offset a problem with overpopulation by sending people offworld. The number of people who could be sent that way, even if we have fusion power, would almost certainly not be high enough to compensate for growth.

      Right now, it seems unlikely that it will happen, but there is always the possibility that the notion of larger families will catch on in the future.

  21. Of course it could be a matter of our brain thinking we’re overpopulated (there is the perception we know more people than we know, due to TV and other media) or even of our being too densely packed together in some areas…

    Living in an insanely dense gigantic city (Atlanta), I can attest that this is a strong and deep influence on my worldview and mood. It’s hard to see past it when you are, everyday, immersed in a crush of people with very little privacy. I can only really get privacy and relax when I get home in the evening (which, incidentally, is the only time I can actually get my work done.)

    At school, my desk is in one of those open plan offices. I never spend any time at it because I can’t think. Nevermind about the noise – I have no control over my space. My back is to a crowded wide open room, not a wall. I often get much more work done in a bench in a lab that no one uses, where I can get some privacy, and my chair is against a wall.

    At my old school, there were places to get away from other people. The school had twice as many students, but was 1/5 as population-dense (had 10x the land area). It had several libraries with niches like basements and the periodical stack where you could hole up with a reasonable amount of privacy and actually *think*.

    In my current school, everything is wide open spaces and public area. There are very few niches, very few places where you can have control over your personal space.

    So yes, Calhoun’s rat experiments resonate with me. Especially the parts where he was discussing the rats that could take over a room, versus those that were pushed out into the public areas. The ones that grabbed the rooms remained sane the longest.

    1. Also, even for very highly skilled scientists/engineers/technicians – the job market these days exudes an attitude where: “You are applicant #5999/6000. Thank you for applying, but you’d have better luck with the lottery! Bye!”

      At the September career fair, there were students in suits and ties lining up, wrapping around the block and down North Avenue, waiting up to 5 hours to get into the gym and present their resume to companies. There were a few dozen companies represented, but there were maybe 100 students per booth at a time, in line trying to get the recruiters to notice them. We all presented our resumes to the recruiters, and the refrain was always the same: “Thank you for your interest. We will scan these for reference, but apply online.” When you apply online, unless your application is written so that it has all of hundreds of keywords for absurdly long qualification lists inserted, it won’t get past the automated resume filters to an actual human being. I’ve gotten auto-rejected from a few dozen positions I was actually pretty well qualified for.

      I don’t mean to sound whiny: I fully realize that being in my field, with the experience I have, I have a far far better shot than anyone with just a Bachelors in anything. But the job market hammers you over the head every single day with the following message:

      “There are too damn many people. There are no jobs for you. It doesn’t matter what your skills are (unless you are some superhuman perfect match), the world doesn’t need you, the world doesn’t want you, and the world sort of resents the fact that you exist.”

      1. The problem is that people aren’t widgets and some jobs can’t recruited using a system designed to reject candidates. Which is why so many jobs keep going unfilled, sometimes for years. You can see the ads keep getting posted. When the talent pools are very shallow you really can’t do this sort of stuff. It’s those very pools that are the ones that are just totally screwed up.

        1. Another problem is the idea that jobs are given, not earned. And what about inventing your own job. America used to be a nation comprised of small businessmen and independent farmers.

          1. It’s going to take some time before I’d be secure enough to take the plunge into starting my own business. Right now, I’m cruising a few months of savings above $0. To start a business, you need a product: Product development takes time. Blitting out software is easy, but everyone and their brother does software. Electronic hardware will require me to cram a bit more EE background than I’ve picked up so far. Anything else will require capital equipment.

            For now, I’m going to keep applying to jobs in my field (aerospace, which also requires tons of capital equipment). I figure that, at 1/30 chance of interview per application, I’ll need to apply to at least 50 or 60 positions to have a good chance of securing a job.

            1. I moved to Reno and worked as Big Griz Home Repair for a few years. Basically just doing handyman work. It’s just amazing what simple fixes are beyond the abilities of many successful people. Then I found my current engineering position. Starting a business with employees and all is a much more ambitious proposition.

              1. I suppose there are simpler things I could try. I’d like to try them on the side first (if circumstances allow) so that I know I’d be able to make a living doing them.

              2. Thanks though: It’s heartening to hear it when people manage to support themselves doing useful things. I hope I can do the same if I run into the need to do it.

            2. And starting even a one man business involving engineering is slow. Product development . . . and then the US patent office. My son’s given it a go, and is running out of his savings and diving back into the job market.

              1. I have three different inventions– just gadgets, actually– that I looked into monetizing.

                It would cost me more to get them patented, if I did everything I can myself, than I could possibly make back via selling 100 of them. Assuming I got good prices on parts and my labor is free.

            3. Don’t limit yourself to “your field”, this is a common refrain from people complaining about there not being any jobs available. No, there are practically always jobs available in the US, they just aren’t jobs that you want to do.

            4. As an aside, the OKC area is hiring for a number of entry levels and will be for a while. Boeing or Tinker thru USA Jobs. Pretty inexpensive.

          2. PPS – I don’t know when our economy became so dysfunctional that the proposed transaction: “I’ll come in and trade my time, learn your process, and do your work, making/designing/debugging your company’s product so that you can sell it and make money” became some sort of outrageous intransigence on the part of a job-seeker? What are we supposed to do to “earn” a job, exactly? Grovel? Beg?

            1. Some employers run through a bunch of temp workers. They only hire the best of the temps. Also thinking of new college grads with no work experience who feel they deserve high level employment due to a piece of paper.

              In this economy that is being choked by unreasonable over-regulation, getting a job is tough. We moved to Reno because I just could not remain in southern California.

              1. “. Also thinking of new college grads with no work experience who feel they deserve high level employment due to a piece of paper.”


            2. Part of it is aerospace is top heavy and stovepiping since people die in desk. Other parts is that people are expecting too much (I cannot stand all the begging for cafeterias, health clubs, etc at work.) Plus there are other headwinds.

              Plus you have an easy spigot for a lot of jobs to get someone thru visas that there is an entire industry designed to force reqs that cannot be filled by natives. And a bunch of other idiots who ‘prove’ to companies that they only want the perks and will jump in a year anyway for a higher paycheck before they can even really contribute.

        2. The publishers were also doing this because their system is designed to reject. Hence tons of indies now making hundreds of thousands never got a read.

          1. Random Penguin just had a big layoff and dumped a bunch of authors. The puppy kickers were rather upset over it, especially Ms. Hurley.

            1. she’s not even with them, but yes. When you pick for ideological purity, you’re going to not have good economic results. The funny part? And not funny ahah? They’ll learn nothing from this.

              1. What’s that old SF phrase, evolution in action.
                You don’t learn, you die.

              2. Good economic results are not one of their goals.

                They’re like ticks on a dog. The dog’s problems and objectives are not theirs. If the dog dies, they just pull out and find another dog.

        3. Back in the mid’90s there were some weekly, newspaper-sized computer magazines. One of them – I’ve since forgotten which – ran a classified ad that read something like this:

          “Database Manager Wanted. CS degree and IBM MVS and VAX experience required. Hands-on SAP administration. Must be able to support WordPerfect users on a Novell network. Relocation to our Fargo, ND site is required. Must speak fluent conversational Japanese and be willing to spend four to six months per year at our Hamamatsu site. No relocation bonus. Compensation up to $32K. Contact….”

          I cut that one out and stuck it on my cubicle wall. Gee, I wonder why they had trouble filling that position…

          [there are actually several more requirements than that; it was like a laundry list of “if we could hire one person to be an entire multinational IT department, he’d need all this…”]

          1. There is perhaps the possibility that for contractual reasons that job had to be advertised, but that the requirements were written specifically to the actual qualifications of the person they’d already selected to fill it.
            Probably not, but I’ve seen more than one occasion of such a gerrymandered job advert.

            1. Yeah, that occurred to me even then. The Japanese part was a flashing signal. And a mainframer doing PC helpdesk work…

              I’ve looked at a number of job listings at government contractors that were not as blatant, but definitely in the same ballpark.

              1. Or maybe this. There are needs for three separate jobs but money in the budget for one. So HR advertises a job combining all three position’s requirements. Then HR tells each manager that they couldn’t find any qualified applicants. We have a sort of smooshed together job opening where I work that nobody is applying for.

                1. So hire one person for the most important of the three positions. 1 out of three is better than 0 out of three.

                  1. Internal company politics can get incredible stupid and counterproductive. Your solution postulates competent management. What we get is Dilbert’s pointy-haired manager.

                    1. If the management is unproductive enough and the gov’t chills the economy enough they will go out of business. If you also have unions you end up with Detroit.

                    2. The first company I worked for was pre-Dilbert and the President was the inspiration for the PHB. And Catbert.

                      I point blank refused to implement one piece of illegal code he wanted (something about allowing the user to short commissions with no paper trail). One of our competitors was even less ethical, so they implemented it and got put out of business 6 months later. When the news hit the vending machine industry news I just asked him if he had a better understanding why that wasn’t a good idea. Creep.

            2. It’s also one of the commoner ways of gaming the H1B law; advertise a position no one is qualified to fill, or on some obscure channel (because the law doesn’t mandate the same level of exposure as for government actions), claim there are no qualified Americans, then import.

              1. Speaking of gaming the employment laws, back in the 1980s – perhaps into the 1990s – I used to see positions advertised with phrases like, “… and six months in the job offered.”

                Obviously, they had an intern who could do the job acceptably, and who either needed a green card or was cheaper than anyone else was expected to be. They changed the law so that could no longer be advertised as a requirement, though I don’t know how much effect that had on actually filling the positions.

            3. Or legal reasons.

              I remember an advice columnist — ethics — who wrote in that he is advertising this job dishonestly because he’s legally required to; is there anything he could do to make it more ethical? (The columnist suggested that he add it’s being advertised in accordance with xyz law.0

          2. They could fill it they were willing to pay better I know someone who spends 300 nights a year on the road. He makes in the low 6 six figures and the company pays for his hotel room, food, rental car and air travel to and from work site.

            If a company wants an extremely skilled and experienced employee they have to at least pay what he’d get where he is now. If the job has unusual requirement as to work location and and languages spoken you need to ramp up the salary accordingly and pay some costs like relocation. Also if your candidate is married with children you have to take that into account.

            If you propose to pay him about as much as a Dep’t store manager with no relocation bonus you won’t get the best or even fill the position at all. If you pay significantly less than similar positions in the field you most certainly won’t fill the position. Sometimes taking crap pay is a way to start your career. 30 years later you should be doing better financially.

          3. I know when you see ads like that for ag work, they’re filling the requirements before they can get someone in on a work permit.

          4. It’s when they want five years experience in a product released last month that you really wonder.

            1. I have one of those little 3-line classified job postings clipped and taped to a 3×5 somewhere. It’s asking for someone with “57 years” of C++ experience. I presume that it’s actually a typo for “5-7 years,” but I was amused.

              I could also be wrong. I remember one ad asking for OS/2 experience in an amount that meant that the only qualified applicants would be those who had been working on it at Microsoft from day 1 of the development effort.

              1. Well, it is a popular story in the IT world that David Hansson was turned down for a Ruby on Rails job for insufficient experience. Given he is the creator of the framework it appears only time traveler’s need apply.

                In the mid to late 90s I saw Java ads requiring 7-10 years experinence. I figure these things come from an HR book that says “senior programmers have 7-10 experience in the relevant language” and come hell or high water they are going to demand that even if the language is 5 years old.

          5. I’ve got a little two-line newspaper classified job offering clipped and taped to a 3×5. It reads something like, “World-class theoretical physicist needed. Experience required in QED and MHD.”

            I often wondered who they thought they’d reach.

            1. Odd to see it in a newspaper, but presumably they would have expected to reach someone experienced in Quantum Electro-Dynamics and Magneto-HydroDynamics.

      2. I was wondering but definitely know the school. Admittedly Atl is one of the less painful cities (NYC or LA were worse). I was lucky in that I was already affiliated with a company thru research work when I graduated and that they were expanding in an area where I was interested. Plus the work I had meant I had an office with only a few people and a total of under a dozen people allowed inside period.

        But for all the prestige that the North Ave Trade School has, I learned a hell of a lot more in undergrad in the shop and in the planes. All I learned at tech was how to use VBA and check boxes. My lead chose me partly because I had interest and experience in the real world and was relatively well written in terms of the resume etc.

        But this is after getting out of Ugrad and sending hundreds of applications out and simply getting lucky/being aggressive in getting a ride to Tech. But it takes the same thing to actually get work. Either connections where they open a req for you or resume luck.

    2. I recognize that the key issues here are not overpopulation, as such, but economic malaise and almost malevolent urban planning, architecture, and office design. But it feels the same: Whether the world is so crowded because there simply isn’t any room left, or the world is overcrowded because you are crammed into a megacity dystopia where there is no economic role for you.

      1. Urban Planners. What a bunch of manipulating, ideologica,l civilization wreaking CRAZIES! They all want us to live in rabbit warren. Suburbs and exurbs are anathema to them. Let cities grow organically.

        1. I took a semester of architecture along the way. (Yes, yes, I have a music degree. So? They didn’t stop me from taking everything else that caught my interest.) The thing about urban planning that caught my attention is that some of the urban planners were really good: they based their designs on villages. A few shops, some office buildings, tiny individual houses, and parks, designed on a walkable scale. But those weren’t very efficient designs. Though they were very, very green designs.
          Other urban planners were the beehive sort. The first type, the pseudo-village type, those places looked like a person could live in them and stay mostly sane. The beehive type mega-structures, well, you’d probably have to be a hive insect to be happy there, but you could sure pack the people in. Neither group was in favor of more than a thousand square feet of living space, but when you’re doing urban, that makes some sense.
          None of them were suitable for someone like me who likes their neighbors better when they live at least a half-mile away.

          1. Worse, some of the urban planners think they can create perfect societies by building “perfect” cities.

            Don’t know where they’re going to get the perfect people to live in those “perfect” cities. 😈 😈 😈 😈

          2. And how many of these people who felt they could be entrusted with dictated where and how people lived had raised kids? Or cared for elderly parents? Or even had to work a night shift while crammed in an apartment building with thin floors and walls?

            The beehive sounds awesome when you’re a hip teenager who thinks the dorms are just fine, and the city is an amazing and wonderful place. Introduce toddlers, preteens, elderly, the need for long-term maintenance, or night shift, and they become intolerable.

          3. It seems like a lot of them expect– no, count on– people changing to work with the design. The “beehive” folks you mention are also sort of looking at villages, but it’s from the “access (time or distance) to resource” level, and they don’t account for spikes in demand or non-standard demands.

            So they’ll do things like design a central washing machine area that can handle twice the laundry for the people assigned to it, if they had no more than 10 minutes between loads during operation hours, assuming nobody has more than one pair of average slacks, one pair of average underthings, one average shirt and one pair of average jammies. (Navy school barracks. They ended up taking out one of the rooms and converting it to a laundry room, and we only had 2/3 of the population we were supposed to, and people STILL had to take their laundry elsewhere.)

            Or the traffic designs that assume that two lines of traffic can merge at 35 mph and do so seamlessly, if they’d just go to the end of the lanes; this doesn’t work in reality, because nobody has the computer programmed “standard” following distance, and there are always people who will jump around to cut. I’ve watched people zip around on the dirt at the side of the road to get ahead, because people were actually merging as best as could be hoped for in reality.

        1. The root of most urbanites is that they think *everyone* should love living in their ant farm. And if not, they should be forced to nayway.

          Their hatred for suburbs and disdain for rural areas is most amusing. We think your ant farm is a festering sore, and for the most part we don’t even want to visit, much less live there…

          1. They are often childless people convinced that they know better than parents what children need, How can children be properly acculturated to life in an ant farm if they grow up rural.

            1. Meh. I prefer city living. I don’t care how other people live. It’s just what I prefer. I have friends (one of them in NYC) in the same position.

          2. Most urbanites vote Democrat. Suburban, exurban, small town and rural people vote Republican. Force everyone to live in urban center, rent an apartment and use mass transit and send kids to public school and you’ll get an unending stream of democrats elected.

          3. I remember a writer once trying to be fair about the attractions of city vs. country life. The literal only attraction he ascribed to the country was the beauty of nature.

            1. But with that is that also because of the ADD idea of “to go out you need to go to a club or museum or…” Part of the draw for me to the rural suburbs is that it is simpler and less busy. I can live and work on my own as opposed to having to jostle everyone else.

              Too often these comparisons are based on the author’s innate prejudice of ‘I can’t live without constant stimulation/lots of restaurants/culture/etc’ and are worth about nil.

              1. I thought that was Mary’s point — that the author in question was too mired in his own mindset to consider why anybody might prefer something else.

                1. I find a walk in nature invigorating. Neighborhood walks are OK if you have vistas of the wider world. I find cities and the great eastern forests of America claustrophobic.

                2. And I don’t begrudge it. Heck, I live close enough to cities that I can go out to ‘the city’ if I want. I just deal with enough people my age who cannot entertain themselves and absolutely caterwaul that they can’t go get booze at 4 AM.

                  It’s more the ones that seem like they could not survive outside of a city if their life depended on it. Plus they tend to be the ones that look down on those in the country.

                  Trying to use smaller brushes but I keep getting out the dang 10 in roller.

                  1. I just deal with enough people my age who cannot entertain themselves and absolutely caterwaul that they can’t go get booze at 4 AM.


                    *walks over to cupboard, opens, points at the booze collection*

                    Forethought. Zomga.

                    1. Exactly my response. I am used to package stores while coworkers mad that no liquor at CVS

                    2. Well, that’s my reaction to people complaining about “blue laws” that make it impossible for them to purchase booze on Sunday.

                      “Why didn’t you think ahead”?

                    3. “Why didn’t you think ahead”?

                      Because they were drunk?

                      Really, I used to complain about not being able to get booze at 3 AM when I was 17 (well not usually even then, because parties tended to be way out in the woods where you weren’t within reach of store if one did happen to be open) after that I grew up and learned to plan ahead.

              2. what about the people who like the country and see everything else as crazy busy and too crowded. I like suburbs because they are halfway between city and country.

                1. I grew up in the country. I’m not fond of it. Just am not. It’s who I am. I find it weird for people to make value judgements on anyone for liking a different environment.
                  Look, my ancestors are likely to have been urban or at least urban-capable for much longer than most Northern Europeans. Call it different genetic preference if it makes you happy.
                  I like big cities because I’m an introvert but like to see people. An anonymous crowd is my ideal place.

    3. While the Atlanta metro area is sprawling, it is NOT insanely dense, in fact it is only #50 on the list of metro areas sorted by density. LA is over 4x denser. Regardless, your point regarding the need for personal space still holds.

      1. And from what I understand, LA (which sprawls out for quite some distance in all directions) isn’t as dense as NYC.

        1. Yeah, I grew up there. Spread out bedroom communities just grew and grew until you can’t tell when one suburb ends and the next begins except the street signs have changed color. It’s a bit higher density within three miles of the Pacific. That stretch has a Way better climate.

          Knotts Berry Farm was still a farm when I was a kid. We drove past it on the way to the beach.

      2. Well it’s that, and the area he speaks of is the Midtown area which is dense as heck. And North ave over 75/85 is the work of the Devil. I lived 2 mi from school. It took an hour to drive in in the morning.

        1. Ugh…I can look out my window that bridge and it is almost always backed up onto 75/85.

          I did enjoy living in Midtown when I first got here but having a house is so much nice.

          1. Ya. I much more like being in Oklahoma where I never drop under 45 for the drive to work except for stop signs. Or the odd horse or cow in the road..

  22. *nod* Yeah. John B. Calhoun. I first ran across his ideas as the basis for the plot of a little known sci-fi thriller/horror novel back in the late 70s titled “The Irving Effect”, by *unintelligible sound* (Couldn’t even find it on a quick internet search, so I don’t know who it’s by.) I got curious about the underlying ideas, as I’m wont to do, and I followed the bibliography notes and went looking for the source, which led me to Calhoun’s experiments.

    What a lot of people who use Calhoun’s model to scream and point about over population overlook (intentionally or not) is that Calhoun’s first colony self segregated into twelve or thirteen colonies of a dozen or so rats, and never bred themselves into the overpopulation zone. While there was a theoretical basis for producing up to 5000 offspring and breeding themselves out of habitat, the population never exceeded 200 or so. His first experimental colony also had room, almost 10,000 square feet…

    Humans aren’t rats. And the U.S. still has plenty of room for self segregation into enclaves small enough that overpopulation effects don’t set in, short of artificial outside manipulation. The places where the ah, “Irving Effect” sets in are the huge urban population areas that self-select for overpopulation and crowding: LA, NY/NJ/Baltimore Corridor, Miami, Houston Sprawl, Rust Belt cities, etc etc.

    I’ll leave it as an exercise for the observer to note that those all tend to be failed Democrat rule cities for the Great Society Experiments, except for possibly Houston, and draw their own conclusions.

    And even there, humans tend to self select out of the Irving Effect, given a chance: Detroit is practically abandoned. In the LA/San Diego corridor, the Left has had to resort to importing new populace as the old one flees.

    While we don’t have a frontier to take the excess these days, we still have plenty of room to bleed off the excess as they self-select to move to less crowded conditions. (And technology allows living comfortably in areas that our ancestors would have considered uninhabitable.)

  23. Abrupt changes in role can be stressful, especially if the social status change is downward. Retiring, marrying, divorce, quitting a job to be a full time mother. Losing a job for any reason is, IMO, a big one. We invest a lot of our egos in “I’m an Engineer” or “I’m a Teacher.” And suddenly you are . . . something smaller. Maybe still a role, “Retired grandfather,” but it just doesn’t get the automatic respect the former job got.

  24. ‘Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone,
    All just supply, and all relation;
    Prince, subject, father, son, are things forgot,
    For every man alone thinks he hath got
    To be a phoenix, and that then can be
    None of that kind, of which he is, but he.

    John Donne

  25. As I scrolled through all the comments about social roles, mores, responsibility, freedom etc., I connected it to something I read in the last few days. A poll that said a large number of fundamentalist Christians would like to establish Christian sharia, and that’s why liberals should be frightened of them.

    Christian sharia? Hmmm, interesting concept. So I reflected on it. And I pretty much came up with America in the 1950’s and early ’60’s. To0 start, there is no place in Christian theology for a theocracy. The most appropriate quote for that is “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”

    The government does need laws, and Christian based ones if it’s to be Christian sharia. So why not use those 10 laws that are on various government buildings? The 10 commandments, not suggestions. Now some of them, like 1-3, are theocratic in nature. So after some debate amongst the government planners, they’re done away with as secular law. Doesn’t mean you’re not going to be ostracized or refused communion if you disobey them- but that’s the business of the church, not Caesar.

    #4: Remember the Sabbath Day, keep it Holy. Courts have repeatedly upheld blue laws for secular reasons. Giving workers and communities a day of rest is a good secular idea. Before the 5 day work week the previous reform was the half-day Saturday, and before that the 6 day work week. I would actually go a step further in today’s world, having worked retail with highly irregular hours. But that’s details to be worked out later….

    #5: Honor your father and your mother. Kind of a given. Don’t think you need specific laws for this.

    #6: You shall not murder. Good all around law.

    #7: You shall not commit adultery. Under the UCMJ, you can still be prosecuted for this. For everyone else, this kind of fell by the wayside as a crime starting in the 1960’s. Good idea or bad idea? Methinks the results speak for themselves. Recriminalize adultery. Too bad for Newt. And Monica Lewinsky’s ex-boyfriend.

    #8:You shall not steal. Again, good all around law.

    #9: You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Covered well by perjury laws.

    #10: You shall not covet. Like 1-3, theocratic. And impossible to police in any event. How do you know whether or not I’m coveting?

    That’s pretty much the state of affairs back then. But, since it’s a Christian sharia we’re establishing, what else might we do? Well, we want everyone to be familiar with the Bible. They don’t have to believe it, or worship as it says to- but they need to know it, since we have a Christian sharia. Well, why not a short reading from the Bible every morning in public school? That ended when I was in the first grade and Miss Payne came into class, closed the Bible, took it off the lectern, and placed it on a shelf. Yes, that memory is clearly embedded in my brain. Are we better off for having ended that? Again, I think the results speak for themselves.

    How about the duties of the government. Well, it doesn’t actually need to reward good behavior, but people who fall on hard times through no fault of their own might need help. For example, Aid to Widows and Orphans. And, it should really, really not reward bad behavior and poor lifestyle choices. Such as Aid for Families With Dependent Children, declaring unwed mothers to be the same as Widows. Moynihan- a Democrat- warned what would happen. He was right. If I were establishing a Christian sharia, AFDC goes away.

    There are a few other minor tweaks I would make. I’d make it harder to get married. Not that much harder. A pre-cana or pre-marital course. The one day pre-cana my wife and I went through was very eye opening- to a few of the other couples there. We had already discussed everything that came up. And, I’d make divorce after children much harder. A lot harder. And require fault. That’s even after the children have left the house. Before children? Eh. sign here, you’re done.

    The USA of 1960, IMHO, really is pretty much what a Christian sharia would look like. You’d be free to practice your beliefs- within reason. No human sacrifice. You wouldn’t be free to impose your beliefs on others. IOW, you couldn’t force someone to decorate your wedding cake with messages that offend the decorator. Whether it be a swastika or congrats to Bruce and Bruce.

    1. IMO many people who claim that Christians want to impose some “Christian sharia” are projecting their desire to impose some “Leftish sharia onto people” onto Christians.

      Of course, even if a majority of Christians wanted a stronger form of Christian sharia imposed on the country, there’d be a little problem of Christians agreeing on “what the rules would be”.

      I mean, “should it be a Catholic form of sharia” or “should it be an American Baptist form of sharia”. 😈 😈 😈 😈

      1. Reformed, Dutch Reformed, Christian Reformed, American Reformed, or Protestant Reformed? And there are visible differences between them.

        I grew up in Omaha in the late ’70s and I remember that we had fish sticks every Friday. Not a private school, but Omaha had a LOT of Catholics, and hey, kids can dip fishsticks in catsup and they taste OK. I think we got Good Friday off as well, and thought it wasn’t fair that the Jewish kids had the option to take the High Holy Days off as long as they did their homework. And they had better stuff at the Hebrew School bake sales, too. Very not fair. 😉

        1. Most schools did fish sticks on Friday. Think they still do. And my entire time in the Navy Fridays was either 3 x 5 or triangular fish for lunch.

      2. Most of the ones you see calling out how Trump or Cruz will bring about whatever the handmaid’s dystopia was are the same ones that have no issue pointing someone else with a gun at you to force you to appease them.

        If the government would stop meddling Christian ‘Sharia’ would be a pretty moot point as long as you’re talking a major religion (No Hale Bopp folks) and perhaps other than some of the sexual clauses.

    2. Variation on what Drak says– they consider not letting them force nuns to pay for abortion-causing drugs to be in the mold of “Christian Sharia.”

      If it gets in the way of what they want to do, then it’s an imposition. Because their desires are the universal norm.

      1. This is the problem in a nutshell:
        “Because their desires are the universal norm.”

        What they want is what’s best for everyone. You can see how this wrapped up in malignant narcissism. They are the measure of the world.

      2. Foxfier,
        theological question. Would it be acceptable for a Catholic woman who was celibate to take birth control? I know that is oxymoronic sounding, but it is a worldbuilding question. As in having a theoretical active duty military requirement that all women be both unmarried and on birth control.
        In my mind this would not go against Catholic principles, since if the unmarried woman was a devout Catholic she would be celibate, so therefore the birth control medicine would not be either preventing conception or aborting a fertilized egg. I’m unsure that a Catholic would view this the same way, however.

        1. Yes, as long as it’s not “so I don’t get pregnant if I get raped.”

          It doesn’t sound silly at all to me– “birth control pills” are frequently prescribed as hormone therapy, and Catholics can use them that way.

          The big argument is if a married woman using the Pill as hormone therapy to correct a real hormone issue has to be celebrate or not, and I’m not up on that argument. It centers around intention and judgement a lot.

          1. Thanks, as for the big argument, I’ve managed to get within hearing distance of that one, once or twice. 😉

            1. I read one Catholic blogger who has to get progesterone shots to keep from losing her kids– only got that far because of various natural family planning support groups that actually– gasp!– try to figure out how a specific woman’s body works, rather than using the sledgehammer theory. (“Hit it a couple of times. It’ll either do what we want, or we replace it.”)

              1. I had to do that with Robert. Marshall held on, miraculously (We know he’s here for a purpose, but heaven only knows why.) But that’s why the LONG string of miscarriages. After that first doctor, we couldn’t get another to just give me the frigging shots. But yes, the “stabilizing pill” was all progesterone, and that’s how I ALMOST managed to carry a little girl to term. She would be… 13? Unfortunately a mega auto immune attack killed her and I had to have D & C. The others were too early to ever be sure they were miscarriages or just bizarre cycle (though if I was celibate by reason of being in another country, say, my cycles were completely regular, so indications are they were) but that one hurt.
                Sorry for TMI. One of the bizarre things is that there was never an opportunity to mourn, and it’s not something you talk about in polite company.

                1. *hug* There are groups forming for that now, because there are a lot of people who are right with you– they never got to mourn.

              2. I’ve heard of women who had go hunt down doctors who would treat their condition rather than put them on the Pill to mask it. The ones who discovered this need only when they wanted children were more annoyed.

        2. Look at it this way:
          for a Catholic moral perspective, the goal is to fix something that’s not functioning correctly.

          “Birth control” breaks something to keep it from functioning correctly, and can also kill somebody in the process.

          It’s like the difference between Luke Skywalker’s arm after it was lost, and someone chopping their fully functional arm off to replace it.

          I actually have to watch the Captain America movies again because I’ve got a disagreement with a very good Catholic bioethicist (search for “Mary meets Dolly”) on if Captain America’s origin is transhumanist (bad) or not. In the comics the super-soldier serum just made people function perfectly at the height of human ability, not removing normal function to replace it.

          1. Considering that birth control is brain- and mood-altering and screws up cycles for a lot of women, sometimes permanently, it sounds like a very hostile thing to prescribe en masse.

            There would of course be the possibility of causing scandal, misrepresenting Catholic beliefs about contraception and their seriousness, etc.

            So are all the guys taking eunuch pills?

            1. Kind of like removing everyone’s tonsils, or appendixes; you don’t do something like that unless there’s a really good reason.

              1. Which of course they used to do, and I’m assuming this is why you used those as an example. That is why I asked whether it was theologically acceptable, I’m quite well aware it could have physical issues, but that would be a separate issue that the government would be less concerned about.

                1. *nods*

                  I’ve even heard of folks having it done in the Navy because there’s a CHANCE it could go bad, and they’re going to be in a place where that would mean slow, agonizing death.

                  1. That idea started getting proposed in Pacific Fleet subs in WWII. I’m fairly sure one or two skippers actually had their whole crew do it.

            2. I never said it was a nice society. This is just a skeleton of a story rattling around in my head that likely will never see the light of day. But the actual theory was that all women on active duty were required to be on birth control, and the penalty for getting pregnant while active duty was execution. And no the guys don’t need to take eunuch pills*, because if they get some chick (non-soldier) pregnant, they are not depriving the army of a soldier during wartime, while the active duty female soldier is.
              Like I said not a nice society.

              *Actually we practically did require this during Vietnam. Not specifically to prevent the men from being sexually active, but the [quinine?] pills given for malaria prevention caused ED in a majority of men. Which was one of the main reasons we had so many soldiers contract malaria, because they didn’t take their pills due to the side effects.

              1. You’d have to do some fancy dancing to make that work– basically along the lines of justifying removing a functional organ, and that’s before the execution if it fails comes in. That’s utilitarian enough that I’d have serious questions re: the society actually being immoral, not just not nice. That’s pretty dang utilitarian. (Also foolish, but that’s more a personal annoyance.)

              2. Since I don’t think I made it clear enough… at no point did I say it was even slightly unbelievable that some culture would put in a policy like this. Just wrong and foolish. 😀

            3. George Carlin had a routine on one of his early LPs in which he noted that we were “using the entire female population of the United States to see if birth control pills had any side effects. I mean, if they get to sixty years old and one leg gets shorter than the other …”

    3. Projection is endemic on the Left. They just DO NOT KNOW US! Not just Christians, the various flavors of conservatives and libertarians are beyond their ken. Their political map warns “HERE BE MONSTERS” on the right side. Just like the verges on a medieval map of the world.

      1. because if they weren’t so exquisitely indoctrinated and thought now and then, they might cross over. And then they’d be pariahs. they don’t want to be pariahs so they’ll do ANYTHING not to think.

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