Tuesday, February 9, 2010

33 Malthusian Truisms and The Laws of Population Politics

33 Malthusian Truisms and The Laws of Population Politics

There are 23 Sustainability Laws that form the backbone of a comprehensive understanding of population issues.

Erhlich-Holdren equation
Hardin’s Commandment (Thou Shalt Not Trespass Carrying Capacity)
Hopfenberg’s thesis
Abernethy’s axiom
Jevon’s Paradox, Khazoom-Brooke Postulate
Boulding’s Three Theorems
Bartlett’s 17 laws of sustainability

Additionally, I would submit ten supplementary Laws of Population Politics:

Michels Iron Law of Oligarchy
--- when a successful grassroots movement forms an organization designed to pursue its radical aims and grows its dues-paying membership, it builds up a bureaucracy that eventually controls it. Then the goal of the organization becomes to preserve the bureaucracy even if that goal conflicts with the original aim of the organization. Exhibit A: Environmental NGOs.

Law of Organizational Ossification, or Salinsky’s Law
---since any radical organization, that is, an organization dedicated to the pursuit of root causes and their solution, succumbs to Michels Iron Law of Oligarchy, the remedy is not to waste energy and time in a fruitless attempt to work within the organization and reform it, but form a new organization to fight the corrupted one. As Saul Alinsky confessed, he would frequently have to visit a town to help set up a committee to fight the committee that he helped set up two years before. Conclusion, all organizations have a limited shelf life, and our loyalty should not be to the organization but to its original ideals. Organizations are just vehicles, and like cars, eventually must be traded in, sold or junked.

The Watermelon Law
---scratch the green coating of a soft green environmentalist, and you get a bleeding heart refugee advocate who forgets sustainability at the first sight of an incoming vessel of asylum-seekers. Watermelon environmentalism is social engineering and a human rights agenda dressed up in a green cloak, reflecting a mentality that has no fundamental understanding of Hardin’s Commandment (Thou Shalt Not Trespass Carrying Capacity).

The Follow-the-Money-Trail Law
----Funding sources reveal more about an environmental NGO’s objectives than the politically correct greenwash and growth-management policies it promotes to rationalize its population myopia.

Mother Nature’s Law of Total Indifference
---In a nutshell, nature doesn’t give a crap about our political priorities or moral imperatives. It does not give a Tinkers Damn if environmentalists feel good about themselves by following green living habits or that people have reduced their per capita consumption---it only cares about our Total consumption, a function of per capita consumption and our population level. Nor does it care about our political arrangements, only about our footprint. A Hitler or a Pol Pot is to be preferred to a Mother Theresa or a liberal democrat if he gets the job done. Nature doesn’t care if people we judge to be worthy (the poor, the persecuted, the people of colour, the handicapped, the fashionably oppressed) should be lifted on to our lifeboat, only if it is overloaded. And whether the passengers live together without class barriers or in feudal subjugation is of no concern to nature either. The laws of physics trump the laws of any Holy Text, ethical system or left-wing manifesto.

The Law of Contagious Stupidity
—based on the Christakis-Fowler hypothesis, that is, our social network influences our health, wealth and welfare, and effects our weight, whether we smoke or drink or what we believe and how we vote, for example. Murray’s Law is a subsidiary of this conclusion. It reads, “The more you hang around Sierra Club members, by a process of osmosis, the dumber and blinder you get.” Solomon Asch’s study of peer pressure harmonizes with this finding.

The Law of Irrelevant Considerations
----Motives and intentions are immaterial to the truth of a policy position. A decent man of humane intentions can promote a policy that results in a net increase of misery and ecological degradation, while a fascist bastard can effect a policy that results in greater sustainability and a net improvement in the quality of life for a more viable human and non-human population. This Law can be construed as a corollary of Mother Nature’s Law of Total Indifference and a precursor to the Law of Truth’s Moral Impartiality and Undemocratic Nature.

The Law of Truth’s Moral Impartiality and Undemocratic Nature
---The truth of an argument depends entirely on its merits and not on the moral character or political affiliation of the person who is making it. The veracity or falsehood of John Nash’s Game Theory does not depend on whether John Nash was an anti-semite or not, but whether his theory is testable and verifiable. That Nick Griffin is a racist does not in the least discredit his assertion that the government’s immigration policy is damaging Britain’s ecological sustainability. The fact that a given study was authored by the Mickey Mouse Club does not in itself discredit its methodology, its data or its conclusions. If a zillion people fervently believe something to be true, that does not make it true. And if only one person in the world believes something to be true, that does not make it false. One person in the right constitutes a majority of one. Truth is not subject to a democratic vote. The IPCC can enjoy support from 95% of the world’s scientists, but their support does not substitute for a testable hypothesis.

The Law of Inhumane Humanitarianism
---AKA the Denial of Hard Choices. This alludes to the hypocrisy of bleeding hearts who pretend that avoidance of cruel dilemnas, made possible by the luxury of surplus resources, is equivalent to compassion. In a world of scarcity, there is an opportunity cost for almost any government policy. Money spent pursuing one policy goal is money that cannot be spent on another. Affluent societies built on cheap fossil fuels can afford to be more indiscriminate in their financial allotments. Canadian governments, for example, have been able to spend $100,000 of taxpayers money annually on the incarceration of a serial child killer like Clifford Olson or a sadistic torturer like Paul Bernando, but third world countries cannot afford our profligate legal system. If Rwanda was burdened by the Western system of jurisprudence, it would take 25 years to prosecute their war criminals and money that they don't have. In a global context, by opposing capital punishment because it is barbaric and cruel, bleeding hearts subject third world villagers and those who live below the poverty line in their own country to a cruel fate by depriving our government of the opportunity to use the money spent on Olson and Bernardo for family planning education and medical care to help them. The most humane course in a world of scarce resources is the most cost-effective one, that is, getting the biggest bang for the buck. Putting Bernardo or Olson up against the wall and shooting them, in Chinese fashion, is arguably more humane to more people than our present practise of wasting precious resources on useless people. The Chinese would not waste $6 million on trying and convicting serial murderer Robert Picton. They would allocate two days to weigh the obvious evidence, and one day to execute him. Our justice system does the world a great injustice. And our compassionate foreign aid policy of unconditional food dispensation has created more misery than it has alleviated. As Garrett Hardin observed, there is nothing more dangerous than a shallow-thinking compassionate person.

The Law of Counter-Intuitive Results
----This speaks to the reflexive habit to designate a chosen policy option as a no-brainer, which is apt because the leftists and greens who favour that option have no brains. Many proposals seem, at first blush, to be obviously flawed or obviously correct. But closer, independent scrutiny and research often indicates that the recommended choice will achieve exactly the opposite of what is intended. Some examples: Food aid dispensed to today may rebound and return a generation later as a famine of far greater scope and consequences. Feed 5,000 hungry mouths now and see 25,000 hungry mouths a decade from now. Bangledesh, Ethiopia and Haiti make good case studies. Rent control designed to make housing more affordable to the poor can act to reduce the supply of affordable housing and minimum wage laws designed to improve the incomes of the working poor may result in fewer unskilled workers being hired. Lower subsidized ferry rates to make transportation for poorer people more affordable can actually reduce their disposable income. Lower transportation costs make an island more accessible and therefore bid up the price of real estate. Higher real estate prices mean higher mortgages, higher rents and higher taxes. Since housing costs soak up 40% of an average family budget, while ferry costs eat up less than 10%, higher ferry rates can put more money in commuters pockets.

More examples. An ugly clear-cut that would desecrate a national or provincial park may actually increase the sum total of unspoiled natural wonderments because it might dissuade tourists from visiting the region. As the Saiz-Carlino study on tourism found, popular tourist destinations encourage tourists to move to those areas and overload their carrying capacity, despoiling more land than if the land was protected from all development at the start. One conspicuous eyesore at the doorstep of an otherwise beautiful community can act to ward off prospective visitors and settlers in the manner of a crucifix repelling vampires---thereby preserving most of the area. A scallop farm, an open pit mine or one hundred hectares blemished by logging can be just what the doctor ordered. And as James Lovelock observed, dumping nuclear waste in the Amazon rain forest might actually save it by keeping the loggers and farmers away. Or more people eating more meat might enhance sustainability because it deprives grain producers the opportunity to use land now devoted to livestock and so feed more people with fewer resources. Feeding more people who breed more people. The negative ecological impact of those many billions of extra people, notwithstanding their vegan diet, would be greater than the much more limited number of meat-eaters would have. Similarly, failure to recycle garbage could stress the landfills to the point that governments would have to cut back on the number of land-fillers rather than inducing people to compact their waste so that more and more of them can be compacted into urban feedlots like garbage. Forcing governments up against the wall sooner rather than later is better than postponing the day of reckoning to a time when many more people will have degraded the environment irrevocably. In summary, there can be more silver in the silver linings of black clouds than the silver found in silver clouds that disguise so much black.

Tim Murray

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