[extropy-chat] Back to Causes of War (was Gandhi and EP was Bushido)

Keith Henson hkhenson at rogers.com
Fri Apr 27 00:09:53 UTC 2007

At 02:06 AM 4/26/2007 -0700, you wrote:
>Keith writes
> > [Robert wrote]
> >>Keith, you keep harping on this topic of population growth as driving war.
> >
> > You miss the point of the model.  Population could be growing fast and
> > there would be no drift into war provided income was growing as fast or
> > faster.  (Or something else was keeping the "bleak future" detectors
> > off.)  Population could even be shrinking, but if the economy was 
> shrinking
> > faster that would bias a population toward war.
>I totally agree that population increase provides the fodder for many
>wars without which they wouldn't have occurred, or the severity would
>have been greatly diminished.  The late Roman Republic "social wars"
>are a good example, and even the Empire's civil wars were often fueled
>by too many desperate poor people with no prospects.
>But it is *not* a catch-all, the way your posts seem to keep claiming.
>You submit the challenge yet again:
> > Besides recorded history is not anything like
> > the EEA where these psychological traits were shaped.  For one thing, high
> > techs can exterminate low techs with relatively little danger.  They might
> > do it just for profit.  How about finding a counter example?  Can you 
> think
> > of any group that started a war with a group on the same technological
> > level where the side that started the war was *not* looking at a bleak
> > future?
>There are many.  I have provided many in the past, and it seems to me that
>Robert has provided examples. True, when these examples are presented
>you tend to retreat to the position that conditions have changed since the
>EEA.  But that wrecks your thesis if you intend to have it apply to the
>current situations.

Not at all.  The thesis just says that humans have psychological traits 
from our remote past that when activated led to wars in those days.  We 
still have them and activation of these mechanisms _may_ lead to war in the 
modern era.  The mechanisms might also lead to terrorist acts if the 
asymmetry in force (technology) is too great.

>The Third Reich was not facing bleak prospects when it attacked the Soviet

They were already *in* a war.  The US was already in a war when the US 
attacked Iraq.  The model also includes that peoples/leaders in a war are 
affected with stupid.

But if you consider what happened over the next 4 years, you could 
certainly make a case that the Third Reich was facing bleak prospects.  At 
the time of the attack it had grave problems of industrial supplies, 
particularly in terms of oil.

So did Japan.  I wonder if future historians are going to call WW II the 
first oil war?

>Neither Mexico nor the United States were facing problems in 1846.
>The American illegal immigrants were moving into some of Mexico's outlying
>provinces, and they were too proud to stand for it.

Don't forget that there are two ways of getting into war mode.  The easy 
one to understand is being attacked.  It may well be that *both* sides had 
good reason to think they had been attacked on their own territory.


>Yes, the American
>expansion into these areas was facilitated by a booming population, but
>the overall population density was still pretty low,

As Azar Gat points out (in the paper I keep citing and nobody seems to 
read) population density has little to do with the willingness of people to 
go into war.  Why?  What is important?

>and the U.S. at the time
>had one of the world's very highest standards of living. Population pressure
>is a factor, but only in some (many) cases.

It is only indirectly a factor in any case, though if you hold other 
factors constant and vary only population, it would be seen as the case.

>Or---considering the dialog directly below---perhaps you do intend to
>restrict your thesis to pre-industrial times.

The psychological traits, like other psychological traits, originated not 
just pre-industrial, but pre-agricultural.  The below quote is out of the 
Gat paper.


> >>I feel it is an incomplete theory. Perhaps a much better approach to
> >>"going to war" is simply to "migrate".  Find a place where the resources
> >>are more abundant than they are in the current location and simply move
> >>there.
> >
> > "The benefits of fighting must also be matched against possible
> > alternatives (other than starvation). One of them was to break contact and
> > move elsewhere. This, of course, often happened, especially if one's enemy
> > was much stronger, but this strategy had clear limitations.
> >
> > "As we have already noted, by and large, there were no "empty spaces" for
> > people to move to. In the first place, space is not even, and the best,
> > most productive habitats were normally already taken.
> >
> > "One could be forced out to less hospitable environments, which may also
> > had been earlier populated by other less fortunate people. Indeed, finding
> > empty niches required exploration, which again might involve violent
> > encounters with other human groups.
> >
> > "Furthermore, a move meant leaving the group's own habitat, with whose
> > resources and dangers the group's members were intimately familiar, and
> > travelling into uncharted environments. Such a change could involve heavy
> > penalties.
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