[extropy-chat] Back to Causes of War

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Fri Apr 27 06:40:58 UTC 2007

Keith writes

> "For this reason, however, there was a tendency to control them even when 
> stress was less pressing. For example, as Meggitt recorded (1962: 42), 
> between the Walbiri and Waringari hunter-gatherers of the mid-Australian 
> Desert, whose population density was as low as one person per 35 square 
> mile, relatively large-scale fighting, to the order of 'pitched battles' 
> with a 'score or more dead', took place, among other reasons, in order to 
> 'occupy' and monopolize wells.

The point is well made that resource scarcity can and often does cause conflict.

> "Like aggression, territoriality is not a blind instinct. It is subservient 
> to the evolutionary calculus, especially in humans, whose habitats are so 
> diverse. Among hunter-gatherers, territories vary dramatically in size - 
> territorial behaviour itself can gain or lose in significance - in direct 
> relation to the resources and resource competition.
> "The same applies to population density, another popular explanation in the 
> 1960s for violence. In other than the most extreme cases, it is mainly in 
> relation to resource scarcity and hence as a factor in resource competition 
> that population density would function as a trigger for fighting. 
> Otherwise, Tokyo and the Netherlands would have been among the most violent 
> places on earth."

How is the point made that modern European nations any time in the 20th
century faced economic deprivation?  In what ways did resource scarcity
contribute to WWI, WWII, the Korean War, or Vietnam?  Things were
booming in Germany before both WWI and WWII, and no one else was
much pinched either.   (Yes, I suppose that a case can be made about the
*Japanese* government motives for WWII aggression, but what about
Europe, where most of the big wars occurred?

>> Of course, your quote below applies far more readily to the EEA than
>> to now.
> I don't think so.

Eh?  Why not?  The circumstances described in most of your post (e.g. 
Australia) as well as the points below are *not* characteristic of modern
societies. Rather, they resemble the scarcity of the EEA, (and of some
subsequent medieval history).


>> > 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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