[extropy-chat] War Is Easy To Explain - Peace is Not

Keith Henson hkhenson at rogers.com
Wed Mar 14 18:04:57 UTC 2007

At 11:51 PM 3/13/2007 -0700, Lee wrote:


>But enough of North America---why has South America (again, per
>capita) been so peaceful the last century or so?  Those countries really
>used to know how to go at each other, e.g., the Lopez War in the late
>1860s, in which Paraguay's population went from 1.4 million to 200,000
>due to trying to take on Brazil, Argintina, and Chile simultaneously.

The Old Testament stories of the Israelites may not be entirely accurate 
history, but they do provide typical accounts of wars in a time closer to 
hunter-gatherer culture, when war was a serious element of population 
control.[11]  For a recent historical example of population reduction by 
war, in 1864 Paraguay went to war with 3 of its neighbors. They 
were--needless to say--defeated.

"Few defeated nations in the world's military history exhibited such a 
degree of devastation as the Paraguay of 1870. Its population, now 
estimated at only 221,000, had suffered war casualties of at least 220,000 
people. Among the survivors there were only 28,000 men; women over fifteen 
were said to outnumber men at a ratio of more than four to one." [Kolinski 
(1965) p. 198].

I don't see "why war" as a complicated question.  It is simple mathematics.

With a more or less static technology, the environment can feed a certain 
number of people.

Therefore in the long run there cannot be births in excess of deaths.  In 
primitive tribes the percentage of adults who die by violence from other 
people goes as high as 60%.  (See the Azar Gat paper 
http://cniss.wustl.edu/workshoppapers/gatpres1.pdf)  This puts a lid on the 
population level.  I claim that there is a mechanism originated in the 
human EEA which turns on war mode in response to perception about the future.

With improving technology to feed people (and supply other needs) as long 
as the improvements in technology stay ahead of population growth there is 
no reason for wars to keep the population down.

It helps a great deal if the population growth is low.

The last century and especially the last 50 years have seen technology 
staying ahead of population growth.

When and if that falters, you should expect wars to reduce the population 
to whatever the long term carrying capacity of the environment can support.

Simple as that.


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