Scale Matters


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    Nicole Foss

    Scale matters. When it changes, other things change as a function of it, often in unpredictable ways. Emergent properties are system characteristics t
    [See the full post at: Scale Matters]


    I guess this is how you write The Complete Non Moralizing Theory of Human Tragedy in a single blog post.


    Hi Nicole

    As I see it, the benefit of this approach is to be able to view trust and power at different scales as an emergent property of the resources available to society. That way, you don’t get tangled up in the morality of resource sharing, you don’t see the situation as partisan, but instead an an inevitable function of catabolic collapse. That’s the way to make the most intelligent and compassionate choices.

    That right?



    Thank for the “why” of what is coming. In Engineering and design, why is a big part, perhaps the main part of completing any project.

    Nicole Foss

    Thanks 🙂 That’s pretty much what I was going for – looking at expansion and contraction objectively as phenomena that transcend the personal, or even the institutional, so that blame is pointless. All we can do is to look at where we are in the cycle and work with it as constructively as possible. Anger is corrosive, and collective anger even more so. Angry populations to terrible things to their fellow human beings. There is nothing to be gained this way, and a great deal to lose.


    Outstanding even for the great Stoneleigh! Nicole I love your mind and your ability to expound upon complex issues with a direct simplicity that clarifies the big picture for those who want to see it and adjust their lives accordingly.


    Seems like a nice scenario. If one could find Galt’s Gulch without the DHS following along…for ones own safety, mind you.

    And if an inkling of a rule of law survives the expected rout. But…

    If one plans on surfing through what’s coming, it might be advisable to relocate to Doheny right now, before the all consuming State closes all avenues of choice in it’s seizure of resources and available assets, as well as the means of their production. Ala, the old Soviet Union?

    As I recall, most of the 60’s surfin’ safari sounds didn’t originate in Leningrad. Not sure those enduring that little social experiment had a lot of ability to surf their way merrily through it. And I can’t imagine any central power not dispatching it’s most profitable minions hither and yon across the countryside, into every nook and cranny of micro communities. Those minions be the tax assessors.

    A big assumption here is that the majority retain enough semblance of freedom, with which to even take the liberty of waxing down the board, let alone “shootin’ the tube.”

    Pretty hard to extrapolate the last 100 years of relative freedom to choose, into the next 100 years of emergency/unknowns. I think it can be considered a given that when central authority is threatened, bad things happen to proles.

    ‘Till later, Hang Ten…


    Surfing the requisite (given human nature) tsunami won’t be fun.


    Surplus energy, trust, money & credit, population – and how they all interact in conditions of both expansion and contraction. Its a nicely constructed model of the world.

    Population busts actually follow contractions – Russia, and Japan have both had them in recent years. If the world has a multidecade contraction, might we have many fewer babies than expected as a result?

    Nicole Foss


    I do expect a population bust, at least initially, although there are a few complicating factors. In the longer term I expect birthrates to rise, although probably not as much as deathrates.

    People have fewer babies when they don’t think they’ll be able to look after them, or when they don’t like the look of the world they would have to bring them into. This is to the extent that they have some control over the process. They may well not have modern forms of control, and it may take a while to get used to how people dealt with it in the past. I’m not thinking so much of the obvious nasty possibilities, but of other ways people limited family size. There must have been such methods, since average family size varied a great deal from culture to culture where circumstances were different, long before we had modern methods.

    I expect things to get much worse for first world women in terms of rights and control of our own bodies. Our emancipation (which really only applied to middle class and up anyway) was probably a function of the availability of energy slaves. When these are no longer there, I expect culture to shift to make women feel drudgery is their duty again, and to deprive us explicitly of other options. In the Soviet collapse, women lost childcare, equal status and opportunities in a giant rejection of everything that had characterized the communist system (in a throwing-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater kind of way). Men often drank themselves to death and women had to do whatever was necessary to cope.

    The word proletariat derives from ‘ their only wealth is their sons’, meaning that the only asset poor people could control was the number of children they had, where children could be expected to produce more for the family than they cost to feed. This dynamic is why agricultural societies have such large families too – they generate farm workers who produce a net benefit for the farm. Of course the value of a large family depends on circumstances, like having land to work, but in very poor countries, slum dwellers may also have an incentive to produce children to send out to beg or steal or work in sweatshops. Children are the only form of old age security in many places as well.

    Low birthrates in wealthier places have to do with factors such as low deathrates (so virtually all children can be expected to survive), the cost of giving a child what middle class parents would define as a good enough start in life, education leading to women with career aspirations instead, and the availability of external supports that mean people are not dependent on their children in old age. It costs a huge amount to raise a child in line with cultural expectations – with lessons for all sorts of things, a good school, a posh college (poshness being more important to many than the actual content of the education) and all sorts of material goods pushed at children through advertising. Most of those things will no longer be available anyway, except for the very wealthy. Child (and maternal) mortality will rise as access to medical care falls, career aspirations will disappear with skyhigh unemployment, education will be far less accessible to most, opportunities will be very limited, and external supports will no longer be available.

    Already, some very alarming misogynist noises are coming out of parts of US society. Women should be very worried about where that is leading. I am expecting hardline political freaks to be elected in tough times, and in the US I expect those to be of the fire-and-brimstone variety likely to impose strict ‘morality’. To me that is terrifying. A century or more of cultural progress could be wiped out. In tough times, the strong tend to take out their frustrations on the weak, who may have no choice but to bear it. In fundamentalist places like Iran, clerics have been known to blame earthquakes on scantily clad women. This is the kind of spurious connection people make in hard times, when magical thinking comes to the fore. In such times people are far more prone to believing such things, or at least not daring to argue. Domestic violence is also endemic in poor places living on the edge. Access to justice and redress is sadly a function of wealth.

    Working to build community while that can still be done may reduce the impact of some of these larger trends, at least in places. It is urgent that we do so, because it takes time and we have relatively little of that left. If we do not, the future will be dystopian indeed.


    I am one of those peak oil nuts and believe the whole thing links back to oil. Collin Campbell quoted a large banker after the banker realized oil wells will slow down in production : “My God we have a lot of bad debt … we are insolvent”. They had believed expansion tomorrow would pay for debts of today because relatively free oil coming out of the ground. Their whole analysis and method of doing business had been going on for more than 50 years.

    So what to do. How about a ponzi scheme. How about a housing market that emulates the oil market. Hand out loans to everyone based on future valuation kind of like what had been done with oil. That could restart the economy without any ill effects.

    Well I guess that went kind of wrong but its ok we have something else we can try. Lets try really low interest rates. That could restart the economy without any ill effects.

    I am not sure if we will have deflation or if another scheme will be tried but any analysis brings me to one conclusion every time. First the schemes will not work. Second the schemes increase tension and cause greater instability. Third when attempting to not pay the cost of invalid thinking with stupid schemes the price paid is higher.

    It may be that we experience inflation and deflation within the same year because of my second point. The government may temporarily be able to inflate the money supply to create inflation.

    I am a little alarmed by Nicole’s misguided statement “shift to make women feel drudgery is their duty again, and to deprive us explicitly”

    When I look back at the difficulties of what was being done and who did how much work it is clear – drudgery and being deprived was not a gender thing. 100 years ago both sides worked tirelessly for little gain and died young. If you were poor, which was everyone, things clearly would not be pretty. Individualism was not an option for anyone, you worked with the community or die.


    Excellent summary of how trust, law, money and scale of government are related. Very cogent. The basis of a complex society is available energy of course. I happen to agree that we are heading toward decreasing energy availability. Our society will change. The emperium, desperate to maintain control and power, will tax and abscond as long as they can.

    Socially, I find certain comments interesting. Women’s roles changing?…everyone’s role will change. I like the way James Kunstler puts it…in a scarce energy world, reverting to old roles will pretty much not even be questioned. Men are more suited to hard manual labor…women to other roles. But all will be forced to work.
    “Compassionate” Certainly we all strive for that personal quality. But our complex society has made this term into something of a “high level” activity and quality…something completely dependent on massive energy consumption. It seems that community based “compassion” is very similar to Nichole’s description of trust. It starts small and becomes “something a little bit different at the large scale. It can only be excercised at the large scale in an affluent, energy or resource consuming society. This will largely not be the case in at least a portion of the transitional future.
    Other comments indicate concern about our potential to lose our “cultural progress.” This concern is legitimate as much of our “cultural progress” is based on affluence…ultimately based on imperial exploitation (and/or cheap energy). I would submit that cultural progress is a relative term that will ultimately lose importance in a scarce energy world.

    Thank you for your excellent insight, Nichole.


    Insightful… as usual.

    For those who are not aware of small towns/communities dynamics, the “pecking order”, and the resulting dynamics of bullying, shunning, and exploitation by others will be present and obvious.

    “Malign Hand of the Markets”, by John Staddon.

    This book presents the information concerning the financial crash which should be understandable to most people.

    Review …
    Due to human nature/behaviors, predators can make ponzi schemes work.
    The financial system crash resulted in the greatest theft of money ever.
    The theft is still continuing.

    The system will not be changed because those benefiting are in power/control.


    stoneleigh post=6460 wrote: Thanks 🙂 That’s pretty much what I was going for – looking at expansion and contraction objectively as phenomena that transcend the personal, or even the institutional, so that blame is pointless. All we can do is to look at where we are in the cycle and work with it as constructively as possible. Anger is corrosive, and collective anger even more so. Angry populations to terrible things to their fellow human beings. There is nothing to be gained this way, and a great deal to lose.

    On a personal level, if there’s one single a-hole that I’m positively batshit furiously crazy-angry about, is that SOB who thought it would be a good idea to start planting the frigging grass seeds and use them for food (then store them, guard them, and so on). But then I reason that because the “bright idea” crossed that particular a-hole’s mind, it was inevitable that some other a-hole would have come up with the same idea sooner or later, so I cool down for a while. But then it starts again! Fortunately for him, the guy died 10,000 years ago, or there would have been some serious nose punching, I tell you!


    Interesting p01 that you bring up the issue of agriculture and the planting of grass seed for food. I recently read a fascinating article by Greg Wadley & Angus Martin in The Australian Biologist entitled ‘The origins of agriculture – a biological perspective and a new hypothesis’ in which they acknowledge that cereal grains and legumes (and dairy products) all produce opioid compounds when cooked, suggesting that early agriculturalists grew to depend on these foods not so much because they offered benefits but instead because they developed chemical dependencies on the opioids and needed increasing ‘doses’ of the foods to satiate their growing addictions. With the growing and consuming of cereal grains and legumes so tightly linked to the emergence of complex societies, perhaps one can posit that the entire idea of ‘civilization’ is built on chemical dependency fed by particular types of food (that, at least in the US, represent the single largest segments of our FDA-designed food pyramid? Food for thought…



    A fun and little less serious documentary ‘how beer saved the world’ would agree with the premise that mankind became civilized in order to increase consumption of addictive substances. If we are going to really consider food survival aqua culture should be looked into because of its sustainability.

    I find it doubtful anyone will be able to completely grow their own food without including meat. Actually when trying to obtain the calorie intake it seems we are actually taking in a high percentage of fat well above any food group. If anyone has accomplished anything close to growing enough food to satisfy their own consumption needs I would be interested.

    Should also note that being completely self sufficient will by definition be leading to being less civilized.


    That is very interesting, since it puts a new light on the popular saying, which my grandfather would never miss an opportunity to repeat:
    “Bread makes you fat and dumb”.

    Of course at the time when this wisdom was developed, there were no seed oils (another plague on human health, exclusively brought by the Industrial type of civilization) in the food supply, or I would have known a quote about those poisons also.
    Whether the plants wanted to poison us, or the culture tried to do it instead as a proxy for the plants, some people knew by generational observation what was good and what wasn’t.
    Nowadays everybody is clueless and confused about what to eat, and honestly I cannot blame them, because I got all confused also, little by little. The message is just too strong, and probably the opioids are already doing their thing at full capacity.


    One should absolutely stay away from wheat.

    “So how—and when—did this ancient grain become such a serious health threat? Author and preventive cardiologist William Davis, MD, says it’s when big agriculture stepped in decades ago to develop a higher-yielding crop. Today’s “wheat,” he says, isn’t even wheat, thanks to some of the most intense crossbreeding efforts ever seen. “The wheat products sold to you today are nothing like the wheat products of our grandmother’s age, very different from the wheat of the early 20th Century, and completely transformed from the wheat of the Bible and earlier,” he says. Clearfield Wheat, grown on nearly 1 million acres in the Pacific Northwest and sold by BASF Corporation—the world’s largest chemical manufacturer—was created in a geneticist’s lab by exposing wheat seeds and embryos to the mutation-inducing industrial toxin sodium azide, a substance poisonous to humans and known for exploding when mishandled, says Dr. Davis. This hybridized wheat doesn’t survive in the wild, and most farmers rely on toxic chemical fertilizers and pesticides to keep the crops alive. (It’s important to note, however, that the intensive breeding efforts that have so dramatically transformed wheat should not to be confused with genetic engineering of food, or GMOs. This type of technology has its own set of problems, though.) “

    A much more thorough expose on this is “The Dark Side of Wheat” by Sayer Ji

    The sad thing is that for a huge percentage of the population food decisions are economic decisions. When you don’t have much money you buy foods that have the highest caloric value for your money which are most often high volume low cost junk foods of wheat, grain fed animals, corn syrup, hydrogenated oils; substances that do not support long term health.


    Hi Nicole,

    One of your excellent essays on the “why” of things.I am giving thought to breaking down and installing a printer that has sat in a box for a year…mostly to put a few of your writings down as a written history for my grandkids…to make sure they ,in their heart of hearts understand the why of whatever comes….

    Bee good,or
    Bee careful


    Viscount St. Albans

    Gold, Sand and Jet Fuel

    Scale Matters.
    One million square miles of Sahara vs. A squadron of Dassault Rafales

    Bamako, Mali.
    For a city of almost 2 million people, Mali’s capital doesn’t offer much of a skyline. Apart from a single, imposing brownish concrete-clad edifice, not a single secular structure competes with the minarets.

    The picture made me wonder: Who owns that tower? The ministry of security?

    I should have known better. It is the BCEAO Tower, and it belongs to none other than Banque Centrale des États de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (France’s banking arm for its NorthWest African possessions).
    As with La Cote D’Ivoire only 18 months ago, I wonder how many loans for Malian roads, mines, bridges, etc. sit on the books of BNP Paribas and Societe Generale. At some point, the EROEI in France’s West African colonies will turn negative. Paris will certainly burn up plenty of pricey jet fuel attempting to patrol roughly 1 million square miles of Sahara. That’s quite a steep input cost. I wonder: What are the true outputs here (For Paris, of course, not the Malian people)? Justice for the victims of medieval law doesn’t pay for jet fuel. I suspect the fruits of the labor are shiny and gold-colored.

    Then again, since the oil for the jet fuel probably flows from Gabon and Cameroon (France’s Central African possessions), with financing provided by BEAC, better known as Banque des États de l’Afrique Centrale (France’s banking arm in central Africa), perhaps the whole package is one virtuous circle.

    Colonialism in all its permutations will always be with us. It’s the moralistic sophistry about justice and constitutional order that makes me laugh and grimace at the same time. Let’s not forget about the yellow metal…….

    (from wikipedia):
    “In 1991, following the lead of the International Development Association, Mali relaxed the enforcement of mining codes which led to greater foreign investment in the mining industry.[4] From 1994 to 2007, national and foreign companies were granted around 150 operating licences along with more than 25 certificates for exploitation and more than 200 research permits. Gold mining in Mali has increased dramatically, with more than 50 tonnes in 2007 from less than half a tonne produced annually at the end of the 1980s.”

    Golden Oxen

    “In 1991, following the lead of the International Development Association, Mali relaxed the enforcement of mining codes which led to greater foreign investment in the mining industry.[4] From 1994 to 2007, national and foreign companies were granted around 150 operating licences along with more than 25 certificates for exploitation and more than 200 research permits. Gold mining in Mali has increased dramatically, with more than 50 tonnes in 2007 from less than half a tonne produced annually at the end of the 1980s.”

    Would you prefer a more constructive economic endeavour? Producing something more useful like poppy, drones, nuclear weapons or chemical. Would a movie industry or a gambling mecca work well in Mali?

    It’s good honest work and doesn’t bother anyone except the hate gold fiat lovers, and of course the environmentalists; they are bothered by just about everything.


    Economics can be a beautiful thing.


    Hi Stoneleigh,

    Another take on it is via social theory and the civilising forces of modernity:

    A foundational ingredient in determining effective organizational scale is trust – the glue holding societies together. At small scale, trust is personal, and group acceptance is limited to those who are known well enough to be trusted. For societies to scale up, trust must transcend the personal and be grounded instead in an institutional framework governing interactions between individuals, between the people and different polities, between different layers of governance (municipal, provincial, regional, national), and between states on the international stage.

    Hence the origins of what sociologists differentiate as mechanical solidarity and organic contractarianism. The mechanical being characteristic of medieval and feudal societies with their ‘nobles oblige’ of the Lords and the ‘tied’ obligations of the serfs, and the clan family nation of tribal societies with their even more mechanical fixed ‘blood’ ties. Compared to the relatively organic contractarian society of ‘law and order’


    It is interesting to look at the role of money in relation to trust and societal scale. Very small and simple societies grounded in personal relationships can function on a gift basis, as the high level of trust in a small number of well-known others is enough to mean that keeping track of favours done for one another is not necessary. Favours may simply be performed when necessary and reciprocity taken for granted. Resources may be ‘owned’ by the group, or made generally available to the group, rather than owned privately and subject to specific exchange.

    This is the simplest example of mechanical solidarity. Next up from this very simple familiar society is that of the small hierarchy of king/lord/tribal leader (as opposed to family or clan elder leader)

    These situations are still mechanical, and the actors still known – often intimately- to one another. But the relationship is now one of ‘obligation’ and rite, this is where religion originates (from the Latin religio – onis = obligation towards), and is seen in most societal structures with strong pyramid based hierarchies, with royal/religious sanction and power at the top and serf/slave obligation a the bottom . A priestly class exist in between to ‘administer’. Here we have the basis of what most would recognise a three tier class system, with elite, middle and lower class layers.

    The evolution in terms of contractarian society comes from the levelling of this ‘class’ structure. It comes from such notions as ‘human rights’ and ‘all equal under the law’. This is the contractarian society, in which a ‘social’ contract exists between both individuals and the ‘governing’ body. This is the basis of the idea of democracy, especially in the egalitarian guise of one-person one vote. (Few realise just how unusual this arrangement actually is in the history of human relations)

    However, the older mechanical systems never went away and have constantly harangued and interfered with this new idea of democratic contractarianism. Its human nature; after all humans evolved under the mechanical solidarity of family clan and tribe, not the legal contract. And the variations can be seen around the world, with western ‘democracies’ (appearing to be on the surface at any rate) the most contractarian through the ‘developing world’ with its various flavours of modern organic contractarianism spliced with traditional mechanical solidarity, from south American/latino machismo to African ‘Big Man’ culture, to the various Mafia/gang type organisations around the world; with many countries and nations having their own distinctive mix from Russian oligarchy to English neo-feudalism. Not forgetting local disparities such as ‘being on the wrong side of the tracks’ with is a modern manifestation of the ‘other’ or ‘outsider’ in humans relations. (See: Norbert Elias, especially his ‘Civilising Process’)



    And as Jal pointed out:

    For those who are not aware of small towns/communities dynamics, the “pecking order”, and the resulting dynamics of bullying, shunning, and exploitation by others will be present and obvious.

    This is human nature, don’t think that for one moment contractarian organisations are also not rife with this sort of behaviour, it’s just that their organisation makes it less prevalent and ‘obvious’.



    I’m feeling awfully silly for having my money in short-term Treasuries earning nothing through this bull market run.


    Another valuable discussion, this one is very close to my heart. Living in a comparatively cohesive, active community, I can see how far there is to go, even once a community is aware of all the issues discussed here. We have had a Time Bank here, and a CSA, we have had an advanced Transition group that accomplished more than most I’ve read about. There was an award-winning community waste system, which has since been shut down by the city, in favor of a multinational trash company whose bid they accepted over the local community’s contractor. The time bank and the CSA are long gone, and the Transition group is dormant. Great projects have been started, but maintaining them is another matter.
    The major impediment I have noticed is that starting projects comes quite easy, but after awhile energy flags, people lose interest, and infighting starts. People are accustomed to a high standard of “customer service” and quite often feel cheated with the actual results of realistic projects.

    The community cooperation muscle has also been so atrophied over time that initiatives ground themselves on the rocks of personal conflicts between people of like minds. I don’t think this is news to anyone, I am simply saying that the whole building-of-trust exercise is exactly as described above, except that it needs to start even smaller, with groups of 2 or 3 people working on relatively limited objectives, such as regularly meeting up for canning and such.
    A friend of mine with land and the beginnings of a farm and the initiative to hold workshops and try out novel community cooperation ideas on a small scale has run across numerous problems. people start out with the best of intentions and then energy flags. Sometimes things degenerate into needless conflict. Her generous offerings of her facilities have not been valued as such, because I think people in these times don’t really value resources appropriately. For example, she has contributed her water supply and various amounts of electricity to get projects started, but things like that are often not counted.
    These days I focus on building relationships with very small groups on very limited initiatives and work on communication.


    Stoneleigh, I really do thank you for all your inspiring works, especially this one. When I seek a fresh perspective, The Automatic Earth always delivers.

    Devolving into small units would be, in my perspective, a best case scenario. It is good to recognize that it’s not all doom and gloom… that perhaps we can help society shift into a decentralized and trust based ethical model. I certainly pray for that, but the devolution we see happening today seems more in line with authoritarianism.

    Large systems can be stabilized by simplifying the elements within. At this time, people have much economic freedom, and with more paths and thus more more variability. It would seem to me that those of privilege intend to control the population through a combination of force and fear; this would remove the freedom and, if public lash-back can be quashed, help to stabilize the society. I look at how government operates today, in most western societies and especially the US and EU, and a migration towards authoritarian rule seems to be the modus operandi.

    While rarely endeared by the peasantry, authoritarian societies such as monarchies have endured for centuries. The histories of Britain, France, and Spain serve as prime examples. The question about devolution from an authoritarian state becomes one of energy and force… for when the rulers are unable to exercise their control of a kingdom, they lose it. However the result is not the simple societies which you mention; another authoritarian ruler generally steps in to replace the fallen. There is the issue of EROEI in oil, but the technologies which supported monarchies and dictatorships in centuries past still exist today, along with a sporting new line of tools which can be added as additional control mechanisms (drones and mankind’s massively expanded artillery, for example). It would appear that if the ‘free’ society fails, enough control mechanisms exist for authoritarianism to endure for at least our natural lifetimes.

    I would love to hear you chime in on the probability of trust based societies instead of authoritarian rule. I desperately want to see your scenario occur over the one I present, but the trajectory seems well established.

    @Chas – You missed no bull market. You missed a bull market fake-out. They are not the same thing. When this farce of a rise fails, the fireworks will be spectacular and your dry powder will buy plenty. The average economic participant has no resilience. You are in an enviable position.


    HI folks,

    The last two comments by Ishkabibble and milliepickle are very pertinent as they highlight the gap between what people imagine might happen and what actually does. The problem lies with terms such as community which hide the actual social dynamics. Community means generally ‘from the common’ and refers to relations that are more mechanical than contractarian (see my own previous post). Also historically they are based around necessity, often to do with food production or defence, especially of small towns and villages where everyone pretty well new each other and where they stood in that society. Trying to have this sort of ‘community’ in a society where you have only ‘known’ someone for a few months or maybe years if you are lucky, where there is no real necessity and instead it is as much a lifestyle choice as much as anything is doomed to failure.

    As for what happens in ‘communities’ when necessity does hit check out the results of the current UK moderate snow fall:

    Nice community response in clearing the shelves :whistle:

    IMHO if you want a taste of post ‘collapse’ check out some of the rougher areas of sub-Saharan Africa or anywhere where ‘colonialism’ has gone from governance to exploitation.



    Ishkabibble post=6501 wrote:
    …the technologies which supported monarchies and dictatorships in centuries past still exist today…It would appear that if the ‘free’ society fails, enough control mechanisms exist for authoritarianism to endure for at least our natural lifetimes.

    The traditional technologies of poverty and ignorance have always been universally employed by authoritarian rule, but the revolutionary discovery of national liberty expressed in the american and french revolutions, being inevitable socio-economic reactions to intolerable tyranny, may have created a lasting and indominable impulse of societal anti-authoritariansm, rendering the perfect political ignorance of liberty permanently impossible.

    It seems impossible for a previously liberated revolutionary society to completely unlearn and remove the moral memory of democratic and anti-authoritarian mechanisms once constituted and having lasted in an institutional form for generations, making the sustainable intergenerational ignorance of liberty no longer tenable, while also establishing the permanent expectations of intellectual and political failure of authoritarianism as a form of government, which leaves only directed poverty as a transient tool for authoritarian control, but being now clearly apparent as directed violence.

    But, absent ignorance, and having glimpsed the promise of an open society, then the absolute intensity and purposeful intent of violent poverty required to supress the spirit of liberty, once learned and remembered on a societal scale, is itself unsustainable, since the required supression mechanisms will eventually dampen all excess energy flux available for centralised power projection.

    For instance, the virtues and profitabilities of free speech, once familiarised, cannot be hidden or erased from the collective memory of a people, having once freed themselves. And since the intellectual weakness of authoritarianism cannot withstand civil discourse and disintergates under sustained criticism and organised political opposition, the necessary totalitarian supression of discourse and political organisation critical of authoritarian rule will dampen economic activity to the extent than centralised control mechanisms become ineffective and unaffordable, so any complex criminal center cannot hold, regardless of technotyrannical efficacy.

    Viscount St. Albans

    Scale Matters ……
    Several Million Square Miles of Sahara and Jet Fuel is Pricey

    As mentioned earlier in the week with regard to France’s colonial Malian intervention: What’s the EROEI and who pays for all that very expensive Jet Fuel?

    A Hilarious article From this Sunday’s NYTimes

    Money Quote:
    “In Paris, French officials said the United States, while willing to help ferry African troops, wanted to bill France for the use of transport aircraft, which officials said would not go down well with the French. The Pentagon favors providing rapid help with transport and even with air-to-air refueling, but the White House is more reluctant, the officials said.”


    Does scale matter?
    If you did not use natural gas to extract oil from the oil sands would it be available for exporting via a pipeline to the coast or south to the USA?

    Toshiba Nuclear Reactor For Oil Sands To Be Operational By 2020: Reports

    While the news of nuclear reactors potentially dotting the oilsands landscape is already raising concerns among some environmentalists, the technology could actually prove greener than current methods. Oilsands producers typically use natural gas to power bitumen extraction, which contributes significantly to Canada’s carbon emissions.

    List of small nuclear plants under research/development


    “the technology could actually prove greener than current methods”

    What do you do with the nuclear waste? Is that “green”




    Stoneleigh wrote: “People have fewer babies when they don’t think they’ll be able to look after them, or when they don’t like the look of the world they would have to bring them into.”

    Actually, the opposite is true. People have more babies under those conditions. As conditions improve, they have fewer babies. This has been proven time and time again, all over the world, over many decades. There is no doubt. It is a paradox, but it is true: women in chaotic and resource-poor environments, suffering from existential insecurity, are much more fertile than women in more stable and resource-rich ones. You would think it would be the opposite, but it isn’t. It is counter-intuitive.

    An interesting sidelight on this: there is an ugly streak in neo-Malthusianism, characterized by a “let ‘em die!” attitude toward the third world, or impoverished populations. The idea is that we should not support the starving or impoverished; we should “let nature take care of the problem on it’s own”, or something like that. Maybe I should not say that this is just an “ugly streak in neo-Malthusianism”; maybe this is intrinsic to all neo-Malthusianism. In any case, my point is that that idea does not work. “Letting them die” does not work. They will not just die; they will have more kids. (They WILL die, but they will have more kids before doing so.) The problem does not solve itself. It gets worse. However, the opposite approach DOES work. Want lower population? Simple. Feed ‘em, clothe ‘em, etc. Presto! Lower fertility. And several decades later, falling population.

    And it happens at a VERY low level of consumption and SES/GDP. It is not necessary to bring people up to anywhere near the level of the modern west/north. Something on the order of $U.S. 5000 per capita per year is plenty. A good example is China: their fertility has now fallen BELOW replacement at a per capita GDP of under $U.S. 5000. (That is down from fertility of 5-6, before the revolution, when most of the population was living in desperate poverty.) It will go even further negative as the poorer rurals are lifted up. India is headed in the same direction, though they are still slightly above replacement. They are like China, but 20-30 years behind.

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