Population Wars Social Welfare

A formula for war is a large and growing population experiencing a deteriorating resource base. Unless they are completely isolated from any lands with a more favourable ratio of resources per capita, an attempt to gain access to those “underutilized” resources is almost inevitable.

Humans have always reproduced at a higher level than necessary to maintain their numbers. To balance this natural upward pressure against stable resource bases, strategies to both decrease the birth rate and increase mortality have been employed.

  • Hunter-gatherer societies made frequent use of female infanticide.
  • A constant state of low level of conflict with their neighbour resulted in high male mortality rates.
  • The ancient Greeks harvested their crops and then marched off to war almost every year.
  • These customs maintained a fairly high level of attrition of the population but allowed the society to continue without the total collapse that would accompany resource overexploitation or a major war. But as societies grew into large agriculturally based regional powers, war became less frequent but much more devastating.

War has a habit of breaking out when one country cannot satisfy the expectations of its citizens.  In response to a large number of restless poor with very low prospects, many leaders take the opportunity to point across a border to their neighbours as the source of the problem.

Populations growing on a declining resource base quickly find disagreement on an ethnic or social strata level rapidly turning their diminishing prospects into friction and eventually open conflict.   Throughout history, the scale has changed but the drivers remain the same.

Despite the major wars fought in the past century, mortality from war is far lower than the historical norm. The cheap energy fueled resource bonanza has allowed a rapidly expanding global population to make consumer goods, not war.  But energy is getting more expensive and the climate is growing less favourable.

Most wars are firmly rooted in resource/ethnic/population growth dynamics and, in 2016, the familiar pattern can clearly be seen in the Middle East and African regions generating large and increasing numbers of migrants.


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