Rebirth of Reason

War for Men's Minds

Ayn Rand and the End of Malthus
by Manfred F. Schieder

"The right to life means that a man has the right to support his life by his own work (on any economic level, as high as his ability will carry him); it does not mean that other must provide him with the necessities of life."
From "Man's Rights" (The Virtue of Selfishness) by Ayn Rand.

I will start this writing by stating that Thomas Robert Malthus' (1766 - 1834) deductions can only be applied to irrational living beings. This assertion will surely cause some astonishment and denials, but we will see that it is both a logical and necessary conclusion, one of the many that are typical of inferences reached by applying the solid rational foundations of the philosophy of Objectivism.
Malthus, an English parson that was also a scholar of history, social philosophy and economic policy, considered that the growth of the population seems to be (he considered that it effectively was) always faster than the growth of food availability. This moved him to write, at the end of the 18th century and during the days of the horrible French carnage (some also call it a revolution, but I myself don't share this judgment), a book where he held that the balance between the population's growth and the amount of food available could only be restored through wars, diseases (plagues) and hunger.
Reality seems to confirm what he said… but this is solely because human beings still live in a kind of society they have inherited from their irrational ancestors, a type of society that we will definitively leave behind once we take up the form of society that is proper to human beings: a rational society. For the time being, Malthus is the main argument used by those who consider that birth controls established by government compulsion, imposed by laws and punitive decrees, are required. For those that follow this line of "reasoning", "societies" such as those existing in Communist China, with its totalitarian regimentation, Tiananmen type killings, fascist and Soviet's, etc. "ethnic cleanings", mandatory birth bans and regulations, etc., this is the "ideal" type of society for human beings. To justify "birth control" on this kind of "argument" is both deeply abhorrent and foreign to a free society where birth control and abortion remain totally in the hands and personal decisions of the individuals involved.
Malthus' theory speaks of a "fight for existence within a given species". By the time Darwin read this, 40 years after Malthus' book had been published, he recognized in it the trigger that started the great variety expansion existing within a given species. This is totally correct. On his trip on the "Beagle" around the world he saw on the Galapagos Islands species of finches similar to those existing along the coast of Ecuador, though the islands were too far removed from the continent to allow the birds to flow to the islands to then return to the continent. Apart from this, he noticed a large and additional variety of finches that were unknown in Ecuador, some of them with a longer beak, some with a larger and stronger beak, others even preferring different types of food, some of them even carnivorous. And all these existed only on the Galapagos.
He considered that this could only mean that some of the birds had "adapted" to the fact that not enough of the usually preferred food was available. However, there doesn't exist any species that would adapt to the existing circumstances in the sense that any of the individuals enlarge their neck during their lifetime to then pass on this newly acquired capability to the descendants. After all, millions upon millions of circumcisions haven't generated yet even one descendant already born without a foreskin nor will this ever happen, as Isaac Asimov commented on this fact. Each individual is what he is, which is precisely what prohibits the "adaptation of the species" in the usual meaning of the term. Lamarck (1744 - 1829) thought that individuals could adapt to circumstances, and this moved him to state that a giraffe was a deer that had lengthened its neck time and time again to reach the leaves that grew higher up on a tree. Darwin proved this proposal to be ridiculous.
What takes place is something quite different and far more astonishing: the couple produces descendants and there might be a mutant among them. This means that through genetical changes, these mutants carry an either useful or useless detail that increases or decreases its chance of survival or, else, makes no difference one way or the other, at least for the time when the mutation appears. However, the unnoticeable change distinguishes the newborn from its parents and opens the way to slowly become a new variety of the species… and, in due course and given the sufficient amount of generations, even a completely different species by itself. While, in general, each mutation hasn't any practical use, what distinguishes the offspring from its parents can, given certain circumstances, determine its survival. Perhaps the mutant is stronger or has a larger beak which, in case of danger or when the usual supply of food gets exhausted, allows it to eat bigger seeds or even change its food habits to search for worms or other insects, run faster or emerge victorious from a fight against an enemy that had, up to then, never been defeated by any of the members of the species attacked. At any rate, the survival chances are now higher and if by chance he finds a mate that has compatible capabilities, the new capacity can be transferred to the descendants. As from there on, the new variety starts to expand until a new survival limit is reached and the whole process starts again. Hence, the new variety didn't adapt to the existing environment but amplified itself toward new areas and survival possibilities.
Malthusians may even agree to this, but they will add, the time will come when the planet's whole surface will be populated, food will no longer be available in sufficient quantity and the "big dying" will start, this meaning that by that time hunger, disease and wars will re-establish the equilibrium. Apparently a totally hopeless situation will be reached repeatedly, and the only way out will be Malthus' "solutions". This may be evident, but only at first sight.
Those who consciously or subconsciously adhere to the social system that predominates in the world - altruism, which means "to live for the next of kin and not for oneself", as Auguste Comte defined - are so obsessed by this view that they even refuse to take under consideration the possibility of an existing but different solution, for to accept such a point of view would shake the established political power to its very roots. "Never before has the world been clamoring so desperately for answers to crucial problems - and never before has the world been so frantically committed to the belief that no answers are possible," stated philosopher Ayn Rand.
The details of the solution are already available but most people don't want to recognize them. They state: "There will be so many people in the world that there will be no standing room available". Yet we solved such a possibility by living one on top of the other, in comfortable apartments that allow us more privacy than we ever thought possible. "There won't be sufficient food available and we will need more than two planets to supply the necessary foodstuff," they claim. Yet we invented genetical engineering, which allows us to obtain whatever quantity of food we may need. Restaurants in New York are even now growing their own lettuce in their kitchens, using large hydroponic tanks lighted by powerful lamps. These are merely a few examples but they suffice to show that we don't need to fear any shortcoming. Only fools are afraid and they unwisely think to have the upper hand.
We inherited the altruistic type of community from our past times of tribal existence, as descendants of superior but still irrational animals. This type of life demands to live for a chieftain and his gang of assistants and followers. It is the life of the Mafiosi, the life of the gangsters, the life where the master decides over life and limb of his subjects, where all others are sacrificed whenever the chief requires or wants it and where everybody else must exist for whoever holds authority. Communism, socialism, fascism and the life-type related to the Jewish-Christian and similar societies in any of its varieties (Christian, Muslim, Hindi, Buddhist, etc. etc.) represent this kind of communal existence. More so, the "Jewish-Christian society" is the essence itself of this social "way". There can be no doubt that it may be difficult to leave it aside. After all, it took us 4 million years to reach the present state of humanity… and now we should give it up. Quite a colossal task!
The existing "way of life" can hardly be called civilization as generally defined, but it required a superb and fundamentally modern brain, the one belonging to philosopher Ayn Rand, to recognize this with total clarity. Starting from the data supplied by reality, she deduced that civilization means a precise isolation from irrational behavior. "Civilization is the process of setting man free from men," she established in her book "The Fountainhead". "The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of the tribe. Civilization is the progress towards a society of privacy." Such a system protects and sustains the life of each of its members. It is a rational social system. Evidently it is also a fundamentally selfish one, for it is a system of individuation.
As from there on, it becomes evident that a future individualistic society signifies a total break with the altruistic social system in any of its forms. Moreover, it is also as from here that the apparently unbreakable repetitive Malthusian cycle can be left behind. In a nutshell: the establishment of a rational, free and individualistic society signifies the end of Malthus, for it is a fact that the human species is the only one that can determine its own future, a capacity that includes the power to destroy Malthus' laws.
What Malthus said about recovering the balance between the population growth of a species and the available means of sustenance (food) is an iron, unshakable law that is necessarily and unavoidably inherent to an altruistic social system. In it, due to its own nature, the amount of food available always tends toward a limit. This is also the reason why those that adhere to such a system inescapably have to adhere to the requirement of a "socially just" sharing of a fixed size cake. Whoever "envisions" such a "fixed food cake" follows the optic that "social" means must be established for a "fair" distribution, the State being considered in this case as the defense against every possibility of venality and corruption when it comes to "correctly" slicing whatever is available. But precisely venality and corruption is inherent to the system, although the population will not consider it to be part of it but characterizing brains that haven't been properly adjusted to the existing system. Whether they are punished or not depends on who seizes the ruling power, either a "noble" or a "bad" government. However, since venality and corruption are an integral part of the system itself, the damages involved are always present and cannot be erased or avoided.
Contrary to this, a rational social system is the basis of a steadily growing cake, which, of course, cannot be distributed in any even way since at no time the true size of the growth can be precisely measured. Each one constructs its own share in accordance with his own capacity and is responsible for his own well-being.
It is unnecessary to rummage for further related details, since what Milton and Rose Friedman wrote in their book "Free to Choose" suffices: "A society that prefers equality - in the sense of equality being the final sum - to liberty ends up by having neither equality nor freedom. Resorting to force to reach equality destroys liberty and this same force, used for a "noble" purpose, will end in the hands of persons that will use it to reach their own purposes." The historians Will and Ariel Durant analyzed it with extreme precision in their book "The Lessons of History": "Nature loves difference as the necessary material of selection and evolution; identical twins differ in a hundred ways, and no two peas are alike… Nature smiles at the union of freedom and equality in our utopias. For freedom and equality are sworn and everlasting enemies, and when one prevails the other dies. Leave men free, and their natural inequalities will multiply almost geometrically, as in England and America in the nineteenth century under laissez-faire. To check the growth of inequality, liberty must be sacrificed, as in Russia after 1917. Even when repressed, inequality grows; only the man who is below the average in economic ability desires equality; those who are conscious of superior ability desire freedom; and in the end superior ability has its way. Utopias of equality are biologically doomed, and the best that the amiable philosopher can hope for is an approximate equality of legal justice and educational opportunity."
Hence, the undesirable "solutions" deduced by Malthus constitute a problem that cannot be solved within the altruistic system, albeit it has been tried again and again, for numberless times. Allow me a short, biting comment: evidently Malthus' "solutions" must not even have satisfied nature, for the automatic evolution developed the human being as its part and product, a being that is able to satisfactorily solve the situation.
But how?
The starting point of the great upheaval that will erase the foundation of what has up to now existed as established, lies in the fact that the solution if located outside the existing type of social system. In a nutshell: since no possible solution exists within the system, it will be reached by changing the social system! In a way, this is similar to a mutant's position within an existing group. The lever to his survival is placed outside the group. In the case of the existing rudimentary human society, the survival of all of mankind's survival lies outside the up to now existing way of life.
This is similar to those physical problems that can only be solved by using data existing beyond the given problem. The fulcrum of the required lever exists outside the system. The automatic, permanent, correct and easy control of the solution exists but doesn't depend on beliefs.
Suppose that a method is available that doesn't just allow the cake to continuously recover its original size but, far more, allows a constant and practically infinite expansion of it at a speed that exceeds consumption. Here the difficulty doesn't lie in the solution itself but in the need of first having to change the existing social system, since the one existing is inadequate to insure mankind's survival. It must be replaced by a social system that properly corresponds to human beings. The inherent difficulty lies in the length of the process involved to reach an increased voluntary readiness by the human brains to recognize the truth of what the new system implies. Since it takes years to explain and teach, by means of intellectual arguments, the mechanics through which the new system operates, i.e. the mechanic of well-being, it is necessary to start the teaching process immediately. Every delay lengthens the existing situation.
However, to survive, subconsciously each of us already and mainly applies what must be openly and consciously established to reach the farthest benefits of the new system, but the human mind remains fixed to the routine, to what was established in his brain in his early youth. Not to simply react but to think consciously requires a considerable effort and yet this effort will have to be done if mankind wants to have a future.
The collectivists insist that the altruist is the system that is proper to the human race and, immediately, commit the evident contradiction of requiring the human being to be changed so as to fit him to the socialist system. He must be matched to the system. This incredible stupidity, equal to the attempt to adapt fishes to breath out of water, is celebrated as the peak of human reasoning. Millions of human beings have been killed and are being killed continuously to reach this idiotic purpose. But nature and its laws rejects equalizing the human beings, because their capacity of survival depends precisely on their absolute diversity. Nature thrives on a chaos of individual possibilities. The mass killings that are a constant of all socialist systems prove that for same nature truly has constantly Malthus' "solutions" in store. In addition, all such ethnic "cleanings", ordered and practiced by the dreadful Stalitlers of every color, creed and variety and their encouragement and acceptance by the general population, signal that societies where they are carried out show that, unfortunately, the majority of the population still exists at the level of irrational animals who follow the belief that killing a part of the population will insure that a sufficient portion of the meagerly existing food cake will be available for the survivors. Their brains are still at a level where they can't even imagine that the real solution lies in the constant production of a constantly growing larger cake. In addition, they hide the truth lying behind the total malignity they are committing by voicing high-sounding catchphrases of justification.
The human being is what reality dictates. Every attempt to change this is stupid. Nobody and nothing can change the road of their genetical destiny onto which nature located the human beings: to be rational beings, however imperfect many of the specimen still are. The law of identity prevents it. On the other hand, what can be changed is the social system that still keeps mankind trapped. This is precisely that external point, that fulcrum that can heave the human being to the new intellectual and material heights needed to insure his life as a rational being. Reality itself imperiously demands this change, albeit the road to the total triumph of reason is still steep and difficult.
Fortunately, the human population also includes mutants and precisely these have since long automatically started to solve the problem in a permanent way. Let's analyze this with greater detail: before the Industrial Revolution started, the so-called "problem of overpopulation" was "solved" internally because the populations were constantly warring among themselves, dying due to horrendous plagues or not even reaching adulthood because they already died at the time they were still babies. The small amount of food that earth could yield contributed to it. Women calved like rabbits and people died like flies. Truly, whoever opposes applying the "outside solution" wants to return us all to those frightful times. They want to take us back to a "pastoral" past that has nothing at all of pastoral and idyllic, as historians proved already. They intend to push mankind into extinction and many prominent figures state this very openly.
There is this ancient habit: since most of the children died it was necessary to produce many to insure that at least one would transfer the genetic information to the next generation, since this is what nature itself demands when it comes to baby making and, in addition, have enough offsprings available to care for the old. Its own continuity depends on it. This background is both dramatic and instructive. However, it is a leftover from our past times as savage beings.
Now add to this a piece of information that, not for being known, is extraordinary and of unheard importance: if we want to reach a fuller human existence, we must remove it from the ghost of hunger, which means that we must produce more food. However, the production of more food depends, among other things, of the existence of a sufficiently large quantity of carbon dioxide in the environment, particularly in the air. Precisely the increase of carbon dioxide, which so greatly bothers the "Greenies", the media and provides all further politicians with excuses to continuously increase the taxes and manhandle the human population, is what nature requires to support life. This is a "second effect" (though by no means "secondary", for this would mean a lowering of its importance), a by-product of the Industrial Revolution!
Let's see how nature itself, which continuously eliminates carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, has supplied herself with a solution to this serious problem. On the one hand, plants exude, as their biological waste, a gas that is totally lethal for them: oxygen. They die in an oxygenated atmosphere. Fortunately, practically at the same time evolution produced another line of beings: those that thrive on plants wastes, which they use as the required element to process their own nutrients, discharging in their turn and as one of their own wastes carbon dioxide, on which plants thrive. This seems to solve the problem of both kingdoms but the apparently perfect cycle has, again, its own enemy lurking in the future: plants fall and die and, of course, this same happens to animals as well. Since the major part of all plant and animal substance is carbon, we end up with an increasing amount of carbon in the soil. The carbon that composes the dead bodies is covered, in due course, by earth and water and, therefore, doesn't return to the atmosphere where it is required, however, to continue the whole cycle. Therefore, the cycle runs down until the whole process stops. Carbon lies within the earth, plants die, the production of oxygen comes to a halt as well and, as a consequence, all animals (never forget that we humans also belong to the animal world) die, with the whole circle breaking down. The moment of death for all living organisms has been reached.
The time calculated for this to happen was around the year 1600, i.e. some 400 years ago.
But the process of nature produced much, much earlier, an additional solution to the problem. Karl R. Popper has a book very properly titled "All life is problem solving", a title that points precisely to the solution. A specific organism - the human being - evolved which discovered that by producing fire one can live much better than without, be it to warm oneself, cook one's food, sear one's wounds, melt metals to produce better weapons with which to kill bigger animals and also spears, etc. for defense and so forth. The mechanical process of civilization thus started, a process for which a nomad's lifestyle is useless while a sedentary one, comprising small communities first, primitive settlements later, larger cities afterwards, etc. provides the increasingly better tools one can invent, design and produce to insure a more advantageous possibility for a new species that is able to think. During pre-historical times, there were people within the tribe that had to physically carry the fire, which the group required during its travels following the food they needed (for example: deers roaming from one area to the next). Later on, people found that it was much better to keep the fire in one place and build enclosures where the living food could be held, and what nowadays would be called genetical engineering slowly produced cows by permanently mating the bigger deers. The conscious production of fire is an activity exclusive to the human being, which solves the problem existing in nature and, thus, the survival of all living beings, because the conscious production of fire signifies that the above described diminishing cycle is automatically stopped and reverted. It's what I call "the Second Effect" of a given action. For to produce fire we need carbon (coal) and oxygen and with it we produce carbon dioxide, the plant's food and, in addition, CIVILIZATION, which is the mechanical process of providing the human being with a greater and steadily increasing amount of well-being by removing us more and more from the physical efforts. We need more carbon (in whatever way available) to produce more fire with which to generate even more comfort (warming clothes and finer clothes if we come to think about women, machinery to better process the food, etc. with all that this implies). This leads us to the time when the human being, to obtain more carbon in every form in which it may be available, starts to dig the soil. By doing so he brings back to the surface the carbon that has gone lost for thousands of millions of years (as coal first, oil and gas later, etc.), with nature contributing its own part in the form of wood fires, erupting volcanoes, etc.
But mining brought up a further problem, for mines get flooded, and, thus, it becomes necessary to pump them dry. This is first accomplished by sheer human physical effort and the help of horses, but this is not a very efficient way of proceeding (the balance existing between the effort spent and the energy obtained doesn't reach significant levels), so some capable brains started to invent mechanical equipments powered by steam (to produce which carbon or a carbon-base fuel must be used), until James Watt (1736 - 1819) hit the right key and designed a really efficient boiler to power not only pumps but also locomotives that can pull wagons, etc. etc. And there you are: the Industrial Revolution has started!
The whole process triggers an additional advantage. First of all, we need more carbon (coal) and then we burn it. This seems to be a contradiction but isn't, for it's all a question of proportions: to burn some coal to then obtain much coal is an excellent option and at the same time to burn the carbon obtained betters our chance of survival because it provides us with more protection and security, i.e. comfort. Along the road, we provide carbon dioxide to the vegetal world, which thrives and gives us then what we need: oxygen. The "Second Effect" now accelerates!
This provides us all with a safer, more comfortable and longer existence. Under these conditions it should be worthwhile to live! In addition, the other living organisms benefit too, since the expelled and produced carbon dioxide increases the vegetal growth that, in turn, benefits the animal kingdom. All in all this could be called a perfect arrangement! We live swell and nature now has a thinking organism that insures the continuity of the phenomenon "life".
But, and this is really a big but, we continue to be involved in wars, we continue to catch diseases and there are still plagues in the world, the food and population problem continues to exist, etc. All this because we haven't yet applied the "outside" solution I mentioned earlier.
Here we must remember again the question of "proportions". Of course, it would be excellent if we could apply the solution required all at once. Let's go to sleep tonight and by tomorrow morning, we live all under the correct conditions.
Gosh! Wouldn't that be just perfect? Magic might be quite OK for the stage and tales of fairies and nymphs can make us happy… for a short while, but reality just doesn't work that way and besides and most important, we wouldn't have learned the difference between then and now. It requires a slow process of learning, of understanding and of so-called "spiritualization" in the sense of voluntarily acquiring and accepting the premises and conditions involved. No application of force can make the trick. The task of accepting the new system, of incorporating it to oneself, involves a process of thought, a process that comprises even an incorporation into our consciousness of what the new system means. And this takes time. It cannot and should not be swallowed in one big gulp. It must be incorporated piecewise, each tidbit at a time, comparing and connecting it to each of the other parts without incurring into any contradiction.
The system that provides the solution and stands in total opposition to the existing altruist system is Capitalism, which is, as the reader will notice as we go along, just another name for the human process already described above, a system, as explained by philosopher Ayn Rand, that conforms a social system based on the recognition of the individual rights, including the property rights, where all property remains in private ownership. The individual's main right is his right on his own life, as long as he doesn't initiate an act of violence against another person or persons. To fulfill his life he must keep the right to property and the profitable use of it, at any level of capacity and achievement this might imply, for if he doesn't own his property and/or if to use it and profit from it he has to request allowance from others, he will not be a free man but a slave and remain as such. His right to personal freedom under the rule of the moral law mentioned before is the only way of life that corresponds to a rational being.
In various countries of the world only minimal parts of the capitalistic system have been applied so far, which moves me to smile at the collectivist's utterance that "Capitalism hasn't been able to solve the human problems", for even in the minute doses applied it produced and produces such an amazing prosperity that imagining what its full application would attain surpasses everything that we could conceive. Capitalism is the system of the future, if mankind wants to have a future, as Ayn Rand, that extraordinary philosopher, said.
But such fundamental changes don't happen in a moment; the shift of mentality required to take the step from a collectivist society to a Capitalist society proceeds as a slow process, a learning procedure that, as already mentioned, takes place through convincing arguments, of which Capitalism has an endless supply, ideas based on reality and, thus, fully verifiable to their very last consequences.
As long as we continue to adhere to the ancient system, Malthus' wars, famines and plagues will continue. This cold statement is a cry of desperation against what could have been avoided already long ago.
Wherever the small traces of Capitalism operate, we can already view what the rational system accomplishes: an immediate and lasting betterment of the living conditions of the population, a growing food supply and a significant improvement of health promoting conditions which reduce the danger of epidemics and, thus, lengthens the human lifespan; a growing understanding of how the human body works and, as a consequence of the increased knowledge, a better and faster development of the curing drugs and healing systems that eliminate the disease factor from human societies in a continuous and expanding way. All this provides a better life to the populations involved and raises their lifespan.
The Capitalist system is a PRODUCTIVE system. This necessarily includes a total loath towards wars, because wars are a process of destruction. Capitalism will be able to eliminate them because it wipes out in its development the reasons for war, the lack of food as well as the reckless increase of population, both of which are essential war generators. Here it is necessary to remember that our ancestors generated many children because most of them died already at birth or shortly after. Further on, they required them as survival insurance for their old age days (a typical example for this are the descendants that must sustain their old parents).
Within Capitalism, this requirement is growingly overcome by itself since people can save much of their income, which eliminates the need to procreate many children for "life insurance" and, at the same time, provides more financial means to increase the production factors, machinery and enterprises that pay good returns on investments made. On the other hand, the most important fact of a steadily cleaner and healthier environment, with its destruction of disease producing germs and an increased hygiene, adds its own contribution to reduce the need for more children.
Capitalism involves, thus, an automatic system of birth control, a fact that the general population hasn't considered yet but which adds a great deal to reduce the dangers involved in birth delivery for women. People who perceive a better future in their life are less interested in producing children as "sustenance security" for their old age and, besides, they are keen in providing their offsprings with a better education than they themselves ever had. Further on, less children free a female from the so-called "kitchen chores". Now they can earn their own money, which increases the amount of money to be saved and so adds to life's enjoyment. In addition they can now delight in their own body and sexual relations that are in themselves a tool of happiness and no longer the terror of unavoidable pregnancies that may mean their own deaths, quite separately from the possible death of the babies (all this beside the added security of the higher standards of hygiene and the increased amount of medicines invented). Wherever even traces of Capitalism are applied, a decrease of sexual practice as mere generators of more human beings and an increase of all kinds of sexual activity for personal satisfaction can be seen. The scholars of Capitalism already foresaw this fact, but it's almost surprising that it appears on such an early implementation of some parts of the system, as we are facing nowadays.
The only possible rational social system - Capitalism - solves, thus, the essential problems of both nature and the human being in a peaceful, self-respecting, productive way.
Trying to solve the food-population question within the altruist system comes to nothing because the problem itself is inherent to it. We have inherited this altruistic system, in its various forms of communism, socialism, unionism, theocracy, democracy, fascism, Nazism, etc. from our long past ancestors, the irrational animals. We are the species that, thus, must apply the social system that corresponds to our nature, after having deduced its foundations and methods from reality itself. Fortunately, the genius of a magnificent woman has solved this part already: philosopher Ayn Rand. Now it must be applied. On it depends mankind's survival in the universe.
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