Malthusian Horror

The post is pitched like this because it’s Friday night, but it works. A more dutiful post might have been entitled simply ‘Malthus’ and involved a lot of work. That’s going to be needed at some point. (Here‘s the 6th edition of An Essay on the Principle of Population, for anyone who wants to get started now.) A more thoroughly technical approach would have been flagged ‘Neo-Malthusianism’. While sympathizing with groans about another ‘neo-‘ prefix, in this case it would have been solidly justified. It’s only through expansion of the Malthusian insight in accordance with a more general conservation law that its full current relevance can be appreciated. Classic Malthus still does far more work than it is credited with, but it contains a principle of far more penetrating application.

‘Neo-‘ at its most frivolous is merely a mark of fashion. When employed more seriously, it notes an element of innovation. Its most significant sense includes not only novelty, but also abstraction. Something is carried forwards in such a way that its conceptual core is distilled through extraction from a specific context, achieving a higher generality, and more exact formality. Malthus partially anticipates this in a phrase that points beyond any excessively constrictive concreteness:

Malthus00

The qualification “in some shape or other” might have been drawn from abstract horror, and “premature death” only loosely binds it. Even so, this formulation remains too narrow, since it tends to exclude the dysgenic outcome, which we have since learnt is a dimension of Malthusian expression scarcely less imposing than resource crisis. A Neo-Malthusian account of the “X” which in some shape or other makes a grim perversity of all humanity’s efforts to improve its condition grasps it as a mathematically conserved, plastic, or abstract destiny, working as remorselessly through reductions of mortality (Malthusian ‘relaxations’) as through increases (Malthusian ‘pressures’). Both would count equally as “checks on population” — each convertible, through a complex calculus, into the terms of the other. A population dysgenically deteriorated through ‘enlightened’ Malthusian relaxation learns, once again, how to starve.

The Dark Enlightenment (essay) was clearly catalyzed by the work of Mencius Moldbug, but it was to have had two Anglo-Thomistic or Doubting Thomas intellectual-historical pillars (and neither were Thomas Carlyle). The first was Thomas Hobbes, who was at least touched upon. The second was to have been Thomas Malthus, but the series was diverted into the foaming current of the Derbyshire affair and the outrages of Leftist race politics. The integrity of conception was lost. Had it not been, it might have been less tempting to read the 333-current as an Anti-Enlightenment, rather than a Counter-Enlightenment, in the sense of an eclipsed, alternative to the Rousseauistic calamity that prevailed. It would certainly attach the Scottish Enlightenment, but only under the definite condition that it is lashed securely to the harsh realist scaffolding of the Dark Enlightenment (Hobbes and Malthus), disillusioned of all idealism. Pretty stories are for little children (being raised by liberals).

Malthus subtracts all utopianism from enlightenment. He shows that history is put together — necessarily — in a butcher’s yard. Through Malthus, Ricardo discovered the Iron Law of Wages, disconnecting the ideas of economic advance and humanitarian redemption. Darwin effected a comparable (and more consequential) revision in biology, also on Malthusian grounds, dispelling all sentimentality from notions of evolutionary ‘progression’. It is from Malthus that we know, when anything seems to move forward, it is through being ground up against a cutting edge. It is when Marx attempts to put Malthus into history, rather than history into Malthus, that utopian dementia was resuscitated within economics. The anti-Malthusianism of Libertarians stigmatizes them as dreamy fools.

With NRx, the matter is perhaps more unsettled, but the Dark Enlightenment is unambiguously Mathusian. If you find your eye becoming dewy, pluck it out.

November 14, 2014admin 37 Comments »
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37 Responses to this entry

  • peter connor Says:

    The principal virtue of a Malthusian economy is that it kills off enough unfit people to counteract the steady buildup of mutation load, and even provided a substantial net increase in intelligence over time in pre-1800 Britain. See Greg Clark’s classic, A Farewell to Alms. That winnowing process has not been the case for the last 150 years due to fossil fuels, advances in public health, and massive agricultural expansion. The result has been a serious decline in average intelligence, for whom Michael Woodley is the most prominent researcher. For the probable consequences, see the great experiment “Mouse Utopia.”

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Your thoughts are in perfect alignment with mine (see the embedded Clark link, and Weiss).

    [Reply]

    Aeroguy Reply:

    Can someone put a funding request for a followup study on the mouse utopia experiment on kickstarter or would even that be too much risk if everyone suddenly links to it?

    While I do think mutational load is civilization threatening, I’m skeptical of the time frame it takes to be threatening (personally I see a r-selection boom bust cycle as a better model than mouse utopia extinction, a cycle that seems to evade Malthus like an orbit evades gravity thanks to the forward velocity that is mutant genius). If mutational load was the cause of the mouse utopia collapse, why don’t mice (and other pets, or fruit flies for that matter) that have been breed in captivity for more generations than observed in the experiment also display signs of mutational load? I know for pet cats, feral cats are continuously being cycled back into the captive population (feral kittens also grow up to be the best cats IMO). If anyone here keeps snakes or knows someone who breeds snake food, are the weakest mice deliberately chosen, wouldn’t choosing a true random mouse (I know the breeding momma mouse is never picked) make effective selection pressure zero? If catastrophic levels of mutational load was that easy to trigger, wouldn’t snake owners already have stories about having to replace the parts in their snake food generators?

    Since I mentioned fruit flies, I know those are popular for seeing many generations in action. Haven’t there already been (even inadvertently) fruit fly utopias built? The frightening implication is that the more temperamental genomes (humans have one of the worst) are more susceptible to genetic load than species with more robust genomes. The real question is by how much.

    [Reply]

    nyan_sandwich Reply:

    Replicating mouse utopia with fruit fly utopia would be a lot cheaper, and could help separate some of the differences.

    Mouse utopia, done with volunteer labor and crowdfunding might only cost a few thousand dollars.

    [Reply]

    an inanimate aluminum tube Reply:

    Where did the idea that mouse utopia was caused by mutational load come from?

    Calhoun believed it was caused by a situation where there were “far more mice than meaningful social roles”.

    The experiment only lasted around 600 days, no way mutational load destroyed it in that short timeframe, right?

    As far as I know the accumulating mutational load theory is separate from the mouse utopia theory.

    [Reply]

    an inanimate aluminum tube Reply:

    (by “mouse utopia theory”, i mean the idea of the behavioral sink, should have expressed that more clearly.)

    R. Reply:

    The assertion that intelligence has substsntially decreased since early 19th century is not well supported.

    There has not been enough dysgenic breeding in the meantime.

    [Reply]

    forkinhell Reply:

    So how else might it have decreased?

    [Reply]

    Posted on November 14th, 2014 at 4:26 pm Reply | Quote
  • Chris B Says:

    This is good. Very good. Clarification of the lineage of NRx as being derived at least in part from the Scottish Enlightenment has been sorely needed. Picking up the batton from there may be one of the most profound things we could achieve.

    [Reply]

    Posted on November 14th, 2014 at 4:38 pm Reply | Quote
  • E. Antony Gray (@RiverC) Says:

    Mouse Utopia is quite terrifying (though I think at least one of his experiment populations did survive)

    “The power of population is so superior to the power of earth to produce subsistence for man that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race.”

    —–> (???) —–>

    “The power of man may so master the power of earth to produce subsistence for man that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race.”

    —–> (???) —–>

    “If the power of man so masters the power of earth to produce subsistence for man, premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race.

    also for kicks, progressive tears
    https://twitter.com/talktoskirt/status/533080993826349057
    https://twitter.com/talktoskirt/status/533081430952542209
    https://twitter.com/talktoskirt/status/533081879529132032
    https://twitter.com/talktoskirt/status/533082228184866816

    This and constant tweeting about depression, gore and fornication.

    One might say, the only chance for the poor is a good hospice.

    [Reply]

    Posted on November 14th, 2014 at 4:50 pm Reply | Quote
  • Nyan Sandwich Says:

    So how do we solve the elite fertility problem? Jim has made a good case for Patriarchy, but there is probably more to it.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    The main point is that a ‘solution’ to the problem wouldn’t be experienced as a solution, but rather as a descent into hellish nightmare. Malthus explains why. The notion that some kind of happy ending is available for this is just another dreamy progressive fantasy.

    [Reply]

    E. Antony Gray (@RiverC) Reply:

    As the dysgenics from trying to ‘save the poor’ increases, the subsistence to help the poor with decreases until famine.

    But according to the archetypes, war is usually the final trigger for this, since the vulnerability of the poor is not really exposed until the lines of aid are forcibly cut. Since Progressivism can offer no remedy for these lines of aid (only more and supposedly better ones) it just makes the inevitable famine – then death – greater.

    The four horsemen thing goes
    -> white horse : conquest
    -> red horse : war
    -> black horse : famine
    -> pale (mottled) horse : death

    If you can subsist 10x as many people on government assistance, then you have 10x as many people starving when government assistance fails, as it will in whatever war inevitably comes.

    It’s also the nature of progessivism to avoid actual conflict, therefore making the inevitable conflict even greater. Say what you will about the conservatoids and murkins, they at least understand that unless you can train people to help themselves, you’re not getting anywhere.

    I feel a little pre-schadenfreude thinking of the progressive tears when they at last want to help but cannot help because they wasted all of their (and our) resources burgeoning a hapless underclass.

    I loathe mass killing, but tragedy is (darkly) beautiful.

    [Reply]

    Contemplationist Reply:

    Right.
    If we believe Bruce Charlton, we will need to accept Jesus or Buddha or Vishnu and enjoin the End Times or the Kali Yuga.

    Perhaps, still thinking of entities called ‘solutions’ is itself a signal of the still-attached Progressive mind virus.

    [Reply]

    nyan_sandwich Reply:

    >Perhaps, still thinking of entities called ‘solutions’ is itself a signal of the still-attached Progressive mind virus.

    This is interesting and needs further development. I have been suspecting some things along those lines.

    nyan_sandwich Reply:

    Bullshit. Sterilization, choosing not to have kids, and death all look the same to Gnon, but look very different to us.

    [Reply]

    nyan_sandwich Reply:

    Further, “gas the poor” and “gas the rich” look the same to raw malthus, but very different to us and Gnon.

    Aeroguy Reply:

    How to fix elite birth rate, it’s already rebounding, see Mormons (who, surprise, practice patriarchy, at least for the time being).

    Malthus could continue to be delayed. If sufficient genetic screening were to be imposed and the present style of chance births strictly persecuted the threat of mutational load would be entirely eliminated. If you add compulsory genetic engineering, r-selection boom bust can also be averted. The threat of Malthus alone and competition may be enough pressure to keep evolutionary progress going so long as population growth and consumption isn’t put under an universal artificial cap (good luck enforcing that, besides it would result in stagnation and degeneration). However progs will insist on doing it the hard way as described by E. Antony Gray

    The trick is that r-selected population doesn’t go away (r vs K is entirely relative), in the above scenario it’s an ever present parasitic threat to the K-selected (how many cat girls can be shepherded by Nyan’s god emperor, how many of Nyan’s human galactic empires can be shepherded by matrioshka brains). As outlined, the general population can continue to look as human as ever (because most people insist on keeping their human ascetics and refuse to sacrifice their sense of self on the alter of ascension), but the population of cutting edge post-human advancement are Gnon’s chosen, even under artificial selection pressure, they will ascend into the inhuman, the evolutionary dead weight of human characteristics eventually will have to be cast aside since competition is eternal and pitiless.

    The eventual result will be K-selected inhuman faces burning the r-selected human faces as parasites. The irony is that the tragic aspect could be averted if not for the protectors insisting on doing it the hard way.

    (I’m developing the sense that our theorizing has some kind of conservation of Lovecraftian horror)

    [Reply]

    Posted on November 14th, 2014 at 5:38 pm Reply | Quote
  • neovictorian23 Says:

    The great speculative fiction writers (e.g. Robert Heinlein) recognized, 70 or more years ago, and explicitly in name, that the only way around Malthus for at least the few was the spread of humanity off of Earth. That truth hasn’t changed. They also thought the cognitive elite would be the ones leaving and would eventually become another species.

    Even if a sliver of cream does leave the planet, those left behind will experience a Malthusian crash. So it goes.

    [Reply]

    Chris B Reply:

    There is no way around. Only compliance or utter destruction. Pick one.

    We need to work on making this clear.

    [Reply]

    R. Reply:

    Why?

    Only Africa at present is breeding unchecked. Eventually someone has to put a damper on that. You think chinese desire a billion black people ? An engineered STD that’d cause infertility would spread like wildfire there..

    Rest of the world isnae gonna collapse, barring something wiping out agriculture. A bioweapon, etcv..

    [Reply]

    Urban IX Reply:

    Africa and their extensive breeding are thecresult of foreign aid and foreign charity. Populations don’t really exceed the availability of resources, but Africa’s resources come from an increasingly unreliable redistributive system.

    Rest of the world is headed for a collapse, but not because of overbreeding. On the contrary, our population is declining, being replaced by lower-IQ populations, and the current social/political structures wont survive the transition.

    [Reply]

    Posted on November 14th, 2014 at 6:26 pm Reply | Quote
  • Hurlock Says:

    You do not seriously believe in the Iron Law of Wages, do you?

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    It’s part of a larger conservation law, but it captures a deeper truth than the right-progressive rejections of it (which all ultimately convey the silly message: “ultimately capitalism is going to give you much more than you’re worth”).

    [Reply]

    Hurlock Reply:

    I am not denying that under capitalism one gets what one is worth, but the Iron Law of Wages is a misleading theory.
    As the overall quality of life increases, the real wages increase as well. What us a ‘subsistence’ wage today is quite different from what was a subsistence wage in 1800. The result being that real wages today are higher than real wages in 1800. The humanitarianism brought about through economic advance is clearly there evidenced by the fact that today workers on a subsistence wage can enjoy things like electricity and hot water, something that their counterparts in 1800 couldn’t even dream of.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    This improvement in the average standard of living is part of a larger (dysgenic-tilted) story, though. Weiss sees it with the most panoramic coldness.

    Posted on November 14th, 2014 at 7:19 pm Reply | Quote
  • Malthusian Horror | Reaction Times Says:

    […] Source: Outside In […]

    Posted on November 14th, 2014 at 9:19 pm Reply | Quote
  • secede Says:

    malthusiast?
    neo-malthusiast?
    neo-neo-malthusiast?

    [Reply]

    Posted on November 14th, 2014 at 10:01 pm Reply | Quote
  • piwtd Says:

    “Had it not been, it might have been less tempting to read the 333-current as an Anti-Enlightenment, rather than a Counter-Enlightenment, in the sense of an eclipsed, alternative to the Rousseauistic calamity that prevailed. It would certainly attach the Scottish Enlightenment, but only under the definite condition that it is lashed securely to the harsh realist scaffolding of the Dark Enlightenment (Hobbes and Malthus), disillusioned of all idealism. Pretty stories are for little children (being raised by liberals).”

    I am glad to see you moving leftwards.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    ‘Moving’ how? This is an exposition, not a transition.

    [Reply]

    piwtd Reply:

    In that case I am glad to see you’ve been there all along. The distinction as I see it, is whether the miserific vision is framed as a justification for capitulation or a preface to a battle-plan. I don’t know about Malthus but I’ve always understood Hobbes as a representative of the latter, and therefore, in the large scheme of things, a progressive. Hobbes vs. Rousseau is cautious enlightenment vs. daring enlightenment.

    [Reply]

    Posted on November 15th, 2014 at 2:49 am Reply | Quote
  • NRx_N00B Says:

    Malthus obviously had a very deep intuitive feel for non-linear thinking—systems dynamics before it was cool. A dysgenic outcome is just another consequence, symptom and/or proxy for having overshot the steady-state. I’m guessing mutational load won’t be the sole driver of collapse but yet another feedback contributing to the overall snowballing that’ll cause the whole house of cards to come down. Similarly, I think “progressivism” is yet another proxy for having exceeded the steady-state—we’re probably at or just beyond “peak progressivism” now. That’s where NRx and the acceleration towards undershoot comes into play, muahahahaha…

    [Reply]

    Posted on November 15th, 2014 at 4:21 am Reply | Quote
  • Alan J. Perrick Says:

    Far

    [Reply]

    Posted on November 15th, 2014 at 11:34 am Reply | Quote
  • Alan J. Perrick Says:

    This was written with far too much rhetoric to even begin considering approaching. Try again, “Outsideness.”

    A.J.P.

    [Reply]

    Posted on November 15th, 2014 at 11:36 am Reply | Quote
  • NRx_N00B Says:

    Surely the highest echelons amongst progressive decision makers must see the impending calamity—but it’s full throttle ahead, continuously rolling out policies that, in the end, will only exacerbate things. I guess the goal is to do whatever it takes to kick the can down the road as long as possible, to make it someone else’s problem. The shortsightedness is so bizarre. Thoughts?

    [Reply]

    Posted on November 16th, 2014 at 2:59 am Reply | Quote
  • Speculations on nRX | The New International Outlook Says:

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    Posted on December 24th, 2014 at 5:15 am Reply | Quote
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