Monday, June 19, 2006

The Prospects for Liberty and Happiness

Fundamental relationships:

Frequency of conflict = (Number of different persons encountered by one person, per unit of time) x (Fraction of population inclined to do harm to other persons)


1. The number of different persons encountered by one person per unit of time rises over time because of rising population density. For example, there is in a population of 2 persons an opportunity for, say, 1 encounter per person per unit of time if the encounter is for a specific purpose such as buying and selling an item; whereas, in a population of 10 persons there is an opportunity for as many as 10 x 9 = 90 different encounters per unit of time, provided that each person has business with every other person and each can transact with 9 other persons per unit of time. Transactions include not only buying-selling and other types of face-to-face interactions but also encounters via transportation and telecommunications networks.

2. For a given population, the rate of transactions per person per unit of time increases over time because of increases in the capacity of transportation and telecommunications networks, and in the availability and lethality of destructive materials. Those effects exacerbate the effects of population growth.

3. Non-harmful behavior generally is taken for granted. Harmful behavior, on the other hand, tends to engender similar behavior and to find encouragement among those who cannot see it for what it is. Given a population and a technology, therefore, harmful behavior tends to spread faster than non-harmful behavior. That effect is further exacerbated by population growth and technological advancement, and it can be alleviated only to the extent that (a) the harmful behavior is discouraged by deterrence and penalties and (b) non-harmful (beneficial) behavior is encouraged through parenting, role-modeling, and the teaching of respect for persons and property.


The extent to which our future is one of liberty and happiness depends very much on our willingness to

  • administer swift, unflinching justice
  • act strongly and uncompromisingly toward our enemies
  • limit the functions of government to justice and defense
  • tolerate -- and, better yet, encourage -- the teaching of Judeo-Christian values, so that liberty and happiness can better survive the realities of daily life.