The Natural Price of Plenty

Ideas like democracy, equality, egalitarianism and meritocracy all originated somewhere. As it so happens, they all came from European cultures. You could chalk this up to chance, natural progression, or even to exploitation that bought these cultures the leisure time to develop these kinds of ideas. However, countless men suffered and were persecuted by entrenched power structures because they sacrificed their comfort to realize these ideals, often paying not just their fortunes but even their very lives to advance their noble causes. These concepts never started as popular ones, it’s not like they just happened. They were born through dedication and commitment to a long-term goal.

Have you heard of r/K selection? It’s a theory designed to illustrate reproductive strategy in various environments. On a very basic level “r selected” means you are reacting to an environment with plentiful resources, one where you don’t have to invest much in offspring and you can afford large litters, food is everywhere for the grazing (think of rabbits in the open field). Conversely, “K selected” means you are reacting to limited resources, so you have fewer offspring and invest heavily in their development (think of bears in a snowy forest). People too are animals, make no mistake about that and we can’t escape inherited biological strategies anymore than we can change our eye colors.

Environment is obviously a big factor in which strategy will be utilized. For instance, where climates are warm and food is plentiful year round, it would make sense to reproduce as many offspring as possible because the area can sustain a large population, but somewhere that you can’t get food anytime you want, where resources are limited, it would be bad strategy to have a larger litter than the land can sustain which is why I use bears and bunnies as my example. Bears are perfectly evolved to the colder climates in which they live. When the weather turns dangerously cold, bears go into hibernation, but if the bear didn’t prepare for this yearly routine by bulking up in the warmer months, it wouldn’t survive the lean times. Bunnies on the other hand don’t hibernate, they can eat and reproduce all year round.

The evolution of a species is intrinsically tied to the area it inhabits, dolphins don’t evolve on mountain tops and goats don’t evolve underwater. It’s only logical to accept that ideas also evolve in specific areas. The most important area specific idea, I think, is that of delaying gratification. In colder climates, the individual who doesn’t save his seed stock through the winter, who instead seeks immediate gratification, will have nothing to plant when the snow thaws and will starve to death and not pass his genes down to his offspring. People from tropical climates on the other hand have no need to delay gratification in this way. A long hard winter doesn’t exist. If they are hungry, they go out and find food.

So, what happens if you don’t even have to go out and hunt down your next meal or even need to spend the energy to walk around and graze? If society will instead give you whatever you need to survive? If not only the rabbits, but also the bears had a way to feed themselves without ever having to work for their meals? Well, the rabbits obviously would breed like crazy right? For the bears though, that’s kinda weird, some of them would get fat and lazy and probably have more offspring, but some of them most likely would feel so out of place, so disconnected from the natural order of the world that their genes have taught them to expect, that they wouldn’t know what to do. Most likely wouldn’t be comfortable enough to even have offspring in a world that makes absolutely no sense to their genetics.

I thought we were supposed to be talking about demographics though… What do bears and bunnies have to do with voting?

Well… everything.

What happens when you replace people from colder climates who have a genetic predisposition to delay gratification, to think ahead to the future they are leaving for the small number of offspring that they have invested so heavily into, with people from tropical climates who, through no fault of their own, have never evolved the need to delay gratification because resources for their large families are plentiful and available year round?

When everyone has an equal say, what happens when those groups outnumber the ones who do plan ahead, who do sacrifice today for tomorrow, for next year, for their children?

What would happen if nature were a democracy and the rabbits who outnumber the bears got to choose what kind of society they were all going to live in?

How long till there were no bears left?