When Density Reducesthe Bar of Civility
By Ron Ewart
April 23, 2007
At the start of this great country, around 1776, there might have been 3 million inhabitants of the Continental United States, mostly concentrated along the East Coast in the original thirteen colonies. Now at 300,000,000, we are 100 times that 3,000,000. The space between inhabitants in the late 1700s was fairly significant. News was printed and sometimes took days, weeks, or even months to reach the far outreaches of the Republic. The country was mostly agrarian, as the industrial revolution and the corresponding rush to big cities had not yet begun. After the revolution secured America's freedom, we took up the task of living as free individuals with the freedom of space to insulate us from the vagaries of human behavior. We were spread out, productive, creative, industrious, generous, and mostly civil.
But, agrarian living was sometimes sparse and did not provide predictable income. Weather and erratic markets added to that unpredictability. Soon, new sources of power, like the steam engine, brought us the industrial revolution. As industries started sprouting up around big cities that provided the labor to keep those industries thriving and alive, people started moving off of the farms and headed for the big cities, where jobs were available and eking out a living was not quite as unpredictable. But for all actions, there are usually unintended consequences, and such it was, as city populations grew.
Sometimes the jobs would dry up, as the industrial revolution evolved and technology, markets, and fortunes ebbed and flowed. Sometimes, large segments of the city populations would be out of work when a large manufacturer closed down. The Great Depression came along in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and large percentages of the people could not find a job. City folk had no way to produce the food, clothing, and shelter they needed to survive. In contrast, their country cousins could grow what they needed, had a roof over their heads, and could live off of the land, no matter how primitive it might be. If they had a little extra, they would help out their neighbors, who by circumstances may have been a little less well off. Civility and mutual respect was their creed and still is, for the most part, today.
Not so in big cities. The fact is, a hungry city belly has nothing to lose by petitioning (or protesting) their government for a handout, and civility is the last thing on their minds. Where else can they go but the government? The government was all-too-willing to provide that handout, and thus socialism was born, and socialism is where we are today because way too many people live in big cities, and are incapable of helping themselves when times get tough. Katrina/New Orleans showed us that, in spades. Government thrived and grew on big city dependency. FDR's popularity came from his willingness to violate the Constitution in order to "feed" the helpless in big cities. In one of his fireside chats, he told the American people:
"This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights - among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty. As our Nation has grown in size and stature, however - as our industrial economy expanded - these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness. We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. "Necessitous men are not free men." People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made. In our day, these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights, under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all..."
"Among these new rights are the right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries, or shops or farms or mines of the Nation; The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation; The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living; The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad; The right of every family to a decent home; The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health; The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment; The right to a good education."
FDR was not a good student of or chose to ignore our Constitutions and the enumerated rights of the people it promised. FDR decided to expand those rights well beyond the Constitution and government (our money) would be the provider of those rights. In fact, FDR was more a dictator than a President. Many presidents and congressman, since FDR, have followed in his dictatorial footsteps, to the detriment of freedom and the ultimate rise of socialism.
But the behavior of individuals living tightly in big cities produces its own share of problems. High crime rates and noise, air, and water pollution are just a few of the consequences. Big cities require big police forces to enforce laws and civility. Big cities dump their concentrated pollution on the environment, and then expect everyone else to comply with environmental protection, except themselves.
But the other consequence of high-density living is the steady lowering of the bar of civility, respect, and trust. Human behavior changes under the conditions of living closer together. It does so because of a basic human fact. No matter what the government, socialists, or the environmentalists will tell you, people like and need "their" space and the space does not come in a 1,000 square foot apartment in a 25-story building, surrounded by concrete on all sides, in a big city. Suburbs became a partial answer to the human need for space. But then, the suburbs began to increase in density, as governments got into the act of "planning" where we live and work.
I attended a conference of real estate folks several years ago, in which a bunch of big city, over-educated planners were extolling the virtues of their profession, planned, high-density big cities. At the end of their speeches I got up and asked them if they were aware of the study of rats versus density, and what happens to the rats as density is increased. The studies showed that higher densities produce hostile behavior, infanticide, suicide, and cannibalism in the rats. The greater the density, the worse the behavior. One of the planners responded that he was aware of the studies, but he said they were flawed. I asked him why they were flawed, and he responded with, "because they didn't give the rats parks." He was not joking.
History has shown us that people don't behave well when crammed together in big cities. Big cities have given us the "Blue" states. Big cities are bastions of socialism and government control. Big cities, with their majorities, control the legislative process and give us legislators who support socialism, more laws, and environmental extremism. The people who inhabit big cities are more apt to believe whatever the government tells them, and act like mindless lemmings. The current propaganda of man-caused global warming is a prime example. Yes, big cities are large markets of consumers and bring us commerce that helps to fund the country. But, we wonder if the price is worth it.
It would appear that the bar of civility gets lower and lower as big-city populations increase (socialism) and freedom fails. Big government loves big cities, as they feed off of their dependence on government and big-city voters continue to re-elect the handout providers. Big government doesn't give one whit about civility. If the population gets more uncivil, government just adds police to the police force to bring them into compliance. Like too many rats in a cage, the populations of big cities will get less and less civil as their densities increase, and will become more and more dependent on government for their survival. Big cities produced big government, and government gets bigger and more powerful every day. In the end, civility, respect, trust, and freedom lose.
Ron Ewart is president of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF RURAL LANDOWNERS P. O. Box 1031 Issaquah, WA 98027 425 222-4742 or 1 800 682-7848 (Fax No. 425 222-4743)
Copyright Â© 2007 Freedom.org. All rights