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Old 05-29-2017, 09:38 AM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: NY but not NYC
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This question has an analogy in the transition from farming to city dwelling after the Industrial Revolution. People can quickly point out the horrors of cities, with their slums, the grinding toil in dangerous factories, the crime, the epidemic diseases and ask why millions left farms.

The answer is that people did so of their own free will because they looked at the two choices and decided that city life was the better of the two. They were already poor. They already lived in horrible conditions. They already worked most of the day. Their kids already died in infancy. They gained a steady source of income. They gained year round food supplies. They gained better housing. They gained a social and community strength from having others in similar conditions with them. They gained the possibility of rising in the world and having their children go to schools and get better jobs. For them a choice that seems to our superficial understanding of the situation a poor one was a rational calculation. Tens of millions of people made this choice and most of them stuck to it. Tens of millions of people waited a little longer until cities got even better and made the choice then. Farm population in western countries dropped from about 95% to about 3% in less than 200 years.

The same must have been true when hunter-gatherers turned to farming under the protection of city-states and then kings. It was a rational calculation to improve their lives. They knew the alternative very well - far better than the OP does.

It's true that both these world-changing decisions are irreversible. Once the population started climbing there was no going back to foraging for food; that would have led to mass starvation. Our technological civilization can't go back to subsistence farming; again, that would lead to mass starvation. The critical point is that at the times when these choices were between realistic alternatives those who were in a position to make them overwhelmingly chose one over the other.