Law of Limited Competition
Ishmael goes on to help his student discover that, contrary to what the Takers think, there are immutable laws that life is subject to and it is possible to discern them by studying the biological community. Together, Ishmael and his student identify one set of survival strategies which appear to be evolutionarily stable for all species (later dubbed the “Law of Limited Competition”): In short, “you may compete to the full extent of your capabilities, but you may not hunt down competitors or destroy their food or deny them access to food. In other words, you may compete but you may not wage war.” All species inevitably follow this law, or as a consequence go extinct. The Takers believe themselves to be exempt from this Law and flout it at every point. – Wikipedia: Ishmael Novel.
Law of Limited Competition Overview:
Daniel Quinn: FAQ:
Briefly, the law of limited competition is this: You may compete to the full extent of your capabilities, but you may not hunt down your competitors or destroy their food or deny them access to food. Lions and hyenas will kill competitors opportunistically (as will other creatures, like baboons), but the law as stated holds true: they do not HUNT their competitors the way they hunt their prey. That is, they’ll kill a competitor if they come across one (especially in conflict over food when food is scarce), but in the absence of a competitor, they won’t go looking for one to kill. Such behavior would be evolutionarily unstable. (See THE SELFISH GENE by R. Dawkins.) As a strategy, it just doesn’t pay off to use your time and energy hunting competitors that you DON’T eat (and that will fight back to the death) instead of using your time and energy to hunt prey that you DO eat. It’s not a matter of ethics, it’s a matter of calories.
» Quinn: Ishmael: Law of Limited Competition.
Daniel Quinn: Story of B:
The Law of Limited Competition – during the Great Forgetting it came to be understood among the people of our culture, that life in “the wild” was governed by a single, cruel law known in English as “the Law of the Jungle”, or “kill or be killed”. It’s fiction. Briefly, the law of limited competition is this: You may compete to the full extent of your capabilities, but you may not hunt down your competitors or destroy their food or deny them access to food. In other words, you may compete but you may not wage war on you competitors. People who follow this law are “Leavers”, people in our culture reject it and are “Takers”. Three million years age, when humans evolved, Homo habilis was born a Leaver and a follower of the law. All the following humans followed the law up until our culture 10,000 years ago. Even tribal peoples today follow the law. ……
If you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will of course frantically try to clamber out. But if you place it gently in a pot of tepid water and turn the heat on low, it will float there quite placidly. As the water gradually heats up, the frog will sink into a tranquil stupor, exactly like one of us in a hot bath, and before long, with a smile on its face, it will unresistingly allow itself to be boiled to death.
10,000 years ago, human population was about ten million, and totalitarian agriculture developed, ruthless towards all other life-forms on this planet. Again, according to animal ethics (the Law of Limited Competition) you may compete to the full extent of your capabilities, but you may not hunt down your competitors or destroy their food supply. In other words, you may compete but you may not wage war. Totalitarian agriculture violates this law at every point. It’s based on the premise that all the food in the world belongs to us, and there is no limit whatsoever to what we may take for ourselves and deny to all others. Totalitarian agriculture is more productive than any other style; it’s productivity to it’s maximum. Totalitarian agriculture is the fire under our cauldron.
» Daniel Quinn: The Story of B.
Quinn: Story of B: Great Forgetting
The Law of Limited Competition
During the Great Forgetting it came to be understood among the people of our culture that life in “the wild” was governed by a single, cruel law known in English as “the Law of the Jungle,” roughly translatable as “kill or be killed.” In recent decades, by the process of looking (instead of merely assuming), ethologists have discovered that this “kill or be killed” law is a fiction. In fact, a system of laws — universally observed — preserves the tranquility of “the jungle,” protects species and even individuals, and promotes the well-being of the community as a whole. This system of laws has been called, among other things, the peacekeeping law, the law of limited competition, and animal ethics.
Briefly, the law of limited competition is this: You may compete to the full extent of your capabilities, but you may not hunt down your competitors or destroy their food or deny them access to food. In other words, you may compete but you may not wage war on your competitors.
The ability to reproduce is clearly a prerequisite for biological success, and we can be sure that every species comes into existence with that ability as an essential heritage from its parent species. In the same way, following the law of limited competition is a prerequisite for biological success, and we can be sure that every species comes into existence following that law as an essential heritage from its parent species.
Humans came into existence following the law of limited competition. This is another way of saying that they lived like all other creatures in the biological community, competing to the full extent of their capacity but not waging war on their competitors. They came into existence following the law and continued to follow the law until about 10,000 years ago, when the people of a single culture in the Near East began to practice a form of agriculture in which you were encouraged to wage war on your competitors — to hunt them down, to destroy their food, and to deny them access to food. This was and is the form of agriculture practiced in our culture, East and West — and in no other.
It is precisely this continuity that was broken in the Great Forgetting. To put it another way: After rejecting the law that had protected us from extinction for 3,000,000 years and making ourselves the enemy of the rest of the biological community, we suppressed our outlaw status by forgetting that there ever was a law.
Man was NOT born a few thousand years ago and he was NOT born a scourge. Man was born MILLIONS of years ago, and he was no more a scourge than hawks or lions or squids. He lived AT PEACE with the world . . . for MILLIONS of years. This doesn’t mean he was a saint. This doesn’t mean that he walked the Earth like a Buddha. It means he lived as harmlessly as a hyena or a shark or a rattlesnake. It’s not MAN who is the scourge of the world, it’s a single culture out of hundreds of thousands of cultures. OUR culture. We don’t have to change HUMANKIND in order to survive. We only have to change a single culture. I don’t mean to suggest that this is an easy task. But at least it’s not an impossible one.
» Quinn / Sheen: The Great Forgetting.
Quinn / Gradesaver: Ishmael Study Guide:
Ishmael indicates a book, The American Heritage Book of Indians, sitting by the narrator’s chair. After the narrator studies the map in it for a while, they discuss how the various Indian tribes did not practice population control – instead, the interplay between tribes encouraged it. The number of tribes meant that each “controlled” some territory, and were unable to expand into other territories without causing trouble (141). They limited their growth because it was easier than going to war with their neighbors over land. Takers, on the other hand, simply send a growing population elsewhere, so that population growth can continue unabated. As example, they discuss how a population influx in the Northeast simply finds its way to the American West, to states like New Mexico.
The narrator works to break the law of limited competition down into three parts. One, “No one species shall make the life of the world its own.” Two, “the world was not made for any one species.” Three, “mankind was not needed to bring order to the world” (145-146).
Ishmael then explains how the Taker story, its insistence on pitting man against the world as its enemy, makes the Takers a very lonely people. He points out that crime, mental illness, suicide and drug addiction are features of an advanced culture, and rare in the wild. He posits that the story the Takers have been enacting is unhealthy and unsatisfying.
The story that the Leavers have been enacting, however, is not one of conquest and rule. They do not seek power, but instead live lives that are meaningful and satisfying. They do not live in fear of each other, or constantly accuse one another of living the wrong way. The story that they have been acting, according to Ishmael, has worked well for three million years.
» Quinn / Gradesaver: Ishmael Study Guide.
Quinn / Great Thinkings: Law of Limited Competition:
This system of laws has been called among other things, “the peacekeeping law” and “animal ethics.” The Law of Limited Competition promotes diversity.
Quinn argues that the people of our culture believe the law does not apply to humans. Quinn further argues that this thinking is incorrect, that the laws do apply to man, and that by our civilization being built in a way which flouts the law, the stability of the community of life has been compromised, and that we are in the process of eliminating ourselves.
As an analogy, Quinn presents the idea of someone trying to build an airplane, but whose craft is not in accord with the laws of aerodynamics. He drives it off the edge of the cliff, and for some time is in free-fall. During this time he says “look, I am flying! Gravity does not apply to me!”, but shortly he will discover that gravity does apply to him, and in a most drastic manner.
Similarly, says Quinn, the people of our civilization are not living in accord with the Law of Limited Competition and are therefore facing a crash.
Conceptually, and within the contexts of evolution and limited resources, the Law of Limited Competition works as follows:
Consider three hypothetical species. Species 1 is omnivorous, and eats food sources A, B, and C. Species 2, is herbivorous, and eats food sources B, C, and D. Species 3 is a carnivorous apex predator, and eats food source A, as well as species 1 and 2.
According to the Law of Limited Competition, any of these three species may compete to the full extent of their abilities, but may not eradicate its competitors, or deny them access to food. In short, they may compete, but not wage war. If the law is broken, sustainability of any of the species is put in jeopardy.
If, in an effort to eliminate competition from species 2, species 1 denies access to or destroys food source D, which it does not eat, species 2 will be forced to rely on food sources B and C, increasing competition for the common food sources for both species, and consequently, reducing two of the food sources for species 3, as well as increasing competition for food source A. Sustainability for all three species has been jeopardized.
If, however, species 2, in an effort to eliminate competition for food sources B and C, attempts to eradicate species 1, increased predation by species 3 will result. Again, all three species suffer reduced sustainability.
Because of the population limiting characteristics of the law, species which violate its precepts are disadvantaged and thus, according to Quinn, doomed to extinction.
» Quinn / Great Thinkings: Law of Limited Competition.
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