The Origins of Authority in Autonomy

I believe I can create a scenario in which authority begins to spring from autonomy, and while some might quibble as to how accurate such a scenario might be, let me get it done first, and see how it might speak to us in our present situation.

If we take an imaginary population of people in a relatively abundant and peaceful (but limited) area, living a hunter/gatherer existence, then we can imagine that they each have, as adults, their own personal or family territory, and that each recognizes the territorial rights of their neighbors. As the population continues to grow, however, the boundaries of the best environment are reached, say, bordered by mountain foothills, scrubby desert, or whatever else might act as a natural border to this preferred living area. Thus, sooner or later, the total area of each territory must shrink to accommodate the growing population. At some point, there may be a person who is not completely satisfied with the territory allotted to them, and they may begin "poaching" on others territory, a deliberate violation of the unspoken and informal moral code of the group at large; or perhaps a day comes when none of the persons with established interests and territories is willing to cede a portion of their own territory for the use of it by a new neighbor, because then they themselves will no longer have enough territory to support their customary way of life, a different violation of the informal and unspoken morals of the community nonetheless.

There might be a wide variety of ways that this society might reach some sort of "failure condition", but as I've constructed it, this failure was bound to happen, again, sooner or later. What's of special note, though, is that this failure is caused by unforeseen circumstances, almost entirely without any deliberate thought or effort on the part of any the individuals of the community; it is their responses to these pressures which have a moral dimension.

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