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Daniel Quinn

“A week ago," Ishmael said, "when we were talking about laws, you said that there's only one kind of law about how people should live--the kind that can be changed by a vote. What do you think now? Can the laws that govern competition in the community be changed by a vote?"

"No. But they're not absolutes, like the laws of aerodynamics. They can be broken."

"Can't the laws of aerodynamics be broken?"

"No. If your plane isn't built according to the law, it doesn't fly."

"But if you push it off a cliff, it stays in the air, doesn't it?"

"For a while."

"The same is true of a civilization that isn't built in accordance with the law of limited competition... Any species that, as a matter of policy, exempts itself from the law of limited competition will end by destroying the community..."

"Yes."

"Then what have we discovered here?"

"We've discovered a piece of certain knowledge about how people ought to live. Must live in fact."

"The law we've outlined here enables species to live--enables species to survive, including the human. It won't tell you whether mood-altering drugs should be legalized or not. It won't tell you whether premarital sex is good or bad. It won't tell you if capital punishment is right or wrong. It *will* tell you how you have to live if you want to avoid extinction, and that's the first and most fundamental knowledge anyone needs... You might say that this is one of the law's basic operations: Those who threaten the stability of the community by defying the law automatically eliminate themselves.”


Daniel Quinn, Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit
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Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit by Daniel Quinn
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