I have a theory that government is actually the result of population growth.

Nevada had 40,000 people in 1900. If 10% of those cared and your family and friends group was 1,000 people, you were 10% of the state just by existing. There were no police in clark county, it was a pre governmental society.

As population grew families became less important because they were less individually powerful. This caused government to form because the decline of community importance increased societal importance, due to the community unit being a smaller share of the total population. Government only exists when individuals are irrelvant; at low density hardly anything exists so whatever individual lives there is all that matters.

Is it actually possible for thousands of people to live under a government at a density less than 1 per square mile? I.e., a hunter gatherer, pre governmental density. I posit it would not be possible because all currently governed areas are above that.

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As you can see all the light beige areas are all perceived as lawless/ungoverned, I believe the US is inaccurately recorded as low density because of all the farmland in those states but otherwise the indigenous areas of Brazil, Siberia, Xinjiang and Sahara (which have Islamist rebels), Canadian reservations, and with the possible exception of Namibia, all of those areas seem pre-governmental. Furthermore, within the population areas, the highly populated points like Northern Europe, Kerala, the Naxal corridor and Beijing are usually defined as "socialist" or "big government" today.

Is it true that government is actually the result of population density or is this a purely spurious correlation?

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    If you live off-grid in the middle of nowhere, you can pee out your bedroom window, no problem; it's your land and you're free to do so. If you do that in a suburban environment, you risk offense or embarrassment. If you pee out your bedroom window in an apartment building on a crowded city block, it can be downright harmful. In all three settings the action is the same, yet the impact varies by what you could call "density". Living in a society always entails losing some individual freedoms, which you could term as "governance". – dandavis Sep 16 at 6:09
  • 10% of 40,000 is 4,000 not 1,000 – SurpriseDog Sep 16 at 13:48
  • Re the US being recorded as low density because of farmland, that's not quite true. If you look at the area between say the crests of the Rocky Mountaina and Sierra Nevada/Cascades, you will discover that there's not a lot of farmland, and mostly not a lot of people. The US (and state & county) governments have the same effect as in more populated places, at least in theory. In practice, it's pretty hard for them to catch you :-) – jamesqf Sep 16 at 17:22

Your theory is a gross oversimplification, to the point that one cannot draw useful conclusions from that.

  • Consider the NWMP (precursor of the Canadian Mounties) and the Texas Rangers in the 19th century.
  • Consider the lack of government in Rio de Janeiro's favelas. And also how informal governing structures develop there.
  • Consider the concept of Hydraulic Empires -- the government doesn't have to control the desert between the water holes as long as it controls the water.
  • Groups in rebellion against a government will often evade into areas where government control is light. Low population does not cause banditry and insurgency, it complicates the suppression of banditry.
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It is difficult to say whether it is related (probably so) but it is not determinative in the sense that you mention. There are many areas that are hardly lawless that fall below your population threshold.

  • For instance, Australia's Northern Territory has a population density of under 1 person per square mile, and has its own devolved government.

  • The US state of Alaska has a population density of slightly more than than 1 person per square mile, but it was almost certainly lower at some time after it became a state. Few people would describe it as lawless.

  • The Falkland Islands are hardly lawless. Just ask the UK or Argentina.

  • Greenland has an extremely low population density (white on your map), but it has a stable government. Although it must be said that it does have a lot of homicides.

  • Antarctica has a low population density as well, but is governed by all sorts of international treaties.

I would also dispute the idea that indigenous groups in the Brazilian Amazon, and especially Canadian First Nations lands, lack government.

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