The Legacy Rule
Inkwater Press, 2014
J. Nathan’s book The Legacy Rule concerns itself with how our society needs to revise not just its priorities but it’s reasoning. It’s rare to read a liberal jeremiad in this era of aggressive populism, but Nathan’s book isn’t just some political screed. Rather, Nathan has crafted a very specific, targeted extended essay centered around making the case for what he terms the Legacy Rule.
Nathan’s Legacy Rule is meant as a moral companion with the Golden Rule. In it’s simplest formulation, the precept is “To best love your children, create no more or no more than one or two.” Nathan is clearly mining the zero-population growth territory that gained traction in the 1960s and 70s. Although mostly discounted in contemporary circles or, rather, ignored, Nathan makes a case for revising our understanding of how and why we procreate.
Nathan’s logic is accessible, direct, and upon its surface sensible: “Human sexuality without complete (sex) education leads to Overpopulation of natural human habitats leads to Competition for resources and learning opportunities leads to Political-corporate-religious empire-building to out-compete leads to Power-addicted, autocratic leaders and dependent followers leads to Class, ethnic, racial, economic, and military warfare.” The conclusion of this line of reasoning is our looming unsustainable future has its seed in current overpopulation.
It would be too easy to dismiss Nathan’s point of view as radical were it not for the constant peppering of hard truths he weaves into his text. It would be difficult to argue against the assertion “The biggest winners of competition between people are usually the promoters of that competition” or “Extremist groups raise hell with civilization. Populations right-sized to habitats leave no reason for extremist groups to form.” Nathan lays out a powerful condemnation and critique of capitalist competition,
Competition as a way of life destroys the empathy and compassion needed for cooperation and collaboration. […] Competition for living erodes the collective trust required for peaceful societies. Relationships become strategic (as in trying to gain something from or get ahead of somebody) instead of authentic (just being real). People don’t get relationship needs met. Long-term goals of health and peace no longer guide short-term choices. Trying to beat the competition disconnects them. Social and environmental problems develop that don’t get fixed. They become the new normal for the next generations and trend away from sustainability.
There are some classic liberal misunderstandings and reactionary panic for example concerning immigration which reflects common and prevalent Baby Boomer fear and anxiety: “young people, without opportunities, form or join gangs with their own economies based on drug and sex trafficking, protection rackets, extortion, bribery, kidnapping, etc. They may also have to get into wars to protect their operating turf from other encroaching gangs. (Currently worst=Mexico and Central America.)” There are some contradictions as well due mostly to Nathan taking on a huge topic as when he encourages resistance to leaders “Who are against stronger democratic (‘majority rules’) voting and republican (bottom-up) government structure” while also those “Who are against protecting basic individual human rights from the ‘tyranny of the majority.'”
It is clear The Legacy Rule is staunchly anti-empire attempting to provide a blueprint of sorts for practical political action under his headings “Peacefully oppose and hold accountable…” These are more effective than the litany of points filed under headings like “Signs of failing civilization” (52 bullet points) or “Some lessons required for sustainable health and peace” (99 bullet points). Again, it isn’t that these lack value, rather that it feels like an avalanche of opposition, one that may turn off readers.
Overall, The Legacy Rule is not just earnest but urgent. It is the kind of book that pushes readers into pragmatic and moral conversations that hard, difficult but not necessarily impossible to overcome. Nathan has written a cultural survey which tasks us all to craft responses that are sweeping, inclusive, personal, and heart-felt.
J. Nathan is a naturalist with a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska, and a 28-year private practice career as both a psychologist and marital-family therapist.