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  The Ishmael Community: Questions and Answers

The Question (ID Number 644)...

    My question is one of the place of the role of government in general for human beings, leaver and taker both. If the natural existence for human is the tribe, or a grouping of men so that they may make a living better, then does natural growth of a group create a democracy, or is it that tribes stay the same size or they break up. Does the tribal form of living lend itself to ever larger groups, equipped with representatives and a constitution. Or does representation ruin the essence of the Tribe, thus ending its existence as a Tribal unit.

    ...and the response:

    By "government," it appears you mean "representative government"--a body (1) whose special function is to govern, (2) that is separate from "the governed," and (3) that is composed of representatives chosen by "the governed." No such body exists in any aboriginal tribe I'm familiar with (and would seem absurd in a group that normally doesn't exceed eighty individuals). The optimum tribal size is between forty and eighty. When it falls much below forty, they soon find they need to join with another tribe. When it grows much beyond eighty, they soon find they need to split in two. Since this represents the experience of three million years, I'm inclined to think that these limits are real. However, this applies to tribal LIVING. It's possible for people to make a living for themselves tribally--without being a tribe in the strict sense of the word, and the upper and lower limits of this sort of tribal association are unknown.


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