Plotting a curve fit to the death rate confirmed my worst-case explanation: that as a population’s power and intelligence reaches its maximum, the death rate soars (to roughly double the rate found at the minimum adjusted power).
This analysis appears to justify the fears on both the left and the right of the political spectrum. In fact, both political extremes must be avoided (too much individual power, and too much government power). Of the two, too much individual power is to be feared the most, since it can lead to double the deaths as well as the crash of the resource base.
From an ecological perspective, it appears that an average world adjusted power of less than 20 percent is necessary for sustainability (divide the 80 percent U.S. per capita footprint by more than four to get the sustainable value). This would correspond to roughly 70 percent of the maximum freedom (the U.S. is currently at 90 percent). Happiness would drop to under 40 percent and violence would be at a minimum.
For those of us who fear such a draconian world, we can take heart from the fact that I am describing statistical trends here; individual cases that include the best of all possibilities may offer useful lessons to avoid what we don’t want (namely, dramatically lower freedom and satisfaction with life).