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Old Apr 10 2015, 09:28 PM   #57
pearldiver
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Hiver
 
Join Date: Feb 2015

Fan of: Freedom's Landing
Default Re: What is the tithe rate?

That sort of depends on how you want to work the problem. I like the more sci-fi-y aspects of Pern, so I'm pretty married to considering most of Dragonsdawn canon. That tells us that 6,000 human beings founded Pern, and that's it. No one else came in. And they didn't bring frozen embryos that they could gestate quickly to give their population an early boost. They all made kids the old fashioned way, and have been doing so ever since.

So from a starting population of 6,000, how many people can you have 2500 years later, in the 9th Pass?

Take look at this page for some numbers on historical population growth. (The author of that page is making some economic arguments I don't necessarily agree with. I'm just grabbing his numbers because they're handy and look accurate.)

Prior to 1700ish, the total human population of the planet grew at about .12% per year. Some years were higher, some were lower, and in a couple of the worst Black Death years, growth was negative. But overall, over the planet, .12% population growth is what pre-industrial agriculture got us.

Run those numbers through a compound growth formula and you get a global population of 120,297 by the 9th Pass. Way too low! There's no way the kind of civilization we see in the books has scrapped by with a population that small for that long. And the Pernese have a lot of advantages our ancestors didn't. They didn't have to invent agriculture from scratch, they brought crops and livestock that are the results of thousands of years of improvement, they invented an extremely stable system of government, and they held onto a decent amount of medical knowledge. So 0.12% growth isn't realistic for the people of Pern.

After 1700ish, the rate jumped to .41%. Plug that into Pern, and we get a population of about 166 million by the 9th Pass. Now, I think that's way too high for the Pern we see in the books. Where would they put everyone? How could the Harper Hall train enough Harpers to serve that population? You can do it, but it requires better technology than the Pernese have, and I'm skeptical that you could do it without war, or maintain the extremely stable government Pern has.

But here's a question. Let's take this seemingly high number as accurate. When did Pern's population start getting big?

Landing, pop 6000
Year 200, pop 13,600
Year 500, pop 46,500
Year 1000, pop 359,000
Year 1300, pop 1,225,000
Year 1500, pop 2,777,000
Year 1900, pop 14,200,000

So at this growth rate, which is too high, it would take over 1300 years to get to 1.3 million people, and over 1900 years to get to 15 million! So if the Pernese civilization can't work with fewer than 15 million people, then they're in big trouble. Even assuming the population grew explosively the first few centuries and then tapered off as the last of the tech broke down, you're still looking at centuries of gap between the last time they had much in the way of agricultural machinery and the time they got their population into the millions.

Personally, I figure an average growth rate of about .3% -- still generous for agrarians, but accounting for things like plagues and Thread and all the other natural disasters we see -- which comes out to about 10 million people in the 9th Pass. (And, incidentally, about 3 million in the 8th Pass, which explains part of why the Oldtimers freaked out so badly. They came into a world three times more crowded than the one they left, and with a corresponding increase in what they had to protect.)

The easiest way to resolve this, of course, is just to discard whatever bits of canon don't make sense to you, which is totally valid. These are just the numbers I get when I take what makes sense to me and run with it.
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