Alfred Henry Lewis? Larry Niven? Jerry Pournelle? Eric Sevareid? George Allan England? Donald Lowrie? John J. Fitzgerald? Hiram Motherwell? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: When the food supplies of a society are disrupted it takes only a few days before extreme behaviors emerge, e.g., chaos, mayhem, and rebellion. An adage states that:
There are only a small number of meals between humanity and anarchy.
Would you please explore this topic?
Quote Investigator: This saying is difficult to trace because it can be expressed in many ways. Here is an overview showing selected examples with dates and ascriptions:
1896: The only barrier between us and anarchy is the last nine meals we’ve had. (Alfred Henry Lewis)
1906: There are only nine meals between mankind and anarchy. (Alfred Henry Lewis)
1911: Only nine meals stood between civilization and anarchy. (Anonymous)
1916: Only about seven meals stand between a man and anarchy. (Anonymous)
1932: We are never more than nine meals away from anarchy. (John J. Fitzgerald)
1942: There are only nine meals between man and revolution. (Anonymous)
1946: No one is more than nine meals away from murder. (Theo. G. Lurman Jr.)
1947: Every man is only nine meals away from Communism. (Leland L. Sage)
1974: No man was ever more than about nine meals away from crime or suicide. (Eric Sevareid)
1977: No country is more than three meals away from a revolution. (Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle)
1980: You’re only nine meals away from being a criminal. (Anonymous prison inmate)
1980: Each of us is only nine meals away from stealing. (Robert L. Eddy)
Below are the details for these citations.