There Are Only Nine Meals Between Mankind and Anarchy

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.

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