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Chapter 13

They were now racing rapidly through the tunnel once more. Seldon decided to give voice to the question that had been nagging at him for the last hour or so.
"Why do you say the Galactic Empire is dying?"
Hummin turned to look at Seldon again. "As a journalist, I have statistics poured into me from all sides till theyre squeezing out of my ears. And Im allowed to publish very little of it. Trantors population is decreasing. Twenty-five years ago, it stood at almost forty-five billion. "Partly, this decrease is because of a decline in the birthrate. To be sure, Trantor never has had a high birthrate. If youll look about you when youre traveling on Trantor, you wont encounter very many children, considering the enormous population. But just the same its declining. Then too there is emigration. People are leaving Trantor in greater numbers than are arriving."
"Considering its large population," said Seldon, "thats not surprising."
"But its unusual just the same because it hasnt happened before. Again, all over the Galaxy trade is stagnating. People think that because there are no rebellions at the moment and because things are quiet that all is well and that the difficulties of the past few centuries are over. However, political infighting, rebellions, and unrest are all signs of a certain vitality too. But now theres a general weariness. Its quiet, not because people are satisfied and prosperous, but because theyre tired and have given up."
"Oh, I dont know," said Seldon dubiously.
"I do. And the antigrav phenomenon weve talked about is another case in point. We have a few gravitic lifts in operation, but new ones arent being constructed. Its an unprofitable venture and there seems no interest in trying to make it profitable. The rate of technological advance has been slowing for centuries and is down to a crawl now. In some cases, it has stopped altogether. Isnt this something youve noticed? After all, youre a mathematician."
"I cant say Ive given the matter any thought."
"No one does. Its accepted. Scientists are very good these days at saying that things are impossible, impractical, useless. They condemn any speculation at once. You, for instance--What do you think of psychohistory? It is theoretically interesting, but it is useless in any practical sense. Am I right?"
"Yes and no," said Seldon, annoyed. "It is useless in any practical sense, but not because my sense of adventure has decayed, I assure you. It really it useless."
"That, at least," said Hummin with a trace of sarcasm, "is your impression in this atmosphere of decay in which all the Empire lives."
"This atmosphere of decay," said Seldon angrily, "is your impression. Is it possible that you are wrong?"
Hummin stopped and for a moment appeared thoughtful. Then he said, "Yes, I might be wrong. I am speaking only from intuition, from guesses. What I need is a working technique of psychohistory."
Seldon shrugged and did not take the bait. He said, "I dont have such a technique to give you.--But suppose youre right. Suppose the Empire it running down and will eventually stop and fall apart. The human species will still exist."
"Under what conditions, man? For nearly twelve thousand years, Trantor, under strong rulers, has largely kept the peace. Thereve been interruptions to that--rebellions, localized civil wars, tragedy in plenty--but, on the whole and over large areas, there has been peace. Why is Helicon so pro-Imperium? Your world, I mean. Because it is small and would be devoured by its neighbors were it not that the Empire keeps it secure."
"Are you predicting universal war and anarchy if the Empire fails?"
"Of course. Im not fond of the Emperor oooof the Imperial institutions in general, but I dont have any substitute for it. I dont know what else will keep the peace and Im not ready to let go until I have something else in hand."
Seldon said, "You talk as though you are in control of the Galaxy. You are not ready to let go? You must have something else in hand? Who are you to talk so?"
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