The Evolution of Leadership and Government

How do schools of fish know which way to go?

Fish maintain orderly schools and swim in the same direction by paying attention to what their neighbors are doing and by following those fish that are most determined to go in a particular direction. If a fish is determined to go in a particular direction, there’s probably a good reason for it: a predator has been sighted and they are determined to get away from it. Not every fish in a school can see a predator, so it’s a good idea to follow those fish most determined to go in a particular direction.

That’s pretty much a perfect definition of leadership. People follow those who are most determined to go in a particular direction. It doesn’t matter what that direction is, so long as the person is most determined to go in that direction. This is why people follow all leaders, whether they be in government, in business, or in cults. The problem is that when you end up with a high level of cognition such that you become fully self-aware, you are then able to make the mistake of thinking that just because a large number of people is following you, that you’re going in the right direction. Which only makes you more determined to go in that direction. Which draws in more followers.

This is the case throughout the animal world. We see it again in flocks of birds, but we also see it in herds of antelope, and we even see it in humans during riots. Further, we see it in the complex social structures of certain mammals, particularly in primates such as chimpanzees. We used to think that the alpha in any group of social mammals became the alpha to get the best breeding opportunities. However, genetic testing showed there was literally no reproductive benefit to being the alpha, to being the leader. The benefit of the alpha is simply that everyone does what he/she wants everyone to do. They get the right to be the one who will get to be the one most determined, rather than some random individual. In an emergency, it can still be some random individual, but during the rest of the time, the alpha is always the one everyone looks to as the one who will determine in which direction everyone goes.

This is literally the bottom line when it comes to leadership. In business, you usually get followers by hiring them, so it doesn’t quite work in the same way, but in cults, religions, and government, that’s literally what happens each and every time. There is someone who is determined to go in a particular direction, and people follow. There may be “reasons” we have for following that particular person in that particular direction, but all too often it’s a matter of popularity and tribal loyalty. It has nothing to do with truth, nothing to do with justice, nothing to do with reason. We justify our desire to follow, we rationalize our desire to follow, meaning we give reasons after we’ve decided to follow, but only rarely do we follow for rational reasons. We are at root fish following those most determined to simply go in some particular direction.

Advertisements

Against All Hate

Behold, the vicious misanthrope,
The hater of the differences in skin,
The hater of the differences in kin,
The hater of what others would believe,
The hater who would hate without reprieve.

Behold, the vicious misanthrope,
The hater of the greatness man achieves–
When faced with man-made beauty only grieves–
The hater of the makers and the wealthy,
Who’s only happy when you are unhealthy.

Behold, the vicious misanthrope,
Who sees man as a plague upon the earth,
Denying humans have inherent worth,
Repulsed at all mankind has built–
Who wants us to dissolve in shame and guilt.

The ones who want us full of guilt and shame,
Inventing reasons humans are to blame–
From poverty to wealth and exploitation
To laziness, defenders of the nation–
This is the vicious misanthrope.

The nihilist denying life has meaning,
That value, values are a lie–those leaning
On nothing for support would dare deny
All beauty, justice, truth–say they’re a lie–
This is the vicious misanthrope.

You lovers of mankind, the rich and poor,
The individual–open the door
Of greatness, creativity and life–
Deny life’s haters, creators of all strife–
Oppose the vicious misanthrope!

Altruistic Racist Warriors vs. Selfish Tolerant Pacifists

In the Vol. 318, 26 Oct. 2007 issue of Science there is a fascinating article on pg. 636-640 titled “The Coevolution of Parochial Altruism and War” by Jung-Kyoo Choi and Samuel Bowles, with an accompanying review article on pg. 581-2 by Holly Arrow titled “The Sharp End of Altruism.”

Using computer simulations, Choi and Bowles show that if you create beings with the following traits: either altruistic (A) or non-altruistic (N) and either tolerant (T) or parochial, or anti-stranger (P), you end up with two stable populations, depending on the conditions. Under peacetime conditions, you get “a society of selfish but tolerant freetraders” (Arrow, 581), but under wartime conditions, you get “a warrior society in which people help one another but are hostile to outsiders” (581). The other two combinations — selfless, tolerant people and selfish racists — seem to be unstable combinations, though more stable under peacetime conditions than under times of war. The researchers observe that one doesn’t even need war to be that common for the PA combination to quickly dominate.

These conclusions make a lot of evolutionary sense. Without making the mistake of thinking of behavior as simply a choice between P and T genes, as behavior is more complex than that from both a genetic point of view and from a social point of view, by treating them as overarching behaviors that can be selected, we can see, nonetheless, that certain behaviors are more adaptive than others. Part of this has to do with territorialism. All land vertebrates are territorial to varying degrees. This allows individuals and groups to have enough food and water to continue to live. Protecting territory protects food. So we should expect species to protect their territory — which they do. Now, if a species is going to protect its territory, it must confront those who wish to intrude on or take that territory. Various rituals have evolved that allow many confrontations to end without violence. But sometimes that breaks down. And more, in chimpanzees, we see an outright preference for attacking and killing members of other groups when the balance is in favor of the attacking group. This assumption was used by the researchers, and it led to the creation of a preference for racist altruists — those that will sacrifice to protect family and tribe, but who hate and will attack those not in the tribe. Tolerant groups are less likely to attack first, meaning the racist groups are more likely to both attack first, killing the tolerant people of other groups. The end result is that the human race has evolved to be racist altruists.

Now, the fact that we evolved to be racist altruists who love war in no way excuses such behavior. But it seems that this combination is the most stable one under conditions of periodic war. The other combination is predominant under periods of peace: the TN individual. These people are tolerant of others and are willing to engage in interactions with people from different groups, yet are selfish. This is the paring most associated with Americans — and it is no doubt because America’s isolation from the rest of the world, keeping us out of constant wars, encourages the development of TN behavior. Does this mean PA is completely replaced? The authors don’t say, but let me expand on their research a little with some thoughts on my own. It seems likely that wars may have resulted in natural selection for genetic PA’s, though behavior, being complex, can still have other kinds of attributes built on it by society. So in the U.S., for example, while people may be more likely to be genetic PA’s, we have adopted the TN meme, and use it more often than we do the AP genetic tendencies we’re born with. But as the Japanese learned in WWII, it is not difficult to awaken the “sleeping dragon” of PA behavior latent in people.

It seems, though, that so long as there are wars, the PA genes-memes will continue to dominate. However, the bad news for many of the peace activists on the Left who are TA’s is that peace will not produce more of them. Rather, it appears that it will be more likely to produce more TN’s — people who are more and more likely to believe in and engage in free market economics. My guess is that Ayn Rand would be one of the few not surprised by this outcome.

Leftist Values?

The contemporary Left is postmodern. Postmodernists say there are no values (or that there can be no hierarchy of values). So isn’t it an oxymoron for someone to say that they have Left-wing values? Wouldn’t this come into conflict with their postmodernism?

Of course, this is an issue not just with the postmodern Left, but with the postmodern Right as well. You may recognize the postmodern Right by another name: neoliberals.

Our contemporary culture is dominated by anti-value postmodernism. And Trump is the President of that movement. He is everything the postmodernists, Left and Right, have been saying they wanted. But now that they have him, we get the same old aw: “But that’s not what we meant!” Of course it’s what you meant, just like Stalin is what Marx meant. Fortunately, postmodernism has no principles with which to justify directly murdering millions, so there is that.

The Kingdom of God

Once upon a time, Barack Obama asked a church audience in South Carolina to help him become “an instrument of God” and join him in creating “a Kingdom right here on Earth.”

I do not like such rhetoric coming from either conservatives or liberals. Think about it: what would you do to achieve heaven on earth, if you really though it possible? With conservatives, it is often a question of personal ethics. With progressives like Obama, it is a question of economics. Do not be mistaken: Obama’s concerns as President were materialistic, not spiritual. We were fortunate he didn’t actually do much during his eight years to try to fulfill that rhetoric. To the extent Obama was a successful President, it’s only because of the extent to which he was a failure at getting his vision enacted.

We have seen many attempts throughout history to make a Kingdom of God here on Earth. If Obama had meant what he said, he would have aligned himself with the likes of Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot, Castro, and Chavez in their attempts to create a Heaven on Earth. The implications are troubling: each of these men attempted to in a real sense “finish God’s work” which He had poorly done of making the earth and human beings in it. If you are a Christian, Muslim, or Jew especially this should be most troubling. What person has the right to assume that God’s work on earth is incomplete and that they know how to make heaven on Earth? And for an agnostic or atheist, this should sound at best silly, and at worst dangerous.

But there are still those who buy into utopian visions. Impatient for Heaven, people want to create it on Earth. And I would venture to guess that their vision in no way matches that of Heaven itself. No, it rather is a vision of their own making. “If I were God, this is how I would formulate the world.” And indeed, the secular religion of Leftism/Progressivism which defies government now that God is dead are precisely interested in making the world in their own image. And it doesn’t matter how good a person someone is, or how moral or ethical, or how well-intentioned (oh, beware of the well-intentioned!). What is at issue is the disconnect these people have with the world. They abide by Marx’s dictum that “The point is not to understand the world, but to change it.” This is a recipe for disaster. And it has been, repeatedly — some more egregious than others. No, the point is to understand the world before you understand how you can change it to get the actual outcomes you seek. This, of course, assumes that a politician’s intentions are to realize the goals he seeks, and not to merely gain more power for himself.

One last word for those who still think we should try to create Heaven on Earth: we have—as William Blake rightly observes in “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”: “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.” And prior to that, he observes that if when the world is cleansed, “the whole creation will be consumed and appear infinite and holy whereas it now appears finite & corrupt.” And there is the point: the world appears to us to be finite and corrupt, when it is in fact infinite and holy. If you cannot understand that the world is in fact and already holy—if you agree that we can and should try to make “Heaven on Earth”—then you need to have your doors of perception cleansed. To paraphrase Heraclitus: “Men have supposed some things to be unjust, others just, while God sees the world as beautiful and good and just.”

The Global Social Network

The human brain has a network structure that is both local and global. There are small, local modules that perform certain functions, and they are typically close to other modules that support those functions. But there are also huge neurons known as giant fusiform cells that allow for global connectivity across the brain. Giant fusiform cells are only found in the apes, and they are found in the largest number in humans. This combination of local and global that reaches a high degree of complexity in humans is what allows for the high intelligence of apes in general, and humans in particular.

There have been moves across the world–most notably, the EU–to create more globalized, more centralized political structures. Roger Scruton argues that we shouldn’t do away with the nation-state so easily, and he argues that it’s the highly-globally-connected wealthy elites who are pushing for things like the EU and even more global governance. At the same time we are seeing a push for a stronger EU, we are also seeing a pushback with the Brexit vote last year, and also more and more desire for local political control, especially in Spain and the U.K. With many of the independence movements, though, there is a simultaneous desire to remain part of the EU.

We can understand this by thinking about the network structure of the human brain. The global elites who are more comfortable with each other than with their countrymen are the equivalent of the giant fusiform cells. The problem arises when they think the world ought to be just like them. But that’s not the reality among human beings. A brain of only giant fusiform cells wouldn’t be a healthy, productive, or likely living brain. Most people are, like most brain cells, part of a local, specialized area. They have their own local culture, religious beliefs, and industries, among other things. And they persist in the face of global culture.

The point is that those who wish to have a more globally connected world are right, and those who wish to maintain their local cultures and mores are right. We need to be both more local and more global–and have many areas of unity in between. We need a global civilization where the Scots can be Scottish, the Welsh can be Welsh, the English can be English, and they can all be British; where the British can be British, the French can be French, the Spanish can be Spanish, and they and the rest of Europe can also be Europeans. And all regions can have a weak connection through the UN. We need strong local cultures as well as natural classical artists with global reach. We need all of this simultaneously. The more the globe evolves to match the network structure of the human brain, the healthier humanity as a whole will be.

Proposal For A New Check in the Old Checks and Balances

Politicians need to be held responsible for when the passage of a law has negative results. We cannot trust voters to vote the bums out — it’s never MY Congressperson who is the problem, but the Other Congresspeople who are the problem (much like, it’s not My School that is not giving children a proper education, it is all the Other Schools that are the problem — no, it is absolutely YOUR SCHOOL!!! that is the problem, and until we admit that, there will never be true education reform in this country). Further, just because someone passed one law with negative consequences, that doesn’t mean that other laws one’s politicians passed didn’t have positive consequences.

Thus, I propose that individual lawmakers be held legally liable for the laws they pass, and the proven negative consequences produced. Thus, if a law is passed that results in an increase in the crime rate, and it can be proven in a court of law, each lawmaker who voted for it will have to pay a fine that makes up for the cost of the law they passed.

I would venture to say that having the ability to hold lawmakers responsible this way would make them think twice about passing any law — unless they had a fair amount of certainty it would have the desired effect(s). Thus, there would be no more of this nonsense about the lawmakers having “good intentions,” no matter what the outcome may be. Lawmakers should be interested in good outcomes, not good intentions. There is a very subtle form of immorality in supporting good intentions that have bad outcomes (remember what the road to Hell is paved with). I say it is about time our lawmakers were held responsible for their actions — and not just with the voters, but in courts of law.

Of course, such proof is at best difficult, especially since so many people will outright reject any sort of economic thinking that will likely have to underlie proving the outcomes in question. And even if that weren’t difficult, I wouldn’t expect any lawmaker to ever support anything like this.