But as Hayek argued (especially in The Fatal Conceit ), not all evolved human instincts fit ideally with life in this brand-spanking-new global, commercial society of ours (what Hayek called “the extended order” – as in an order of human relationships that extends well beyond the small groups in which the vast majority of our ancestors lived). Tribalism is always at work, threatening to shred the sinews of the modern economy that has as a centerpiece an immense division of labor that spans the globe and involves the creativity and efforts of literally billions of people, nearly all of whom are complete strangers to each other. (Note the root word in “strangers.” We are evolved to be suspicious of that which is strange.)
Continue reading Evolution and Economics Ma Non Troppo.
Bob Higgs rails against the insidious collectivism of “we”, “us”, and “our” in political discourse. Great stuff.
In other news, the official market libertarian position is (still) that we should open our borders because immigration is a benefit to us.
Adapted from a comment here.
Re: the necessity of overcoming “primitive tribalism” if we are to live “in a better, freer world”. Since actual, flesh and blood men do not live in the “world” but rather specific parts of it, and since there are apparently compelling genetic and evolutionary reasons for believing that ethnocentrism will be with us for the foreseeable future, the following considerations seem in order.
Let A and B be ethnic groups, the members of which, being “primitive tribalists”, are ethnocentric: they will, to borrow the language of game theory, “cooperate” in interactions with their co-ethnics and “defect” in interactions with non-co-ethnics. Whenever any two members (say a1 and b1) of these respective groups meet, non-cooperation will be the outcome; whenever two members of the same group meet (say a1 and a2, b1 and b2) the outcome will be mutual cooperation.
Now take another ethnic group, C, whose members, have overcome “primitive tribalism” and replaced it with civilised universalism. They are humanitarians: they treat each person they meet as a unique individual. Assuming that they are also a good-natured bunch willing to give everybody a fair shake, whenever any two members of C (say c1 and c2) meet, the result will be mutual cooperation. If C remains isolated from other ethnic groups the level of voluntary cooperation in its society will be no different from – and certainly not any higher than – an ethnically homogenous ethnocentric society.
But what happens if the humanitarians of C are not isolated from other ethnic groups? What happens if members of ethnocentric group D make their home in C’s land? An ethnocentric “primitive tribalist” will defect in games with non-co-ethnics and humanitarians will cooperate in games with non-co-ethnics, so when, say, c1 and d1 meet, c1 will cooperate and d1 will defect. The humanitarian will play the sucker, the ethnocentrist the free rider (the worst and best outcomes for the humanitarian and the ethnocentrist respectively). Now as c1 is a good humanitarian not some “primitive tribalist”, he will of course not draw the conclusion that D’s are an untrustworthy people. No, he knows that the only decent thing to do is to treat everyone as an individual. So when he meets another member of D, d2, he will play cooperate and the ethnocentrist d2 will, naturally, play defect. Again c1 will end up the sucker, and again as a good humanitarian he will not draw the conclusion that D’s are an untrustworthy people; he will go on treating all God’s children as individuals. And so when he meets d3 he will end up the sucker, and when he meets d4 he will end up the sucker, and when he meets d5 he will end up the sucker, and when he meets… What is true of c1 is true of his fellow humanitarians c2, c3, c4, etc, so we can say that the strategy of C is, effectively, unconditional cooperation, whereas the strategy of D is unconditional defection – the humanitarianism of C condemns it to being bled dry by (any and all) ethnocentric groups. Whilst the non-cooperation that results whenever members of different ethnocentric groups meet is far from ideal, much worse is to play the sucker for all eternity (or until your society collapses, at least). And so we reach the paradoxical conclusion that if a humanitarian society wishes to survive, its members really ought to retain a smidgen of “primitive tribalism” vis-à-vis admitting newcomers. But if this is too distasteful, they could, as Hobbes recommends, institute “a common power to keep them all in awe” with all that that entails.
Honestly, I did a lot of things that could have gotten me the boot (hostility to commenters; visciously criticising bodies that LH was professionally involved with; being openly contemptuous of fellow ‘writers’; my “nihilism”; the post that was nothing but pictures of Golden Retrievers, etc etc) but, incredibly, what did for me in the end was voicing the opinion that the suicide bombings in Brussels, being a little out of the ordinary, were kind of a big deal.
Having been informed of my error, I did try to play the rôle of ‘libertarian tough guy’ in this prospective post:
Imagine there’s no Terrorism Privilege
This morning Brussels, the capital city of Belgium and the beating heart of the European Union, was rocked by two suicide bombings. This shocking event brings into sharp focus the huge problem that Europe faces, a problem that has for too long gone undiscussed: Terrorism Privilege.
As we watch the drama unfold on our television screens, Twitter timelines, and Instagram feeds, it’s all too easy to get swept up in feelings of nationalistic hysteria. But we must remain calm and rational. Yes, dozens of people lost their lives today, many were seriously injured, and many more will have had their lives changed irreparably for the worse, and that’s a real shame. But the hard truth that this terrorist atrocity has brought to light is that there simply aren’t enough Europeans being killed in terrorist atrocities.
The racist and scientifically unfounded belief that people who have different genealogies are genetically different has so poisoned contemporary Western discourse that we have become blind to the terrorism that happens elsewhere. But everyone is equal and all lives matter. The fact is that we in the West are much less in danger of being blown up by terrorists than are people in other parts of the world. This is our privilege, and we must make every effort we can to atone for it.
Since all people are equal, it is only fair that we all suffer from terrorism to an equal extent, so the first step – very small yet vital – is to start importing and/or homegrowing many times more terrorists than we do at present; the current numbers clearly aren’t cutting it (or stabbing it, or beheading it either). The call must go out loud and clear for terrorism equality. After the initial step has been taken, governments must work together at every level to engineer worldwide “terrorist redistribution” so as to fully achieve this goal.
Bottom line: Unless we in Europe succeed in bringing in a lot more terrorists, the terrorists will win.
Also Donald Trump is Hitler.
But to no avail, sadly. And so this Problems with Girls, and Vice Versa will be my final post for Libertarian Home.
Classical Liberalism: The purpose of government is to do those things – and only those things – which both must be done and which only it can do.
Democracy: The purpose of government is to do the things the voters ask it to do.
A classically liberal government in a democracy is asked to do something – anything – that it is not currently doing. If it accedes it is no longer a liberal government; if it refuses it is not a democratic government.
(This should cause more sleepless nights than it does.)
Classical Liberalism: Society has no right to compel its members to defend it.
Traditional public goods theory: Society’s members will not voluntarily defend it.
But if a society must be defended then it must compel its members to defend it. But then it is no longer a classically liberal society.
(This, too, should cause more sleepless nights than it does.)