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nazgulnarsil Posted: Wed, Nov 12 2008 10:38 PM

It might be bad form to make a my first post an attack on Austrian ideology and I hope this generates more discussion than it does irritation.  Anyway, here goes:

If the ability to imbue its adherents with the ability to accurately make value judgments about reality were the sole criterion on which ideologies rested, it is doubtful that the Austrian school would have any serious competitors in the realm of economics.  Clearly it is not the case, then, that the sole purpose of ideology is to equip you with a functioning, fully consistent world-view.   Ideologies are a way of taking a mental shortcut.  We don't want to have to calculate priors every time we encounter a cheetah for instance.  We want to be able to assume as much about the world as possible so that we are mentally free to deal with the specific dangers of this situation.  Monkeys that sat there considering the odds of success on making a beeline for the trees vs the swamp were eaten.  So we have been selectively bred to favor using whatever works now rather than spending the time to come up with a plan that has the greatest possible chance of a positive outcome.  Traditionally actually trying to calculate optimal results has been too resource intensive to make it practical, especially when natural selection made our "good enough" solutions so close to optimal. 

So where does it go wrong?  The problem is that the successful ideologies have been shaped by natural selection.  and natural selection does not have the same motivations we do.  Natural selection favors expansion at the expense of every other motive in existence. If wiping out billions of sentient life forms in an agonizing way is the best way for some other life form to expand, there is selection pressure to do it. And not on equal terms either. If another species can gain a 1% advantage by completely obliterating an entire other species, there is selection pressure to do it. It is impossible to make the claim that it would be noble for the human race to die in agony so that some alien might have a slightly better chance of getting laid on that particular solar cycle. But there is selection pressure for it.  Now this is pretty bad, but because it has shaped the very mental processes of our species, we seem largely blind to it. Psychopaths become leaders. Other tribes are slaughtered.  Not because the ideology of the conquering tribe is better at providing is citizens with comfort, or a more accurate picture of reality. But because it is better at expanding than its neighbors. And this is a feedback loop. Other countries are forced to adopt the best strategies for expansion or be obliterated, there is no middle ground. 

I think you can see where I'm going here.  Attacks on socialism and related collectivist ideology for not being true are missing the point.  No ideology with the merely human motivations of a better standard of living and a better view of the truth can easily beat an ideology of aggressive expansionism.  Why was Ron Paul practically laughed off the stage despite the fact that what he was saying is common sense?  Because everyone knows deep down that that to stop expanding is to die.  It has been programmed into us by millions of years of selection.  In the face of this how can we beat ideologies that are amazingly good at rationalizing the invasion of others and the "spread of democracy" or whatever the latest phrase is?

What hope does the mere truth have?

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Juan replied on Wed, Nov 12 2008 11:07 PM
If we analyze politics from an evolutionary point of view, it looks as if libertarianism is by far the most sophisticated strategy for survival that the human race can choose.
Attacks on socialism and related collectivist ideology for not being true are missing the point. No ideology with the merely human motivations of a better standard of living and a better view of the truth can easily beat an ideology of aggressive expansionism.
Socialism or conservatism ultimately lead to destruction. If you're assuming that living organisms will try to survive and 'expand' then the only 'ideology'(but ideology is not the proper word) that makes sense is libertarianism.
Why was Ron Paul practically laughed off the stage despite the fact that what he was saying is common sense? Because everyone knows deep down that that to stop expanding is to die.
Stop expanding what ? The money supply =] ? Or ?

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Aquinas : "much more reason is there for heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated but even put to death."

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Bostwick replied on Wed, Nov 12 2008 11:18 PM

Yawn.Social Darwinism rubbish.

The only prediction about the future that is always wrong is predicting that it will look the same the present.

Peace

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in what way is it rubbish?  I have yet to see a categorical refutation of social Darwinism.  All I have ever seen is a refutation of the conclusions certain people drew from social Darwinism, claims that were not intellectually vigorous in the first place.   I'm not arguing for group selection, rather that the neurological uniformity of humans means that the social structures we build will still reflect the values imbued in us by individual selection.

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a foreign policy of expansionism.

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maxpot46 replied on Thu, Nov 13 2008 1:38 AM

Ricardo showed a long time ago that it's better for all parties to cooperate with each other, instead of the strong crushing the weak and taking their stuff.  Unfortunately, it's not the most intuitive idea in the world, hence the lack of penetration and the slide back into mercantilism.

"He that struggles with us strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper." Edmund Burke

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I fail to see how the concept of cooperation invalidates social darwinism.  It would only invalidate a straw-man version of social darwinism that completely ignores how natural selection actually works.  "only the strong survive" is not an academically sound summary of selection.

Obviously pro-group behaviors have been selected for: man is a social animal.  but these pro-group behaviors were selected for because they are ultimately advantageous on an individual level (increased breeding opportunities).

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maxpot46 replied on Thu, Nov 13 2008 2:12 AM

Hey, you're the one that said that "everyone knows deep down that to stop expanding is to die".  I don't think I (or my group) needs to expand or die (I'm assuming that by "expansion" you mean "expansion at the expense of others"...  correct me if I'm wrong).  We (both me and my "group") maximize benefits to ourselves by cooperating with others, not expanding at their expense. I think the standard of living for all humans has more greatly increased under cooperation (i.e. post-Industrial Revolution) than it did constant expansion (pre-Industrial Revolution).

IOW I question your assumption that social darwinism is 1) valid and 2) ingrained in all men.

"He that struggles with us strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper." Edmund Burke

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banned replied on Thu, Nov 13 2008 2:16 AM

nazgulnarsil:
Clearly it is not the case, then, that the sole purpose of ideology is to equip you with a functioning, fully consistent world-view.

Economics is not a ideology but rather a science to evaluate cause and effect in a market environment. Just like you could say "If you punch someone in the nose as hard as you can, they're probably going to get a bloody nose", Economics can examine a probable effect of a policy or such. There is no ideology or world view involved.

nazgulnarsil:
We don't want to have to calculate priors every time we encounter a cheetah for instance.  We want to be able to assume as much about the world as possible so that we are mentally free to deal with the specific dangers of this situation.

I'm not sure this can really be a critique of the Austrian school. It's rigidly based on methodology and "priors".

nazgulnarsil:
So we have been selectively bred to favor using whatever works now rather than spending the time to come up with a plan that has the greatest possible chance of a positive outcome.

Positive is evaluative, not economic.

nazgulnarsil:
So where does it go wrong?  The problem is that the successful ideologies have been shaped by natural selection.  and natural selection does not have the same motivations we do.

Nonsense. Legitimacy is independant of historic survival.

nazgulnarsil:
Natural selection favors expansion at the expense of every other motive in existence.

I'm not sure you understand what natural selection is.

nazgulnarsil:
If wiping out billions of sentient life forms in an agonizing way is the best way for some other life form to expand, there is selection pressure to do it.

I'm sure now.

nazgulnarsil:
If another species can gain a 1% advantage by completely obliterating an entire other species, there is selection pressure to do it.

In what way can the concept of "advantage" be valued cardinally?

nazgulnarsil:
It is impossible to make the claim that it would be noble for the human race to die in agony so that some alien might have a slightly better chance of getting laid on that particular solar cycle. But there is selection pressure for it.

Not even coherent.

nazgulnarsil:
Psychopaths become leaders. Other tribes are slaughtered.  Not because the ideology of the conquering tribe is better at providing is citizens with comfort, or a more accurate picture of reality. But because it is better at expanding than its neighbors.

So ability to "expand" determines what ought be pursued?

nazgulnarsil:
Other countries are forced to adopt the best strategies for expansion or be obliterated, there is no middle ground. 

How so?

nazgulnarsil:
Attacks on socialism and related collectivist ideology for not being true are missing the point.

"Not being true" is not the Austrian critique of socialism.

nazgulnarsil:
No ideology with the merely human motivations of a better standard of living and a better view of the truth can easily beat an ideology of aggressive expansionism.

And are you basing this relevation on a view of the truth?

nazgulnarsil:
Why was Ron Paul practically laughed off the stage despite the fact that what he was saying is common sense?  Because everyone knows deep down that that to stop expanding is to die. 

Empty assertion. Non sequitur.

 

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Rational choice theory, in particular evolutionary game theory, has shown that a cooperative strategy leads to (better chances of) survival in the long term; ie, over time, constrained maximisation and altruism prevail over straight-forward maximisation.

I'd suggest you have a look at the writings of Robert Axelrod and of David Gauthier.

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nazgulnarsil:
It might be bad form to make a my first post an attack on Austrian ideology and I hope this generates more discussion than it does irritation.

What is there to discuss when your premise is wrong? Define what exactly it is you mean by your term "Austrian ideology", and then we might be able to discuss one thing or another.

That said I'm not even sure why you bring up the subject of natural selection. If you could argue within the scope of Genetics what parts of my DNA has me programmed to be disinclined to collectivist thoughts you might have a case. If successful you would of course have a problem explaining within the same scope why I was infact so inclined few years ago. In any case you write:

nazgulnarsil:
The problem is that the successful ideologies have been shaped by natural selection.  and [sic] natural selection does not have the same motivations we do.  Natural selection favors expansion at the expense of every other motive in existence.

Allow me to rephrase:

  1. Successful ideologies have been shaped by natural selection.
  2. Natural selection has other motivations than we do.
  3. Natural selection favors expansion at the expense of every other motive in existance.

ad 1. Prove it.

ad 2. Natural selection is not an entity and cannot, therefore, have motivations.

ad 3. Natural selection is a "shorthand euphemism", so to speak, for the causal factors of nature that constrain the expansion of a category of entities with a correlative genetic structure. To transgress or "escape" certain constraints either the causal factors of nature or the genetic structure must change. With my, let's call it layman, definition of natural selection; where does favors and motives fit in? Feel free to challenge my definition.

A last point. Since M-la-maudite mentioned Robert Axelrod allow me to suggest Richard Dawkin's "Nice Guys Finish First" for a more "popular" account.

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Maxliberty replied on Thu, Nov 13 2008 11:28 AM

nazgulnarsil:

It might be bad form to make a my first post an attack on Austrian ideology and I hope this generates more discussion than it does irritation.  Anyway, here goes:

If the ability to imbue its adherents with the ability to accurately make value judgments about reality were the sole criterion on which ideologies rested, it is doubtful that the Austrian school would have any serious competitors in the realm of economics.  Clearly it is not the case, then, that the sole purpose of ideology is to equip you with a functioning, fully consistent world-view.   Ideologies are a way of taking a mental shortcut.  We don't want to have to calculate priors every time we encounter a cheetah for instance.  We want to be able to assume as much about the world as possible so that we are mentally free to deal with the specific dangers of this situation.  Monkeys that sat there considering the odds of success on making a beeline for the trees vs the swamp were eaten.  So we have been selectively bred to favor using whatever works now rather than spending the time to come up with a plan that has the greatest possible chance of a positive outcome.  Traditionally actually trying to calculate optimal results has been too resource intensive to make it practical, especially when natural selection made our "good enough" solutions so close to optimal. 

So where does it go wrong?  The problem is that the successful ideologies have been shaped by natural selection.  and natural selection does not have the same motivations we do.  Natural selection favors expansion at the expense of every other motive in existence. If wiping out billions of sentient life forms in an agonizing way is the best way for some other life form to expand, there is selection pressure to do it. And not on equal terms either. If another species can gain a 1% advantage by completely obliterating an entire other species, there is selection pressure to do it. It is impossible to make the claim that it would be noble for the human race to die in agony so that some alien might have a slightly better chance of getting laid on that particular solar cycle. But there is selection pressure for it.  Now this is pretty bad, but because it has shaped the very mental processes of our species, we seem largely blind to it. Psychopaths become leaders. Other tribes are slaughtered.  Not because the ideology of the conquering tribe is better at providing is citizens with comfort, or a more accurate picture of reality. But because it is better at expanding than its neighbors. And this is a feedback loop. Other countries are forced to adopt the best strategies for expansion or be obliterated, there is no middle ground. 

I think you can see where I'm going here.  Attacks on socialism and related collectivist ideology for not being true are missing the point.  No ideology with the merely human motivations of a better standard of living and a better view of the truth can easily beat an ideology of aggressive expansionism.  Why was Ron Paul practically laughed off the stage despite the fact that what he was saying is common sense?  Because everyone knows deep down that that to stop expanding is to die.  It has been programmed into us by millions of years of selection.  In the face of this how can we beat ideologies that are amazingly good at rationalizing the invasion of others and the "spread of democracy" or whatever the latest phrase is?

What hope does the mere truth have?

Good post. What you will find here is that most of the Austrian followers have no interest in discussing how things actually are and why they are like that. Most of these folks believe that the government is some sort of alien creation and has nothing to do with the individuals being governed. What you rightly point out is that we got to where we are by individual people making decisions and the result is what we see today. Most of these folks don't believe they have any control over their lives so what occurs around them appears to be a magical force controlling their lives.

I understand your arguement and it is consistent with the basic Austrian assumption that we have to look at actual human behavior to understand what is going on around us. What many Austrians refuse to accept is that the current society we see is a result of the culmination of individual actions and to deny that is foolish.

That is not to say that in the future things can't be better but to ignore reality is perhaps part of the reason that Austrian thinking is less popular than other ideologies.

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banned replied on Thu, Nov 13 2008 12:48 PM

Maxliberty:
What you will find here is that most of the Austrian followers have no interest in discussing how things actually are and why they are like that. Most of these folks believe that the government is some sort of alien creation and has nothing to do with the individuals being governed.

Are you kidding? Are petty strawmen really the only think you can come up with? He's not offering some insight on why things are the way they are, but rather things develope from a biologic, naturally selected nessessity. So the viability of an "ideology" (which he mischaracterized and you have mischaracterized as "Austrian") is based on it's historic acceptance, and the underlying rule of all "ideologies" is that they ought to maximize expansion.

 

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banned:

Maxliberty:
What you will find here is that most of the Austrian followers have no interest in discussing how things actually are and why they are like that. Most of these folks believe that the government is some sort of alien creation and has nothing to do with the individuals being governed.

Are you kidding? Are petty strawmen really the only think you can come up with? He's not offering some insight on why things are the way they are, but rather things develope from a biologic, naturally selected nessessity. So the viability of an "ideology" (which he mischaracterized and you have mischaracterized as "Austrian") is based on it's historic acceptance, and the underlying rule of all "ideologies" is that they ought to maximize expansion.

 

The broader implication of his post is that things are the way they are because individuals have created them that way. His point of a biological component to that may not explain everything but the broader point I think he makes is valid and one that most Austrians deny. Most Austrians are not willing to accept any responsibility for their current condition and perceive the government as some alien force beyond their influence or control. To deny that there is no biological component to the current state of society would be to deny our own existence.

 

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Maxliberty:

nazgulnarsil:

It might be bad form to make a my first post an attack on Austrian ideology and I hope this generates more discussion than it does irritation.  Anyway, here goes:

If the ability to imbue its adherents with the ability to accurately make value judgments about reality were the sole criterion on which ideologies rested, it is doubtful that the Austrian school would have any serious competitors in the realm of economics.  Clearly it is not the case, then, that the sole purpose of ideology is to equip you with a functioning, fully consistent world-view.   Ideologies are a way of taking a mental shortcut.  We don't want to have to calculate priors every time we encounter a cheetah for instance.  We want to be able to assume as much about the world as possible so that we are mentally free to deal with the specific dangers of this situation.  Monkeys that sat there considering the odds of success on making a beeline for the trees vs the swamp were eaten.  So we have been selectively bred to favor using whatever works now rather than spending the time to come up with a plan that has the greatest possible chance of a positive outcome.  Traditionally actually trying to calculate optimal results has been too resource intensive to make it practical, especially when natural selection made our "good enough" solutions so close to optimal. 

So where does it go wrong?  The problem is that the successful ideologies have been shaped by natural selection.  and natural selection does not have the same motivations we do.  Natural selection favors expansion at the expense of every other motive in existence. If wiping out billions of sentient life forms in an agonizing way is the best way for some other life form to expand, there is selection pressure to do it. And not on equal terms either. If another species can gain a 1% advantage by completely obliterating an entire other species, there is selection pressure to do it. It is impossible to make the claim that it would be noble for the human race to die in agony so that some alien might have a slightly better chance of getting laid on that particular solar cycle. But there is selection pressure for it.  Now this is pretty bad, but because it has shaped the very mental processes of our species, we seem largely blind to it. Psychopaths become leaders. Other tribes are slaughtered.  Not because the ideology of the conquering tribe is better at providing is citizens with comfort, or a more accurate picture of reality. But because it is better at expanding than its neighbors. And this is a feedback loop. Other countries are forced to adopt the best strategies for expansion or be obliterated, there is no middle ground. 

I think you can see where I'm going here.  Attacks on socialism and related collectivist ideology for not being true are missing the point.  No ideology with the merely human motivations of a better standard of living and a better view of the truth can easily beat an ideology of aggressive expansionism.  Why was Ron Paul practically laughed off the stage despite the fact that what he was saying is common sense?  Because everyone knows deep down that that to stop expanding is to die.  It has been programmed into us by millions of years of selection.  In the face of this how can we beat ideologies that are amazingly good at rationalizing the invasion of others and the "spread of democracy" or whatever the latest phrase is?

What hope does the mere truth have?

 

Good post. What you will find here is that most of the Austrian followers have no interest in discussing how things actually are and why they are like that. Most of these folks believe that the government is some sort of alien creation and has nothing to do with the individuals being governed. What you rightly point out is that we got to where we are by individual people making decisions and the result is what we see today. Most of these folks don't believe they have any control over their lives so what occurs around them appears to be a magical force controlling their lives.

I understand your arguement and it is consistent with the basic Austrian assumption that we have to look at actual human behavior to understand what is going on around us. What many Austrians refuse to accept is that the current society we see is a result of the culmination of individual actions and to deny that is foolish.

That is not to say that in the future things can't be better but to ignore reality is perhaps part of the reason that Austrian thinking is less popular than other ideologies.

Once again, Max, you're just repeating the same disingenous attacks on the people here that were debunked months ago. It's old and highly pretentious. Do you have anything to add other than reiterating the claim that radical libertarians are irresponsible do-nothings living in a fantasy land? Sheesh.

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no feelings of ill-will intentioned in any of my posts.  hope no one misinterprets what I say to be intentionally abrasive. 

I can't respond to all points now, though I hope to eventually.

We (both me and my "group") maximize benefits to ourselves by cooperating with others, not expanding at their expense.


I disagree, you will ultimately have to expand at their expense once you have defeated all "out groups" and all resources are divided between yourself and the other members of the "in group".  The fact that you temporarily find advantage in teaming up doesn't change your ultimate motives. 

I think the standard of living for all humans has more greatly increased under cooperation (i.e. post-Industrial Revolution) than it did constant expansion (pre-Industrial Revolution).


I think that simplifying pre-colonial days into being expansionist and post colonial as cooperative is overly reductive to the point of absurdity.

Economics is not a ideology but rather a science to evaluate cause and effect in a market environment.

The austrian school provides a way of making value judgments about data.  It might not be a complete ideology in that it doesn't aim to provide answers for every situation but it seems an ideology to me nonetheless.

Legitimacy is independant of historic survival

What do you mean by legitimate?  Legitimacy is conferred by overwhelming force.

I'm not sure about what you mean that natural selection doesn't favor expansion to the exclusion of other motives.  Are there cases where shrinking or stasis are selected for?  I'd be interested to know.

I don't think that my claims are especially radical.  Austrian economists believe that you you can model individual action in order to explain complex emergent phenomena in economics correct?  I'm saying that that model is governed by natural selection, and therefore the emergent phenomena is governed by natural selection.  This may be fallacious, but it seems to make enough accurate predictions that I'm taking it pretty seriously so far.

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Juan replied on Thu, Nov 13 2008 5:27 PM
Accurate predictions ? What are you talking about... ?

February 17 - 1600 - Giordano Bruno is burnt alive by the catholic church.
Aquinas : "much more reason is there for heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated but even put to death."

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nazgulnarsil:
in what way is it rubbish?  I have yet to see a categorical refutation of social Darwinism.

I have yet to see any support for social darwinism.

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Conza88 replied on Thu, Nov 13 2008 6:37 PM

nazgulnarsil:

in what way is it rubbish?  I have yet to see a categorical refutation of social Darwinism.  All I have ever seen is a refutation of the conclusions certain people drew from social Darwinism, claims that were not intellectually vigorous in the first place.   I'm not arguing for group selection, rather that the neurological uniformity of humans means that the social structures we build will still reflect the values imbued in us by individual selection.

Left and Right:
The Prospects for Liberty

by Murray N. Rothbard

Here is an excerpt, go read the whole thing...

The second great philosophical influence on the decline of liberalism was evolutionism, or Social Darwinism, which put the finishing touches to liberalism as a radical force in society. For the Social Darwinist erroneously saw history and society through the peaceful, rose-colored glasses of infinitely slow, infinitely gradual social evolution. Ignoring the prime fact that no ruling caste in history has ever voluntarily surrendered its power, and that, therefore, liberalism had to break through by means of a series of revolutions, the Social Darwinists looked forward peacefully and cheerfully to thousands of years of infinitely gradual evolution to the next supposedly inevitable stage of individualism.

An interesting illustration of a thinker who embodies within himself the decline of liberalism in the nineteenth century is Herbert Spencer. Spencer began as a magnificently radical liberal, indeed virtually a pure libertarian. But, as the virus of sociology and Social Darwinism took over in his soul, Spencer abandoned libertarianism as a dynamic historical movement, although at first without abandoning it in pure theory. In short, while looking forward to an eventual ideal of pure liberty, Spencer began to see its victory as inevitable, but only after millennia of gradual evolution, and thus, in actual fact, Spencer abandoned liberalism as a fighting, radical creed and confined his liberalism in practice to a weary, rear-guard action against the growing collectivism of the late nineteenth century. Interestingly enough, Spencer’s tired shift “rightward” in strategy soon became a shift rightward in theory as well, so that Spencer abandoned pure liberty even in theory, for example, in repudiating his famous chapter in Social Statics, “The Right to Ignore the State.”

Ron Paul is for self-government when compared to the Constitution. He's an anarcho-capitalist. Proof.
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since when is evolution infinitely slow?  If anything I'd say punctuated equilibrium models social upheaval rather nicely. 

Now that i think of it, many of the supposed problems with social darwinism might have to do with the fact that up until very recently, we didn't understand regular old darwinism very well either.

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And I hope no one is interpreting this to mean I think social Darwinism is good. Previous thinkers on the subject seemed to think that it would be good for society if natural selection played out and the "strongest society emerged".  I think that, while true, social Darwinism is BAD. Our only hope is to fight it, because without any intervention, natural selection will produce a society that is miserable to live in.

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Indeed. We should combat parasites as much as possible.

-Jon

Freedom of markets is positively correlated with the degree of evolution in any society...

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after doing some further reading it seems that Social Darwinism is not as broad a description as I thought.  To use the idea of social darwinism in a useful way we have to include Lamarckian selection (because ideologies don't iterate discontinuously like organisms) and Sexual selection (because which modes of power are pursued are partially dependent upon which ones confer more status).

At this point it may be that the hypothesis of social selection in general would at this point be too broad to be useful for making predictions.  with so many analogies to choose from one can probably come up with a reasonable sounding explanation for anything.

Of course this is a problem that has plagued evolution as well; reasonable solutions being proposed and subsequently accepted with no vigorous academic underpinning.

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