Tag Archive: psychology: Social Memory Complex

The Insecurity of Efficiency

I saw this video on Chris George's blog and it is truly remarkable for its application of evolutionary psychology insights to our present society. Of course, Reason is going to favor arguments that make markets seem desirable and socialism undesirable. But the way in which evolutionary psychology and human scale play into this question can be extended in several directions. On the one hand, markets are good at producing material wealth efficiently, but they aren't good at making people feel secure and connected to their fellow man in the way our hunter/gatherer ancestors did.

You can either see this insecurity as a flaw in the human being or a flaw in the economic system that correlates highly to a right-leaning or left-leaning perspective on the human condition. But the core question remains: is an unfettered embrace of globalization sustainable from a psychological point of view? Markets are good at allocation and wealth creation, but if they hamper happiness and flourishing then they can only be said to be "working" in a very narrow sense.

Libertarians must not only educate people about market economics but also recognize the market's limits. A thick approach to libertarianism can, in fact, give us guidance on the kinds of extra-market values we must work towards - values which markets are utterly incapable of providing but which nevertheless determine the health of a society.

Written on Monday, February 21, 2011
Tags: markets, evolution, psychology

On Changing Our World
Effective activism means understanding the nature of our many problems

A core problem with contemporary leftism as it is often pursued is that it has no sense of the boundaries of its project. Casting it in the most reasonable light, it tends to make the entire world and every person's soul its political mission. After correctly identifying thought systems that lead to undesirable consequences, leftists often try to frame their activism in terms of "abolishing patriarchy" or "ending racism". Because they believe these thought systems are at the root of the problem, it is natural to assume an attitude of attacking them.

Much like wars on victimless crimes, these attacks must be directed at people, since the ideas only exist in the mind. Individual human beings are often rejected in totality rather than merely rejecting their bad ideas. After all, individuals are sovereign within their own minds, and there is little power to force the adoption of values onto another (setting aside the countless problems with using force). The only real non-violent sanction one has against the beliefs of another is ridicule and withdrawal, which the left certainly employs often.

The question the alternative left poses to the mainstream and/or orthodox left is not whether these strategies are just - certainly, the defense of free association is a vital liberal tactic for non-violent social discipline. Sacrificing free association utterly endangers liberalism. Rather, its critique centers around the effectiveness of the tactic. Rather than a universal application of leftist ideology to every aspect of life, a lighter touch is suggested - not to let bad ideas and practices off the hook, but to better inculcate values conducive to sustainable social progress.


Written on Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Tags: activism, philosophy, psychology, social-change, strategy, spirituality