Why did freedom & democracy spread so rapidly from around one third of global Nation States in 1975 to more than two thirds in 1995 ?
The idea that ideas themselves evolve in a universal Darwinian process uncovers new insights into why liberal democracies are economically efficient.
The battle of ideas moved decisively during the 1980s, more and more people were learning and understanding that adaptation is the only way to survive in a hostile environment. Adaptation is fundamentally economic 'as if' responding to change by cost/benefit analysis, exploiting the synergies of specialisation & scale.
More people contributing more synergies; cooperation ... and the process was continuing in 2010 with 'the Arab spring' and dramatic change in China and continuing directional change in India ... a powerful underlying trend of significant economic importance. 'Getting India back on Track' by Ashley J Tellis -
'A slow roll back of socialist policies has been underway since 1991. But unlike China since 1978 this shift in India has been hesitant, conflicted & furtive'.
The science underpinning liberal democracy as a universal expression of biological cognitive & emotional emergent phenomena has been recently summarised by The Brights. The moral sentiments of cooperation are underpinned by biology they are universal throughout the globe & not confined to self conscious, rational, folk but also apparent in infants and animals.
Liberal democracy is a Darwinian process where cooperation emerges from interactions in populations as synergies are discovered and accumulated, discrediting the idea of democracy as a construction of a deliberate rational purposeful intentional planned social design -
where individual preferences are aggregated into 'something' called 'society' and a 'common good' is calculated (unfortunately the maths is impossible and conclusions contradictory)
or where deliberating, discussing and persuading others to agree leads to a consensus 'common good' (unfortunately rational debate often leads to polarisation, entrenched differences and 'analysis paralysis' or 'collective fiddles while Rome burns' with tittle tattle prevailing at the expense of evolutionary science)
Evolutionary thinking reveals new insights into the democratic conundrums -
Plato's - 'mob rule and emasculation of the wise'
Plato's - 'who guards the Guardians?'
John Locke's democratic caveat - 'freedom under the law'
Thomas Hobbes' 'Leviathan' - 'the people can't be trusted to do what is right'
All authoritarian elites have a impulse to command & control at the expense of the civil liberties essential for creative innovations - the ancient Greeks identified a double whammy -
Plato suggested elites could never agree as they had imperfect knowledge of reality, just opinions in the mind, mere shadows of reality. Deductive reason was a problem as there were no certain axioms.
Aristotle suggested elites could never have any authority as opinions were always challenged by sense perceptions, and the curiosity and tolerance of science. Inductive reason was a problem as 1000 white swans did not make the future certain. And the black swan had a devastating impact.
Oppressive Bishops, tyrannical Princes, dictatorial Generals and rent seeking bureaucratic majorities inhibit the discovery & accumulation of better alternatives -
unknowable futures - command & control systems of 'pecking orders' are unstable and inefficient, all 'top down' design fails to cope with unintended consequences, unknowable responses of others and unexpected events
opportunity costs - elites don't possess any infallible 'know how' for future survival, creative capacities are widely distributed amongst the population and nobody knows when or where the next good idea is coming from, nor how best to exploit it ... keep your options open
Lord Acton's insight, 'power corrupts and absolute
power corrupts absolutely'
Always, eventually, 'the powers that be' end up running a criminal extraction machine where money flows upwards ...
Economies grow faster in liberal democratic environments where the diverse freedom to generate & test rival ideas is tolerated and can speed up the 'copy, vary, select' stages of evolution -
replication of success - ideas generating more survival value for less cost can be freely imitated and accumulated in free exchange - economies of scale
diverse participation - more folk are free to generate & test their own ideas for survival value increasing the chances of discovery - specialised contributions
competitive survival - some ideas will have more survival value than doomed alternatives and those which tend to benefit more folk in the long term will tend to spread through the population ... that's why they survive - automatic sifting
Oppressive Bishops, tyrannical Princes, dictatorial Generals and errant bureaucratic majorities can be constrained as free democratic institutions evolve -
constitutional checks & balances constrain autocratic Bishops, Princes, Generals and bureaucratic majorities, particularly separation of powers and Judicial Review where unelected judges invalidate elected legislatures. The distorting effect of 'economic power' isn't resolved by majority voting - voting simply transfers the 'power' from vote losers to vote winners. Democracy is not two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat at their banquet! 51% cannot dictate to 49% there must always be a Bill of Rights to protect minorities ... otherwise government becomes an elected dictatorship as one dictator is changed for another ....
tort law evolved to protect individual freedoms and provides some defence from parasites, predators, thieves and 'free riders', the rule of law is much more efficient than the costly alternative of bloody fighting. Liberal democracy is not laissez faire and it is not anarchy, nobody is free to harm others see UDHR article 30. There is a duty of care.
discovery & accumulation from competitive experiments as folk do deals and seek synergies of specialisation & trade which result in the increasingly visible economic growth achieved by liberal democracies where folk tend to be free to innovate and no longer waste time & energy on the zero sum distractions fighting one another
institutions evolve as folk cooperate in groups to secure the synergies of specialisations & economies of scale - markets, churches, schools, clubs, societies, pubs, teams, partnerships, companies, fraternities, communities, trusts, cliques, cabals, consortiums, councils, institutes, cooperatives, circles, networks, gangs, committees, guilds, athenaeums, unions, assemblies & associations of all manner of varied & different specialised interests seeking economies of scale
Perhaps the 'democratic traps' can be avoided by institutional checks & balances and Tort Law which inhibits 51% majorities voting to impose harms on 49% minorities.
Liberal democratic institutions will tend to discover more survival value for the costs incurred than competing alternatives and become more prevalent in the world at the expense of elitist alternatives.
NB By definition 'we the people' are involved in the painful evolution of free democratic institutions ... there are -
always failures - the best never emerges, survivors are simply 'better than the alternatives which have been tried from time to time' - failures must be allowed to wither & die ... we read Charles Mackay, 'Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds'.
always innovations - institutions are in the business of surviving and defending themselves - institutions cannot be imposed - success must be defended & nourished ... we read Friedrich Hayek, 'The Fatal Conceit'.
The essential characteristic of 'free & equal' evolved democratic communities is that they evolve as economic behaviour becomes institutionalised within a legal framework. Natural selection takes place within an evolved legal environment. Ordinary folks and their mates are free to lawfully experiment ... to generate & test ... in larger & larger groups ... innovation becomes a humdrum routine ... the market is accountable human beings facing the consequences of their deals ... they are not free to harm others.
But are we in danger of misunderstanding democracy? Democracy is not a moral cop out.
Parasites & predators appeared as Demagogues offering physically impossible grandiose con schemes in exchange for votes and access to tax revenues.
Seduced by fluent patter and visions of social utopia, political correctness became a substitute for individual moral actions, and destroyed exactly what had made the innovative Western world irresistible to the peoples of foreign cultures. Hard work, honesty & thrift became unnecessary.
It was accepted & expected that government could & should carry the burden of solving social & moral problems.
A no brainer; don't worry government will solve the problems and get the rich to pay.
Political moral posturing identified an increasing list of ethical causes for government action - poverty, peace, climate change, obesity and tax avoidance ...
In 2005 Michael Goodhart in 'Democracy as Human Rights' sussed out what was on Thomas Jefferson's mind -
'Democracy’ does not mean creating majoritarian representative institutions; it does mean creating secure institutional guarantees for human rights'.
After the 2008 financial crisis there was a gut reaction against Democracy, Markets and America of 'The Washington Concensus' which was established after the 'Fall of the Berlin Wall' in 1989 ... 'politics' was repolarised into petty gridlock.
But when all was said and done (and much more was said than done!) ... there was no evidence to challenge the fundamental insights of Smith, Darwin & Jefferson and the understanding of the synergies of specialisation and scale -
Markets of Adam Smith and Moral Sentiments which underpinned the beneficial behaviour of social animals
Democracy of Thomas Jefferson and Human Rights which helped avoid costly violence
Evolutionary Economics of Charles Darwin and genetic Cost / Benefit Analysis which helped survival
Liberal Democracy enables folk to 'vote with your feet and join a club of your choice'.
Read my essay notes here
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