Thinking about Evolution & Economics and Some Notes on the Natural Selection of Ideas
Part 4 - Freedom and Democracy - The strange tale of Tommy Jeffers and the arrogance of intelligent design
All power corrupts even when the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Now God said, and I agree with him, ‘consider the lilies how they grow, not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed like one of these …'
Once upon a time alongside the incredible, purposeful design of the lilies, us folks occupied niches everywhere as evolution beavered inexorably on.
Different genes, different niches and different ideas, folk not only had different skins, different hairs and different eyes but they even had different speaks and worshipped different Gods.
Unsurprisingly different folk didn’t always agree and they quarreled somewhat and it all got bloody messy.
And as they considered the lilies and their miraculous array, it was difficult to understand how the Gods designed perfect lilies but made such a mess of folk.
The best design had passed us by, we were flawed? This worried Tommy Jeffers.
But Jeffers was different of course, he couldn’t make any passable bread like Ricardo and he was too old and decrepit to work the fields, in fact many thought he was errant. However he did observe and investigate his thoughts. He had no truck with the Soothsayers wasting their think hours trying to predict the unknowable future, he just observed, investigated his thoughts and mulled ...
Sure he was different but he was not alone, many of his ancient ancestors had mulled. He felt like a confused dwarf standing on the shoulders of decisive giants - Hamurabi, Mahavira, Budda, Elijah, Confucius, Plato, Aristotle, Constantine, Augustine, Aquinas, Hereward the Wake, Galileo, Luther, Hobbes, Locke and Adam the Smith ... it appeared an almost endless stream of inspired ancestors had wrestled with the same problem of the messiness of folk. Not to mention the other lot who were so disgusted they abandoned the golden thread of the giants and went for broke along their wrong hubristic way.
For sure more and more of Mitochondrial Eve’s descendants were prospering and Ricardo Friends were discovering new tricks all the time, but why - 'life's a sod then you die'? The new tricks provided new comforts and everyone wanted them. Jeffers observed Ricardo’s success with his friends and smiled as more and more folk joined his gravy train. Many even travelled across the oceans from afar, clamouring to get on the train, they didn't want to miss out ... and they were having a dreadful time at home where Dominants were pecking them something rotten.
Ricardo’s group got bigger and bigger. More folk not only led to more specialisations and more new tricks but also more folk led to more success defending the fruits of the tricks from the marauding Belligerents. It seemed size was a double whammy, more production and better defence of the stocks.
But Jeffers also observed that every time Ricardo needed more folk for more specials and the group gotten bigger ... it all went pear shaped. Not only more folk, more specials, more tricks but also more folk, more differences, more quarrels. It seemed more new tricks were there to be discovered if only folk didn’t quarrel.
It seemed that smiles and good manners were needed for trading specials, after all specialists were no longer independent and self sufficient ... they depended on others ... no good having specials if they weren't traded ... was it? ... think about it?
But who to trust? Family and friends were easy to suss out but more and more specialised tricks resulted in a bigger and bigger groups, and it came to pass that some traders were strangers with different Gods ...
How to get more different folk to cooperate and stop the quarrelling before it all got bloody messy? Jeffers mulled.
In some villages Ricardo’s friends had used their new special spears to overthrow Dominant and release his gold and his girls and takeover the 'power'. In this way, perhaps, they could get on with the job of discovering new tricks and impressing the girls without taxes being diverted into 'pork'.
It seemed everyone wanted to be free from the onerous tyranny & oppression of the pecking order?
But alas, some folk somewhere somehow were shy of the hard discovery work and they were greedy and envious of Dominant's gold and his girls, and wanted the 'power' to divert the 'pork' for themselves. After all the gold and the girls were nicely arrayed and folk always drooled and wanted.
So it seemed, on the other hand, everyone wanted to be the top peck?
It really was a puzzle, folk seemed to want to be free from pecks and yet they wanted to be top peck themselves … depending … ?
But there's more … there were still others who ogled and wished for the 'power' and the 'pork' so they could implement their own 'grand designs’. Perhaps these intentions were more noble, perhaps they thought they could repair the faulty design work of the Gods? … if only they were top peck they could do it!
But it came to pass that all these folk always caught the 'Creep' ... authoritarian creep ... the gold purchases always tarnished, the girls caught the 'Clap' and the 'grand designs' ended in a heap of rubble ... there were always new better alternatives. It seemed the treasures were useless when you became infected with the 'Creep', it was a fate worse then death.
It was clear when folk didn’t quarrel they could produce the finest bread and the finest spears & clubs but when they aspired to overthrow Dominant and deploy the 'power' to impose and to redesign the mess they were always infected with the odious 'Creep'. It seemed the debilitating 'Creep' was everywhere; did it really come from the infected 'pork'? It seemed the 'power' was corrupting the discovery of tricks? And it seemed absolute 'power' corrupted absolutely ...
It was all very very mysterious and not at all like the best laid planned design of the lilies.
So they quarreled somewhat. Then it all went bloody messy again.
The 'Creep' was certainly debilitating but it was also infectious. The problem was botheration; discovering new tricks was botheration, and the infection seemed to stop the hard search work. If the gold and the girls could be stolen, why bother about working on new tricks?
But the whammies piled up, so although Dominant's strength and his armies provided some protection from the Belligerents and sometimes he organised organisation ... he was constantly being undermined, not least by ambitious pretenders ... it seemed he couldn't escape botheration after all? ...
But the 'Creep' rendered Dominant devious and
instead of searching for new tricks he squandered
effort and ingenuity and hard work on strategies for maintaining the
tyranny & oppression of his peck position -
enlisting the support of the Gods to steal other folks property - if folk found a trick it would be confiscated for pleasures disguised as 'grand designs' for the Gods - in this way the others succumbed also, no one wanted to upset the Gods, did they? It was an odious infection.
extracting your tax for his spend - with the 'power' Dominant could collect enough 'pork' to enable him to inflict his old designs onto everybody. After all old designs were all he had ... and inevitably the old designs always succumbed, the new tricks always always worked better ... otherwise they wouldn’t be new tricks, would they? It was slow to dawn but confiscation of money didn't seem to work because it was useless metal unless there were new tricks to buy, and it was new tricks everybody really wanted not useless metal!
imposing new red tape on folk's behaviour - when Dominant's grand designs didn't produce new tricks, like all the top pecks, the only thing they could do was to issue more and more frantic instructions, regulations and prescriptions in a vain attempt force folk to discover under pain. But nobody could legislate wealth ... wealth had to be discovered!
There was a horrible Creep cycle, again and again throughout history, taxes for grand schemes reduced output, leading to borrowing on unfulfillable promises and eventual collapse and default ... a regular cycle of deceit.
So why should folk bother? Folk couldn't be bothered so they didn't. So in this way the whammies were debilitating, successful new tricks were stolen, stagnant old tricks were imposed and the new trick discovery process was wrecked. And worse all these Creeps crept up and up and up there seemed to an inexorable escalation of Creep.
So it appeared that Dominant begat trouble for ordinary folk as his prowess didn’t seem to stretch to new tricks. New tricks were never found in the expected places and they didn’t crop up in the same place twice. It was clear uncovering new tricks was not a facile process ... they came from the most unlikely of sources. And surprise surprise it was found that even the girls who danced backwards discovered new tricks!
Jeffers was sorely troubled and almost became a full stop. But he mulled again. It was not only very difficult for the new tricks to be discovered but also it was very difficult to steal them! Dominant thought he stole his gold and his girls quite easily but the gold always tarnished and the girls caught the 'clap' ... the best tricks were much more ethereal, Darwinian tricks which were all about survival ‘know how’ - tacit, dispersed, incomplete, transitory, elusive … it seemed they were accumulated only from the toil of generations ... this 'know how' was not easily pinned down … it was embedded in the fingers and skulls of many many folk … how could anyone steal it ... ?
Jeffers was perplexed, and he worried more and mulled more.
It seemed the 'Creep' crept up on all Dominants or their descendants … eventually.
So Jeffers concluded that replacing one Dominant with a 'better' one couldn’t solve the problem. Every new Dominant dynasty with promise eventually became afflicted and beset with the same odious ailment. He was agitated at this slow dawning because the most obvious solution to the problem of the 'power', the 'pork' and the 'Creep' was to replace the incumbent with a pretender of 'healthy promise'. Time and again he read his history books, replacement couldn’t be the answer, the 'Creep' was very infectious and eventually it would strike ... the pretenders were no better ...
So how to avoid the 'Creep'?
So they quarreled somewhat. Then it all went bloody messy again.
And so it came to pass in the fullness of time that some of the communities gave up on the idea of improving the design work of the Gods with the 'healthy promise' of pretenders and set about restraining all Dominants whatever their credentials and aspirations. So instead of the 'power' there would be checks and balances and folk would be permanently free of the onerous 'Creep' of the pecking order.
Tommy knew of Ricardo's success and what about the wisdom of Adam the Smith ... why not let every one, Tom, Dick & Harry vote with their feet and join a club of their choice with their friends? After all to protect minorities from the tyranny & oppression of Dominants & Mercantilos all social animals voted with their feet & joined clubs of their choice with their friends. And Clubs seemed to be everywhere. And everywhere all the folk clubs seemed to have rules of behaviour which involved natural biological systems -
everywhere universal moral sentiments seemed to nurture cooperation and synergies of specialisation & scale
everywhere tit for tat immune systems seemed to cope with parasites & predators and increase the synergy contributions.
The idea was simple, but it wasn’t Jeffers' idea, all he was doing was observing and investigating his thoughts and reading about the giants ... and this was long before Charlie Darwin. He mulled as many had mulled before. Who knows where the idea came from? Strange ... but some folk were doing without thinking, they were just doing what worked … but then they always did that, didn’t they, no point in doing what doesn’t work … is there? When you're in a hole you stop digging ... don't you?
Firstly Jeffers observed that everyone needed a leader to lead the affairs of the teams and particularly they needed a 'shout' in the battles against the Belligerents. Everybody shouting at the same time would surely lead to chaos and rout by the Belligerents.
For sure the 'shout' contributed, he had a loud voice and he organised all the volunteers, but the special special skills came from the folks who made the special spears and special shields and the special strategies which resulted from the discovery of new tricks. Everybody began to notice that the battles were now being won by the folks with the best tricks not the best Dominant. Things had changed. But then things don't stand still, do they?
So Dominant became the 'shout', a presider over folk moots, he was a leader not a dictator, a servant of the people and like everyone else he did not have access to all the girls, the 'tablets' were clear ... one man one girl …importantly he was also denied the 'power' to extract the 'pork' and the taxes as Ricardo's friends set up systems to stop him squandering their money and breaking the 'tablets' of Law.
Dominant became a sub Dominant. He was no longer top peck ... one among equals ... checked & balanced ...
Secondly Jeffers observed that folk always knew from the 'tablets' that envy & greed were a problem but when afflicted by the 'Creep' Dominant always tried to rewrite the 'tablets' for his own pleasure. Or worse still the 'tablets' would be rewritten to favour his entourage of 51% of the village at the expense of the poor 49% who provided the 'pork' but who were outnumbered by spears or votes. So it was important that the 'tablets' were kept secure in 'another place', inaccessible and protected by elders ... this made rewriting difficult.
No one knew, of course, that the tablets came from something called biology!
Thirdly Jeffers observed that some of the 'pork' still had to be diverted, particularly to defend against the Belligerents and to keep the 'tablets' secure and to keep Dominant’s voice in good order. But Ricardo’s friends would send their own trusted representatives to town to divert any necessary 'pork' so Dominant couldn’t easily get his hands on it and become infected. And furthermore and again checks and balances were needed in another place to ensure their own trusted representatives could not be outvoted by the 51%. It seemed there had to be checks and balances everywhere …
And sure enough without the 'power' Dominant didn’t have the 'pork' and couldn't break the 'tablets'. And lo he didn’t catch the 'Creep', and in any case the 'tablets' now said he was only the 'shout' for 8 annums at most … and in this way some leaders even managed to contribute great things ...
So they quarreled somewhat less. And it only went bloody messy again when Belligerents tried to grab the 'power' again.
Jeffers further investigated his thoughts and mulled about his ‘learn’.
Surprisingly it seemed the design work was best left to the Gods ... and folk should stick to trials & errors and learn about hard honest work & save some for the errors of a rainy day ...
We the people should forget about stealing, it's a mugs game, and concentrate on discovering new tricks, clever new ways of doing things, we have abundant energy and curiosity for this task ... perhaps us folk were well designed after all !
If we choose to toil and learn we can discover immune systems which will protect us from the debilitating 'Creep'.
We require an Administration to lead the teams of folk moots, but our Legislative representatives must deny any presider easy access to 'pork' and tax and a separate Judiciary must protect all the folk rights so painfully accumulated by our ancestors, the 'tablets' cannot be adjusted by interest groups of Bishops, Princes, Generals nor bureaucratic majorities.
Tommy and his mates, the 'enlightenment philosophers', had embraced the deep truth of immunity from 'Creep' - our leaders were in 'office' but not in 'power' because all power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely ... power was retained by 'we the people' ... the ancient rights & obligations of individual freedom were cemented by checks & balances on all leaders.
Deep in the folk moots it was clear that each right of freedom was matched by an obligation to respect that right of freedom for others. Petty party political divisions were eroded and the power of elites neutered. Ricardo and his mates had a chance and ... why not a 'turn' as the shout ... communicating the wishes of 'we the people'? ...
In this way the group could grow bigger because everybody was welcome under the law, whatever Gods they worshiped, and the group would flourish because every difference was a potential source of more specialisation and more new tricks ... more folk searching better chance of finding ...
It was so blindingly obvious that Tommy wondered why folk had taken so long to work it out?
Tommy wrote his rules but folk continued to backslide, the Creep was infectious, all the pretenders stood and spouted; talking heads, desperately seeking the 51%, but all their energies and eloquence went into to trying to prove that the alternative pretenders were unfit to rule ... and they all succeeded, and they were right ... Tommy mulled the gridlock and turned in his grave ... pretenders weren't elected to rule ... they were elected to lead ... we the people did the doing ...
Tommy's great friend, Gausio, was a smart cookie and he sussed out Tommy's dilemma and he helped to rewrite some of the rules. He explained about his iron law -
The Law of Competitive Exclusion proposed that two species competing for the same resources cannot coexist if other ecological factors are constant. When one species has even the slightest advantage over another then the one with the advantage will dominate in the long term. One of the two competitors will always overcome the other, leading to either the extinction of this competitor or an evolutionary or behavioural shift toward a different ecological niche.
It was a no brainer the infamous cycle of tax, borrow & default could not compete with the synergies of specialisation and scale that Adam the Smith had forged. Dominants could only impose their wretched cycles of failure for a limited time.
The 'mixed economy' was doomed and shutting out the competition with an 'iron curtain' or a 'Berlin Wall' couldn't stop ideas and the ingenuities of folk spreading in folk's brains.
Gausio's Amendment 10 spelt it out - the federal government has only those powers specifically granted by the Constitution. This was was designed to stop the meddling with the ingenious innovations of free folk in the clubs of their choice.
But the Creep continued to crap even though the rules had been spelt out. May be like Darwin, Tommy felt he was a very bad explainer ... he mulled again and when he was very very old and very very humble he told a story to the youngsters ...
'a long long time ago a band of ancient
ancestors found themselves lost in the deep dark of death valley. Nobody
knew the way out to the fertile plain of their dreams where there was sun
and milk & honey ... the Gods had denied them such
foresight. But everybody had their own ideas, everyone was different, they
had thought about it a lot ...
there was no shortage of ideas, different ideas ... in fact many complained
and differences agitated the minds so
they quarreled somewhat and it all went bloody messy ... there were simply too many different ideas! But which one was right? ... time was short ...
thirst, hunger, freeze and predators were around. For sure some Dominants,
Soothsayers & orators of great strength, ranted & persuaded and
claimed special access to the knowledge of the Gods ... 'follow me!' ... but
their track record of stealing gold & monopolising the girls was heinous and their failed 'rain dances'
had left everyone in despair ... there must be a better way.
It came to pass that there were also some men, and some girls, of numbers in the group who diligently observed, added up, experimented and then discussed with their peers and learned ... like Tommy Jeffers these folk were bog standard curious and mulled their thoughts ... some called them scientists, like Gausio, and all they had were hypotheses for testing - if everyone went a different way the numbers suggested someone, somewhere, sometime, some how would discover a better way out much sooner than if everyone followed Dominant and the Soothsayer deeper into the mire of the valley? ... and sure enough a random one of the young searchers did find a way out soon enough ... he, or was it a she, was nothing special just a hard searcher who was honest with his mates ... and it must have been a better way out and it must have been soon enough otherwise we wouldn't be here to tell the tale ... would we? ... think about it!'
In this way the evolution of freedom and democracy has hatched a plenitude of the new tricks that everyone desires ... not yet a cure fore the Creep but better than all the alternatives that have been tried from time to time ...
The systems of liberal democracy we see are not the best ... backsliding seemed inevitable ... but they were better than the alternatives ... and seemed to be improving ... that's why they survived.
Evolutionary theory explains what is observed, not completely, but better than the alternatives. The discoveries are random but adaptation, the natural selection of survival value, is progressively more complex, and it only goes in one direction.
Surprisingly and implausibly the evidence mounts … freedom and democracy have great survival value ...
But freedom and democracy always have enemies ... all those who aspire to 'power' & 'pork' … and next how to avoid the free-riding parasites?
john p birchall
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