doveThinking about Evolution & Economics and Some Notes on the Natural Selection of Ideas

Part 11 - The War on Terror - decisions to go to war - an evolutionary economic analysis

The plausible human design process is a mirage - we learn from outcomes but we can't design them

We play games of cultural tit for tat, cultural obsolescence & cooperative institutional growth



There exists in minds of some introspective folk an eerie pattern to be discerned within the march of history ... the rhyme but not the reason of natural selection. Glimpsed in the imperative of autonomy & personal responsibility as all & every one of us go for genetic longevity & procreation in our own different ways ... at different times in different places with different others in different contexts. To pay the bills & put crumbs on the table, the birds & the bees and folk, busy themselves. Thru hard work, honesty & thrift, underpinned by strange unsolicited feelings of 'fairness of shares' & 'resentment of cheats', stocks were built ... and inevitable parasites & predators cashed in.

As soon as there were stocks there were thieves.

Aided by empirical science, due diligence & caveat emptor synergies of specialisation & scale manifested in torts, trade & technology, were discovered & accumulated for a rainy day. As the Bishops, Princes, General & Bureaucrats arrogantly tried to dictate their own peculiar whims ... more fool them for imposing ... others naively believed somebody somewhere somehow must know the answer (Deep Thought & 42) ... bigger more fool them for expecting. A downward spiral of them & us with a static zero sum compromise became established in the rat race (Homer & The Iliad) before the serendipity of dynamic positive sum cooperation broke thru into the self sustaining growth of know how (Adam the Smith & The Theory of Moral Sentiments).     

All seemed to start with the joys of securing the synergies of free & fair trade and then degenerate into internecine strife as parasites & predators started to thieve the stocks ... but the dice of natural selection were loaded ...    

1. Introduction. A Battle of Ideas.

Economics is the science of choice. All decisions, including a decision to go to war, are based on beliefs, but how do we decide what to believe?

a) The Schism. Folk have different beliefs.

Differences in belief are everywhere, no two folk are the same, and differences are a natural and essential part of the process of evolutionary change. Beliefs survive or die as a result of competition between rival ideas about what makes the better sense of the world.

One belief about decision making is based on ‘intelligent design' and suggests – 

evidence is accumulated & evaluated and the future consequences are thought through 

decisions are interpretations of the evidence, judgments, and the appropriate instructions are then issued 

physical actions designed to achieve the desired result are then undertaken.

Outcomes result from a plausible linear process of logical cause & effect - an  imagined outcome is implemented by acting on plans and instructions. It is the rationale for all for top down authority in hierarchical command & control systems.

'Happenings' - arrogant, plausible, deliberate, rational, purposeful, intentional planning ...

This is the way folk tend to think they think, and it was the only belief in town until Darwin's strange inversion of reason in 1859.

An alternative belief is based on the evolution of ideas and suggests human intention is a learning process ultimately based on inherited 'know how' and trial & error experiments  –

evidence is an individual perception of massively diverse, dispersed, tacit & incomplete information where complex future consequences & responses are unknowable part of a complex adaptive system

decisions are trial & error thought experiments generated in the imagination and alternatives maybe better 

physical actions are trial & error tests where successful outcomes differentially survive, replicate & grow out of a diversity of options

Survival results from a counterintuitive non-linear process of adaptation - the discovery & accumulation of survival tricks. The population frequency of ideas with survival benefits increases at the expense of less viable alternatives. 

'Facts' - immensely complex, always changing, inevitably conflicting & scarce.

This Darwinian thinking maybe the ultimate explanation for the moral and economic efficiency found in 'bottom up' free democratic societies.

These rival beliefs define a vast schism in contemporary understanding of the world – perhaps only time will resolve these differences - 

'Some individuals are better able than others to draw the right conclusions about the world about them and act accordingly. These individuals will be more likely to survive and reproduce so their pattern of behaviour and thought will become dominant'. Stephen Hawking – A Brief History of Time.

b) The Evolutionary Evidence Mounts. Science is a powerful methodology for resolving disputes.

'Intelligent design' is a plausible myth, but it is incompatible with the mounting scientific evidence of universal Darwinism.

A popular compromise suggests both beliefs can be true. Evolution may have built the physical biological world but the human brain now designs complex artifacts like the Boeing 747 by 'intelligent design' and not by 'evolutionary design'. However there is a problem with this proposition; there is no evidence for any biology/brain discontinuity and there is no evidence for a supernatural miracle of 'intelligence', Intelligence, like everything else, evolves by inheritance and trial & error learning. 

Some cognitive scientists are suggesting that imagining outcomes in the brain is the way evolution has 'speeded itself up', and not the way the future is predicted. The implausible lesson of evolution is that folk can learn from successful outcomes but they can't design them – 

‘Our aim must be to make our successive mistakes as quickly as possible, to speed up evolution’. Karl Popper – Popper .

Evolution explains completely how the brain developed, how consciousness works and how ideas & beliefs survive – 

'Darwin's ideas are powerful enough to have done all the design work that is manifest in the world'. Daniel Dennett – Darwin's Dangerous Idea.

'Whether we like it or not, all reality is evolution, it is the only theory of complexity that we have. Today the theory of evolution is about as much open to doubt as the theory that the earth goes round the sun, it is the only game in town'. Richard Dawkins – The Selfish Gene / Unweaving the Rainbow.

There is an evolutionary explanation for everything; including, of course, human behaviour and the myth of 'intelligent design'!

2. Evolutionary Economic Theory.  

a) Science is contributing to the understanding of Economic Behaviour. Cooperative Synergies and Tit for Tat.

A relevant evolutionary insight comes from ‘game theory’, where the best economic decision depends on the decisions of others – 

‘Game theory is an esoteric branch of mathematics but provides the bridge between biology and economics whenever there is an apparent conflict between self interest and the common good’. Matt Ridley – The Origins of Virtue.

The deep ‘evolutionary stable’ process at work is a cooperative 'tit for tat’ strategy which ensures populations can thrive and protect themselves from harm in an environment where everyone is different – 

‘An Evolutionarily Stable Strategy, when adopted by all members of a population, will ensure no alternative mutant strategy will be successful’. John Maynard Smith – Did Darwin get it Right?

In 1983 Robert Axelrod explored computer models of the iterated ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma’ game and formalised the ‘tit for tat’ strategy in his book ‘The Evolution of Co-operation’. The ‘tit for tat’ strategy grows the economic benefits of cooperation over time and protects the benefits from predators & parasites, there are five rules of thumb for decision making –

cooperate - discover the 2 + 2 = 5 synergies from interactions, don’t try to win at the expense of others, seek their cooperation and avoid unnecessary expensive conflict

defend - retaliate if attacked to protect accumulated benefits of cooperation and to discourage predators & parasites 

communicate - responses must be clear, commensurate, simple, timely and emphatic to avoid misunderstandings and to develop trust 

recruit - forgive to increase the scale opportunity for future cooperative benefits, the more the merrier each iteration is a new opportunity to benefit

learn from outcomes - cooperate with cooperators and punish cheats.

Decisions seldom involve one off zero sum games, and it is profitable to cooperate. In this way evolution will tend to drive decision making towards cooperation whenever 2 + 2 = 5 type synergies exist. 

The strategy will always work whatever other people do; it must be applied blindly, everybody can participate, there are no expensive prerequisites, long term cooperation for all folk becomes an understandable moral and economic objective.  

Nevertheless cooperation will never be universal, new parasites & predators will always evolve. However cooperation will tend to differentially survive because of the economic synergies – 

‘Wherever there are suckers there will be cheats but genes/memes act ‘as if’ calculating costs/benefits and all the optimistic conclusions about cooperation apply in the world of nature’. Richard Dawkins – The Selfish Gene.

This breakthrough in understanding has important implications for evolutionary economics and illuminates all decision making, there seems to be a 'moral logic' emerging from the process of evolution – 

‘The key to doing well lies not in overcoming others but in eliciting their co-operation. Individuals don’t have to be rational; the evolutionary process alone allows the successful strategy to thrive, even if the players do not know why or how. Finally, no central authority is needed; co-operation based on reciprocity can be self policing’. Robert Axelrod – The Evolution of Co-operation.

Downward spirals of ‘tit for tat’ are not ‘evolutionary stable’ and such arms races will always eventually end because -

genes/memes 'calculate' the cost/benefits and

random events always offer alternative options and help escape from the local cul-de-sacs.

It could be that the chances of discovering better cooperative strategies are increased if a diversity of options are generated & tested for survival value. Once survival value is discovered it will tend to grow in populations. Such diversity is encouraged in free democratic communities where behaviour has become conditioned by prior acceptance of the rules of cooperation and where moral and economic efficiency has tended to be discovered and to grow & spread.  

In summary cooperation is the guiding principle for decisions but there must be a proportionate defensive response to all cheats. The tit for tat strategy is a blind route to cooperation, that is why it is an evolutionary stable strategy. Any imposed undermining of this 'moral logic' must be confronted. It is the ultimate justification for the just war against imposition.  

This evolved strategy helps to explain how and why free democratic communities tend to prosper and how and why such communities must respond if they are to survive when cooperation breaks down. 

b) Science is contributing to the understanding of Economic Anthropology. Cultural History and the Evolution of Cooperation.

The unfolding of the history of conflict, 'nature red in tooth and claw', can be traced in the context of the evolution of the economic benefits of cooperation and their defence. Human behaviour and cultural institutions emerge which provide cheaper ways of resolving conflict than through bloody violence. 

Remember differences in belief are not the problem, incompatible beliefs can live side by side in competition or in splendid isolation. But when conflicting beliefs threaten harm to others natural selection kicks in and some ideas prove to have a greater survival value than alternatives.

Most societies have evolved a hierarchy of cost driven institutions which can help to encourage cooperation and resolve violent conflict – 

religion - communicating the accumulated wisdom of the past across the generations by revelation in ritual tradition 

persuasion - science is a process which discovers convincing truth by evidence from observation, explanatory theory, testable hypotheses, verifying experiments and peer review 

arbitration - law is a process which resolves disputes peacefully by prior acceptance of customary torts

lawful violence - an expensive last resort, used to enforce law when cooperation breaks down. 

Cooperation is the priority – 

'If antagonists had they studied their economic textbooks more carefully they might have understood better that advantage lies in playing positive sum games with your partners’. Peter Jay - The Road to Riches.

... but violence must always be an inevitable last defensive resort – 

‘It is necessary only for good men to do nothing for evil to triumph’. Edmund Burke (1729 – 97)

The evolution of the 'moral logic' of cooperation and its defence is embedded in the cultures of all lawful free democracies but it can unfold in many different ways. Evolution can never claim to construct the best social structures just better ones than the alternatives for some people, in some places, at some times -

'Democracy is the worst form of government apart from all the others which have been tried from time to time'. Winston Churchill.

The history of Anglo Saxon freedom & democracy is just one insightful example. Historian Michael Wood has pleaded that we should – 

'Understand more about the whole story of the Iron Age farmers of the Berkshire Downs, their tale is important because the history of this small island off the shore of Europe became World history, its speech became world speech, and, perhaps more important, its social and economic experience also became that of the rest of the world’. Michael Woods - A Search for the Roots of England.

The heart of the story is the inherited evolution of cooperative folk -

tort laws protecting individual freedoms

economic institutions which encourage synergies of specialisation & scale in trade and technological innovation

liberal democratic institutions as cost effective alternatives to bloody violence and crowd trouble –

It can be interpreted as an ongoing discovery & accumulation process; bottom up cooperative survival synergies enable Joe Sixpack and his mates to respond to the top down impositions by Bishops, Princes, Generals and bureaucratic majorities. The evidence can be traced as a continuous 'golden thread' ... not a Panglossian escalator to a pinnacle ... but rather an unfolding of cultural institutions which survive better than alternatives at particular times and places ... John F Kennedy summed it up -

'making life safer for diversity'

but where to start? ... maybe the continuity would be clearer if we ventured into 'deep' evolutionary history? ...

A Timeline - Learning Cooperation & Synergy -

Don't get it wrong - the evolution of cooperation must be understood in the context of evolutionary time ... biological history.

Cooperation & Synergy trump Compromise & Loss ... and everybody has a biological loss aversion (Daniel Kahneman 2011)

No one said it was easy! Institutions must grow in situ. Liberal Democracy is not the best system, just better than the alternatives which have been tried from time to time ... so far ...

The first civilisation! Roots in Mesopotamia, 1800 BC Hamurabi was possibly the first to establish a codified structure of law over a large population, interestingly the location of this development was in Babylon in modern Iraq!

The early promise of increasingly intensive economic interactions in cities often stalled as the necessary tolerance and pluralism seemed unsustainable as early civilisations seemed unable to cope with -

external predators - stocks of riches become attractive targets for thieves

internal parasites - cooperative bonds of trust easily break down as different beliefs are exposed

diminishing returns from tribute and agricultural investments are relentless in the absence of technological innovation

500 BC Axis Age philosophers - Elijah, Socrates, Confucius, Buddha, Mahariva, Zoroaster - all lived around the same time and all wrestled with same problem - how do you persuade your diverse citizens to act as moral human beings and so secure the benefits of specialisation & scale from 2 + 2 = 5 cooperative synergies?

Democratic ideas! Greek democracy was a dramatic success securing mass cooperation. We the people all actively participating in our own destiny without coercion! Plato & Aristotle start asking questions. But Greece neglected defence and succumbed to the military efficiency of Macedonia and Rome.

Military supremacy! Roman citizens reaped the benefits from cooperating to win wars. Privileged and protected, citizens consolidated and spread their wealth and their Christianity widely. Efficient production required specialised warriors for protection! But Rome was eventually consumed by the old enemy of internal parasites and external predators.

Boadicea & fierce independence! Barbaric Western tribal communities fought for survival, both before and after the fall of Rome, with a zeal which reflected a competitive diversity which was often absent in the more monolithic civilisations elsewhere. Against all the odds small group cooperation and tribal solidarity in defence of extended family and mates becomes an obligation!

Arthur & roundtable chivalry! Dark Age glimmers of hope came from active cooperative associations of like minded folk with honed skills and intense loyalty, courtesy, bravery, honour and gallantry towards the girls!

Alfred & nation building! Anglo Saxon Tithings rediscovered the ancient rule of thumb for social behaviour at the grass roots - property rights and the hue & cry - cooperative dispute resolution without resorting to violence -

individuals deal cooperatively with those they trust but refuse to interact with those they don't trust

individual rights to the protection of customary law was traded for an obligation to respect the rights of others - on pain of ostracism or payment of financial compensation.

The natural laws of the Tithings were built from the bottom up into Hundreds, then into Shires and Sheriffs and Kings ... the Vikings were coming! From solidarity is strength to strength in numbers!

Hereward the Wake & crowd trouble! 11th Century - Norman Feudalism, lords and sheriffs provided some protection and stability but the corrupt pecking order imposed arbitrary top down statutes suppressing enterprising folk cooperating in their active pursuit of wealth. Eventually English values of independent spirit and fair play eroded the feudal system and spread from the Fens to beyond the Berkshire Downs becoming ingrained in archetypical English serfs like Robin Hood! Justice in confronting the impositions of parasites & predators is worth fighting for!

English Common Law! 12th Century - Common Law (1154) institutionalised the pre-existing Anglo Saxon values of rights and obligations for individual freedom throughout the kingdom. The Roman/Norman system of Civil Law failed to grow roots under the robust resilience of Anglo Saxon customary law and language!

Common Law! 1154 - decentralised precedents from cultural custom & practice emerge from central imposition

Magna Carta! 13th Century - Runnymede (1215) Representative Parliaments (1265). Roger Bacon's Empirical Science. The king's power was eroded - no tax without representation. The absolute power to tyrannise & oppress could be constrained by customary law and wealth creation!

Hard times! 14th Century - Black Death disease wiped out 50% of the population and diminishing returns from agriculture produced desperate folk. Praying didn't help and faith in the Bishops was fundamentally undermined. Pockets of survival synergies emerged from money based trading by free men in free towns, not from soothsayers brandishing statutes. Following the lead of Northern Italy wealth and survival were no longer dependent on feudal land and serfdom. Private property and technological 'know how' were beginning to create an agricultural revolution with reliable surpluses to feed the towns. Subjects in the countryside and the cities were interdependent specialists bound together by 'compass or imagination' of English values symbolised in the Act of Treason (1351). The feudal Lords & Bishops at home and the belligerents overseas now had a viable lawful opposition!

Renaissance! 15th Century - Greek & Roman ideas about protecting rights of individual Citizens were rediscovered. The legacy of the humanist scholars constrained all tyranny and injected meaning into civilisation! 

Reformation! 16th Century - corrupt power of Bishops was defeated, free Christianity flourished, the Pope no longer oppressed the English serfs. Freedoms were cemented with the defeat of Philip 2nd, the armada and the Counter Reformation (1588). The right to question the impositions of the Bishops was confirmed! 

Glorious Revolution! 17th Century - arbitrary power of Monarchs was constrained with a 'Constitution' and a 'Bill of Rights'. Act of Usury (1624) Petition of Right (1628) Westphalia Sovereignty (1648) Constitutional Monarchy & Bill of Rights (1688). Freedoms were consolidated in the checks and balances of constitutional law! 

Westphalia! 1648 - decentralisation to sovereign nation states

Enlightenment! 18th Century - innovative ideas and the Scientific Revolution were triumphs, the survival synergies from technological 'know how' were discovered and accumulated. Overseas imperial adventures were focused more & more on sugar & spice and less & less on God & gold. In the New World the survival progress of entrepreneurs was protected from backsliding English monarchs by a written US Constitution with robust checks and balances on all power to impose. Locke & Universal Freedom subsumed Hobbes & Leviathan. A vote of confidence from Scotland & the Act of Union (1707) and Adam Smith & the Scottish Enlightenment explained British values to the English empirical practice! Freedoms were spreading internationally! 

United States of America! 1789 - decentralisation of reserved powers to States 10th Amendments

Industrial Revolution! 19th Century - mass production technology sowed the seeds of global capitalism and the mercantilist ideas of Napoleon were defeated. Reform Act (1832) Limited liability (1855). The economic benefits of freedom within the law exploded as synergies of specialisation & scale were discovered! 

American Civil War! 1860 - decentralised secession of confederate states

Wars to end all wars! 20th Century - world wars of the Kaiser and Hitler and Stalin's cold war resulted in defeat for the Generals and the politicos who sought to impose their own opposing ideas on the institutional 'know how' now embodied in free democratic capitalism. War on Demagogues (1914) Economic War on Ignorance (1929) War on Fascism (1940) Cold War on State Socialism (1989). From Empire to Commonwealth, from imposition to cooperation, freedom & democracy began to spread globally, regardless of gender, race, religion and petty party politics, these were universal values of tolerance & pluralism not tyranny & oppression. Capitalism triumphs over hubris, ignorance, fascism and socialism!

After World War 1 The League of Nations attempted to consolidate future peace through international law. But even when the Law was agreed it proved unenforceable ... there was no remedy in law for Joe & Jane Sixpack.

After World War 2 The United Nations tried again, with a small quick response Security Council. 
The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a post Nazi attempt to consolidate international law.
The Geneva and Hague conventions (International Humanitarian Law) were also updated in an attempt to consolidate the rules of war after Nazi war crimes. Freedom & democracy and human rights are two sides of the same coin, self determination for 'we the people' with universal access to opportunity and protection from inflicted harm.

However, again, there was no remedy in law for Joe & Jane Sixpack, problems emerged – 

Liberal Democracy was not accepted as a universally beneficial institution. There was no agreement on the essential prerequisites nor on the benefits of global capitalism. The collapse of the Eastern European dictatorships and socialist economic planning in 1989 did not resolve fundamental differences in beliefs; such deep disagreements rendered the UN ineffective. 

Nation States clung onto ‘sovereignty’ and a right to treat their citizens as they wish. National democracies did not deliver protection for minorities. Some states view the UDHR as ‘Western Law’ designed to benefit the few and not evolved law which protects the many. The UDHR was based on the sanctity of the individual not the sovereign state - Article 8 suggests individuals have a remedy in law against harms as wrongs inflicted in the name of the Nation State - Article 10 declares the independence of the Courts from other branches of government and the right of individual appeal. Furthermore international trade involves interdependent communities which stretch far beyond artificial Nation State borders, exposing differences in national laws. The UN constitutionally assumed that the UDHR could be the responsibility of Nation States who disagree. 

International Law was proving impossible to define and enforce. Even when resolutions had been passed, there was difficulty in agreeing on lawful violence as a last resort response to rogue states and civilian terrorists.

Principles of rights based international law and the rules of war continue to evolve but to date the United Nations is struggling to agree and enforce them. Perhaps the first priority is to speed up an agreed definition of a civilian terrorist. 

Clearly both terrorists and freedom fighters will claim the moral high ground of peaceful cooperation and retaliatory defence?

The UN was a paradox – 

human rights were universal but 

international law could not be enforced by Nation States who disagree.

The UDHR was a paradox – 

negative rights (protection from inflicted harms as wrongs) could be enforced by Court restraining orders on the perpetrators – defendants existed 

positive rights (acquisition of jobs, food and health) were attained only by voluntary cooperation where 2 + 2 = 5 opportunities exist, otherwise Article 30 is violated - defendants didn't exist.

The crucial relevance of the history of these evolved institutions was that a decision to go to war was an integral part of evolved cultural institutions ... liberal democratic decisions were not the whims of current incumbents.

There was way to go to reach Kennedy's hope of 'making the world safe for diversity' ...

All cooperative cultural institutions had to defend themselves from attack ... otherwise they wouldn't exist ... think about it?

This was a long slow evolutionary struggle over centuries, slowly building trust in the economic benefits of specialisation & scale and cooperative synergies. The rule of law as a more efficient alternative to bloody violence.

But this 'golden thread' of history was not 'Whig history' not some visionary ideal of a Panglossian escalator - it was a work in progress and simply how the evolutionary cookie crumbled in some communities in some locations. An evolutionary process described during The Scottish Enlightenment by Adam the Smith in 1959 &1776.

The cookie crumbled very differently elsewhere.

The universal nature of the UDHR was not established?

International Humanitarian Law could not be applied to the civilian terrorist?

Cultural evolution! 21st Century - evolutionary competitive cultural 'arms races' continue, as new defence systems were required to protect global capitalist wealth stocks form a new parasite, the civilian terrorist.

 Eradicating differences was impossible, evolution was impossible to stop in its tracks.

Celebrating differences as the evolutionary feedstock was essential to secure the synergies of cooperation.

By definition these cultural benefits of self determination cannot be imposed ... the evolution will take time but the same elements seem to be necessary for any functioning liberal democracy –

tort law to protect diverse beliefs and individual freedoms. And tort law to protect private property and to defend stocks by constraining parasites & predators thus enabling larger scale groups to specialise and trade in technology  

constitutional checks & balances on the authoritarian impulse of elites to impose their designs and taxes on Joe Sixpack and his deals with his mates

stabilising economic institutions which reward competitive success in discovering & accumulating survival value in 'know how' and penalise failure & cheating

hard work, honesty & thrift

There were ongoing difficulties in establishing these enduring elements of liberal democracy.

No one said it was easy! Institutions must grow in situ. Liberal Democracy was not the best system, just better than the alternatives which have been tried from time to time ... so far ...

c) Evolving Evolutionary Ideas.

Free Democratic Institutions encourage difference & diversity whilst protecting individuals from the treachery of parasites & predators.

An important field of scientific endeavour is the proposition that morality itself evolves. Morality, empathy, load the dice of human interactions in favour of cooperative synergies. Positive sum games aid survival.

Perhaps evolutionary analysis can help us to distinguish between terrorists and freedom fighters? Between offensive and defensive bullets? Between cooperators and predators? Between positive sum and zero sum games?

Between good, evil and 'spin'?

Scientists are rethinking and challenging our assumptions about the world. Economics is a science, a value free mathematical inquiry, but it is also irrevocably intertwined with cultural evolution. Cultures which don't solve economic problems don't survive. Adam Smith, the first economist, first wrote 'The Theory of Moral Sentiments' and later 'The Wealth of Nations'. Economics is the guiding science of evolution, history, culture and ethics. Evolutionary Economics is an effort to make sense of the world. Economics not only describes the world, but also establishes normative standards, a system of beliefs to which we are committed. Economics underpins our beliefs. It is profitable to be good.

Or as Richard Dawkins explained in 1976; Chapter 12 - 'nice guys finish first' ...

'The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity' by Steven Pinker, 2011.

'The Expanding Circle: Ethics, Evolution, and Moral Progress' by Peter Singer, 2011.

'The Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning, from Gilgamesh to Wall Street' by Thomas Sedlacek, 2011.

'The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values' by Sam Harris, 2011.

 The science underpinning moral sentiments as a universal expression of biological cognitive & emotional emergent phenomena has been recently summarised by The Brights, a group of humanists who sponsor a naturalistic worldview. Moral sentiments are an expression of biology; they are not confined to self conscious folk; they are universal throughout the globe; they are also apparent in infants & animals. These four statements are backed by 70 references to published scientific work.

Maybe it is ideas about the evolution of good & evil that define the institutions of freedom & democracy, and define the differences between cooperators & parasites and terrorists & freedom fighters. Some people have access to evolved remedies in international law but choose terror. Others don't have access to law, are tyrannised & oppressed and fight for their freedom -

cooperative strategies tend to evolve in free and democratic societies where the benefits of cooperation are grown and defended from predators and parasites by law and by resorting to violence to enforce the law. This evolution has led to rights based law embodied in the UDHR. This suggests that law and morality evolve based on 2 + 2 = 5 positive sum synergy - which is ‘good’? 

predatory & parasitic strategies also evolve which inflict harm through unlawful violence & theft of benefits through terrorism or the threat of terrorism. This suggests that parasites & predators evolve based on 2 - 2 = 0 zero sum, and don't contribute any synergies - which is ‘evil’? 

countless imaginary ideas which are believed to be true are constantly proposed for relevance but are nothing more than imaginary experiments until tested against the rigours of reality and their evolutionary survival significance established - unproven ideas are ‘spin’ and political posturing? 

Many ideas about dispute resolution are simply experimental attempts to improve the evolutionary tit for tat algorithm –  

voting - but failing to protect minorities who may lose 

appeasement - but failing to provide a remedy for victims 

procrastination - but failing to develop cooperative trust by a clear, simple, timely and emphatic response and failing to enforce the law as an alternative to violence 

Whenever devastating attacks are made on people and property a response is necessary ...the institutions of freedom & democracy maintain defensive responses to threats ... otherwise they wouldn't exist ... think about it?

No one said it was easy! Institutions must grow in situ. Liberal Democracy is not the best system, just better than the alternatives which have been tried from time to time ... so far ...

3. The Application of Cooperative Tit for Tat in Cultural Competition.

Some pondered points from evolutionary theory and history that are relevant to the decision to confront the impositions of cheats and help liberal democrats –

throughout evolutionary time disputes have been settled through violence whenever 'live and let live' became fraught, more recently cheaper, more efficient alternatives like the institutions of liberal democracy and international law have evolved

cooperative 'tit for tat’ strategy encouraged mutual benefits by building trust over time by repeated interactions

cooperative 'tit for tat’ strategy required 'commensurate, clear, simple, timely and emphatic' retaliation to cheats for survival 

commensurate responses were perceptions & experiments which would be different for different people; massively diverse, dispersed, incomplete and complex

outcomes of decisions were unknowable, maybe civil war, maybe new territorial states, maybe liberal democracy, no one knew the outcome nor the timescale. The cooperative tit for tat strategy must be applied blindly, it is the credible response that is the essential policy

UDHR and Article 8 transcended nation states, every individual Western, Israeli, Kuwaitian, Sunni, Shiite & Kurd had a right to a remedy in law if violence was to be avoided.
Evolved natural law is not the result of a global vote, decisions were taken by members of a 'culture club' ... a ‘coalition of the willing’,

Evolutionary analysis clearly identifies separate but linked issues –

an evolutionarily stable strategy was to respond and 

any response had unforeseeable consequences.

It is clear that exactly the same reasoning applied to the belief that the USA was the aggressor - if persuasion failed, if economic sanctions failed, if international law was violated, lawful violence was an essential last resort for cultural survival

The specific details in contention are always irrelevant because nobody knows in advance how the cookie will crumble.

No one said it was easy! Institutions must grow in situ. Liberal Democracy is not the best system, just better than the alternatives which have been tried from time to time ... so far ...

Condoleezza Rice4. The Rice Doctrine as Cooperative Tit for Tat Policy.  

Ongoing global economic trade interactions & synergies confirmed there were cultural conflicts almost everywhere which begged for some sort of resolution. Drags on trade put costs up and output down thus lowering economic growth and real wages for everyone.

Globalisation and Confrontation were emergent happenings.

In 1999 The British Prime Minister outlined the context of globalisation and the confrontation of the imposition of cultural values which required protection. Clarified policy in a speech in Chicago, prior to the 9/11 terror and reconfirmed the policy in his Los Angeles speech in July 2006, again after re-election.

The ‘Rice Doctrine’ was confirmed in the USA in The President's inaugural address in 2005 after 9/11 and after re-election.

The Rice Doctrine was articulated by Condoleezza Rice - born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1954, propelled from racial obscurity to dizzy heights by education; in 1993 Condi became the first female, first minority, and youngest Provost in Stanford University's history. In 2000 Condoleezza Rice left Stanford and became The National Security Adviser to the President.

The three pronged policy response to the 9/11 terrorists attacks was consistent with an Evolutionarily Stable Strategy of an evolutionary cultural 'tit for tat’ which encourages cooperation and confronts the impositions of cheats – 

a) Universal Benefits = Synergies- Deep Cultural Belief.

Synergies of cooperation in Free Democracies deliver mutual benefits, not pillage & plunder. The synergistic survival benefits from economic specialisation & scale which emerge from the evolved institutions of freedom & democracy are universal.

'If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity' - John F Kennedy, 1963.

‘America’s pursuit of national interest will create conditions that promote freedom, markets and peace, something that benefits all humanity’ - Condoleezza Rice Promoting the National Interest, Jan/Feb 2000.

'The durable wisdom of our constitution, the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world' - The President inaugural address 2005.

'What are the values that govern the future of the world? Are they those of tolerance, freedom, respect for difference and diversity or those of reaction, division and hatred? My point is that this war can't be won in a conventional way. It can only be won by showing that our values are stronger, better and more just, more fair than the alternative' - The prime minister Los Angeles speech 2006.

These statements confirm the heart of the battle of ideas as the schism in beliefs.

More and more communities around the globe have joined a 'gravy train' moving towards the institutions of liberal democracy and economic growth. And the trend continues.

Like all adaptations these cultural adjustments are imperfect statistical tendencies for growth in populations, in every country there will be believers and non-believers. Some folk will wish to participate others will not, but only the institutions of freedom & democracy will enable the opposing beliefs to exist side be side within a legal frame work. Democracy is not a 'winner takes all' voting system, it involves appropriate responsive institutions that enable trial & error experiments and elimination of unsuccessful outcomes. These institutions will eventually arise from the will of the people for autonomy for their own culture and choices.

No one said it was easy! Institutions must grow in situ. Liberal Democracy is not the best system, just better than the alternatives which have been tried from time to time ... so far ...

Free Trade trumps the politics of Bishops, Princes, Generals and Bureaucrats!

b) Abuse of Human Rights = Retaliation- Defensive Cultural Behaviour.

Tit for tat is not aggression it is survival. To survive there must be a commensurate, clear, simple, timely and emphatic responses to all attacks and threats of attack against freedom & democracy.  

‘In self defence America will act against terrorist threats before they are fully formed’ – Condoleezza Rice National Security Strategy 2002.

 'The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in the world. This is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary to protect this nation and its people against further attacks and emerging threats' - The President inaugural address 2005.

  'Come into the international community and play by the same rules as the rest of us, or be confronted / ostracised' - The Prime Minister Los Angeles speech 2006.

Historically, the institutions of freedom & democracy have emerged relatively recently and opposition to the 'gravy train' of expanding global economic growth has often been the norm.

Again at the heart of this opposition is the schism in beliefs. A belief in the efficiency of top down command & control will require a 'top peck' who is 'in charge'. In this case the process of globalisation it appears chaotic and 'red in tooth and claw'. The alternative is the counter intuitive process of bottom up evolution which spawns international law and cooperative synergies ... and retaliation.

Consistently throughout history this opposition to natural selection has eventually been confronted, otherwise the institutions would not have survived. Natural selection cannot, by definition be imposed.

Nevertheless in free societies where divergent beliefs are protected, it is more difficult for the law to protect the 'gravy train' from derailment, particularly where the disruptive action and threats come from civilian terrorists with access to weapons of mass destruction. Furthermore a legal dilemma surrounds 'pre-emption' which inevitably requires action against unidentified individuals before the evidence of illegality is available for the courts.

Policy cannot define the nature of the tactical response but policy must be clear about the inevitability of a strategic response.

Future outcomes are unknowable, the nature of 'commensurate', 'clear', 'simple', 'timely' and 'emphatic' is simply a 'best bet experiment', an option available at the time. 

Retaliation is essential foreign policy for survival, it is not new, there is a rich ongoing history of liberal democracies confronting dictators who impose and seeding new democracies. Doing nothing and appeasement are not options in the long term war of ideas about law and human rights.

The Rice Doctrine involves a consistent policy response to the impositions and threats of terrorist dictators.

Many threats many confrontations, including many smaller players but all of them dictators who try to imposed their fantasies, there was an absence of liberal democrats making the world safe for diversity - Ulbricht, Kim Il-sung, Nasser, Ho Chi Minh, Verwoerd, Castro, Galtieri, Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi, Assad ... Al Qaeda, ISIS ... and on to Putin and Xi ...

The same fundamental problem - dictatorial imposition from above -

dictator - absolutist, autarch, autocrat, big brother, bigot, despot, die hard, dogmatist, chauvinist, extremist, fascist, fanatic, messiahs, militant, oppressor, overlord, partisan, prejudice, racist, radical, supremacist, sectarian, segregationist, supremo, totalitarian, tyrant, ultraist, uber alles, zealot ...      

... in the absence of -

checks & balances

separation of powers

term limits

Bill of Rights

No one said it was easy! Institutions must grow in situ. Liberal Democracy is not the best system, just better than the alternatives which have been tried from time to time ... so far ...

Wherever there are stocks there are Parasites & Predators!

c) Empathy & Help - Economic Cultural Ethic.

Moral sentiments are emotional empathies not impositions. Universal innate moral sentiments exist in social animals, leading to a moral obligation to help folk everywhere to confront tyranny & oppression. A Remedy in Law is an evolving Human Right for all mankind, the Sovereign State has no moral right to treat its citizens as it wishes, and liberal democrats living in 'rogue' states need help. The burning issue is how best to help the oppressed to 'vote with their feet and join a club of their choice' ... in situations where turkeys will never vote for Christmas.

'Fairness of Shares and Resentment of Cheats' = Adam Smith 1759

‘The desire for freedom transcends race, religion and culture. The people of the Middle East are not exempt from this desire. We have an opportunity, and an obligation, to help them turn desire into reality. That is the security challenge and moral mission of our time’ – Condoleezza Rice National Convention of the National Association of Black Journalists 2003.

'Every man and woman on this earth has rights, the imperative is self-government. Freedom, by its nature, must be chosen, and defended by citizens, and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities. America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way' - The President inaugural address 2005.

'You can't defeat a fanatical ideology just by imprisoning or killing its leaders, you have to defeat its ideas. It is about hearts and minds, about inspiring people, persuading them, showing them what our values at their best stand for. We should support, nurture, build strong alliances with all those in the Middle East who are on the modernising path' - The Prime Minister Los Angeles speech 2006.

Evolving human rights can put the individual at odds with the Nation State so internal policy matters. In every State there will be groups with different beliefs each with a right to protection within the law. Once rights are protected the institutions of freedom & democracy and global capitalism will tend to evolve as some individuals with some property rights are free to act and trade to secure mutual benefits if others are not harmed in the process. The policy offers ongoing help to democrats to secure those universal benefits, wherever they are, however few there are. Foreign policy should be based on helping more and more folk to join the gravy train -

not replacing one terrorist dictator with another attempt at 'intelligent design' and 'nation building'

'a leg up not a hand out', 'tough love not imposition'

'hard work, honesty & thrift'

By definition, freedom & democracy cannot be imposed. Help for the suppressed can result from toppling dictators but the emergence of institutions as the alternative to conflict can only come slowly from within the community itself.

The question was, how best to help?

There was a ‘sting in the tale’, there was no general agreement about the evolution of policy, there was a schism of beliefs, policy was an ongoing process, there was no winning post, predators & parasites always evolved, terrorists and intelligent designers who aspire to impose their ideas on Joe & Jane Sixpack will always exist and will always oppose the evolved institutions of freedom & democracy.

There is no easy way out, nothing changes, evil exists, evolved freedom & democracy is in the hands of 'we the people' … 

No one said it was easy! Institutions must grow in situ. Liberal Democracy is not the best system, just better than the alternatives which have been tried from time to time ... so far ...

Universal human rights confront tyranny & oppression! Cultural Tit for Tat evolves cooperative institutions. In an evolutionary arms race.


A decision to go to war in Iraq can be analysed in the context of evolutionary theory.

Cultural conflicts in The Middle East were not new; the ancient conflicts with the Jews, the Crusades and the interminable Shiite/Sunni tribal splits.

 Decisions to turn to violence in The Middle East since WWII & the UDHR were consistent with a belief in an evolved cultural tit for tat strategy which was a cultural legacy of some Western civilisations.

The war in Iraq was just one example of cultural conflict. The Iraq regime was a not living in benign isolation but trading, interacting and threatening alternative cultures ... Western ... Jewish ... Shiite ... Kurdish ...  all cultures and 'clubs of choice' have rules and if you choose to join the liberal democratic club you accept the rules ... or join another club ...

Regardless of how good & evil, terrorism & freedom fighters are defined there was some agreement amongst some people that some harm had been inflicted on other cultures by the regime in Iraq which required some response.

The question was, how best to help? The Kurds in Iraq needed help ... ask them!

Jaw Jaw and persuasion had failed, economic sanctions had failed, international law had not been enforced, military force was a last resort if interactions were to continue.

There was a problem which wouldn't go away and required confrontation; a tit for a tat.

The furore at the UN appeared to be about the level & timing of the commensurate forceful response, or 'serious consequences', not about guilt or innocence. Not whether to respond? But rather what type of response?

The question was, how best to help?

But don't get it wrong ... Iraq was just one incident, one example of a response to terrorist dictators, but all responses are experimental because nobody knows the outcomes in advance. Angst & blame are the inevitable result of a top down 'intelligent design' myth & mind set. Iraq had an opportunity to start the slow process of building institutions and embracing the synergies of liberal democracy. Democracy had to be learned ... it was about cooperative synergies and not about the 'power' of 51% of the population to screw 49% ... Liberal Democracy was about protecting minorities ... read the UDHR

The real schism was in cultural beliefs and values. The difference between an evolved bottom up positive sum culture of freedom fighters and an imposed top down zero sum culture of terrorists dictators.

The Thucydides Trap of history suggested such cultural clashes eventually & inevitably led to all out war ... but not necessarily?

After jaw jaw and stalemate during the cold war with the USSR, the Security Council and economic sanctions were meaningless because of 'iron curtains' and cultural isolation ... nevertheless glasnost & peresroika were tried.

But in 2001 states like Iraq were extensively trading in global oil dollars and trade sanctions became an option available to try before the expensive and catastrophic last resort? But 'sanctions busting' proved to be an inevitable response and economic hardship did nothing to heal the cultural divide ... short term ... and longer term nuclear proliferation was on the horizon and perhaps likely before the anticipated cultural obsolescence.

However, did the latest military technology offered another way out of the Thucydides Trap and all out war? The pin point accuracy of Cruise Missiles offered a forceful last resort. Was it a viable alternative to blanket bombing and troops on the ground. Saddam narrowly escaped assassination by a few metres just prior to commencing hostilities ...

Of course, we are biased, we believe in biological history, in the evolving institutions of liberal democracy.

The toppling of Saddam Hussein and destroying his army was just one battle in a long long war against zero sum dictatorship terror.

The Rice Doctrine was a confirmation of the bottom up evolution of cultural 'tit for tat' -

'terrorist threats must be confronted' ... survival behaviour, cooperative synergies from tit for a tat

'stand shoulder to shoulder with allies' ... cultural belief, cooperative synergies from tit for tat

'18 UN resolutions' ... jaw jaw first then a just war was a legal last resort

'dodgy dossiers' ... naive trivialised presentations of deep cultural beliefs

'mission accomplished' ... removal of a threatening dictator Saddam Hussein 

'the rest is up to the Iraqi people themselves' ... liberal democracy, like natural selection, by definition cannot be imposed, the cooperative institutions of the Kurds, the Shiites & the Sunnis must emerge bottom up ... the process is evolutionary.

The question was, how best to help?

A decision to go to war is far more important than irrelevant games of betting on outcomes, or hide & seek the bomb, or petty party politics, or dodgy dossiers, or replacing one dictator with another. The last time I looked things were a tad more complicated than that and such simplistic knee jerk hysteria only encouraged the terrorist wedges against liberal democracy.

Cultural behaviour based on tit for tat evolved over aeons and evolutionary theory explains how and why the cooperative institutions of freedom & democracy emerged & thrived and exposed the folly of failing to confront aggressive threats and their imposition.

The decision to try force was the only evolutionarily stable response left after a failure to interact through free & fair trade ... a failure to persuade ... and to a failure to enforce international rights based law in the face of ongoing threats.

Perhaps we can go further. It is quite impossible, physically impossible, for any evolved system of cooperation to grow and prosper in the absence of defensive responses. The environment can never be safe, more survival 'know how' always results in more niche opportunities for predators & parasites.

Confrontation of the impositions of dictators is essential for the growth & survival of liberal democracy but the outcomes of confrontation are unknowable ... outcomes will emerge from the decisions of the peoples and their institutions which evolve … that is the nature of freedom & democracy … and ultimately it is free democratic institutions which define the difference between freedom fighters and terrorists … 

Not a crusade to impose Liberal Democracy, but rather confronting parasites & predators, tyranny & oppression, bribery & corruption, bureaucratic kludge and an opportunity to seed the growth of local institutions ... and the self sustaining growth of know how.

No one said it was easy! Institutions must grow in situ. Liberal Democracy is not the best system, just better than the alternatives which have been tried from time to time ... so far ...

john p birchall

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