Saturday, December 28, 2013

Bechtloff Book Club: The Evolutionary Psychology Behind Politics

It's truly amazing when you come across a theory where a number of little mysteries suddenly make sense in light of it. For years I have found myself puzzled by the modern mainstream conservative movement. One of my earliest posts on this blog was asking the question what exactly is conservatism. This book poses the theory that conservatism and liberalism are just intellectual manifestations of the r/K mating strategies that we developed as a young species.

For those of you unfamiliar, r/K refers to the different breeding strategies animals adopt, the common example for r being rabbits and for K being wolves. The r strategy is used in creatures who's populations generally never exceed or even reach the environment's carrying capacity, who never have to compete for food, mate indiscriminately and put little investment in their offspring. K refers to animals, usually predators, who are at or near their environment's capacity, who breed selectively, invest heavily in each of their offspring, and must compete very rigorously for the limited resources. Now obviously these two strategies exist on a spectrum, all humans are K compared to say a Sea Turtle, but humans can be r or K relative to each other.

So the theory holds that early in the history of our species we would reach carrying capacity of our environment, the K humans would stay and compete for resources and the r humans would migrate and head towards newer areas, until their numbers expanded starting the cycle over again. So if you accept the idea that conservatism is just an intellectualizing of the K strategy and liberalism just the r, suddenly so much about both sides makes a lot of sense doesn't it? Why do the K types favor capitalism? Why do they favor war? They are competitive. Why do they support socially restrictive laws of the type that the religious right loves? Because they are extremely protective of their offspring and feel the need to restrict their sexuality as long as possible so they can pick the fittest mate.  Neither the pro war foreign policy or the Rick Santorum style social conservatism make sense if you take conservatives claims of being "small government" at face value. But if you understand these are not logical thought out positions but rather just intellectual manifestations of the K strategy it makes sense. Likewise liberals and their lose sexual morals, tolerance for crap like single moms, and love of the welfare state make sense when you consider them in light of the r strategy. They don't produce, they just consume. Also their taste for novelty makes sense when you consider the r strategy is always looking for greener pastures to graze on. Likewise the conservative clinging to traditionalism is the inverse of that.

I could go on and on, but I'm not here to rehash the whole book, I'm simply here to tell you that you should read this book. This is not only a good book but an important one and has to potential the completely change how we view the both politics and the cycles of history.

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