Category Archives: Economics

What Makes Socialism So Attractive?

Evolution has wired our brains for it, unfortunately.

The chief problem, he suggested, is that many people are beguiled by “romantic socialism”—that is, they imagine what their personal lives would be like if everyone shared and treated one another like family. We evolved in small bands that were an individual’s only protection from starvation, victimization, and inter-group aggression. People feel vulnerable if their band does not exist. Such sentiments are more or less appropriate when people lived in small groups of hunter-gatherers composed mostly of kin, but they fail spectacularly when navigating a world of strangers cooperating in global markets.

Tooby also argued that markets make intellectuals irrelevant. Consequently, academics have a huge bias against spontaneous order and the basic goal of most social science is to critique the social institutions associated with market-based society.

More darkly, Tooby pointed out that political entrepreneurs know how to appeal to romantic socialist sentiments as a way to establish themselves in power. The evolved psychological propensity toward romantic socialism facilitates political coalitions that oppose free-market societies. Since such coalitions are organized around romantically appealing ideas, any heresy is treated as betrayal. If things are not going well (and they never are in full-blown socialist societies) and since the ideology cannot be wrong, evildoers are undermining progress and must be found and punished (think kulaks and the Gulag). Such coalitions tend to revert to primitive zero-sum thinking: If there is something you don’t get that means that someone took it from you. The result is, according to Tooby, that there really are those who are willing to make poor people worse off in order to make rich people worse off.

In terms of defining socialism, I don’t make a distinction between it and Marxism, which was simply a failed attempt to explain economics and human nature scientifically. Simply put, though it’s more complex, it is the belief that one person can know better than another what that other person “needs,” and should have the power to ensure that those “needs” are met.

California’s “Boom”

Is about to go bust. The notion that CA is doing better than Texas would be hilarious if it weren’t such an infuriating lie.

Reminder: When the state asks for a federal bailout, it should be only on the condition that it become a territory, and not be allowed back in as a single state.

[Update a while later]

I wish that this didn’t seem related: Printing money in Venezuela didn’t work out all that well. Of course, California can’t print money, fortunately.