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.

West Coast Atlas Launch

There was a launch scheduled out of Vandenberg yesterday at 11:30 AM, and I’d planned to go to the beach to watch, until I remembered my 10:30 dental appointment. So I ended up being in the chair at the time, a little frustrated that I couldn’t at least get up for a couple minutes to go out into the parking lot to see it. But unfortunately for ULA, but fortunately for me, it was scrubbed, due to a hydrogen leak. So I, and others currently in southern California, will get another chance on Sunday morning.

[Sunday-morning update]

Wow, this launch seems snakebit. A wildfire on the base has delayed the launch until at least the 26th.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!