Racism and the prisoner’s dilemma

Guest Post: Racism and the prisoner’s dilemma

By Zith Met

The prisoner’s dilemma should be familiar to everyone (see here).

It is generally best for society as a whole if everyone within it cooperates*, and moral teachings can broadly be thought of as guidelines designed to influence individuals to sacrifice their own interests in favor of group interests. Many, if not most, moral and ethical questions have prisoner’s dilemma aspects. (See a list of these sorts of problems here.)

Since society has an interest in moving people toward cooperation, social norms tend to develop to influence people to cooperate. The Golden Rule is an example of a widely-followed ethical rule that increases cooperation. If you’re in a society where people generally follow the Golden Rule, you may be able to cooperate with confidence that you won’t be defected upon. Additionally, religions usually have moral codes designed to increase cooperation among members. Social norms punishing or shunning defectors also work to increase cooperation.

When social norms are insufficient at generating cooperation (or when scale makes coordination too difficult), government and the legal system step in to increase cooperation and punish defection. This implies that the burdens of government will be reduced in places where social norms (and people’s innate inclinations) result in widespread cooperation.

People are naturally more inclined to cooperate with more closely related people–it can be an effective evolutionary strategy to help people like oneself. This is most obvious in the context of the nuclear family, but it is also true in the context of more distant relations. In societies with a tradition of cousin marriage, clans are distinct and individuals are more distantly related to people outside their clan. In contrast, in societies like much of northwest Europe with a history of prohibitions on cousin marriage, clans are relatively absent and genes have spread more evenly through society.

Unsurprisingly, the societies with the greatest cooperation and with the most effective norms promoting cooperation tend to be the most historically outbred societies. Consider the cooperative spirit and socialism of Scandinavians as an expression of this. Neoreactionaries often refer to the “universalism” of progressives, and this universalism leads to universal cooperation. In contrast, consider the tribal and corrupt nature of places like Afghanistan at the other extreme.

Although it’s a winning strategy for everyone in society to cooperate, it’s a losing strategy for a person to cooperate with someone who is going to defect. If one person follows the Golden Rule and another follows a strategy of pure self-interest, the self-interested party will consistently defect and the Golden Rule follower will be a loser. This is the fundamental flaw of strict universalism–it is ultimately suicidal. If social norms that cause people to cooperate break down, defection becomes more and more common and government intervention becomes more and more necessary.

One prominent way for cooperation to break down is to add a lot of very unrelated people–something that becomes more likely in a universalist, xenophilic society. Diversity reduces social bonds and trust (see here). People are less likely to cooperate as more distantly related groups move in. Even if you’re a Swede who naturally wants to cooperate with everyone, the Somalis you just brought in don’t necessarily have any interest in cooperating with you. The Somalis will defect on you all day and all night while raping your women. The result is a net loss to society and particularly large losses for cooperators.

The best bet for effective cooperation and a pleasant, efficient society is a relatively small, outbred nation with minimal distinct groups within that nation. Ideally, people will want to cooperate with everyone else within the society for the overall good of the society as much as possible. Strong social norms promoting cooperation and punishing defection help. Significant immigration should be avoided to prevent an increase in defection.

* I suspect that a society that goes too far into cooperation will not only have the problems described above with respect to dealing with defectors and outsiders, but also creativity and advancement may require some defection. Imperfect information and varying time preferences complicate the picture as well. However, promoting cooperation is more important as a primary moral concern, and the utility of defection is beyond the scope of this post.

Black Hollywood Actors Educate Us on Evil America

Black Hollywood Actors Educate Us on Evil America

Guest Author:  Christopher Graham

There is an interview at Parade.com with Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker, who are costars in The Butler, an upcoming movie directed by Lee Daniels (also interviewed and also black).

The Butler seems to be another of Hollywood’s attempts to get black people to keep bemoaning “white culture” as it examines life in the White (!) House through the benevolent and undoubtedly wise eyes of the titular black butler who served under eight of America’s presidents, all of whom were terribly white. It is an effort to shame white people for having the audacity to move on and progress beyond the middle of the last century. I guess America doesn’t hear enough of what black people think about these issues. Continue reading

Chinese Eugenics

The Edge recently asked “What Should We Be Worried About?” and solicited the responses of 155 scientists, academics and writers.  The response below received the most attention.

Chinese Eugenics

Geoffrey Miller, Edge, Jan. 14, 2013

China has been running the world’s largest and most successful eugenics program for more than thirty years, driving China’s ever-faster rise as the global superpower. I worry that this poses some existential threat to Western civilization. Yet the most likely result is that America and Europe linger around a few hundred more years as also-rans on the world-historical stage, nursing our anti-hereditarian political correctness to the bitter end.

When I learned about Chinese eugenics this summer, I was astonished that its population policies had received so little attention. China makes no secret of its eugenic ambitions, in either its cultural history or its government policies.

For generations, Chinese intellectuals have emphasized close ties between the state (guojia), the nation (minzu), the population (renkou), the Han race (zhongzu), and, more recently, the Chinese gene-pool (jiyinku). Traditional Chinese medicine focused on preventing birth defects, promoting maternal health and “fetal education” (taijiao) during pregnancy, and nourishing the father’s semen (yangjing) and mother’s blood (pingxue) to produce bright, healthy babies (see Frank Dikötter’s book Imperfect Conceptions). Many scientists and reformers of Republican China (1912-1949) were ardent Darwinians and Galtonians. They worried about racial extinction (miezhong) and “the science of deformed fetuses” (jitaixue), and saw eugenics as a way to restore China’s rightful place as the world’s leading civilization after a century of humiliation by European colonialism. The Communist revolution kept these eugenic ideals from having much policy impact for a few decades though. Mao Zedong was too obsessed with promoting military and manufacturing power, and too terrified of peasant revolt, to interfere with traditional Chinese reproductive practices.

But then Deng Xiaoping took power after Mao’s death. Deng had long understood that China would succeed only if the Communist Party shifted its attention from economic policy to population policy.

[Continue reading….]


Another notable response to the Edge symposium is Douglas T. Kenrick’s “Is Idiocracy Looming?

David Galton:  Did Plato and Aristotle first popularize eugenics?