Category: Philosophy

Society Needs Diversity, But Too Much Of It Can Hurt

Recent research suggests that economies perform best when their social diversity is in an intermediate range, not so high as to undermine social trust and cohesion, and not so low as to inhibit innovation and complementarity of skills.

Although this effect has been known for some time, a new confirmation of it has come from studies of genetic diversity within human populations and its relationship to economic development.

Recent quantitative studies in human population genetics have shown that human genetic evolution did not stop in prehistory, but has continued at a rapid pace throughout history. For instance, in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, John Hawkes of the University of Wisconsin and others concluded, based on the 3.9 million HapMap SNP dataset, that human adaptive evolution has not only continued, but has actually accelerated in the last 40,000 years. read more

Weekend Reading: Oxytocin, Trust, and Ethnocentrism

The role of the chemical oxytocin in promoting social trust has been highlighted in many popular books and articles. Recent research suggests however that oxytocin also has a “dark” side. Its effect is not only to promote trust and cooperation among in-group members but also to engender betrayal and derogation towards out-group individuals. The two effects seem to be inextricably intertwined and depend on each other. This finding, that the mechanism of trust requires the exclusion of an other, is very important for understanding the current global political climate. read more

The Global War On Corruption

The war on corruption is global. In order to understand it we need to see it in its global context, as part of a worldwide Zeitgeist.

  • The President of Brazil, Dilma Roussef, was impeached and removed from office by the legislature, and a former President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, had his home raided, was detained, and had charges filed against him, in connection with an influence peddling investigation.
  • The President of South Korea, Park Geun-hye, has been impeached and a Constitutional Court is now hearing arguments to decide whether the President should be permanently removed from office.
  • In South Africa, the ruling party, ANC, and the President, Jacob Zuma, has been at the centre of allegations of corruption going back almost ten years.
  • In the just concluded Presidential election in USA, one of the candidates, Hilary Clinton, was perceived as the “most corrupt ever” by some voters and may have lost the election because of this.
  • Christine Lagarde, the former Finance Minister of France, and now the Head of the International Monetary Fund, faced an investigation into a possible misuse of power, but was found guilty only of negligence.
  • In India, corruption has been at the centre of political discourse for several years, and was an issue that was partly responsible for the stunning 2014 victory of Narendra Modi and the BJP over the allegedly corruption ridden INC, led by Sonia Gandhi. The latest chapter of the Indian war on corruption is the demonetisation of 86% of its currency by the government. This unprecedented move has led to major dislocations in the Indian economy, but is nevertheless supported by a significant section of the population as a way to root out corruption and “black money”.

The war against corruption is the latest in a long sequence of wars fought by the global community against various purveyors of evil and wickedness. In order to understand these global wars we need to understand their history and their usefulness in politics. Although the history of just wars goes back at least to the medieval Crusades, the modern era of “good wars” starts with the Napoleonic wars of the 19th century that were fought to bring the enlightened principles of the French Revolution to more benighted nations. Since then we have had the American Civil War, which was fought either to free African slaves and to save the Union, or to save the way of life of the American South and to uphold States’ rights. The Great War of 1914 was fought to defeat the evil designs of the Kaiser, and to save the British way of life and also to uphold the rights of the German nation. And then there was the Second World War, fought to defeat the most evil monster of the modern era, Adolf Hitler and his genocidal campaigns, or to defeat the macabre designs of “International Jewry” to enslave Aryans, if you were in the other side. As soon as that war ended, we seamlessly entered the Cold War era, when freedom loving cigar chomping Western capitalists fought vanguard parties of Russian and Chinese workers and Communist wickedness to a standstill. read more