For those readers who are already beginning to yawn, you’ll find this anything but boring. It may give you hope and even tick you off, maybe both at the same time – – –
The headline question from the challenge — including the bolding — is as follows:
Is it inherent in the nature of free market capitalism for the most wealthy individuals and/or corporations to capture government power? –Mr. Katz
These two sentences from the introductory paragraph also caught my attention – – –
I believe hierarchy is a natural and necessary development of a functioning economy and society. But it seems to me most people believe in “equality” and that the dangers I have described are the results of capitalism itself. –Mr. Katz
Except for the “it seems to me most people believe in ‘equality’ ” phrase, I almost completely disagree, and suggest that that notion is not only incorrect but dangerous to liberty.
More specificaly, although it is indeed “natural” in certain limited contexts and circumstances, I disagree that hierarchy is a … necessary development of a functioning economy and society. Hierarchy is not generally natural or useful for us humans and in fact, if accepted generally it indeed poses serious dangers to us humans, our happiness and well-being.
This is indeed important because, as Mr. Katz points out in the next paragraph, if we are to maintain a free society in the face of the full-court-press in progress to destroy it, “Mass disobedience is critically needed so people must be convinced that freedom is the basis of our civilization and the free market is one of the pillars that maintain it.”
As it turns out, most of our human nature is indeed designed specifically for freedom and liberty, as is any advanced, happy, human civilization, with exchange as the absolutely necessary foundation. That’s what “The Sociobiology of Liberty” in the title to this piece is about.
A preview: Hierarchy is a primitive “might-makes-right” mating tactic, unsuitable for entities that count on information and knowledge for survival. And “equality” among small-group humans refers mainly to “political equality” only. That is, no one has coercive power over anyone else.
OK, I’m probably going to stumble over a couple of sacred cows with my clumsy clodhoppers, but I mean well, so I hope you’ll be tolerant – – –
First — and Ayn Rand notwithstanding — I don’t use the word “capitalism” if I can possibly avoid it. Since there are two different phrases using the word but referring to two almost diametrically opposed systems — “free-market capitalism” versus “state capitalism” — the word is often terminally confusing to the folks we want to reach. Especially if we fail to include the necessary prefix.
Further, the current system which is regularly mis-described as free-market capitalism — and is ass-u-me_d by most folks as the model if the prefix word is missing — is clearly much closer to state capitalism in practice, especially at the upper reaches – – –
“There isn’t one grain of anything in the world that is sold in a free market. Not one! The only place you see a free market is in the speeches of politicians” –Dwayne Andreas, ADM CEO, Mother Jones, July/August 1995
“Capitalism” of either kind also implies that folks who accumulate and employ wealth should get special privileges. The fact they possess wealth should give them privilege enough. They should, of course, get the same property protection etc. as everyone.
So, thanks to a clue originally from James Libertarian Burns, instead of “capitalism” I use “voluntary exchange.”
If you haven’t adopted this replacement for “capitalism,” you might want to consider it. It’s pretty hard — though not impossible — to disrespect or misunderstand “voluntary exchange” and so it automatically removes a lot of trash and garbage from the path we hope to get folks to follow.
If you haven’t yet, try it, I’m pretty sure you’ll like it.
OK, now for the hard stuff – – –
Is it inherent in the nature of free market capitalism for the most wealthy individuals and/or corporations to capture government power?
I would translate that as – – –
Is it inherent in the nature of voluntary exchange for the most wealthy individuals and/or corporations to capture government power?
My quick and dirty answer is, “It is inherent in capitalism but not so much in a system of voluntary exchange.
That’s because the most wealthy individuals often become — and particularly stay — wealthy because they capture government power and use it to stifle upstart competition because otherwise – – –
“Whenever you see a business that’s done the same thing for a long time, a new guy can come in and do it better. I guarantee it.” –Michael Bloomberg on the cover of Forbes, November 25, 1991
Without that government partnership — they now arrogantly and accuratey call it “public-private partnership,” formerly known as “fascism” — new guys would keep things under control by coming in, doing it better, and eating their lunch.
There are still difficult subliminal questions there, and after pointing them out, I’m going to leave them in your capable hands and jump to what I call The Sociobiology of Liberty, an attempt to excavate the foundations of what makes us human from various sources and put them in some sort of coherent order.
Partly by coincidence, the results of that attempt shed a lot of light on our current unacceptable circumstances.
The questions that I’m going to duck are:
1. Are corporations necessary or even desirable? Their ubiqutous deployment is historically recent. They count on governments to officially ratify their imaginary existence and government courts to accept their reason-to-be, which is protecting incorporated folks from liability. Should there be such protection?
2. Is government necessary? If so, should government courts accept and ratify the protections of corporations and wealthy folks from liability? Is that protection really necessary to enable enterprise? How would it change the culture if such protection was no longer legitimized?
Keep in mind J.J. Hill built The Great Northern Railway without government subsidies or protections, in fact, in the face of government interference.
Incidentally, crypto based contracts eliminate a huge swath of the problems of doing business that currently require enforcement. Liability for externalities, however, still remains a problem.
So, in response to Mr. Katz’ question, if both corporations and governments exist, it is certainly inherent in that context for corporations to attempt, almost certainly successfully over time, to capture government’s coercive power. Wealthy individuals just for themselves too, but usually with fewer ill-effects.
In addition to protection from liability, these entities would also like subsidies of various sorts that often come along with the protection package, especially including various kinds of protections from competition as well.
This is up to and including forcible suppression of competitors which is extremely difficult to arrange without using government threats and/or its force-wielding apparatus.
This is my favorite example of an entity using government for protection from competition – – –
The Russian Orthodox Church got a bill through the Russian Parliament prohibiting foreign missionaries because Billy Graham, etc. are luring Russians away from the Russian church. Yeltsin hadn’t signed the bill yet. –CNN, July 15, 1993 [The bill or a similar one subsequently became law. -lrw]
In fact, this sort of use of government protection is the rule rather than the exception. You can find a few other interesting examples here:
So I agree with Mr. Mosquito ;> — the direct answer to Mr. Katz’ question is, “If you just must have a government — and there are reasons — you can almost certainly take Frederic Bastiat’s observation (directly below) as the guidance it will be following over the long run like this – – –”
“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.” –Frederic Bastiat
Can you think of any examples?
Of course, if that government is a well-designed Republic, it has now been proven it can resist degradation — OK, well, wholesale degradation anyway — caused by that process identified by Mr. Bastiat directly above for approximately 200 years.
Nonetheless, despite the degradation, in a pure market context, large voluntary-exchange entities — corporations or otherwise — are mostly desirable. And, if they haven’t tapped in to coercive government, they’re “moral” to the extent that those participating, either with labor or capital, are at liberty to join or leave, usually under contractual obligations and/or less formal agreements. Stock sales are the usual path for the liberty of capital to come and go.
Remember, J.J. Hill built The Great Northern Railway without government subsidies or protections, in fact, in the face of government interference.
But the problem in such enterprises is the damage they may cause which involuntarily involves otherwise non-involved folks and entities outside contractual agreements, including those completely unconnected with the enterprise. Those are traditionally called “externalities.” Union Carbide in Bhopal, India, is a classic example.
What do you do about those?
OK, now that I’ve ducked those questions – – –
The Sociobiology of Liberty (SBOL) is relevant to Mr. Katz’ observations because, among other things, it illuminates just what role hierarchy played in human evolution and whether it’s useful or not today, and if so, in which form.
To start with, SBOL identifies why, unlike for nearly all other members of the animal kingdom, hierarchy — and thus “might makes right” — is nearly always inappropriate for us humans but nonetheless permeates and shapes so much of modern societies.
It further provides a Big Picture of a huge percentage of why we are as we are and a relatively clear, though not necessarily easily traveled, pathway out of the mess unnaturally large imaginary groups of individuals such as nations, corporations, etc. get themselves into.
I’m pretty sure many readers here are already well aware of much of what follows but stick with me, I suspect the way it’s stitched together will surprise you, in most cases, pleasantly – – –
Unlike nearly all other animals, we humans count on our mental and symbolic capacities and communicating and sharing them — rather than on brute force or some variation — for our survival. We can call that our memetic capacity.
That phrase is taken directly from Richard Dawkins’ trail-blazing presentation in his “The Selfish Gene,” introducing “memes” to the world as the mental equivalent of transmissible genes.
While closely related to the 2020 A.D. era pop terminology, the two don’t quite mesh: Prof. Dawkins expected memes to be successfully tested against reality — as they were with our ancestors — before winning wide circulation, not to be merely the result of random internet bloviation.
In particular, using our memetic capacity — in non-bloviation mode — to anticipate the short and long term future — and often sharing the results — is its main survival value and is largely what powers our survival success.
Organisms from trees to squirrels count on anticipating the future to survive.
Trees? The deciduous ones, anticipating winter, drop their leaves and withdraw their sap to their roots. Squirrels hide nuts, dogs bury bones, bears gorge so they have enough fat to hibernate.
Although we rarely think of it that way, using our memetic capacity, we just anticipate better, more flexibly, and much more often. We call our refined mode of anticipating the future, “pre-diction,” in that it usually involves the meme-system we call language: Pre–DICTION, that is, speaking of something before it happens. And acting on that pre-diction, sometimes preparing for it.
But of course, as seminal quantum physicist Niels Bohr, seminal Austiran-school economist Ludwig von Mises and seminal baseball catcher Yogi Berra all put it, “Pre-diction is very difficult, especially of the future.”
The next important point is that, nearly all other members of the animal kingdom inherit most of their operating behaviors. We don’t. For example, while most hoofed animals can walk a few minutes after birth and run shortly thereafter, it takes us approximately three months to just learn to crawl.
In fact, since we don’t inherit them, we have to learn most of our “operating system” and programs — which are mostly memetic. The advantage to this is we are extremely flexible in how, and therefore where, we live — which is why we humans populated nearly all ecological niches all over the earth well before the dawn of civilization.
So Madrigal knows which herbs help heal wounds — and how to find and use them. Muckluck has a knack for finding the safest thin-ice for fishing holes. Gaud can always find that hidden water-hole during the semi-annual desert crossing.
The big down-side is that that memetic operating system, programming — and each individual’s accumulated experience and knowledge — are, since they live in individual brains, perishable.
This was a serious problem among our ancestors. In other words, our ancestral operational programming and essential data-base were learned, de-centralized, and distributed among all those around them. This imposed two requirements – – –
1. Since the young had to learn the survival etc. ropes that most animals inherit, memetic-based survival requires a long childhood and a lot of help for the young to learn.
2. We had to keep each other alive. If something happend to Madrigal, Muckluck or Gaud, it could endanger the whole group. In fact, since everyone had unique — and often essential and irreplaceable skills, knowledge, and experience — before the printing press and internet, every individual was an essential and irreplaceable repository of often original knowledge and information.
Those two rather obvious observations are not only the foundation of The Sociobiology of Liberty (SBOL) but also, as I think you’ll come to agree, the basis of much of human nature.
Especially keep in mind that our ancestors’ key knowledge and information was de-centralized and distributed amongst those around them and often unique to each individual, making everyone essential to everyone else.
This was a situation Mother Nature — some prefer to call HER “The Process of Biological Evolution by Natural Selection” — couldn’t ignore and so SHE gave us a set of instinctive behaviors we normally call “altruism” so we would be sure to keep each other alive.
However “altruism” comes with its own problems, one in particular. It’s what folks in various branches of academia call the free-rider vs. altruism problem.
Feeding the hungry is the easiest part to understand. If you give food to others, you’re less able to feed yourself.
Free-riders are those folks who would have a tendency to take food hand-outs without giving anything in return and they would be more likely to survive extreme conditions than would those unconditionally helpful altruistic folks. That is, if they really were unconditionally helpful.
The obvious theoretical outcome would be that over time, altruistic genes would, essentially, commit suicide.
So Mother Nature gave us economics. Yes, SHE really did. Research shows that toddlers as young as three years old don’t forget a debt.
So, as the above research uncovered, we come equipped with a little subliminal accounter that automatically keeps track of things. You give me some cream for my strawberries today, I give you some huckleberries to go with your cream tomorrow.
With reciprocal trade in place — or as some left-coasters like to call it, reciprocal-altruism — and our little subliminal accounter on duty, any potential free-rider is quickly recognized as taking but not giving back.
What? No huckleberries?
A shirking soccer mom finds herself out of the car pool. Harry — who never buys a round — finds himself drinking alone.
On the other hand, we don’t mind buying drinks for Donald who just lost his job. We don’t expect him to buy but know when he gets his next gig, he’ll try to make good.
This is quite obviously the essential genetic basis of trade and all levels of what we call “economics.”
But there’s “hierarchy” in the ointment – – –
Hierarchy comes directly from “might makes right” which is almost certainly Mother Nature’s main evolutionary mating tool. SHE wants the biggest, baddest alpha homey on the block passing the genes that make him the biggest baddest homey on the block on to the next generation.
So SHE wants the biggest baddest alpha male to breed because “might makes right” is what makes his genus and species “fit” — as in “survival of the fit” — and able to survive.
Except that doesn’t work for us humans who count way more on our memetic capacity and especially using it to anticipate the future. In it’s most formal configuration, we call that “pre-diction,” remember.
A little bigness and badness is still good but it’s been seriously deprecated in favor of not injuring or killing-off those essential parts of our operating systems and data base which exist in each person’s brain and mind.
If Gaud gets killed or injured in a drunken brawl or fight over Madrigal, how will we find that water hole? If he’s injured, we have to keep him alive which takes time and resources.
Since everyone has pieces of the puzzle, it’s also important not to have the biggest baddest homey dominating everyone. That would regularly prevent the appropriate knowledge from being deployed in the appropriate situation — and cut off imaginative and creative new behavior as well.
That’s clearly where the absolute necessity of free-speech comes from – – –
That quiet little nerd just figured out how to create a fire-god in piles of dry leaves using that hard arrowhead stuff – – – but Bruto is trying to shut him up!
So to make sure we didn’t get taken over by one biggest baddest dominant hierarchical viewpoint, MOTHER also gave most of us drapetomania or as it’s been negatively mis-labeled by the psychiatric guild and would-be controllers, O.D.D. or Oppositional Defiant Disorder.
That is, although we’ll co-operate under appropriate conditions, we humans seriously dislike being told what to do, especially by so-called Authorities. Our ancestors simply wouldn’t put up with that at all.
Here’s how our undiluted genetic drapetomania takes care of inappropriate hierarchy in small ancestral groups – – –
The first and simplest tactic was gossip followed by criticism and ridicule. When that didn’t work, the next step was to just simply ignore directives or potential commands. Here’s an example:
“Briggs (1970:55-58) tells us in detail how religious services were conducted in iglus [igloos] and how Inuttiag (in the role of religious coordinator) tried at certain points to get his tiny congregation to stand. The community initially conformed, but then more and more people began to disregard his orders until the majority were ignoring him. At that point, he simply stopped trying to command them.”(Boehm 1999:54)
This also illustrates just how sensitive members of small ancestral groups are to being manipulated or told what to do by others. Is it really a big deal to stand on cue for a church service? It was for our ancestors.<c:usrwp_docstrolleytribes~1wk3_hiera.wk name=”handling_insistent_leaders”></c:usrwp_docstrolleytribes~1wk3_hiera.wk>
I’d bet you have that same built-in drapetomania?
If you’re dubious about this, you can find a robust presentation in The HI-JACKING of Civilization, Chapter 3, Hierarchy and Leadership? Not in MY Group You Don’t!
The main purpose of that 14 years of government-form, Prussian inspired so-called “education” — particularly the “hidden curriculum” — is to train that drapetomania out of us when we’re kids so we’ll make docile little “human resources” when we grow up. ^^w
But despite the current misguided pro-hierarchy cultural bias, as you now know, drapetomania is a good thing not a bad thing and should be cultivated and appreciated.
None-the-less, remember, Mother Nature built hierarchy deeply into the genome of the animal kingdom and we haven’t been spared that gift. There are useful functions for it, even in us humans, but it’s also hazardous.
The most obvious place it emerges is in mating behavior and family ecology, which, when done right and gently, works just fine. There’s also a much darker and related form that can emerge, rather shockingly dramatized in the series, “Outlander” for example.
By contrast, we can find iconic blueprints and examples of how centralized control among us humans — more accurately described as co-ordination rather than “hierarchy” — is best done by observing quarterbacks, fire-chiefs and anesthesiologists. And how the U.S. Marine Corps chooses it’s officers.
They may guide things but they rarely demand because that triggers drapetomania and messes things up. So folks co-operate. In U.S. football, the tight end tells the quarterback he’s been getting two steps ahead of the other team’s safety ( defensive back and the quarterback calls the play. The fireman inside the burning building rescuing the little girl radios the fire-chief that he needs water on the right side, the chief tells the hosemen. Etc.
But there is one important hard-core use for “hierarchy” that, while important, is also what makes it hazardous for us moderns:
EMERGENCY!!! The essential characteristic of an emergency is that most folks don’t have the memetic tools or resources to understand, anticipate, or deal with what’s happening RIGHT NOW. But maybe someone does.
If someone does, they should tell us what to do, demonstrating by an authoritative manner of speech and posture, their confidence in their “read” of the situation — and we should temporarily suspend our drapetomania and follow someone’s authoritative suggestions and orders without hesitation.
The thing is, immediately after the EMERGENCY! is over, there should be no more “orders” and our healthy drapetomania should immediately reassert itself so all that diverse knowledge spread out among us — and new and imaginative behavior — is free to emerge and come into play.
Emergencies aren’t supposed to last, if for no other reason than other folks come to understand what’s going on and it’s no longer appropriate to have only one person calling the shots and limiting responses.
However, quite obviously, folks who have an urge to control others like emergencies and may want to linger in control and even manufacture a few if and when they can. And if they can take over or create a “government,” well, hog heaven!
So there’s an extremely important difference between co-operative co-ordination versus hierarchy. To us very seriously over-hierarchied and emergencied-up moderns, that extremely important difference probably seems subtle but it’s obvious when you know where to look.
It’s pretty obvious in the style of communication: Gentle co-operation which is often de-emphasized or even unnoticed vs. barked “orders” and variants where being noticed is the most necessary part of the package.
But there’s also the subliminal coercive content that permeates modern cultures. The most hypocritical and revealing is when a LEO asks if you’re going to “co-operate,” by which he means “follow my orders.”
“Ok,” tell him, “Co-operate means ‘work together,’ so you tell me your name, where you live and show me your driver’s license then I’ll show you mine.”
While we moderns are only slightly aware of these congenital chronically inappropriately hierarchical folks and their inappropriate coercive behavior and intimidating subliminal pressure, our small-group ancestors, with their drapetomania in tact and deeply incorporated into their culture, were completely aware of these folks, wouldn’t tolerate their behavior, and sometimes even had special names for them.
Certain first american groups call them “Wiindigo.” A Yupik group calls them “kunlangeta,” and when asked what a tribe would do about a “kunlangeta,” the answer was, “Somebody would have pushed him off the ice when nobody else was looking.”
We pale-face also have a name that sometimes fits: “Psychopath” — or, a little milder, “sociopath.”
And in fact, there are about 1% of us who indeed have this urge to control, and, since we’re great imitators, there are others of us who learn to mimic this inappropriate hierarchical behavior. They’re sometimes called “situational psychopaths.”
And some of us end up acting as situational psychopaths because we’re threatened and conned into a military where we kill, not to protect the state but “to protect our brother soldier and thus the state.” And if we non-psychopaths, situational or otherwise, get involved in the violent part of psychopathy, we often pay a heavy life-long emotional price, now recognized as PTSD.
Because, remember, we are designed to keep each other alive to preserve our essential distributed operating system and data base and killing is in direct opposition to that. In fact, Mother Nature equipped most of us with an automatic anti-violence “immune system” which makes it very difficult even to train us to kill.
The difference in living in modern coercive hierarchical societies versus our natural, genetic — of necessity voluntarily co-operative — ancestral cultures is difficult to explain but the results aren’t – – –
Happiness is more generally and equally diffus’d among Savages than in civilized societies. No European who has tasted savage life can afterwards bear to live in our societies. –Benjamin Franklin, 1770  8 A NEW CHAPTER, Images of native America in the writings of Franklin, Jefferson, and Paine
Mary Rowlandson was taken captive [by “indians”]…There were a number of women captives who either defended themselves, negotiated, or, extraordinarily, about a third of female captives actually chose to stay with their Indian captors, preferred the Indian life. –Author and Social Critic Susan Faludi on “The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America”, Democracy NOW!, Thursday, October 4th, 2007
I am convinced that those societies (as the Indians) which live without government enjoy in their general mass an infinitely greater degree of happiness than those who live under the European governments. Among the former, public opinion is in the place of law, & restrains morals as powerfully as laws ever did anywhere. Among the latter, under pretence of governing they have divided their nations into two classes, wolves & sheep. I do not exaggerate. –Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, 16 Jan. 1787
Maybe this from American Indian Activist Russell Means can help put that in a more modern context – – –
By then, I was beginning to form an opinion about working in America. Most of my jobs were fun and there were many wonderful people among my coworkers, yet so many of them were unhappy. They couldn’t wait for the whistle to blow at the end of the day. Too many of them absolutely hated what they were doing, and griped about it incessantly. Everyplace I ever worked, what most people wanted was their paychecks and the weekends off, plus holidays and vacations. Mostly they did just enough to keep from getting fired. … I thought, what a weird way to live. –Russell Means, Where White Men Fear to Tread
Not to insult us humans, but based on the above, the following unexpected development in Dr. Robert Sapolsky’s experiences studying a particular Baboon troop may provide an extremely useful gestalt in understanding our current chronic modern situation, involving as it does, massive inappropriate hierarchy – – –
FWIW, from my viewpoint, the main reason you might want to imagine a government into existence — or allow one to evolve — is because of that 1% of us who have strong hierarchical tendencies.
“Socrates: And those who govern ought not to be lovers of the task. For, if they are, there will be rival lovers, and they will fight.” Plato, The Allegory of the Cave, The Dividend Line, The Republic, Book 6
Unfortunately, that 1% do love the task and often prove it by “seeking office.”
As the theme of the movie and series “The Highlander” puts it, the essence of hierarchy is “There can be only one.”
Because governments attract them, if culture doesn’t provide “the one” — or at least a place-holder — a lot of the inappropriate would-be psychopathic hierarchists will struggle with one another to get into that top position, creating wide-spread havoc.
However, if you accept a government as the prophylactic for that situation – – –
“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence; it is force, and like fire, makes a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” –George Washington
“The State represents violence in a concentrated and organized form. The individual has a soul, but as the State is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from violence to which it owes its very existence.” –Mohandas K. Gandhi
On the bright side, taking the 1971 date that Nixon “closed the gold window” as the arbitrary marker, the memetic machine known as The United States of America has proven that a fairly well designed Republic — definitely NOT a “democracy“ — can mostly hold the violent evil forces, inherent in government, at bey for approximately 200 years.
Can “we” improve things and maybe even do better?
Below is a list of a few of the pieces that provided many of the insights and details that led to The Sociobiology of Liberty and this “big picture” synopsis piece.
– Republic or Democracy – LewRockwell Democracy?
You can find a very rough draft of “The HI-JACKING of Civilization,” the work that led up to The Sociobiology of Liberty, HERE. Pay no attention to “AT THIS TIME ONLY THE MATERIAL THROUGH CHAPTER 7, What’s Wrong With Hierarchy, IS AVAILABLE ON-LINE!!” Even the incomplete and draft chapters are now there as of -March 23, 2021.
Given Cancel Culture and censorship these days, you might want to download a few of ’em.
 “Benjamin Franklin’s Marginalia, 1770,” in Labaree, ed., Franklin Papers, Vol. 17, p. 381. return
 Cantor Fitzgerald lost every employee housed in the WTTC, 700 in all. Only one employee, because he went to see his 5 yr. old son’s first day in school, was late to work and survived. -CNBC, September 14, 2001, 08:56:51 return