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Darwinian Politics: The Evolutionary Origin of Freedom

3.9 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0813530963
ISBN-10: 0813530962
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Editorial Reviews


A lucid, responsible, thought-provoking, constructive inquiry into the biological foundations of economic behavior -- Richard Posner, judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

An excellent account of evolutionary influences on political behavior -- Public Choice --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the Back Cover

Darwinian Politics is the first book to examine political behavior from a modern evolutionary perspective. Here, Paul H. Rubin discusses group or social behavior, including ethnic and racial conflict; altruism and cooperation; envy; political power; and the role of religion in politics ? issues that have formed the hallmark of human social behavior.

Adopting a Darwinian perspective, Rubin demonstrates why certain political-moral philosophies succeed or fail in modern Western culture. He begins by showing relationships between biology and natural selection and the history of political philosophy and explains why desirable policies must treat each person as an individual. He considers the notion of group identity and conflict, observing a human propensity to form in-groups, a behavior that does not necessitate but often leads to deviancies such as racism. In discussing altruism, Rubin shows that people are willing to aid the poor if they are convinced that the recipients are not shirkers or free loaders. This explains why recent welfare reforms are widely viewed as successful. Envy, a trait that is often counterproductive in today's world, is also addressed. In comparing major moral philosophical systems, Rubin contends that utilitarianism is broadly consistent with our evolved preferences. He illustrates evolutionary premises for religious belief and for desires to regulate the behavior of others, and how in today's world such regulation may not serve any useful purpose.

Ultimately, Rubin argues that humans naturally seek political freedom, and modern Western society provides more freedom than any previous one. In light of his analysis, the author extrapolates that, while there are still areas for improvements, humans have done a remarkably good job of satisfying their evolved political preferences.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press (August 7, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813530962
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813530963
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,439,121 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In good evolutionary psychologist form, Paul Rubin tries to explain our existing political behaviors by looking at the Era of Evolutionary Adaptedness (EEA). The EEA is the time during the Pleistocene when humans became humans and our ancestors' innate tendencies were etched into our genes. This analysis benefits from the fact that Rubin is an economist and understands how incentives matter in human behavior. Many other writers lack this insight; most notably the great Richard Dawkins who, after articulating selfish gene theory, tries to wish away his conclusions.
It is interesting that Rubin, a professor of law and economics at Emory, was a libertarian when he began to write this book but ended up questioning the rigidity of that ideology. You can see this come through when he begins the book by dispelling myths on both sides of the traditional political spectrum. He explains that the state of nature is a useless metaphor because humans never existed in such an anarchic state, and also that humans are not malleable, but instead have a certain human nature.
Our species' patrilocality is an important theme that runs throughout the book. Male dominance and the ease with which males could form political alliances in the EEA is key, according to Rubin. But while that ease made some males dominant, it also helped those left out to join together to make sure they weren't too dominant. Rubin also distinguishes between male and female evolved risk preferences and how this affects political behavior today.
Economists assume rationality in their models, but empirical studies would suggest that people don't behave so sensibly. Rubin takes a stab at reconciling this bogeyman of economics by positing that behavior that seems unreasonable today may have been reasonable in the EEA.
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By Hayekian on September 27, 2004
Format: Paperback
As I write this there are two intellectual revolutions that I am glad to say are quickly spreading and gaining momentum(they are a must for the continued prosperity of mankind). One is evolutionary psychology. Anyone who has not read a book by Dawkins(The Selfish Gene, easily the most influential book of the 20th century, it is a permanent fixture amongst many amazon.com best seller lists even though it was first published in 1976), Matt Ridley(The Red Queen, Genome), Steven Pinker(The Language Instinct, How The Mind Works, The Blank Slate), Robert Wright(The Moral Animal), or many other evolutionary psychology related authors out there, simply has little understanding of how human beings really work. The other revolution is an understanding of free-market economics(Capitalism, Austrian economics). The works of Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, their students and others influenced by them are finally reaching mass audience(I sure hope so, Capitalism is what we owe our lives to, (...)).

This book shows how our political and economic thinking/instincts evolved in a zero-sum, non-division of labor world, and how those evolved instincts(and many cultural elements as well) are counter productive in our new non-zero-sum, highly specialized division of labor world. (...) Hayek's last book "The Fatal Conceit" also married economics and evolution, but Hayek died before the recent advancements in evolutionary psychology. As Hayek said in the Fatal Conceit p118 "The envy of those who have tried just as hard, although fully understandable, works against the common interest. Thus, if the common interest is really our interest, we must not give in to this very human instinctual trait, but instead allow the market process to determine the reward." .
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Format: Paperback
Socialism doesn't work. Two large-scale forced experiments, the Soviet and Maoist, failed. Many lesser socialist states have gone bankrupt. These experiments in institutionalized goodness failed because we humans are born selfish. We glorify equality, but down deep we want nothing more than to outshine the others. We deplore poverty and misery, but when the lotto win falls our way, we don't distribute it to unfortunates.
Rubin, a micro-economist, has written a resounding defence of capitalism understood as the system of production and exchange that optimizes the trade-off between selfishness and large-scale social interaction through a win-win system whose participation inducement is reward rather than deterrence. The dazzle of rewards unleashes the flow of human capital that generates economic growth and multiplication of public goods. The core value of the system is individual freedom and autonomy. Rubin undertakes to explain capitalism's evolutionary origin and the psychology that sustains it. He appropriates game theory to explain how the basic psychology of cooperation, including specific traits such as intelligence, might have evolved under selection pressures generated by the evolutionary `arms race'. This abstract computation is given flesh by suppositions drawn from primatology and anthropology. The result is then projected back to the late Pleistocene when the hominid line speciated as sapiens. There is no remedy for this speculative procedure because there is no direct evidence, apart from hand axes, about human behaviour and psychology in `the state of nature'. However, hominid palaeontology is a dynamic field invigorated especially by new findings from China. Homo sapiens continued to evolve after speciation put the large brained biped in place.
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