Monday, May 29, 2017

Die Faster Poor People Has Been A Theme Of Western Intellectual Life, The Law And Politics Since Darwin

Evolutionary arguments are often used to justify the fundamental behavioral postulates of competive equilibrium. Economists such as Milton Friedman have argued that natural selection favors profit maximizing firms over firms engaging in other behaviors. Consequently, producer efficiency, and therefore Pareto efficiency, are justified on evolutionary grounds. We examine these claims in an evolutionary general equilibrium model. If the economic environment were held constant, profitable firms would grow and unprofitable firms would shrink. In the general equilibrium model, prices change as factor demands and output supply evolves. Without capital markets, when firms can grow only through retained earnings, our model verifies Friedman's claim that natural selection favors profit maximization.

Optimality and Natural Selection in Markets:  Lawrence Blume, David Easley The Santa Fe Institute

The Santa Fe institute is a think tank which isn't, so far as I've ever read, supposed to be right-wing ideologically, it was founded by a group of eminent scientists, very heavy on the non-life sciences and its membership reeks of academic distinction.  Its present president and one of its distinguished scholars is David Krakauer who is described at the institute website beginning

David’s research focuses on the evolutionary history of information processing mechanisms in biology and culture. This includes genetic, neural, linguistic and cultural mechanisms.

He is a graduate of the University of London from which he has degrees in biology and computer science and he received his PhD in Evolutionary Theory from Oxford.

Milton Friedman, mentioned in the passage from the paper issued by the Santa Fe Institute, is most famous as the intellectual guru* of American conservative economics of the type which has become the ruling dogma and guiding force behind all of Republican and virtually all journalistic thinking on economics and also that of a number of moderate Democrats.  His kind of thinking has had a huge influence on the law, through judges and Supreme Court justices who have a long history of either explicitly or implicitly supporting their rulings and decisions on that thinking which is, as the authors of the article state, founded on Darwinism, natural selection.

Darwin's defenders on the left and in science will, I am sure, claim that their citation is flawed, that natural selection is a biological theory of how species arise, some of them will claim - in complete contradiction to the claims of Darwinists since Darwin, himself  - that it has nothing to do with such matters as allowing a for-profit health insurance industry to maximize profit by leaving sick people with merely one option aside from dying sooner without treatment, the option to bankrupt their families trying to stay alive and very possibly dying a little later as you, then, can't afford either health insurance or to pay for treatment.  But that is only possible if you totally ignore the origins and the history of natural selection as a theory which was founded on economic theory, that of Thomas Malthus which was all about letting the poor die, encouraging them to die sooner than later.

I have pointed out that that most unlikely icon of American liberals, Oliver Wendell Holmes based more than his infamous legalization of eugenics, the Buck vs. Bell decision on his cold-blooded attachment to Darwin's theory of natural selection, his long list of rulings blocking government regulation of big business, industry, etc. is also, as Friedman's economics, based in his faith that natural selection is a physical law of nature to which all must bow.   His elucidation of free speech, the thing which makes him that liberal icon - despite the total depravity of much of his work in terms of liberal and even basic egalitarian morality - fits quite well into his Darwinist thinking.  And, as is the case in the law, what famous Supreme Court Justices decide and their thinking behind their decisions has lasting and potent force to damage and destroy as well as to give relief to those who are disadvantaged, taken advantage of and destroyed.  At least those fewer decisions did until the Darwinist strain came to dominate through Republican appointments on the court.

That, of course, is found in Darwin, as I suspect I will never have to stop pointing out, he, himself, in the fifth edition of On the Origin of Species, explicitly said that, despite post-war claims, when he uses the phrase "Natural Selection", he means exactly the same thing that the now infamous Herbert Spencer meant when he said "Survival of the Fittest" something his co-inventor of natural selection, Alfred Russell Wallace encouraged him to make explicit.

The claim almost always made that "survival of the fittest" is not something Darwin endorsed but is Spencer's "Social Darwinist" corruption of Darwinism is one of the biggest lies sold by the Darwin industry, a lie which is refuted by Darwin himself. 

And that understanding of natural selection is confirmed in his book dealing with his claims of natural selection in the human species, The Descent of Man, in which he claims that laws made by "civilised men" to feed, house, clothe the poor and destitute, to take care of the sick, to vaccinate people against small pox, even such measures as the gradual death camps, Victorian, Dickens era work houses, have a dangerous and generally dysgenic effect BECAUSE THEY KEEP POOR PEOPLE AND SICK PEOPLE ALIVE LONG ENOUGH FOR THEM TO HAVE CHILDREN. Those are themes which his closet followers and friends immediately began to claim based on the theory of natural selection, as I've pointed out before, Thomas Huxley published his enthusiasm for his conclusion that Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation would, in time, lead superior white people to exterminate black people because they had no economic utility as free people and so wouldn't be kept as beasts of burden.   Translations of that in language current to 2017 are in the mouths of racists, some of them in the Congress and White House and opponents of Black Lives Matter are all over the place these days.  I don't see any reason to not conclude that the actions of Dylan Roof and other followers of William L. Pierce wouldn't be explained by Thomas Huxley as, exactly, the naturally selective culling that he predicted. I will point out that Darwin, as well, predicted that the "favored races" would exterminate those he considered lesser.  That idea is as Darwinian as any.

That, one of the foremost claims of and for natural selection  is among the things which Darwin's critics pointed out after the publication of On the Origin of Species and before the writing of The Descent of Man, critics such as Frances Cobbe who Darwin condescendingly and dismissively addressed in The Decent of Man, even as he claimed exactly the kind of moral depravity as reliable scientific fact in large sections of that book.  His present day defenders will take the one or two escape clauses which Darwin provided himself as merely plausible deniability of the amoral and homicidal character of his claims even as he asserts the salubrious effects of the early deaths of large numbers of the poor (who he never seems to wonder might be merely victims of circumstance and not biology) the sick, entire races of people and the benefits of "civilised men" killing off those he deems "weaker".

As has been pointed out, Darwin claimed that his theory had its origin in his reading of the cold-blooded economic depravity of Thomas Malthus in which he advocated an even harsher treatment of the poor so as to harry them out of life before they swamped the rich in their numbers.  Harsher than the already terrible English law which, since the time of Elizabeth, had more or less illegalized poverty and put the most terrible restrictions on the poor who subsisted on a scanty living from Church charity.   In the age of early 19th century science, the British government obliged by making the New Poor Law more infamously harsh and cruel, instituting a slow and gradual death camp system of Work Houses in which the mandated food ration was smaller than that provided prisoners.  The records of deaths at poor houses frequently gives "starvation" as the cause of death to inmates who had been there long enough so that adequate food would have prevented such causes for death.

And, I will remind you, Darwin, himself, in Descent of Man,  a book published as science, listed the work houses as a dangerous hindrance to the workings of natural selection allowing the poor, the sick, and other "weaker member" of the human species to avoid dying soon enough.  I will point out to those of Darwin's defenders that he also included smallpox vaccinations -  the only vaccination available in his day, as another of dangerously dysgenic practices.  His son Leonard, following in his footsteps included opposition to universal vaccination in his unsuccessful campaign to become a member of  Parliament, one of many claims made by entirely conventional Darwinists that medical care kept too many poor and sick people alive.  One of the most eminent of them, the leftist, Karl Pearson, the student of Francis Galton,  wrote a pamphlet in which he tacitly condemns the use of cesarean section because it keeps too many mothers and their infants alive who would have died in child birth if left to nature.  Such talk abounds in late 19th century and, especially, early 20th century intellectual life up to and including the pre-WWI British and American advocacy for mass gassing of those deemed biologically and racially inferior.

Today's Republicans who are destroying the moderate and in some cases, merely adequate reforms of the Affordable Care Act to let the market decide how to rob the middle class, the poor, those with preexisting conditions are doing exactly what you would expect someone who believed in natural selection to favor, things which the most conventional, even eminent scientists who believe in natural selection have claimed needed to be done to either prevent the degradation of the human species or to produce a superior kind of human being. Their attacks on food stamps, on other programs of provision to the poor, the disabled, the sick, are absolutely Darwinian in character.  Those are things which Darwin attacked as dangerous to the human species, they are following Darwinism in exactly the same way that the economists agreed with in their paper linked to above. If you wonder how they could think as they do, how they could favor such cruel and inhumane and immoral policies, there are plenty of people from whom they could get those ideas.  Many of them are considered some of the foremost figures in modern culture.  It would be more puzzling as to how the things they claimed in their most respected publications couldn't have produced such thinking.

* I've pointed out before that his one idea which has worked instead of producing misery and chaos has been, in fact, the mechanism of withholding taxes which he helped developed when he worked as a government economist in the Roosevelt administration.  Before he decided his self-interest lay in promoting right-wing, good-news for those who could pay the best.

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