Why is the Left’s program so persuasive? Richard Fernandez has an insight:

…she [Frances Fox Piven — ed] appears to believe that the European crisis is only apparent, being the result of the Man hiding the Stash. Find that stash and things become sustainable again.

Shanon Love expands on that point:

…there is always the implicit idea that somewhere there is this big pile of money that the rich business people are hoarding away like a squirrel with its winter store of nuts. Leftists tell everyone that all problems can be solved if we just use the force of the state to threaten the squirrels to give up their nuts.

There’s a unifying factor behind that; it is the dynamics of the hunter-gatherer band or tribe. Humans lived as hunter-gatherer-scavengers for many millenia, much longer than we have lived as anything resembling “civilized”. If there is anything at all to the notion of “evolutionary psychology” we would expect many of our attitudes and feelings to be derived from or related to the conditions such a band lived under.

It all comes down to food, in the end. The only form of wealth known to the hunter-gatherer band was food. Modern societies have many other types of wealth, but at the base it’s the same — people with more wealth can consume more. A hunter-gatherer band’s organization derives from two basic facts: lacking anything resembling technology the band cannot make food, only find it — nothing they can do will increase the supply; and human reproductive physiology dictates a division of effort.

Human females near parturition are much less able to exert themselves physically than either males or females who aren’t pregnant, especially when food is short; the birth process is traumatic; and human infants require a great deal of care during the period after birth in order for any of them to survive. That dictates the existence of a base point, a place where pregnant females can assemble and give birth and they and their recently-born offspring can be cared for. Others of the tribe must be assigned to stay at base to guard the females and assist when necessary in birthing. The remainder of the tribe or band must then range the countryside looking for food. Specific details vary enormously, but the division between base camp and rovers is constant.

The rovers’ ability to find food is entirely dependent on chance, modulo seasonal availability of food sources. They either find a bearing fruit-tree or not; they either find an animal they can kill or not; they either find a recent-enough predator kill that some meat is available and usable, or not. There is nothing they can do to make the food supply more available — they can develop technology to make animal killing or driving other scavengers away from recent kills easier, but they can’t put prey in easy-to-reach places or get the lions to kill an antelope and leave the leftovers; they can learn to identify plants that yield edible fruit, but the presence of food depends on season, weather, and the depredations (or not) of other consumers.

In any case, the rovers who find food must bring it back to base or the tribe dies. The pregnant females and infants must be fed if they are to survive; their caregivers have to eat, or they cannot sustain their efforts. A rover who greedily consumes the food he finds, instead of bringing it back for distribution among the sedentary members, betrays the band in a fundamental way, by challenging its reproductive success. The rovers must eat, of course, and again there is wide variation on how the food is divided between rovers and stay-at-homes, but most of the food has to be brought back to camp and shared. Bands where that didn’t happen died out because the females and infants didn’t get enough to eat and/or sufficient care during and after parturition, and the bands where it did survived and passed the imperative on to us, their descendants.

–which is the Left’s program in a nutshell, isn’t it?

Now suppose that a particular rover always comes back with food every time, and is conspicuously more healthy than the others of the band. It never occurs to the others that he might have found a way to produce food — at that technological level it’s impossible that he could do so. The only possibility is that he has found a place where food is always available, a “stash” in Fernandez’s terms, and can simply go and get some whenever it is convenient. By hunter-gatherer ethics he’s a traitor — he ought to either tell the other rovers where the stash is so that they can all bring food home, bring the whole stash back so that the whole band can feast, or some combination; in any case, the fact that he’s eating from the stash before bringing a portion back is unfair because the others can’t do that with their finds. The band resents that, and rightfully so. They are quite likely to argue with the lucky rover that he should conform to the proper ethic, escalating to violent demands if the greedy, selfish bastard doesn’t comply.

In a modern society, with technology available, wealth can be produced. But that doesn’t fit at all well with the hunter-gatherer ethos. The rover goes out, produces food, and brings some back to the band — but from the band’s point of view that’s no different from his finding the stash. They can’t see the production, and if they do they can’t understand it; it’s a fundamental rule of their existence that wealth, food, can only be found, not produced. This is why the Left is so hostile to “the rich”, and why they are so easily able to whip up resentment against “fatcats”. They intellectualize the attitude, but in the end it comes down to the hunter-gatherer-scavenger ethos present at some level in all people thanks to evolution: the producer cannot have made something out of nothing, so can only have found a stash of wealth, and is selfish for not sharing all of it with the others and greedy for taking part of it for himself before bringing some remainder back. If you can beat the secret out of him, everybody feasts.

The Left doesn’t mind interfering with production because they don’t believe it happens, and they are able to get others to follow their program because, at a deep emotional level, everybody feels that way. Some people are able to override their deep-seated, evolutionarily developed feelings about the matter; such people realize that production happens and should be encouraged, to provide wealth for everyone. Their arguments are unconvincing, because in the hunter-gatherer-scavenger ethos they’re all variants of “this guy has to control the stash”. “Progressives” aren’t progressive at all; they are harking back to the emotional needs developed by tens of millenia of evolution in the days when we were little more (if at all) more than animals bounding across the plains looking for something to eat.

 

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