Commenter prochazka_the_insane suggests that

The biggest factor that positively reinforces this kind of economic idea is the visible success of corrupt politicians and crony capitalists.

I’m sorry, but no. That’s Populist dogma — the Fat Cats and Moneybags Are Robbing Us Blind! — and the difference between Populists and Progressives is like the difference between Communists and Fascists, viz., the people in the camps are too busy trying to keep breathing to care what the Commandant preaches. What prochazka calls “Magical Thinking” has its roots much farther back.

Humanity originated as small bands of hunter-gatherer-scavengers, and lived that way for at least hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of years. If there is anything at all to the idea of “innate behaviors” those behaviors were developed during that time, which is long enough for evolution to develop traits. The few piddly millenia since the invention of language, tools, agriculture, et. al. (in whatever order) are not nearly enough for the slow mechanisms of natural selection to get a grip on the subject. In particular, rational analysis has only been around for a few centuries, and compared to the time our ancestors spent ranging the countryside hunting for food, that isn’t even a rounding error.

Emotional reactions are, at root, changes in endocrine balance, physical changes in our body chemistry, and (at least for most of us) aren’t subject to rational control, but like any other physical quality are subject to natural selection. We (at least some of us) have been subjected to training and education in early childhood and later, which enables us to override our emotional reactions (at least sometimes), but even the most rational of us feels the emotions developed by eons of evolution. That evolution took place long before there were any of the features of modern life, and were fixed at that time.

Now, if you haven’t already, go back and read the previous post. You may find it unbelievable, but I do not. What you’re looking at there is the reason long-range weapons were developed, from bows and arrows to tranquilizer guns, and dollars to doughnuts three-fifths of the suggestions readers might come up with as ways to handle the situation involve modern tools, from knives to pistols to tying the animal to the bumper of the pickup and dragging it. Even those might not help. I’ve known more than one hunter who’s shot a deer, approached the limp body, and been hurt when the wounded animal found the resources to lash out.

What that story confirms is the suggestion, made some time ago, that the “hunter” part of the description of our ancestors is likely to be highly overstated in the interest of self-image. The (now) Educated Rancher had on sturdy clothes, had a rope, a squeeze chute, and a pickup truck, and could have availed himself of a knife, a gun, or even a club. Imagine the Mighty Hunter of 1,000,000 BC, naked or nearly so, equipped with (at most) a rock. How would he have fared in that situation? It is to laugh, at this safe distance. MH probably didn’t find it at all amusing.

That points to what can only be speculation, but is persuasive nonetheless: what the hunters hunted for was stashes. Plants bearing fruit, growths of grain, recently-born litters of animals still too weak to resist, nesting birds, streams with fish, and (bonanza!) the kills of predators that didn’t finish them off[1] had to be the goals of their search, and they would either bring their finds back to the tribe or lead the tribe to the food source, that they might eat and survive. This is not to say that they never made kills, but bearing in mind the relative strengths of humans and prey animals those had to be rare, at least until the relatively late time when weapons were invented.

The stashes existed or not, and the hunters found them or not. From the hunters’ point of view, stashes appeared more or less at random, not in any way subject to their control. There was nothing the hunter, or the whole tribe, could do to make the stashes. A hunter who did not bring the stash back home, or lead the tribe to it so they could feast, was a deep-dyed villain whose greed threatened the very survival of the tribe. Tribes whose hunters did that died out, so the desirable behavior — providing the stash to the tribe — was conserved by evolution, as was the emotional reaction that helped drive that behavior. Hunters who ate part of the stash before providing it to the others were more ambivalently villainous. Certainly they were depriving the tribe of nutrition, but on the other hand, the hunters had to be the strongest (and therefore the best fed) of the tribe in order to do their work. Emotional resentment of those who didn’t bring it all home therefore exists, but is muted.

The conditions that make up an agricultural society, or even more an industrial one, are intellectual constructs that totally violate our emotional reactions. Agriculture depends on protecting the crop from opportunists before it is harvested for the use of the agriculturalist, but to the tribe from over the hill, still living as hunter-gatherer-scavengers, the crop is a gigantic stash that, if exploited, would enable the whole group to gorge themselves. The crop’s defenders are, to the tribe, interlopers to be driven off or killed and resented, even hated, for interfering with the tribe’s access to food, no different from the hyenas they had to compete with to get the remnants of the lion’s kill. The farmer, on the other hand, has achieved a triumph of rationality. To him and his fellows the growing crop is still a stash, but if they wait ’til it’s ripe, harvest it, and save some for next year’s planting, they can eat well for an indefinite period of time. Gorging on the stash is still attractive emotionally, but time-binding rationality overcomes the emotional reaction.

Capital goods — the “means of production” that are the foundation of wealth in an industrial society — are even worse, “crops” taken to some large power. There before us is an immense stash whose guardians, who ought to be acting like good hunters and distributing it to Feed The Children, instead defend it with fervor that can only be attributed (by the emotionally-driven) to the same “greed” that caused primitive tribes to die out, and therefore fixed the emotional reaction to “greed” in the survivors. The idea that that stash enables production, which will enable many more people to eat than it will provide if consumed directly, is an intellectual construct that runs counter to our emotional reactions. Watching the “fatcats” consuming a portion of that production before distributing it adds to the resentment, in the same way that the hunter who consumed part of the stash before bringing it home was resented.

Is that the whole of the explanation? You are dealing here with the person who proposed Ric’s Rule #1 (“It ain’t that simple”). Of course not! But if you observe the behavior of leftoids, from Populists wailing against “banksters” and “corporate greed” to full-bore Marxists, it’s pretty damned plausible. They are reacting emotionally to the existence of stashes, which their “instincts” (that is, the emotional reactions developed by hunter-gatherer-scavenger tribes) say appear at random without human input, and should be shared to insure the tribe’s survival. The rest is elaboration and rationalization, rather than rational analysis. It isn’t “Magical Thinking”. It’s primitive emotionalism.

So the next time a leftoid brags about how intellectually superior he or she is, laugh in their faces. They have rejected a rational analysis of the situation, substituting a rationalization of what is, in fact and at the root of all the pseudo-intellectualism, primitive emotion. They aren’t Progressives, let alone promoting the Advance of History; they are Retrogressives, looking “forward” to wandering the plains with a rock in hand, hoping to find a lion-kill with few enough hyenas to run them off and feast. The only possible result of implementing that philosophy is destruction of the industrial civilization that supports us all, and the fact that they’re oblivious to that only makes it clear that they aren’t any sort of “intellectual”.


[1] Eeew? It is to chortle. With the conspicuous exception of birds and fish, which are small enough for a bare-handed human to overcome and rot very quickly, it is well-nigh universal even today that meat which has been “hung” or “aged” — that is, allowed to rot for a bit — is tastier than fresh. The more pretentious steak houses even do it in class cases at the front of the restaurant, so people can see what they’re getting. This is actually one of the stronger points of circumstantial evidence leading to the above hypothesis.

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