Essays and Theories
Evolutionary Psychology, Capitalism,
and Communism: An Introduction to the Resource Differential Tolerance Ratio
William A. Spriggs
Lets get something straight. Communism lost in the economic battle with capitalism because it goes against the innate tendencies of human nature. In particular, it goes against the innate tendencies of the male gender who has dominated and influenced the ebbs and flows of commerce till the present day. The biological expressions found deep within all of humankind of creating, nurturing, and encouraging advancements for ourselves, our families, our clans, our villages, and our nations are particularly deep-rooted in the male gender. The evolution of mechanisms that clearly developed these natural selection processes are best expressed in our modern society by the economic creation of goods and services. It is within these exchanges that the mechanisms of selecting and rejecting goods and services by individuals creates directional movements of markets and labor. And it is the chaotic but controlled series of events within these various market and labor groupings that creates adaptation and competition to which we individuals must adapt or perish.
Communism, as expressed in evolutionary terms -- that is the evolved behavioral mechanisms of our primate ancestors -- was delusional in that to believe it possible to have a modern society that was devoid of social rank and ownership of personal property was doomed before it began. The communistic theory that competition created duplication and was therefore wasteful, was a wonderful concept. But it overlooked some major fundamental flaws: It would not admit to wrong decisions. The entrenched, male controlled communistic bureaucracies would not admit to errors, for to do so would mean a loss of status amongst their peers. Lose status and you might lose your position and then your family could starve. Besides, if there were a system in place that that insured complete job security, as was in the case of Soviet Bloc communism, what incentive would there be to admit error? It would be easier just to point a finger of failure at something or someone else.
Capitalism, on the other hand, creates goods or services that, if unacceptable to economic natural selection standards, either disappear through shunning by consumers or are transformed from their original conception through market system influences. In the capitalistic system, the free choice of the consumer takes care of any poor marketing decisions by the manufacturer. In capitalism, diversity and adaptation to change -- not resistance to change -- are necessary for survival. If we visualize capitalism as an entity with a brain, this brain adjusts by taking clues from the outside environment that surrounds it, translates that into digital information that the brain of the entity can read and analyze, then sends new digital information to the genetic structure of its very soul and instructs it to adapt. If the brain of the capitalistic economic system makes an error, which it, like our own flesh and blood brain does occasionally, the brain of that entity attempts a new course of action as soon as it evaluates the previous adaptation attempt. So you see, duplication of effort and constant reevaluation of the environment is necessary in order for you, and the economic entity, to survive.
In America, some biologists have postulated that the American population possesses overly aggressive and competitive genes. The speculation is that because America is a country of emigrants, the very act of uprooting oneself from ones homeland and coming to a harsh and foreign environment has left generation after generation of genes in the general population that are inbred with the burning desire to be protective of ones self-survival and those of their immediate families.
So at the very core of the America workers heart, (in particular, the male gender worker), are the beliefs that our hard labor, expended to bring resources to our immediate families and thus ensure their survival, should not be shared with others of whom we know little or nothing about. Altruism has no place when survival is the bottom line. No sirree partner. No deal. Its every man for himself. The last one left standing gets to tend the gold. Social Darwinism. And that is precisely the major trailhead where I wish to begin the next direction of this essay: social ranking and "rugged individualism" of the male hunter, explorer, defender, laborer, manufacturer, and, of course, consumer.
This is a very important point from which to launch a debate as to the evolution of economic markets and their mechanisms. We have to be bold here and make a statement that it was the male gender who began the economic wheels turning. (Dont worry ladies, you are deeply interwoven into all of this and your turn is coming). Most likely, it was the male that had the strength, stamina, and foresight to lead our primitive ancestors out of Africa. It was the male who recognized the necessity to emigrate from the harsh environment of the savanna when the plush, rain forests disappeared during the advancement of the last polar ice age. Some evolutionists contend that our ancestors were forced out of their homes by dominate groups controlling resources. That argument does have validity as the book Evolutionary Psychiatry by Stevens and Price suggest. (Routledge, Dec. 1996). The innate behavioral mechanism of charismatic schizophrenia and delusional imagery found in our populations today could be genetic leftovers from the early African emigration years. Desperate people do desperate things in order to survive, including following, honoring, and mating with strong leadership -- but of course, only if they prove to be right in their decisions.
So regardless of how and why our ancestors left Africa, there can be little argument that it was the male gender that established and built farm communities, opened trade routes, and began the transfer of resources flowing through conceptual resource substitutes. From the first tradable physical substitutes such as rocks, clams, precious jewels, minted gold, and up to todays electronic bits flowing back and forth, the physical properties of the resources change, but the conceptual flow remains the same: to transfer resources from one person or institution to another through the exchange of goods and services.
Through ritual or necessity, the establishment of domesticated farm hamlets and the opening of trade routes, the exchange of goods and services began to flow as men traveled in groups with goods available for trade. Trade and commerce had its start as male behavioral mechanism because of the dangers of travel and the need to protect the female who gave birth to the next generations. Dont get me wrong, the female plays a huge role in these global markets, and quite frankly, in my opinion, it is the female that is ultimately responsible for making the male as aggressive as he is. (See my essay, Evolutionary Psychology and the Male Gender: An Open Letter to my Gender).
To understand more fully the biological origins of economic markets we must begin back in our primitive male ancestors backyard. As our ancestors began to form social groups called hunter-gatherers, they most likely numbered between 25 to 40. These grouping also were most likely territorial as only limited amounts of resources can occur in a defined area. Then, as now, increases in populations or conditions that would reduce per capita resource allocations create shortages. If shortages exists, but demand remains the same, then disagreements over who gets the remaining resources and in what amounts would likely occur. These disputes were then resolved through the use of competitive violence between males to determine ownership of the resources. Now, why did the males develop the mechanism to be violent and not the female? Because the female stayed home and cared for the protection for her child, which limited her physical strength through the natural selection process. The male was free to roam and develop his strength and stamina while the female could replace her male mate with another if the situation arose to continue the procreation cycle. Theories also abound that in order for the male to have sexual access to the female in the first place he had to prove himself worthy by demonstrating to the female that he could bring home the resources, thus convincing her that her child would live and prosper. Perhaps also, by knowing that he had nothing to lose but his life, the male has built up the innate overuse of aggressive efforts to obtain the resources necessary to attract the female.
In regards to the competitive violence mentioned above, the most important event that transpires is that in winning his battle to acquire whatever resource the two males competed for -- be it a female or a nifty sleeping tree location, or a hostile takeover of a corporation, the victory that the winning male achieves sends a clear signal to the other males and females in their group that he is more important than the loser of this competitive violence. This is what we call ranking. And the reason that this is so important for our primitive ancestors, as it is for us today, is that those of higher rank enjoy the privilege of the most resources. This is so important because once the higher rank of the individual has been acknowledged by those below, this acknowledgment of their current positions helps to bring about the cessation of competitive violence. With the battle having been won and the resource claimed, the need for violence fades with it, and the biological natural selective process can resume. Only, when it does resume does the natural selection process adapt to the new hierarchical environmental behavior of those in their new ranking positions.
In our primate cousins, the losing male expresses his lower rank through body language and verbal grunts and pants denoting submissiveness. The deference of the loser to the winning and now dominate male must occur in order for there to be ranking. In primatology, we call this submissive behavior to the dominant primate with grunts and hoots a "greeting." I speculate that this greeting mechanism and the "loss of face" associated with the acknowledgment that someone has won a dominate position over them is the wellspring of the behavior in some dominates, in particular, the male gender, that seeks the power associated with dominance over those they consider inferior and thus considered easy prey. The innate understanding to the dominate person is the knowledge that the submissive person must endure loss of face and humiliation during the process. The act of domination adds to his feeling of superior sense of worth and the knowledge of the privileges that go with it. I also speculate that it may well be the wellspring of rape, torture, or any form of humiliation that the male gender is involved in bringing suffering in one form or another to another living being or creature. Going further back into our past, I speculate that this behavior emerged from the "predator over the prey" mechanism from our male ancestors hunting days in the savanna. Today, it is the male gender that mostly hunts and kills for sport.
The alleged Bronx toilet plunger incident on August 9th 1997 by a male NYC police officer humiliating a male Haitian immigrant is a perfect example. Most likely, we will find that the motive for the alleged attack was the lack of submissive acknowledgment from the Haitian immigrant toward the police officer that the officer felt he was entitled to. It is, of course, one of the lowest and most depraved examples of human humiliation toward another that one can dredge from the sewer, but it is important if we wish to understand the behavior mechanisms of male warriors who inflict suffering on their enemies in wartime or on political prisoners in our various societies. A more genteel example of dominance and submission happened just a few days earlier on August 6th, 1997. Steve Jobs of Apple computer acknowledged the superiority of Microsoft to a large gathering of the Apple faithful at the Apple Expo in Boston. Basically, Mr. Jobs admitted that Apple would perish if Apple continued to think that Microsoft was the enemy and Apple continued to operate along the lines it had. It was a open act of submissiveness in front of Mr. Gates, whose image appeared big brother-like bearing down on the Apple faithful and the entire nation. Mr. Jobs act of submission took great courage. It was at this point that Mr. Gates could have accepted the acknowledgment or rejected it and squashed the rodent-like Apple computer company in an instant, but in his wisdom he invested $150 millions dollars into the company instead, and we most likely we see a rebirth of the Apple Computer company in 1998.
Need a perfect example in your own world? Has your male boss ever told you that it "was my way, or the highway?" Or how about, "there is a thousand people out there that want your job, now get to work?" The metamessage here from your male boss is simple: "I make the rules. I am dominate and you are submissive, and you will do as I tell you. If you do not, I will fire you and your family will starve." In our modern society, in which one may lack high skills; is too old; has too few resources, the boss usually wins the argument. He loves doing it because it makes him feel higher in rank and the innate privileges that go with the behavior.
Can you begin to see the obvious advantage to belonging to higher rank? It really is a no-brainer. The person of higher rank has obvious advantages. Today in our society, it means that males of high-rank are accepted more readily by higher-ranking females; it makes the formation of alliances with other males easier; it creates a rush of lower ranking-individuals willing to do your bidding; and it gives an undeniable boost in your self-esteem which continues to help in your ranking status amongst your peers. Success breeds successes. Thats the positive side. The negative side is that everyone who is below you in ranking wants the same thing that you do because they have seen the obvious advantages. But our society has given high ranking individuals an unbelievable persuasive behavior control mechanism. It is called the Golden Rule. Very simply it means that those who have the Gold, get to make the Rules. In other words, those who have the Gold recognize that humans that have none or little money will do almost anything in which to obtain it. This has evolved because we as humans can no longer go out and pick fruit off of the tree, harvest our own food, or build our own shelters. We are now so advanced, that we are required to obtain the medium of exchange in order to survive. Most likely, in the case of the common person -- thats you and me -- we must provide our labor (services) in exchange for this medium of exchange we call money, which we then use to make the purchases (goods) necessary for our survival.
In our modern society our skill level and our jobs regulate our monetary rewards. We common people, who provide the services to our employers, are in competition with each other even as our companies are in competition with each other. Our employers draw upon the available pool of workers with the required skills and decide on a wage that will attract those necessary to make the employers company competitive and profitable. If the employers product is in demand from the public, he can charge higher prices for his product or service and pass that money onto the workers in order to keep the process flowing. Sounds great when all the proper gears click and whirl in their prospective places.
But what if things dont go right? What happened to America in the 80s when we opened our markets to the flood of Japanese consumer goods that were better and less expensive than our own? The consumers beat a path to these new and high quality products, especially the automobiles. The result of this market upheaval was that American industry had to either adapt or perish. Many did perish, but most adapted by downsizing and upgrading their products or services. It was a major sea change and meant a period of great upheaval and change to the American worker. In 1981, President Reagan, in reaction to a strike by members of the PATCO union who manned the control towers at airports, set the tone for the next 16 years in employee and employer relations. Getting back to evolutionary behaviors, it basically was the dominate male forcing the submissive PATCO workers into admitting that their services we no longer needed. It emboldened other industry heads to downside and to lay off thousands of workers; shift to part-time versus permanent workers; and use the maneuver called outsourcing. Unprotected from social hardships unlike their European counterparts, most workers without the new skills for the 90s found themselves thrown into competition for fewer and fewer lower-skilled jobs. This reduced wage demand on a national scale and brought on a period of price stability and lower wage inflation not seen since the 1960s.
As we entered the 90s, the continuing trumpet call from employers to workers was simple: "Youve got to compete in this world, and to do that youve got to keep costs down. That means that we cant pay you those high wages you want. Youre doing a great job, now lets keep it up." It worked. Hard work, paying off the national deficit (which kept interest rates down), investing in new machinery and computers, and investing in the stock markets by the common people helped to stabilize and create new industries, which in turn hired new workers. This all helped to heal the violent transition for the American worker in the 80s. Although real wages were actually less than in 1989 dollars, the country felt at ease and less anxious since the early 1980s. In August of 1997, the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in 24 years and the stock markets reached new heights.
But something was not quite right in paradise. As the workers continued to work longer and harder, with many working several part-time jobs in order to survive, companies began to become more profitable and dominant executives, in a blatant show of greed, gave themselves pay raise after pay raise after pay raise. The argument was simple: "We have to pay these salaries in order to attract the executives necessary to compete in this highly competitive world." But they somehow forgot to give the rewards to the workers who also helped in the economic transition. Why should they? They are in control of the Gold, remember? Those in control of the Gold get to make the rules, and enjoy the position of dominance, remember? And they are dominant, and the workers are submissive by virtue of the labor markets, right? What was beginning to happen was that the workers began to see the obscene ratio differences between themselves and their executive employers, already at high ratios, escalate even further. The general public, and in particular the workers, began to realize that despite how hard or long they worked, they would not share in the larger economic pie that the executives were feeding on. Indications of this trend were long in coming. In an editorial in the May 6, 1991 Business Week, the magazine called for restraint on executive wages. Again, the same magazine on April 21, 1997 ran a cover story on executive pay, and in its editorial for that issue the magazine stated that even some executives it queried were embarrassed by the astonishing heights of the salaries reached by other executives. I suppose that the basic assumption must be not only if you control the gold, you get to make the rules, but that by obtaining more gold, you will gain even more power to dominate others. If obtaining gold makes you feel good by being able to dominate others, then being obscenely rich much be intoxicating and addictive in the extreme.
As in the jungle, where our ancestors could see the comings and goings of the dominate person, our open society allows us a free press that helps to inform those of less fortunate economic circumstances of the doings of those of higher-rank. Such was the case of the American labor unions and their knowledge of the extreme ratio difference between the worker on the floor and the executive in the corner office. This difference began to create intolerance in the American worker, and on August 1, 1997 the Teamsters Union struck the highly profitable United Parcel Service. The Union went on strike demanding that the 57% ratio of part-timers at the company be reduced. Eighteen days later the company capitulated after polls in the Wall Street Journal showed that the American public supported the strike almost 2 to 1.
What happened is an example of group dynamics. Our society, as a large group, acts much like an individual organism with needs, wishes, and desires. Economic scientists constantly reveal new knowledge about group thought when goods and services are explained in total. The striking Teamsters struck a resonant cord with the American people. I would like to introduce my theory as to why.
This theory takes us from our ancestral jungle and the competitive violence I mentioned between individual male primates to the collective bargaining competitive "violence" between labor and management disagreements of today. (Students studying press quotes of both management and labor of the UPS strike in 1997 can find male battle metaphoric gems like: "Its time to dig in our heels!" and "Its time to draw a line in the sand!") simply:
The Resource Differential Tolerance Ratio Theory.
It is my theory that within any given area where an economic system exists one finds accumulated wealth in the hands of those who are dominate in their high-rank positions, while those who are less fortunate are submissive and of lower rank. The Resource Differential Tolerance Ratio is the peaceful coexistence in which members of a submissive economic class will allow the dominate wealthy class to continue to accumulate that wealth within a certain Cultural Longitude and Latitude. Its OK to be wealthy. Remember, capitalism is innate. In fact there are so many obvious advantages to being wealthy that most workers in free capitalist societies wish for the same position and attempt to work hard and play by the rules to obtain it. In fact, in America, any attempt to remove benefits to the wealthy, such as home mortgage interest deductions, reductions in capital gain taxes, retirement savings, and high inheritance taxes most likely would lead to political suicide for politicians. In America, most submissives -- that is those from the lower socioeconomic classes -- believe that because we have a middle class system, it is possible, with luck and hard work to enter the higher-ranks of the wealthy and enjoy the same benefits.
This is an important element. There must be a perceived or actual movement toward improvement, or at least, no perceived reversal in the ratio differential. When one thinks one is about to lose, or actually loses his or her job, a basic angst behavioral mechanism occurs as to where and how one will survive. Common working people rely on their jobs to provide the essential survival needs. High-ranking people have more than adequate amounts of discretionary income left over after they pay for these essential needs. It is in this difference that the common people notice any changes and sometimes judge to be unfair. I call this "unfairness" "Intolerance." The opposite of "Tolerance" or peaceful co-existence.
During the 1980s, American workers adjusted to their angst by working longer and harder with the same or less pay. In the 1990s the trend continued, but the high-rankers were seen correctly by the submissives as continuing to gain in separation. The ratio between the wealthy and the workers was getting larger, which produced a perception of unfairness. Whenever the peaceful balance of the ratio has been disturbed in a negative direction, this produces an area of tense relations that leads to intolerance between the dominates and submissives. In order for a return to peaceful coexistence between the dominate and submissive parties, action most likely will be taken to return the ratio to tolerable levels through physical action (verbal assaults, strikes, or worker revolts) by the group most adversely affected.
It is time to make another bold statement. Communism never really existed in its messianic purity. What history recorded and lived through was nothing more than a system dominated by extremely wealthy czarist individuals and kept in place by the eradication of its submissive enemies and control of the press. This system was destroyed by members of the lower submissive classes when conditions became so intolerable that the only other alternative was death. The system was called socialism (which was to be followed by communism when capitalism was defeated) but it meant the autocratic control from a central point in planning for the production and distribution of the production and distribution of goods and services, a sort of top-to-bottom approach instead of the consumer reality of capitalism. The culture of the old was copied by the new culture of the revolt and maintained its control by eliminating its enemies and controlling the press by the military and a secret police. Only the names and genetic lines were replaced
So does the victory of capitalism over communism mean that we are truly in Nirvana? Is the land of milk and honey just around the corner for all the planets inhabitants? Not really. You see, the two systems still share some very important similarities that could cause the collapse of capitalism. In an important essay titled " The Capitalist Threat, George Soros, the self-made billionaire, wrote in the February 1997 issue of The Atlantic Monthly that unless capitalist democracies realizes that we are all part of the common pot called humanity, our present system could break down. He went on to state that too much competition and too little goodwill could create misappropriate levels of wealth that could lead to instability due to inequalities Who can argue with a self-made billionaire who has lived under communism and made his fortune in the capitalist West? (updated item: Also see Business Week, Sept. 27, 99, p.90, "The Prosperity Gap,")
In summation, Mr. Soros is confirming The Resource Differential Tolerance Ratio Theory that has its roots in evolutionary psychology. He understand the innate tendencies of man, but lacks the knowledge of the primal origins. He knows without knowing. What Mr. Soros is suggesting by his words and deeds is that the wealthy on this planet must begin to return their wealth to the people who occupy the same space as they. Once again, if the separation between the wealthy and poor gets to be too great, it could cause economic collapse through worker unrest. Make it fair, or they will do something about it and take it from you. He suggests that the wealthy share their knowledge while at the same time level the playing field by returning the wealth in the form of noble causes. Mr. Soros is doing just that by his philanthropic deeds through the establishment of trusts and institutions. I now know of at least one wealthy man who will enter the kingdom of God through the needles eye. (Ted Turner is on his way, but he has ten years to go. However, he should be acknowledged for his efforts).
Notebook entry, September 16, 1999
Newswires were abuzz about Bill Gates donating one billion dollars to fund scholarships for minority students by establishing the Gates Millennium Scholars Program. With his wife, Milissa by his side, Gates was quoting as saying: "I do hope in the years ahead that as you look at the kids in school and you look at our industry, you will see a broad, diverse representation because I think that really builds a strong America." Here. Here. Have you noticed that Mr. Gates has begun to return money to the society that helped to make him rich since he has been married? Two thumps up, Bill and Melisa!
The egalitarian communistic theory, when it was first proposed, was a noble idea and still could be someday. But it will take many generations of deeds and thought before we mere mortals can begin to grasp the concept that we are all one and that dominating others for our own self interests is no longer necessary in the extreme measures that were acceptable by our ancestors.
Origin: October 19, 1997
Updated: Sept. 27, 1999
Note: For an excellent companion to this essay, please read John Caddisy's "The Return of Karl Marx", in the October 20 & 27 1997 issue of The New Yorker magazine. p.248
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