We have been cursed, as a civilization, because so much of the social sciences side of the university quadrangle has for so long been in the thrall of Marxism. It has been difficult for intellectuals to see the world for what it is, so avidly have they sought to portray it as the product of their preconceptions. Nothing changes quickly, but it is nice to see academics actually testing their theories in reality, rather than just blathering on out of prejudice.
Why am I in such a celebratory mood? Anthropologists in Canada have discovered that the so-called “noble savage” is quite a bit less than noble, while the much maligned greedy capitalists of the West are in fact kinder, gentler, more trusting people. This is the sort of thing that should be obvious to anyone with eyes, but it takes an effort, apparently, to get a social scientist to take note of the territory instead of insisting on the sacred validity of the truth presented by the map.
Free-enterprising, impersonal markets may seem cutthroat and mean-spirited, but a provocative new study says markets have been a force for good over the last 10,000 years, helping to drive the evolution of more trusting and co-operative societies.
“We live in a much kinder, gentler world than most humans have lived in,” says anthropologist Joe Henrich of the University of British Columbia, lead author of the study that helps topple long-held stereotypes.
The finding, reported in the journal Science, suggests people trust and play fair with strangers because markets and religion — not some deep psychological instinct inherited from our dim tribal past — have helped shape our neural circuitry over the eons.
The study found that the likelihood that people “played fair” with strangers increased with the degree people were integrated into markets and participated in a world religion. Participants in the larger-scale societies were also more likely to punish players who did not play fair.
The hunter-gatherer and tribal societies studied are known for sharing among family and close acquaintances. But the researchers found fair play in monetary transactions with strangers was almost an alien concept. People in the simpler societies treated strangers less fairly, and were less likely to punish people who kept most of the money for themselves.
Social scientists — and economists in particular — have long been baffled with the way people in large societies are so trusting and fair in dealings with strangers. Many academics have argued it is a throwback to a time when humans were hunter-gatherers.
Mr. Henrich and his colleagues say their findings indicate playing fair with strangers is a behaviour that was favoured as the size of societies and populations grew.
The emergence and growth of markets allowed for the exchange of goods, skills and knowledge and enabled large complex societies to emerge and function, Mr. Henrich says, noting that humans in large societies are not nearly as selfish as some would suggest.
Oh, well. Nothing is perfect. The use of the word “selfish” in that last sentence tells us that our anthropologists have no idea at all what the self is — but that’s a pandemic affliction, I’m afraid. Why do I go out of my way to pass pleasantries with the people who sell me my food, my gas, my tools? If the pursuit of human joy is not selfish, then the word has no meaning.
Here’s the truth: For your entire life, you and everything of the West have been denounced and derided — for your virtues. Marxism is a global conspiracy of reified crime, and it cannot persist where ordinary people understand and uphold the values of the mind that make freedom and prosperity possible. This is why the Marxists took over the academy, starting with the social sciences. If you can be induced to despise everything that makes your life possible, the battle is won. It’s nice to see even a glimmering of evidence that not everyone in the anthropology department has been hoodwinked by this brutal scam.