Sentences (#30)

The latest contribution to an unmistakable realist trend:

any attempt to understand morality, politics, economics or business without reference to evolutionary biology is ridiculous.

(The short Spectator article is plugging this website, which I’m not hugely familiar with yet, but since it has pieces by W. Brian Arthur and Jonathan Haidt there, it has to be worth a look.)

ADDED: HBD Chick thinks there’s something in the water.

November 9, 2015admin 19 Comments »


19 Responses to this entry

  • Handle Says:

    I presubscribed to evonomics hoping that Collins would take it in a good direction, but having read everything they’ve put out so far, I’ve found it to be very disappointing indeed. Two thirds of the stuff that comes out of there are anti-free-market diatribes. They claim to be based on a core principle and insight which is indeed a worthy one, but then then don’t seem to actually apply it very well or often. Judge for yourself, of course.


    admin Reply:

    FWIW, my browsing so far isn’t at all out of line with your judgment.


    Posted on November 9th, 2015 at 1:52 pm Reply | Quote
  • xheimlichkeit Says:


    Evolutionary economics has been a minor academic fashion since the 60s at least, and it was never specially free-market-ish.

    People seem to want to avoid the theory of the firm, but it’s really a hinge point in a deleuzean “double articulation”: why do we have firms and corporations as such if Walrasian doctrine (and Austrian vigorous hand-waving) would have trade and prices be the ultimate coordination mechanism? Much of evolutionary economics, from Nelson and Winters to Ostrom has been about this.

    People who want to subscribe to an universal darwinism MUST get a grip of double articulation. Too many people seem to believe in a simple “feature flow” — this is how we get race realists as well.

    Moreover: if you do want to keep worshipping Misesian dogma, stop reading non-Austrian things altogether.


    admin Reply:

    The trouble with all these sophisticated models is that they end up as putty in the hands of hubristic economic planners. Stratoanalysis would be great if we could be confident it would never become the rationalization for dirigiste interventions. We can’t. Better, then, to fully defend the free market in its purely negative sense — you don’t know what the hell you’re doing (and your motivations are radically corrupt), so keep your paws off it.


    xheimlichkeit Reply:

    Would you extend your point about stratoanalysis to firearms?


    xheimlichkeit Reply:

    Put another way: neocameralism is the limit case of the basic paradox of the firm as nukes are the limit case of the basic paradox of firearms: they’re things for killing, but can also save lives.

    “Dirigisme”, “statism”, the ratchett — these things are out there. You can call yourself a peaceful man, but if armed thugs roam the streets you need at least to acknowledge some good people need to have firearms (shop owners? law enforcement?)

    Now — Nelson and Winters might be entirely bogus, as it’s very well possible that nuclear détente’s role in the management of the Cold War is overstated. But just as the formal figure of Prisoner’s Paradox is active in all these situations (and even if adrenaline-fueled thugs may disregard equilibrium in the individual situations), so is the stratification problem active in anything that looks like an alternative to democracy.

    This is how neoreaction is paranoid about “entryism” and the British philosopher Nick Land ends up endorsing naïve race realism and even some antisemitism to make NRx *coalesce* — lest its authoritarian “becomings” be captured by the authoritarian Left.

    My point: you can either endorse *and develop* an universal Darwinism, or resonate the community’s prejudice under the guise of, well, Gnon and shit. But it’s really symptomatic how common Lacanian lingo seems to be lately — all this about the Symbolic and the Real. What, as if the Lacanian Real wasn’t the product of an impasse — as if the “reality” that neoreaction purports to “involve” itself with, the shadowy fundamental-structural features of the world that are futilely wished away by the Left was directly seen anywhere and not merely revealed by the Left’s small-r real success.

    It’s a fine fetish, but you can’t work strategically without some form of stratoanalysis or higher theory — on risk of infection by theory you’re unaware of.

    Dark Psy-Ops Reply:

    @ xheimlichkeit

    The most stable and constant trait of left authoritarians is their utterly cursed inability to be anything other than lying and bankrupt Machiavels that are forced to leech off and ‘capture’ free economies due to their crippling lack of independent success. It’s much like, “hey, nice free market economy you have there, it’d be a shame if a central planner were to start ‘planning’ it”. NRx explicitly (again and again) has endorsed patchwork, in hopes that the leftist elite, with their Promethean collective mastery, will go ahead and create their automated luxury communism (but somewhere else). I’m sure if it worked as the utopia leftists never stop promising it would than you’d have near 100% of neoreaction defecting and pleading to get in.

    Also, it goes without saying around here, but the antisemitism slur is weak sauce, and reflects negatively on you.


    Handle Reply:

    There’s a difference between a free-market dogmatic, and, well “anti-anti-free market”. My charge against this publication is that they are squeezing a single orange but ending up with a gallon of juice.

    But look, please prove me wrong. Provide a link to one of the articles on that site that you think contains some new and important, actionable insight.


    xheimlichkeit Reply:

    I mean, I tend to agree on the merits of that website.

    But why are we talking about it? Because it would seem that “universal Darwinism” leads naturally to neoreactionary talking points (catallaxy, race realism, sex roles, eugenics) where in fact it’s more of an ontological indetermination principle, at least in absence of some principles of stratification.

    This is how we have evo-biologists coming out with competing macro-theories of speciation: everyone seems to agree on some version of “gene flow leads to feature flow”, but some revolutionary-minded folks will still attribute speciation to sudden events (“punctuated equilibrium”) or, alternatively, try and claim that the phenomenology of speciation doesn’t matter. And this is hard science, supported by hard evidence.

    I mean, I know the point of blogs and such is building an agenda rather than planning the actual patchwork, but even at this level you’re going to have such a bad time doing the “realism” mambo without sound theory to back it up. I thought this was the point of having the famous British philosopher in our ranks.


    Handle Reply:

    There is no merit in asserted intention when not actually manifested in execution. Saying, “It’s important to realize that sometimes people cooperate with each other in order to work and compete together as a team,” is no special ‘evolutionary’ insight; it’s banal and obvious. And no one has ever asserted otherwise.

    I asked for a simple example, but you evaded the request.

    To show you how easy it would have been, look at this page: This New Version of the Invisible Hand Can Improve Our Economy

    “The notion that economics and business are all about competition and self-interest is alluring but wrong.”

    Oh really? Well, let’s found out how.

    “Competition between firms has often been portrayed as a Darwinian struggle where stronger firms survive and prosper and weaker ones die out.”

    Promising …

    “However, applying this clichéd Darwinian reasoning leads to a paradox: firms are by definition groups of individuals, and therefore competition between firms implies selection among groups, not individuals. This undermines the three pillars above and instead predicts the emergence, at the individual level, of pro-group “altruistic” behaviour instead of selfishness.”

    That’s no paradox, and neither is it ‘altruistic’. Workers are paid for their labor and evaluated and promoted based on their ability to coordinate. Their loyalty to the firm is not a matter of charity or uncompensated sacrifice. One does not need to appeal to psychological adaptations regarding group solidarity.

    The so called “Multi Level Selection” insight is that when competition is severe, firms become more efficient, and the interest of agents are disciplined, incentivized, or otherwise more aligned with that of their principal. And vice versa.

    Well bowl me over! Adam Smith call your office! I mean, whoa, we’ve got to bask in the glow of the genius of the new economics here, right? Please.

    And the bits about motivating employees would not have been news to anyone studying social game theory or business organizations 50 years ago.

    The author asserts, “This approach is an important addition to the field of behavioural economics – a quest to understand economic decision making from a psychological perspective”

    No, it’s not an important addition at all.

    And my claim is that most articles on the site are like this. Snarky caricatures of unenlightened, ‘brain-dead’ neoclassical thought that assume rationality, and then presentation of the new evo-psych hotness as revolutionary which is actually … nothing much at all.

    admin Reply:

    The perpetual search for easily-worked altruism deposits continues. (Carry on comrades.)

    Exfernal Reply:

    Consider gene flow crawling to a stop in certain directions in the gene pool due to growing ‘viscosity’ (preference against mating in certain configurations). Does it require sudden erecting outright barriers (so called “punctuated equilibrium”)? Remember that the simple understanding of gene pool assumes panmixia, which is extremely unrealistic.

    I think it’s the problem with mental models and human fondness for categorizing in order to lessen the strain of visualization, that makes one partial to simpler models, even if they are more of a caricature than a portrait.

    Posted on November 9th, 2015 at 2:14 pm Reply | Quote
  • Sentences (#30) | Reaction Times Says:

    […] Source: Outside In […]

    Posted on November 9th, 2015 at 3:28 pm Reply | Quote
  • xheimlichkeit Says:


    I literally agree with every single thing you said.

    I took an (obligatory) class in evolutionary econ back in graduate school in ’06. I’m not a booster of any of that crap. On the contrary, I’m problematizing (in the nobler sense of the word) the hard-on our British philosopher has for anything that calls itself “evolutionary”.


    admin Reply:

    I don’t pay enormous deference to ‘evolution’. Far more attention to selection mechanisms.


    Posted on November 10th, 2015 at 12:40 am Reply | Quote
  • SanguineEmpiricist Says:

    you guys are being too aggressive pushing the analogy from evolutionary competition upthread

    “Selfish Gene Theory Of Evolution Called Fatally Flawed”


    Grotesque Body Reply:

    How Dawkins Got Pwned (again)?


    Exfernal Reply:

    It calls for updating it, isn’t it? 🙂


    Posted on November 10th, 2015 at 1:48 am Reply | Quote
  • SVErshov Says:

    from practical point solution is quite simple let us kill each other again and clear some space for next round. it may end up in us becoming not so biological.


    Posted on November 10th, 2015 at 1:59 am Reply | Quote

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