I’ve been reading “The Evolutionary Psychology Behind Politics: How Conservatism and Liberalism Evolved Within Humans” by Anonymous Conservative which focuses on r/k theory. I apologize if it bleeds through into my posts for a while. I haven’t finished it so if something I say is covered later in the book feel free to call me out.
The topic of this post is to look at Human Rights and Natural law from an r/k perspective. There are many arguments for or against Human Rights and for that matter Natural Law, and I will probably make some of them latter, but I will focus in this post on the assumption made by each view point. Natural Law comes from the assertion that rights do not exist that are not present in the state of nature for man. Man has a right not to be killed, a right to property and a right to your body etc. At the other end of the spectrum we have human rights which insist that people are entitled to income, health care, food and housing. What sort of assumption are made at face value? It is clear that one that advocates from natural rights makes the assumption that resources are scarce and human rights advocates assume that resources are unlimited. I often hear on from progressives in a first world country where we are this wealthy how do we not have free health care? We’ll start with the first assumption that progressives make (this is probably giving progressives too much credit)
- The country is rich enough to pay for everyone’s health care.
- There is enough service available, that without price to limit usage, that everyone can have steady access to healthcare.
- If it exists people are entitled to something without competition.
- The underlying system is taken for granted and to assumed to be non-fragile
- That without prices hospitals and doctors can provide the appropriate amount and kind of services.
Aside from the fundamental misunderstanding of basic economics the baseline of these assumptions is that there are near unlimited resources. Progressive never talk of trade offs, for that matter almost all politicians skip the talk of consequences, but their discussion of universal rights starts with the assumption that the only thing holding us back is greed. On a side note greed is wanting to take what is not due to you, not investing your own capital. Progressives cannot imagine what good cause people could for their money. Like most people they lack the low time preference and understanding of investment to imagine that individuals saving money might be of more benefit in the long run than spending available resources because feels.
Certainly one could label progressives as collectivist but it in this case the stronger aspect of their nature is that lack of out group. This is typical of a r type psychology. If there are plentiful resources there should be no need to cooperate. That would be effort wasted not collecting resources. On the flip side competition is also a waste of energy as it does no good to compete when there is enough to go around. Saving and wanting to only help your in group are anathema to one who neither understands scarcity, cooperation or long-term investment. Certainly r-type psychology feeds into the nature of democracy. Once voters figure out they can vote themselves each others resources r-type behavior becomes a truly winning strategy. If you can promise more resources you can buy your voters.
“The state is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else.”
― Frédéric Bastiat
This fiction is what maintains the illusion of unlimited resources. Keynesian economics feeds into this fiction, by allowing the signal of a lack low savings to be suppressed. The progressive ideology is a combination of young liberals who wish to be freeloaders and the elite who impose a morality of pathological altruism yet behave more like their capitalist (capital gathering) brethren. This fiction of unlimited resources and the culture surrounding it when combined with public education has suppressed the ability of the youth to be either entrepreneurial or acquire resources at a young age. This creates a viscous cycle which makes some dependent on the system and makes it harder for others to create serious capital investments. Not only is the temptation to suck on the teat of government ever present but k-type strategy is under pressure from all sides (I could write a whole post on this alone).
Natural law deals with a very limited set of laws. It offers few rights to the individual. Law in this system gets out of the way of individuals and groups to cooperated as necessary. It recognizes implicitly that resources are scarce and that no law can assume that there exist resources to accomplish a truly collective goal. I am in no way advocating natural rights as a basis for law here. Simply using it as a foil for human rights. Natural rights are a start but they are not sufficient as a theory of law for all situations and conditions. Certainly they work for English Protestant settlers on the frontier in the 1800’s but we aren’t in Kansas anymore.
PS: Anonymous Conservative briefly mentioned the possibility of libertarian psychology and that it might be a result of frontier environments (hence why it is usually a minority position).
This post feels insufficient hopefully I will return to the topic in the future. But otherwise read the book it is easy to read and engaging.