Search Results for: polygamy

Hypergamy & Polygamy

Tuesday I complained that the main argument against polygamy (men with multiple wives), that it creates more unmarried and hence unhappy  men, also argues for polyandry (women with multiple husbands), female prostitution, stronger punishment of wife affairs, and for forbidding women who never marry.  Many complained that I neglected to consider intrinsic gender asymmetries, which would induce more polygamy than polyandry, and more gays than lesbians.  Then there is Steven Landsburg:

Robin has it completely backward: When the wife of a 30 year old man (who is well past the prime age of violence) has an extramarital affair with an 18 year old, she is alleviating the problem, not contributing to it. Besides, most extramarital affairs do not deprive the husband of a long term sex partner.

Well there are several factors here to disentangle.  If the problem was just that some men never got any sex, well then yes women having more partners couldn’t hurt.  And if the problem was instead inequality in male sex, and if women had affairs with random men, then that couldn’t hurt either.  But if the problem is sexual inequality and if women are hypergamous, preferring the very best men, then we should expect it to be the same few, most likely married, men who repeatedly benefit from affairs.  An affair-occupied wife tends give less sex to her husband, which increases male sex inequality.

Now if you assume that women who want affairs, lesbian relations, or husband sharing would, if denied their favorite option, simply refuse to have sex with anyone, then allowing these things can’t reduce any guy’s sex. But allowing such things can make a difference when women would substitute other options.

So yes, banning polygamy could be part of a larger coherent strategy to reduce male sexual inequality, to resist natural female hypergamy.  But banning polygamy and also polyandry and prostitution, while allowing lesbian relations and preventing natural punishment of wife affairs, well that looks nothing like a coherent strategy to reduce male sexual inequality.  We should look elsewhere to explain our pattern of what we ban and what we allow.

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Polygamy Hypocrisy

Polygamy is on trial in Canada, where one of the issues is what justifies anti-polygamy laws infringing on the choices of consenting adults. Advocates of the status quo say polygamy hurts society by creating more unmarried men, who are unhappy and violent, and by making men compete more fiercely for women’s admiration:

Does polygamy between consenting adults harm anyone else? The question has been raised in Canada, where polygamy has been illegal since the nineteenth century, but the supreme court in British Columbia is going to have to decide whether this law is unconstitutional. Doesn’t it infringe the right of adults to arrange their lives by mutual consent? The original law was directed against Mormons, and the present test is also directed against a polygamous fundamentalist Mormon commune. …

There has been one brief filed against decriminalising polygamy … from … anthropologist Joe Henrich. … [He says] monogamy gives huge advantages to societies which practice it. It arose, like philosophy, among the Greeks, passed through the Romans, and then the Christian church took it over as an ideal and managed over the course of around a thousand years to establish it as the norm in Europe, even for the aristocracy. ….

Men who fail to get wives will be driven by competition that it increasingly dangerous to society and to themselves. … Unmarried men are more violent and more generally criminal. … The worst affected are the poor and uneducated. … Because the competition for women is so fierce, making them valuable objects rather than loveable people, men … must control them more carefully. The same dynamic places pressure on the recruitment of younger and younger brides into the marriage market. … Finally, the men will reduce their investment in any particular wives and children. … because they will increasingly spend their efforts on getting more wives rather than looking after the ones they have.

Henrich argues that these factors help to explain the measurable economic failures of highly polygynous countries, including low saving rates, high fertility, and low GDP per capita. … Monogamous marriage has unobvious advantages. In fact he considers that it was the seedbed of European ideas of democracy and, later, human rights and women’s equality. (more)

I very much doubt the Greeks invented monogamy, and the rest of this seems also exaggerated. But such arguments seem worth considering, as a US legal suit to allow polygamy would probably face similar complaints.

Note that such arguments, that polygamy creates more unmarried men, who are unhappy and violent, and makes men compete more fiercely for women’s admiration, also support other laws.  For example, they support laws prohibiting lesbian female relations, or more generally prohibiting women from remaining unmarried to any man.  After all, unmarried women just as directly cause unmarried men, relative to polygamously married women.  Yet there is little political support for such prohibitions.

[Added 7a:  These anti-polygamy arguments also make good pro-polyandry arguments, since men who share a wife are also no longer unmarried men. Added Thurs: They also argue for prostitution.]

These anti-polygamy arguments also support more vigorous punishment of extra-marital affairs. After all, men whose wives cheat on them also get unhappy and violent, and the prospect of inducing wives to cheat makes men compete more fiercely for their admiration. Yet not only does our formal law have only weak punishments for such cheating, it actually goes out of its way to prohibit what would be the naturally strong punishment of blackmail. And our informal social norms regarding cheating spouses usually advise others to “stay out of it.”

It seems to me pretty obvious that we prohibit polygamy mainly because the folks who want to do it (rural religious communes) have low status in our society.  Also, since high status folks cheat and don’t want that discouraged via blackmail, we prohibit blackmail.  Yes there is an element of inertia, but gays have overcome such inertia in ways that polygamists can’t. Gays are common in high status communities and professions; for our elites, many of their best friends really are gay. Not at all true for polygamists.

More interesting data from WrongBot reviewing the book Sex At Dawn: Continue reading "Polygamy Hypocrisy" »

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Philosopher Kings in Blue?

When things go wrong in our lives, we are often tempted to invoke governments to fix them. So we add more systems wherein governments do things, and we make more laws to influence what other people do. However, in the messy process of translating our general purposes into particular system and rules, we often allow various groups to control important details, and turn them more to their purposes. We also get random outcomes due to randomness in which political factions happen have more control when we turn our attention to changing each particular system or rule. In addition, we often leave out details because we are hypocritical, and unwilling to fully admit our real purposes. For example, we often want to appear to oppose things more than we do, like say drug use, prostitution, or adultery.

The net effect of these many messy processes is that our government systems and rules are poorly integrated, clumsy, and vague. We don’t bother to work out many details, and we don’t decide how to make key tradeoffs between different systems and rules. For such elaboration, the public and their politicians often punt to judges and government agencies. And for details where agencies don’t set policies, they punt to individual civil servants.

To influence these agencies and their civil servants, we set bosses who can give them orders, and perhaps promote or fire them. Bosses who have other bosses all the way up to the politicians we elect. But we are afraid of new politicians taking too much hidden control over these agencies, say by firing everyone and hiring all their friends. So we often limit politicians’ powers to direct and fire civil servants. This gives agencies and civil servants more discretion, to do what they choose.

Of course in any one social equilibrium, an individual civil servant may not feel they have great discretion. But that doesn’t contradict the claim that collectively they have a lot. That is, there can be many possible government equilibria consistent with the overall government rules and larger political and social worlds. Some of this government discretion may be captured by the schools and other systems that train people to become civil servants.

To enforce rules on both civil servants, and on ordinary people, we threaten to punish people for violating rules. The civil servants we put in charge of this enforcement process are “police” (in which I include prosecutors, judges, and other civil servants with rule-enforcing discretion). And to help police in these roles, we give them various budgets and powers.

The above description so far is pretty generic, applying nearly as well to a quite minimal state as to a strong “police state”, wherein police have strong powers to punish most anyone they choose. Where any one state sits on this spectrum is determined by many factors, including (1) police monetary budgets, (2) police direct powers to invade spaces, demand info, etc., (3) police negotiating powers regarding court proceedings, and (4) the frequency and severity of rules that people frequently violate.

While once upon a time (say two centuries ago) the U.S. system looked more like a minimal state, today it looks more like a police state. Maybe not as bad a police state as the old Soviet Union, but still, a police state. This transformation is detailed in William Stuntz’ excellent book The Collapse of American Criminal Justice. Some key changes:

  1. We’ve added a lot more laws, so many that we don’t understand most, and regularly violate many.
  2. We’ve cut the use of juries and also many legal defenses, which previously helped evade guilty verdicts.
  3. Rise of big cities means county-set laws are set by folks different from those suffer, cause most crime.
  4. States, who set prison budgets but don’t control conviction rates, greatly increased prison budgets.
  5. Legal trial complexity & cost has risen greatly, and is now beyond what most can afford.
  6. Plea bargaining is now allowed, which strongly pushes people to plead guilty, even when they aren’t.
  7. The new doctrine of qualified immunity protects government officials from many lawsuits.
  8. Most complaints about police have long been investigated by the same agency that employs them.
  9. The rise in civil servant unions, especially police unions.
  10. Surveillance, tracking, and info collection has in many ways become much cheaper.

(Some of these changes resulted from courts seeking to encourage big moral movements, such as those against slavery, alcohol, drugs, prostitution, polygamy, and gambling.)

The net effect of all this is that police can, if they so choose, target most anyone for punishment. That is, for most any target, police can relatively cheaply find a rule the target violated, pressure others to testify against the target, and then finally pressure the target to plead guilty. And police collectively have a lot of discretion in how they use this power. (The rich and politically well-connected may of course be able to discourage such use of power against themselves.)

Of course, the fact that police are powerful hardly implies that they use such powers badly. It remains quite possible that, like the proverbial super-hero, they use their super-powers for good. Many people have long claimed that the best form of government is one run by good-hearted but unconstrained philosopher kings.

This is the context in which I’d like you to consider current complaints about police mistreatment of detainees. Police must make difficult and context-dependent tradeoffs between how carefully to avoid hurting detainees, and how aggressively to discourage them from defiance or escape.

These are the sort of areas where, in our system, local civil servants and their agencies have great discretion, and where the basic nature of our government and legal systems makes it hard to pull back such discretion. I’m not saying that nothing can be done; things can and should be done. But I’m pretty sure that the sort of modest changes being now considered (more training, more record keeping, “requiring” body cams, etc.) can’t greatly change what is in essence a police state. (In contrast, changing to a bounty system might do a lot more.)

Look, imagine that while interacting with police you started to insult them and call them terrible ugly names. In many places, this is probably perfectly legal. However, you’d be rightly reluctant to do this, as you’d know they have a many ways to retaliate. If their local people and culture are inclined to retaliate, and to build a “blue wall of silence” around it, there is little most people can do to protect themselves.

This is why you can’t really count on laws that say you have the right to film police, etc. We basically live in a police state, and in such a state its hard for mere rules to greatly change police behavior. We may well be gaining some benefits from such a police state, but being able to exert detailed control over police and how they use their great discretion is just not one of them.

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The Protection Exception

We have many regulations, justified in many ways. One common type of regulation prevents people from making and enforcing certain voluntary agreements, and one common justification for such regulation is that we protect people from hurting themselves via such agreements. For example:

Chief Justice Robert Bauman ruled in favour of the section of the [Canadian] Criminal Code outlawing polygamous unions. … Bauman said while the law does infringe on religious freedom, it is justified given the harm polygamy causes to children, women and society. (more)

However, almost every such protection comes with one huge loophole, big enough to drive many a truck through: we let people emigrate to other countries. For example, we protect you and your kids from the harms of voluntary polygamy agreements, except that you and your kids may move to a nation that allows polygamy. The same applies to pretty much any other regulatory protection we offer, such as protections against buying unsafe products, hiring unlicensed professionals, paying for sex, or selling yourself into slavery. You are allowed to do any of these things as long as you first move to another nation that allows it.

This raises an obvious question: why do we allow this huge hole in the “protections” we maintain? It would seem to me more consistent to either:

  1. Prevent people from moving to nations that do not preserve the protections we think important, or
  2. Let locals make voluntary agreements that violate our basic protections, as long they plausibly demonstrate that they are so committed to such arrangements that they’d consider leaving the nation to get them.

Its seems pointless to consistently let people leave the nation to evade our “protections,” since after they leave, they aren’t protected. What gives?

Added 11p: Some responses to comments: Continue reading "The Protection Exception" »

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Rah Efficient IP

On this blog I’ve long favored economic efficiency.

Economic efficiency is our best wide general analysis tool for finding win-win deals that get people what they want. That isn’t everything, but it is a lot. (more)

On this efficiency basis, I’ve defended many controversial policies, such as blackmail or polygamy. But oddly, I seem to elicit the most opposition by defending the mere possibility of efficient intellectual property! A widely held position and one embodied in law today. If you recall, I argued:

Before barbed wire, it make less sense to farm, or to enforce property rights in land against roaming animals. But after barbed wire, farming and land property rights made a lot more sense. … I’m happy to admit that today intellectual property (IP) is not obviously a good idea. Such property can create large “anti-commons” transaction and enforcement costs … Today, it is often better to rely on other social incentives to innovate. … [But] just as farmers developed barbed-wire, someday I expect IP advocates will develop better forms of intellectual property, and better technologies for marking, sharing, and enforcing such property. Using such innovations, I expect we will allow more and stronger intellectual property. … Which, like barbed-wire, will mostly be a good thing. (more)

Brad Delong responded:

Robin Hanson appears to think that people have the right to send killer robots off to hunt down people who use their ideas without paying. Me? I think this is an example of how thinking too much about property rights can madden the mind. (more)

(Scott Sumner says this “mischaracterizes” me; I agree.)

Matt Yglesias responded:

Robin Hanson is apparently the kind of libertarian who believes in government-created monopolies over the use of ideas: … Are we sad that Isaac Newton was unable to patent a method for calculating instantaneous rates of change? Does Hanson think he should be paying royalties to Michael Spence every time he writes about signaling? … The idea that a person, having shared his ideas with the world, now has the right to call the cops and have people arrested for taking inspiration from the idea without paying for a license in advance seems odd. Which is exactly why historically government regulation of idea-copying has been the exception rather than the rule. (more)

Yes IP’s high costs now make us use it sparingly. But as such costs fall, my guess is that efficient economic institutions will eventually include more ways for users to pay creators of innovations. I make no claims, however, about the exact forms such property and payments will take.

To reduce transaction costs, property rights may expire after a time, and both “usage” and “authorship” may be evaluated at large crude granularities, rather than “every time he writes about [Spence-style] signaling.” There may be random auditing of innovation usage, and folks may buy access to large bundles owned together by those who worked on related innovations. I don’t know if paying for access will be done before or after usage. I also don’t know if such property will be enforced by government monopoly or private law – perhaps people will voluntarily opt into property rights regimes.

What I do know is that enormous value is at stake in getting good innovation incentives and access, value that can probably be increased by better property rights. Economies show a weak a long-term tendency to adopt more efficient institutions, and that tendency is mostly a very good thing.

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Recipe: Men Exploit Fems

There are many movies and documentaries about female prostitutes. While some focus on women forced into prostitution against their will, most of the rest vaguely imply that the female prostitutes are exploited by their male customers. The message seems to be “Don’t they see that the money they gain is just not worth their loss of intimacy, self-respect, etc.?”

The ’06 documentary The Great Happiness Space (reviewed here) offers an interesting contrast. It shows the world of a certain kind of male prostitute in Japan. And it vaguely implies that male prostitutes exploit their female customers. The message seems to be “Don’t they see how much money they lose for just an illusion of intimacy, respect, etc.?” Even though many of the female customers shown are themselves prostitutes, we are expected to see them as victims.

Of course the two prostitution practices differ somewhat, according to male vs. female fantasies. Men tend more to seek simple no-strings sex and polygamy, while women more seek emotional stroking and hypergamy. But it is striking that any for-pay male-female relation portrays men as exploiters and women as victims, no matter who pays whom.

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Rome As Semi-Foragers

It seems that an “almost” industrial revolution happened around 500BC. For example, this graph of estimated world population shows a population jump then similar to the start of the ~1800 jump. Also, consider this brief history of the Roman Empire:

~5 century BC: Roman civilization is a strong patriarchy, fathers … have absolute authority over the family.
~1 century BC: … Material wealth is astounding, … Romans enjoy the arts … democracy, commerce, science, human rights, animal rights, children rights and women become emancipated. No-fault divorce is enacted, and quickly becomes popular by the end of the century.
~1-2 century AD: … Men refuse to marry and the government tries to revive marriage with a “bachelor tax”, to no avail. … Roman women show little interest in raising their own children and frequently use nannies. The wealth and power of women grows very fast, while men become increasingly demotivated and engage in prostitution and vice. Prostitution and homosexuality become widespread.
~3-4 century AD: … Roman population declines due to below-replacement birth-rate. Vice and massive corruption are rampant. (more; HT Roissy)

Yes this exaggerates, but the key point remains: a sudden burst in productivity and wealth lead to big cultural changes that made the Greek-Roman world and its cultural descendants more forager-like than the rest of the farmer world. These changes helped clear the way for big cultural changes of the industrial revolution.

These cultural changes included not more political egalitarianism, but also more forager like attitudes toward alchohol and mating:

Historically, we find a correlation between the shift from polygyny to monogamy and the growth of alcohol consumption. Cross-culturally we also find that monogamous societies consume more alcohol than polygynous societies in the preindustrial world. … Studies find a positive relationship between alcohol use on the one hand and a more promiscuous and high-risk sexual behavior on the other hand. … The Greek and Roman empires … were the only (and first) to introduce formal monogamy. … Hunting tribes drink more than agricultural and settled tribes. … Hunting tribes … have more monogamous marriage arrangements than agricultural tribes. …

The emergence of socially imposed formal monogamy in Greece coincides with (a) the growth of “chattel slavery” (where men can have sex with female slaves) and (b) the extension of political rights. … The industrial revolution played a key role in the shift from formal to effective monogamy and in the sharp increase of alcohol consumption (more; HT Tyler)

This roughly fits my simple story: forager to farmer and back to forager with industry. The key is to see monogomous marraige as an intermediate form between low-commitment feeling-based forager mating, and wives-as-property-for-live farmer polygamy. Let me explain.

Forager work and mating is more intuitive, less institutional. Mates stay together mainly because they feel like it; there is more an open compeition to seduce mates, and there’s a lot of sneaking around. Foragers drink alchohol when they can, and spontaneous feelings count for more relative to formal commitments. The attitude is more that if you can’t hold her interest, you don’t deserve to keep her. Men show off abilities to obtain resources mainly to signal attractive qualities; most resources acquired must be shared with the rest of the band.

Farmers, in contrast, don’t share much, and are far more unequal in the resources they control, by which they can more directly “buy” wives. Farmer wives so bought are supposed to be committed to their husbands even when they don’t feel like it. Marriage was less about mutal attraction and more about building households and clans. Husbands worry about cheating wives, and so try to limit access and temptations, which includes alchohol. Musicians and artists are also suspect if they excite wives’ passions, which might lead to cheating.

When empires like Greece and Rome achieved sustained periods of prosperity, their elites reverted to more forager-like ways. They had more drinking and art, more egalitarian politics, fertility fell, and [non-slave] mating became more egalitarian and about feelings. If a bit of alchohol was enough to get your wife cheat to on you, well maybe you didn’t deserve her. The Greek-Roman move from polygamy to monogamy was a move in the direction of more forager-like feeling-based mating, though it retained farmer-like lifelong commitment.

The Greeks and Romans became models for Europe when industry made it rich again. In our era, fertility has fallen far, divorce and out-of-wedlock births are common, and alchohol, drugs, and sneaking about are more tolerated. Women need men less for their resources, and choose them more on other grounds. Dropping the lifelong commitment element of marriage, and often the expectation of any sort of marriage commitment, we have moved even further away from farmer wives-as-lifelong-property and toward forager “promiscuity.”

Added: Razib Khan and Jason elaborate.

Added 1Feb: A new study says that in places where marriages are more arranged by parents, there is more mate-guarding. Discouraging alcohol seems a reasonable mate-guarding strategy.

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On Sex & Violence

Sex and violence, the most-complained-of classic movie draws, also seem to draw the most complaints re my forager-farmer hypothesis, that many non-functional industry-era trends are due to a natural human tendency to return from farmer to forager ways with increasing wealth and comfort. So let me try again to clarify.

On violence, Bryan Caplan “suspect[s] forager societies had plenty of internal violence.” But I’ve talked mainly of farmers having more organized violence like war. (Quotes below.) Foragers may well have high murder rates, but those are individual acts of passion and retribution. It is farmers who taught themselves to be professional and organized killers, who could benefit from that, though yes with time farmers learned to have less war.

On sex, I responded to Roissy here, and Razib Khan complained:

Hoe vs. plough agriculturalists shows that a simple hunter-gatherer vs. farmer narrative does not suffice. In some ways the hoe agriculturalist remains more like the hunter-gatherer, and in some ways more like his or her fellow agriculturalist. The most polygynous societies for example are arguably those of hoe based agriculturalists, as well as nomads. In contrast, hunter-gatherers and ploughman tend to be more monogamous, at least in a genetic sense.

On sex, I’ve consistently talked of “promiscuity,” not monogamy vs polygamy. (Quotes below.) The issue is how long relationships lasted, and tolerance for mating outside official relationships. Compared to farmers, foragers had shorter relations, and tolerated more unofficial mating. Polygamy is a stable long-term relation, and by tolerating more inequality is actually more farmer-like.

Now for those promised quotes. Continue reading "On Sex & Violence" »

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Layers of Delusion

Humans have many delusions, i.e., mistaken beliefs they are especially reluctant to correct. To understand such delusions, it helps to understand the many layers that make up the human mind. In the following I outline my best guesses, ordered roughly by time/layer.  (I’m especially interested in what I’ve missed or mis-classified.)

Animal – Animals have core mental processes to manage desires for food, warmth, sex, and to avoid harms. These processes can misfire, creating errors that other levels are reluctant to override.  For example, we can be terrified of heights, even when we “know” we are safe.  Animal minds are organized by level of abstraction (near vs. far), and so expect things near (far) in some ways to be near (far) in other ways. Animals usually act as if things not directly in view don’t exist. Embedded in brain architecture, these mistakes are hard to correct.

Socialite – Animals that pair-bond have bigger brains, to deal with trust issues in long-term relations. Social animals can betray one another, and have relative status, and so can be mistaken about status and partner loyalty. Social distance adds to near/far. Social mammals use a standard stress response for social stress; being disliked hurts health as if others had psychic powers.

Primate –  Very social animals have meta-beliefs about who thinks what about who, and so on. So they can be mistaken about meta-beliefs. Primates can often gain from errors via favorably influencing others’ meta-beliefs. For example, overconfidence in one’s ability or loyalty induces confidence in others. This creates selection pressures for delusions. In very social primates, power and status depend less on individual abilities and more on political coalitions. Primates can thus be deluded about who supports which coalition, and how strong are coalitions.

Talker – With language, we can say more things, and so can lie, be mistaken, and be deluded about more things. We find it hard to appreciate how language changes our thought, and so are often deluded to think reality divides neatly according to our word categories. We want our words to be believed, and to seem confident they will be believed. So we are deluded to think we reason more to find truth than to win arguments, and to think reality constraints shared beliefs more than it does.

Forager – Using language, foragers coordinate to enforce social norms against overt non-family dominance, bragging, sub-band coalition, and band-harming selfishness. Norms add to near/far as far goals. But since norms can only limit commonly-visible behavior, foragers violate norms covertly. Since conscious thoughts are more visible, they dominate, brag, ally, and self-serve unconsciously, via hard-to-verify eye contact, body motions, tone of voice, word double-meanings, etc. Consciously homo hypocritus foragers are deluded, especially in far mode, to less see the unflattering functions of their acts, and their bowing to social pressure. For example, foragers and their descendants have diverse styles (dress, body, music, food, language, stories, etc.) and are biased toward seeing :

  • Personal styles as preference, discernment, vs. show wealth, autonomy, loyal, tough, skills.
  • Changing styles as just better, vs. show gossip ties, social savvy, loyal.
  • Local styles as just better, vs. show local ties.
  • Attraction from shared values, vs. impressed by features, loyal.
  • Medicine, charity as help, vs. show loyal, wealth.
  • Gossip as curiosity vs. collusion, status moves.
  • Politics as help group, vs. show values, loyal.
  • Far talk as curious, info share, vs. dominate, show smarts, ties.
  • Laughter as due to funny events, vs. show comfort, loyal.
  • Stories as social practice, “fun” vs. show values, discernment.
  • Art as a pursuit of beauty, insight, function, vs. bond, show off.
  • Sport as healthy, “fun”, vs. show off.

Farmer – Higher forager density led to trade and rapid innovation, which led to herding, farming, marriage, war, and social classes. Social norms expanded, to induce behavior in conflict with forager inclinations. These included norms of long hard work hours, fair trade with strangers, life-long marriage, deference to elite classes, and of patriotic devotion in war. Frequently invaded regions evolved pro-community over pro-family norms. Added farmer self-control (i.e., norm adherence) came from norms encouraging far-thinking, persecuting deviants, just-world-delusions,and religion, i.e., submission to supernatural moralizers. Farmers were deluded on norm origins, and on high costs of environment alienation and from repressing forager-desires.

Aristocrat – Sedentary farmers accumulate durable goods, which gives material inequality, allowing elites. Elite classes need delusions that they deserve their status, and that they adhere to idealistic codes of chivalry, which placates other classes. Elites need to save wealth, accept within-class ranking, and function well in chains of command. To achieve these, farming elites pioneered writing and multi-media propaganda, schools with frequent rankings and far mode primes, and complex bendable rules with bureaucratic doublethink. Expensive art signaled wealth, and strengthened delusions of moral superiority.

City – Many folks living close is a productive, if alien, lifestyle whose anonymity can reduce norm pressures that come from non-work social monitoring.  This weakened non-work norms like marriage, family, and religion. It also made social status depend less on informal reputation and more on clear signals like wealth, degrees, fame, etc. City folk seem deluded to think informal reputation and social monitoring are stronger than they are; e.g., they credit confidence more than they should. Cheap surveillance, however, may soon strengthen social monitoring.

Industry – Industrial methods require worker specialization and coordination, which greatly increased the value of self-control. So industrial societies adapted and improved self-control-promoting methods pioneered by farming elites: far-mode schools with frequent ranking, and multimedia artistic idealistic news/entertainment.  Such folks deludedly think school classes and news media are mainly to give useful neutral info. Ubiquitous hierarchical organizations hone homo hypocritus skills regarding local formal rules and commands, opportunistically bending them while deludedly denying doing so.

Rich – Industry has recently made non-elites rich enough to afford to reduce alienation, e.g. more greenery, and to please their inner forager by reducing non-work self-control. Such folk return toward forager levels of sexual promiscuity, though via cheating and serial monogamy instead of polygamy, and less social monitoring in cities. Rich folk get less religious and patriotic, and seek political forms to mimic forager-style democracy, deliberation, food sharing, and sick-helping. They deludedly justify such policies in other ways, e.g., medical market failures. Coordination remains harder than most realize.

Stimulant – Industry has devised hyper-stimulating food, art, stories, sport, games, drugs, etc., which rich low-self-control folks eagerly consume, at the expense of work, kids, and work-like-hobbies. Hyper-status-seeking can compensate, inducing more work and hobbies, but not more kids. Most are deluded to think this a stable situation; if allowed, gene and culture selection would rapidly cut such waste.  Most also have the addict’s delusion, “I can quit anytime I want.”

Emulation – The next big change is likely whole brain emulations (i.e., ems), within a century or so. Profit-seeking investors may make trillions of copies of dozens of most suitable humans, and further select among trillions of ways to tweak each em.  This will allow enormous selection for the most adaptive em minds.  Adaptive behavior in the early em era has high work coordination, accepts more alien bodies and environments, has little interest in kids or hyper-stimuli, and accepts death, high trainee failure rates, long work hours, and near-subsistence wages.  Some of this may be achieved via genuine preference changes, but initially most will be achieved via strong delusory self-control.

Stability – More big eras may appear after ems, but soon rapid change will end.  We now live in the brief few-millenia “dreamtime” when people are poorly adapted to their environment. Within a few millennia, and then for trillions of years thereafter, economic growth and innovation rates will slow to a near halt, and people will once again be well adapted to their stable slow-grow world – as were foragers for millions of years.  As with foragers, what they do will mostly be adaptive, even if they are deluded about why they do it. And they may well be much less deluded, due to better academic knowledge, more mental transparency, ubiquitous documentation, and more prediction markets.

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Foragers

It seems that our distant forager ancestors beat wives but not kids, and weren’t remotely monogamous. They had huge inequalities in status and sex, but low material inequality, due to generous sharing and few durable goods.  They had little overt dominance or positions of power, and valued trust and honesty greatly.  Justice was personal, with personal violence and suicide rare.

How do I know all this?  David Youngberg and I summarize cultural-anthro data on foragers:

Using an existing dataset aggregated from diverse ethnographies, we collect statistics on the social environment of the studied cultures which most closely resemble our hunter-gatherer ancestors. …

Such foragers have neither formal class stratification nor slavery. While private property is usually present, most forager societies have no rich, and none have any poor or dispossessed.

Food sharing is always common. Compared to the most “modern” societies in the larger sample (which are different from us today), disease stress is similar, suicide and murder are rare, conflict casualty rates are lower, and fewer believe in an evil eye. Violence is never over resources, and when enemies are driven from a territory no one uses that territory.

A person wronged always directly punishes the guilty; they never use a third party. If there is a substantial dispute, one side will likely leave the community. Leaders carefully cultivate support before acting, and none have a formal leadership position. Polygamy is always allowed and usually socially preferred. Co-wives either live together or one lives with a husband while the rest live in entirely different bands. On average, about 35% of men have more than one wife, and 50% of women are in a polygamous marriage (vs. 3% and 7% in modern societies).

People are expected to have premarital sex, which is usually common. Extramarital sex is also usually common, though it is usually not acceptable for women. Adults talk about sex openly. While wife-beating exists, divorce is easy. Boys and girls are equally preferred, and women are considered equals of men.

Mothers are usually the main, but not only caregiver of kids. Relative to modern societies, kids are taught more to be generous, trusting, and honest. Parents more emphasize their love for kids, and kids are never punished physically. Adolescents sleep away from their parents.

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